December 21

Jeff Dykstra

NexThought Monday: Proof Points for a New Model of Aid

Why hersey joined partners in Food solutions and why public-private partnerships are key to food security


Five years ago, Partners in Food Solutions was still just a concept ­– a conviction, actually. A conviction that Africa can and someday soon will feed itself. We believed that there are business solutions to humanitarian problems and that know-how is the most valuable contribution we could give.

With our founding corporate partner, General Mills, we started testing that conviction, along with our unique model of remotely connecting professionals from around the world with their counterparts from small and growing businesses in Africa.

Recently, Partners in Food Solutions welcomed its fifth corporate partner. The Hershey Company joined General Mills, Cargill, Royal DSM and Bühler – some of the world’s largest food companies – in contributing both funding and, most vitally, their employees’ time and expertise. This newest partnership allows us to expand into two new countries, Ghana and Cote d’lvoire, growing our footprint across the continent.

In our nearly five years of operation, we have already helped more than 600 food companies in five African countries through training or consulting projects. These efforts have helped bring more than 21 metric tons of food to market in areas in urgent need of safe, affordable, nutritious food. They have also helped secure or sustain markets for 829,000 smallholder farmers who sell their crops to these companies to feed their families.

Our volunteers have helped make possible the first commercially available fortified flour in Ethiopia. They helped a Zambian food company grow their sourcing from 20,000 farmers to more than 100,000. They helped tens of thousands of pregnant women and malnourished children get the nutrition they need through convenient, ready-to-use therapeutic food.


Related article: Micronutrients with Macro Impact: The first fortified flour launches in Ethiopia, a boon for the country’s health and its economy

While we have a long way to go, we now feel fully confident that Partners in Food Solutions is on the right path. When I think about why that is, here are some of the reasons that come to mind:

We are a public-private partnership. The business sector brings expertise; the public sector brings resources and an expansive network; the NGO sector brings infrastructure. These three together support a strong, stable three-legged stool. In our model, the multiplier effect of a public-private partnership is indisputable: For every dollar in aid, corporate volunteers who are supporting companies give the equivalent of two dollars in time and expertise, tripling the value of donations.

We focus our efforts where our impact will have a ripple effect. For us, that is the center of the food-value chain. We help strengthen the businesses of high-potential food processors – millers, bakers, pasta-makers, baby-food companies and the like. They, in turn, can buy more crops from more smallholder farmers. The farmers can support their families and their workers. And consumers have access to more high-quality, nutritious, safe, affordable food. Call it a virtuous cycle: Healthier people with better access to food can then become the next generation of innovators to grow the economy.

Our volunteers contribute their know-how. While direct food aid is an absolute necessity at the moment, the development community agrees that this alone will not bring about long-term change in the poorest parts of the world. What we send every day to our partners in Africa, through an innovative, knowledge-transfer interface, is know-how, expertise, business experience and persistent problem-solving. And our volunteers do this from their desks, lab tables and laptop computers ­– with the full support of their employers – making meaningful connections to their counterparts in Africa without time-consuming and expensive travel.

In the rapidly changing development world, we know there are more lessons to be learned, but I am heartened that the initial conviction we felt so strongly about has been proved out by our impact and by our growing ranks of corporate partners.


Jeff Dykstra is a co-founder and CEO of Partners in Food Solutions.


Photo courtesy of Nena Terrell / USAID.

business development, public-private partnerships