ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – President Barack Obama highlighted his administration’s efforts to combat hunger worldwide on Tuesday as he prepared to end a historic return to the land of his father’s birth with a speech to the African Union.
Obama toured a plant operated by Faffa Foods, which participates in the U.S. Feed the Future program. The initiative focuses on helping smaller farmers in 19 countries, including Ethiopia and 11 other African nations, grow their businesses.
Faffa, in the Ethiopian capital, is the chief supplier of baby food for children in Ethiopia, where child malnutrition is a serious problem.
Obama said the “huge percentage” Africans who still get their income from agriculture can improve their yields with a few interventions. He said a woman he met at the factory had increased her yield threefold, providing enough money for her to buy a cow and send her children to school.
He said Feed the Future “is making a difference in some very concrete ways.”
Ethiopia is also the home of the African Union. Obama’s speech will be the first time a sitting American president addresses the group.
Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, said the AU takes the lead on an array of global issues, including peace and security, health and agriculture. Obama wanted to address the continent via the AU because the U.S. has come to work closely with the union on many of these issues.
Obama will also meet one on one with Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission. She was among regional leaders Obama met with Monday to discuss the civil strife in neighboring South Sudan.
Obama’s speech will cap a five-day, two-nation tour of Africa that began with his arrival Friday in Kenya, where his late father was born.
The president flew to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to attend a U.S.-sponsored business development summit, but the trip was also a homecoming of sorts. The country considers Obama a local son and Kenyans have been waiting years to welcome him back as president of the United States. Many lined the streets in Kenya, as well as in Ethiopia, to watch his motorcade drive by.
Obama also reconnected with relatives on his father’s side of the family, including his sister, Auma Obama, and a grandmother.
At both stops, Obama challenged the country’s leaders to clean up their governments to attract business investments.
He also pressed them to respect and uphold human rights, including gay equality, and basic democratic freedoms.
Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit both countries.
He arrives back in Washington early Wednesday.