In October 2016, the Feed the Future program released their new Global Food Security Strategy. This whole-of-government guiding document elevated resilience to a top objective of its global food security and poverty reduction efforts. We at the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Assets and Market Access (AMA Innovation Lab) welcomed the elevation of one of our own key areas of research to what we have long felt is its rightful place.
AMA Innovation Lab researchers have been working on these issues for over a decade. In 2006, AMA researchers published work that led to a new and fundamental understanding about the dynamics of poverty, and that - as an indication of its influence on the broader dialogue - remains the most downloaded article in that preeminent journal to this day.
This research created a fundamental understanding of the problem allowed the Lab and partners and collaborators around the world to design and test innovative solutions to age-old problems. As most of our research projects begin to come to a close, we can take stock of what we have learned, and where the next areas of inquiry are.
Most of our findings fall into two categories which are deeply connected in their goal of building resilience and food security: interventions that protect people from falling into poverty traps, and interventions that unlock productive opportunities to enable people to escape poverty traps.
The first category of interventions is designed to prevent descents into poverty traps, which for many can be inescapable. By enabling households to better manage their risk, we can help to promote resilience to shocks. Agricultural index insurance is an innovation that can bring protection against catastrophic shocks to populations that were unreachable for traditional insurance. AMA Innovation Lab research has shown that, compared to their peers, insured pastoralists in East Africa are less likely to resort to distress sales of assets, reduction of consumption, and reliance on emergency food aid.
The second category of interventions seeks to enable smallholder farmers to move take advantage of growth opportunities. For developing countries, there is a gap between what is technologically achievable and what is typically achieved by local farmers. AMA Innovation Lab researchers are researching these barriers to better understand what they are, and to design and test interventions to ease these constraints so that farmers can meet their productive potential.
As we increase our efforts to disseminate what we have learned to date, we look forward to continuing the conversation with stakeholders to ensure that we can help to close the gap between this important research and implementation.