Africa, U.S. partnerships fight hunger

Helen Weldemichael holding large check for $10,000, posing for photo (Courtesy of EatSafe/Technical University of Denmark)
Helen Weldemichael’s food safety innovation decreases fermentation time and makes the process more food-safe for an Ethiopian staple food, enset. (Courtesy of EatSafe/Technical University of Denmark)

Helen Weldemichael of Ethiopia is a business innovator addressing Africa’s long-term food security needs.

As a child she enjoyed enset bread. The enset, similar to a banana, is a staple food for about 20 million Ethiopians. She created a process that is safer and faster than traditional methods, which relied on women using their bare feet and hands to prepare the plant for consumption.

Weldemichael won the U.S. Agency for International Development Feed the Future 2022 EatSafe Innovation Challenge, earning a $10,000 prize. She patented her fermentation process and is seeking to expand the venture by attracting investors.

“We need to bring more awareness of food safety from the farm level to the urban areas,” she said.

Local partnerships

Weldemichael’s innovation highlights how local solutions can improve the region’s food supply. An estimated 140 million people in Africa struggled with food insecurity during 2022.

The U.S. announced in December 2022 that it will provide an additional $2.5 billion to address food security in Africa.

Three African women carrying large bags on their heads (© Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)
Women carry bags of maize during a food aid distribution event in Mudzi, Zimbabwe, in 2020. (© Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)

“This is a global food security crisis, and we need to solve it together,” President Biden said during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December.

The U.S. government announced in March that it will send additional humanitarian aid to several African countries, including:

Ongoing partnerships between the U.S. and African countries boost local agriculture and aquatic systems so farmers can build their businesses through increased exports.

“We’ve also heard loudly and clearly from African partners that emergency aid cannot be the only solution,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said March 15.

Three women sitting on benches picking palm oil fruits out of large tray (©
Workers select palm oil fruits for processing at a palm oil factory in Cape Coast, Ghana. (©

Boosting exports

Advancing two-way trade and investment through the Prosper Africa Initiative is one way to boost domestic food production, food security and job creation.

In partnerships with Prosper Africa and USAID:

Ghana and Liberia: 8 Degrees North received $1.1 million to access the U.S. market for its palm oil exports. Exports are expected to create over 6,000 new jobs in Ghana and Liberia. Another project supports the Savannah Fruit Company’s 21,000 mostly female entrepreneurs in Ghana’s shea butter sector.

West Africa: Red River Foods in Virginia will work with 11,000 cashew farmers, processors and suppliers in Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Benin to expand value-added processing across West Africa and increase exports to the United States.

Zambia: AfricaGlobal Schaffer, Bechtel and the Export Trading Group of South Africa are working to increase maize trade in Zambia by constructing 23 centers, which will support 1.5 million people.

“African-led solutions are increasingly making the difference on the challenges of the 21st century,” Blinken said.