Yesterday, USAID Administrator Raj Shah dropped by the UN Week Digital Media Lounge (DML) to discuss the Obama administration’s MDG Action Plan. Shah spoke at length about the role innovation will play in Feed the Future, the $3.5 billion global hunger and food security initiative, a major priority in the MDG Action Plan.
According to Shah, agricultural innovation needs to go beyond just seeds and inputs. Innovation will require the combination of technology with new, entrepreneurial approaches. As an example, he highlighted the the use of SMS technology by Nigerian Cassava farmers to access market prices.
What’s so exciting about that is that they [farmers] are willing to actually pay a little to get that information. So, the business model of creating those kind of phone-based commodity systems and marketing systems is a sustainable one. Today, you can walk into any rural community in Sub-Saharan Africa and get four bars of coverage and meet farmers and even pastoralists that will have mobile phones in their pockets.
He also discussed a new site the Obama administration plans to launch, that will add transparency to foreign assistance investments transparent. Using social media, to make development projects more accessible and transparent, and hope to engage more people in helping the world’s poor.