"... I was lucky enough to accompany Kofi Annan to see an AGRA project run by an NGO called Farm Concern International. What struck me most is how the project is designed with the utmost care for how farmers actually live. Our guides for the day were Elijah and Joyce. They grow cassava and maize, and they raise six children– three of their own, and three who were orphaned when Elijah's brother died of AIDS. Elijah and Joyce took us to their field, where they grow an improved variety of cassava and get even better yields because of the training Farm Concern provides.
Then they took us into the village, where the cassava is processed – chipped, dried, and turned into flour. Since the entire community now pools their cassava, they generate a sufficient volume to pay the cost of the processing. Elijah and Joyce told me how this innovation has changed their life. They used to be at the mercy of traders, who told them when to sell, how much to sell, and how much they could get for it. Now, they can plan the right time to harvest to maximise their income.
The members of the village also sell the cassava flour they've made. It's not just that the proceeds help farmers like Elijah and Joyce send their children to school. It's also that healthy flour is easily available for members of the community to buy. Yesterday, I bought a bag for myself, with the nutritional information printed right on the bag.
But it doesn't stop there. When farmers bring their cassava in, Farm Concern takes advantage of everybody being in one place by teaching farmers how to cook a variety of foods in a healthy way. The lessons are easy for women to adopt in their homes – simple rules like wash the vegetables before you cut them, not after; and don't over boil the vegetables – but they make a huge difference in the quality of the food the children eat. That means they will be healthier, so better in school. It means they will have a better life.
The big capital investment of this project is the cassava chipper, but the intellectual investment is really paying attention to what motivates farmers. Representatives from Farm Concern are in the audience today, where they are joined by dozens of partners who are helping us respond to women's needs...
...On behalf of our agriculture team, I would like to thank AGRA, Farm Concern, AWARD, CARE, and many more grantees who are here today. You have changed the lives of millions of people. You have also been our eyes and ears on the ground for years, keeping us focused on the end goal: millions of farm families that are healthy, secure, well nourished, well-educated, and productive."