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At Ethiopian food factory, Obama makes the case for his African initiatives

During a visit to the Ethio­pian capital Addis Ababa, President Obama toured the Faffa Food plant, which is supported by the U.S. government's Feed the Future program. (Reuters)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Touring a food factory here Tuesday, President Obama made the case for why his signature policy initiatives were making a difference in Africa.

Obama chose to highlight Feed the Future, an initiative that pairs federal funding with money from other nations and the private sector, works to boost the agricultural productivity of small farmers in developing nations.

On Tuesday, the administration released a report saying the program played a part in several measurable advances. They include a more than 25 percent reduction in height stunting in two provinces in Kenya between 2009 and 2014, and a 16 percent cut in rural poverty across Uganda in recent years.

As he prepared to wrap up a nearly week-long visit to Africa, Obama visited the factory floor of Faffa Food factory to examine how the initiative is working on the ground. Faffa Food produces supplemental foods such as fortified baby food, flours and barley mixes. A local farmer and one of the factory workers explained how they’ve been able to boost agricultural productivity and overall production with the U.S. program’s help.

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President Obama visits Faffa Food in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The farmer, who wore a colorful blue headscarf, displayed cobs she had produced before and after new processes were introduced, with visibly bigger and brighter cobs as an end result. Obama noted she had tripled her yield, garnering enough money to buy a cow that she could milk.

“The goal is to drastically increase the productivity of a small farmers all throughout Africa because what we know is that a huge percentage of Africans are still getting their incomes from agriculture and most of them are very small plots, and not a lot of technology," Obama told reporters. "But with just a few smart interventions, a little bit of help, they can make huge improvements in their overall yield.

A few minutes later, standing near several silos and sorting belts, the president told reporters: “There have been questions before about whether some signature initiatives can really make a difference, this is making a difference in very concrete ways."

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