June 27, 2013

Addis Ababa—Sileshi Getahun, State Minister of Agriculture, and Dennis Weller, Mission Director of USAID Ethiopia, officially launched the “Land Administration to Nurture Development” (LAND) program today at a national meeting  of land administration officials in Addis Ababa. 

The program builds on previous USAID land administration and property rights projects from 2005-2013 and will operate in six regions of Ethiopia, on the federal level, and in collaboration with Ethiopian universities. The program will bolster land administration capacity in the country and will expand land certification for smallholder farmers in Agriculture Growth Program woredas. The new program will also work with pastoral communities on access to grazing land and water and to build resilience in drought-prone areas.

USAID Mission Director Dennis Weller discussed the strategic importance of land management to national development at the event: “Transparent and well-planned administration of land is critical to investments in food production, to equitable growth in the agriculture sector, to conservation of natural resources, and, last but not least, to peace and progress for the vast number of Ethiopian women and men who reside and work in rural areas.”

Under the U.S. President’s Feed the Future initiative, the LAND project is implemented by TetraTech-Associates in Rural Development with local partners including Haramaya and Bahir Dar Universities. It has an estimated value of 11 million USD.

This article originally appeared on the USAID Mission Ethiopia website.

June 21, 2013

CAP HAITIEN, Haiti—The U.S. Agency for International Development yesterday launched the Feed the Future North (FTFN) project which is supported by USAID under Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. The new FTFN is an innovative project to spur economic growth in promising agricultural areas in northern Haiti while at the same time developing local firms to be direct USAID partners. 

FTFN was developed in cooperation with the Government of Haiti Ministry of Agriculture. It aims to increase agricultural incomes for at least 40,000 rural households in northern Haiti, expand financial services to local agribusinesses, stabilize watersheds that support farmland, and improve roads in some of the most fertile but inaccessible farming areas. A key project component aims to increase the number of local Haitian firms who participate as direct contracting partners.

“The North is a key region of Haiti. Working here on food security benefits the entire country. We will be working alongside the Ministry of Agriculture to increase agricultural production and improve farmers’ lives,” said Ambassador to Haiti Pamela A. White at the project’s announcement, which was also attended by Haiti President Michel Martelly.

The new Feed the Future North is a five-year, $88 million project that will focus on expanding farmers’ yields of primarily five key crops—corn, beans, rice, plantains and cocoa. The program is innovative. In addition to traditional farmer support, erosion protection, and investments in agricultural infrastructure, it will seek to employ new technology—including mobile money—to make it easier for farmers and agribusinesses to manage their transactions, and cellphones to transmit market and other information beneficial to farmers. The project will ensure that both women and men benefit from FTFN interventions.

FTFN comes on the heels of the successful Feed the Future West (FTFW) project that has reached more than 30,000 farmers to date in the Cul-de-Sac and St. Marc corridors outside of Port-au-Prince. The project has introduced improved seeds, fertilizer, and new technologies that have helped participating farmers substantially increase their crop yields and augment their gross incomes from some $200 per hectare to more than $1,100 per hectare. Additionally, in the wake of the 2012 drought and storms, FTFW contributed to the U.S. Government response to increased food insecurity in Haiti by rehabilitating important irrigation systems that were damaged by the storms.

The new Feed the Future North is projected to fund an additional approximately $40 million in local subcontracts and grants to Haitian implementing partners to support a Haitian-led process and to ensure the project’s long-term sustainability. These local partners will be charged with carrying out the project’s work for years to come.

“Agriculture is fundamental to Haiti’s economy,” said Mark Anthony White, Acting Mission Director of USAID/Haiti. “But to be effective, assistance must develop resilience, especially in Haiti where farmers are exposed to adversities such as flooding, drought and earthquakes. The Feed the Future North project is designed to do just that. It will help Haitians put in place local systems and infrastructure to help small farmers and the overall agribusiness to be successful.

“The project will also unleash the potential of some excellent farming areas.”

FTFN will cover six watersheds in the North and Northeast departments: Limbé, Haut du Cap, Grande Rivière du Nord, Trou du Nord, Marion and Jassa. It will be implemented by DAI as the lead contractor and a subcontracting team that includes Haitian firms Agridey and AgroConsult, the female-owned small business Making Cents, and Haitian-American small business PHS.

The project will be led by Chief of Party Cristian Juliard, who has 35 years of international experience, including significant experience in Haiti. He will be supported by Deputy Chief of Party Joanas Gué, a former Haitian Minister of Agriculture with 25 years of experience in food security and program development in Haiti.

Read more about USAID’s work in Haiti here. More on FTFN is here.

This press release originally appeared on the USAID website.

June 18, 2013

This morning, my daughters ate a hearty breakfast. They had eggs, toast and a yogurt each. What do you think women and children in poverty-stricken regions throughout the world ate (or did they)?

I remember reading an article by Anap Shah a few years ago that I have never been able to get out of my head. The heading read, “Today, around 21,000 children died around the world.”

I was shocked! Living in a bubble, I rarely paid attention to how devastating the numbers were (about 1 child dying every 4 seconds)! Although written a few years ago, that article was the catalyst for my quest to learn more about global nutrition and its effect on women and children.

Anap Shah caused two conflicting emotions: First, relief that my children didn’t fall into one of those statistics. Second, sick to my stomach that I even felt that way!

Did you know that nearly 165 million children under 5-years-old suffer from undernutrition today? According to the Lancet medical journal, malnutrition contributes to 3.1 million under-five child deaths annually. The numbers are stunning but don’t have to be. The U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is dedicated to reducing them. It’s working towards building a better future for mothers and children.

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, has already improved nutrition and helped people lead healthier lives in Zambia, Guatemala, Tanzania and more. Through Feed the Future in the past year alone, 12 million children have been positively affected — and that is just the beginning. Feed the Future shares their knowledge with the people in poverty-stricken locations and support country-owned programs addressing undernutrition. Their monthly newsletter is filled with information regarding their latest goals and progress.

USAID believes in integrating their approach on dealing with global health and nutrition by forging the right partnerships through initiatives like Feed the Future. USAID, on behalf of the U.S. Government, signed on to the global Nutrition for Growth Compact, and supports the Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition, which is chock filled with information about the importance of improving nutrition globally. Their goal is to ensure every child is given the best start possible in life.

The first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday are the most critical for a child’s development. By focusing on maternal health and young children, the U.S. Government through USAID and the Feed the Future initiative are striving to cut the death toll for children under 5 years old. Find out more about their goal and ways to help here.

This post originally appeared on the USAID blog.

Shivani Cotter is a writer, blogger and social media activist. Through her blog,, Shivani is dedicated to teaching others how to live positive and fulfilling lives as well as leaving a lovely legacy for her daughters.

Shivani is part of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, a global coalition of 1000+ mom bloggers, in 17 countries, who spread good news about the amazing work nonprofit organizations and NGOs are doing around the world.

June 17, 2013

Last week USAID Administrator Raj Shah joined the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (ACVFA) to launch a working group focused on civil society collaboration under the Feed the Future initiative.

Co-chaired by David Beckmann of Bread for the World and Bruce McNamer of TechnoServe, the working group is tasked with developing an action plan for further deepening the engagement of civil society partners in Feed the Future. Read on to find out how you can provide input.

USAID—along with the nine other agencies that make up the Feed the Future initiative—recognizes that achieving sustainable solutions to global challenges such as hunger requires us to work in close collaboration with countries, citizens, partners, and the wider development community in almost every facet of our work. Partnership with civil society brings in expertise and awareness that allows our development efforts to have a broader impact and helps us use U.S. taxpayer dollars more efficiently and effectively as we pursue our development goals.

With this in mind, we’re excited to work with this diverse group of advisors to deepen and broaden the impact of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative. We know our civil society partners here in the United States and overseas have been looking for more formal avenues to input into Feed the Future and we look forward to incorporating additional voices and widening the scope of participants and stakeholders in this process.

Through the action plan, the working group seeks to strengthen collective progress toward the specific goals and focal areas of Feed the Future. (If you’re not familiar with them, you can find them outlined on the Feed the Future website.)

We’ve narrowed the scope of the working group by outlining five key areas where the U.S. Government is eager to hear from nongovernmental organizations, implementing partners, and other private voluntary organizations working to fight hunger and undernutrition.

The task of the working group will be to identify a set of five to ten actions within these areas where greater collaboration will maximize Feed the Future’s impact.

These key areas are:

  • Propose 2-3 specific actions that should be highlighted or prioritized within the Feed the Future Learning Agenda, or related to high profile crosscutting issues like climate, nutrition or gender, where the U.S. Government and the international NGO community can work against a common set of milestones.
  • Highlight 2-3 concrete actions that the NGO community and the U.S. Government can commit to work on together on that will strengthen local civil society with consideration to building resilience to recurrent crisis (e.g. focusing on capacity building across all programming, supporting NGO platforms organized by food and nutrition stakeholders, advancing local stakeholder education, promoting an enabling legal environment for local civil society).
  • Define a common message on the importance of eradicating extreme hunger, undernutrition and poverty that can be reflected across Feed the Future and the stakeholder community and identify new ways to communicate this message frame effectively to the American people.
  • Define or adopt a method to gauge the quality of stakeholder engagement in Feed the Future and in focus countries (e.g. possible adoption of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program’s Quality of Participation Guidelines).
  • Propose a method for ensuring accountability and transparency from civil society and the U.S. Government in following up on the workstreams laid out in the final recommendations of this group.

The questions and comments raised by audience members at the launch of the Feed the Future working group were insightful and thought-provoking, and we’re sure there are plenty more. Now is your chance to weigh in on what you believe to be issues of high priority. The working group wants to hear from you.

Send your comments on the above items to and we’ll make sure your thoughts get to the working group members.

This post originally appeared on the USAID blog. Read a transcript of the event on the USAID website.

June 10, 2013

Sweet potato packed with extra vitamin A; corn that tolerates drought; rice that grows better in African climates; smartphones that provide extension services.

Agricultural technology is a major part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to improve people’s access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, something known as food security.

And the U.S. Government’s main vehicle to strengthen food security is called Feed the Future, an umbrella of programs that began in 2010, not long after global food prices spiked, sparking riots and causing real crises for hundreds of millions of people.

Feed the Future, and the $3.5 billion dollars President Obama pledged towards it, represent the common belief that any serious attempt to fight hunger and end poverty requires a renewed focus on agriculture.

This podcast originally appeared in the May/June 2013 edition of USAID FrontLines. 

June 10, 2013

A new method for growing crops in Haiti is starting to take root. A “greenhouse revolution,” introduced by USAID, is bearing exceptional harvests, increasing incomes and countering environmental degradation.

The use of greenhouses is a common practice in many countries but unknown in Haiti until recently. Participating farmers, who previously were ready to abandon their increasingly challenging trade, are producing larger yields and are trading their produce more efficiently and for higher profits. That bounty includes lettuce, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, leeks, beets, carrots, strawberries and flowers such as chrysanthemums and gladioli. These are now sold locally to supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and farmers markets.

About 60 percent of Haitians depend on agriculture for their income. But making ends meet is difficult and, until recently, agricultural productivity has systematically declined over the last three decades. The January 2010 earthquake prompted the Government of Haiti and its partners, including the U.S. Government, to put into place a new, comprehensive development strategy for guiding medium-term agricultural investments. USAID contributes through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, as a major part of this effort.

In 2012, a drought, a tropical storm and a hurricane exacerbated agricultural development challenges, with flooding and mudslides washing away fields and vegetation. These catastrophes dovetailed with environmental degradation due to a longstanding practice of cutting down trees for agricultural land and to use as charcoal for cooking.

Farmers like Michel Dorlean, a flower producer, struggled financially. The horticulturalist grew up learning the family business of planting flowers on traditional hillside plots in his mountainous village of Furcy. The hillside locations leave flowers vulnerable to excessive heat, wind, humidity and rain. Dorlean used to lose a portion of his yields to weather.

But last year, his battered flower plots flourished into a profitable business thanks to greenhouse activities spurred by Feed the Future West, a USAID-supported project under Feed the Future.

Continue reading this article in the May/June 2013 edition of USAID FrontLines. 

June 10, 2013

For 63-year-old widow Selina Tsanga, life had been full of hard work and daily challenges. She used to rise at 5 a.m. every day to work on her small farm, growing maize without access to irrigation. “We had to earn our living through sweating,” she says.

Tsanga lives in Mutema, a rural village in Chipinge district in Zimbabwe’s southern Manicaland province. Farmers in Chipinge live in one of the country’s harshest climates, where seasonal rainfall is less than 500 millimeters (19 inches), making meaningful production of field crops nearly impossible without irrigation. Average temperatures in the region have been on the rise with erratic rainfall, further exacerbating drought-like conditions. As a result, the district is regularly hit by devastating food and nutrition crises.

Feeding three orphaned grandchildren and two children still living at home was a daily challenge for Tsanga.

“Due to the harsh climate, crop farming was like gambling with nature,” she said. “Relying on the government’s relief food was only a temporary solution that did not solve our larger issues.”

To address this all-too-familiar situation, USAID began working with a commercial banana company, Matanuska, to develop 60 new hectares of banana production for small-scale farmers in Mutema. Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim-AIED), a five-year, $36 million program, helps farmers like Tsanga rethink their livelihoods as a business. The program contributes to efforts throughout the region to reduce poverty and undernutrition, which are key objectives of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Tsanga says her 0.05 hectare demonstration plot (roughly 5,000 square feet) has changed her life. So far this season, she has harvested and sold 2,300 kilograms of bananas earning her more than $500 in net income, compared to her previous average income of $200 per season. She has another, larger plot of bananas on which she is employing good agricultural practices she learned from Zim-AIED. With her cumulative harvests, she expects to earn an income of more than $3,000 from her banana crop this year.

With this kind of income, Tsanga can feed her entire family and buy clothes, medicine and school supplies for her grandchildren.

Continue reading this article in the May/June 2013 edition of USAID FrontLines. 

June 10, 2013

Thompson Tembo served two years in prison for wildlife poaching, bore scars of a buffalo goring, and lived in poverty while working in the illegal animal trade. He felt he had no choice. Poaching was all he knew how to do, and his only source of income and food for his family.

Now over 60 years old, Tembo grew up in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley on the edges of a vast national game reserve where his father was killed by an elephant more than 30 years ago. The elder poacher passed his knowledge on to his son.

With very little formal education, poaching was Tembo’s only skill. He began killing warthogs and other small game for food in his late teens. In his 20s, he began killing elephants and trading their tusks for food and clothing. When he was in his 40s, Tembo was killing 20 elephants a year and selling their tusks for $10—tusks that were worth 1,000 times as much on the black market. By the time he reached age 50, Tembo spent most of his time away from his family—in the bush, poaching or hiding from the authorities—with very little to show for it.

In 2003, he learned of a local non-profit organization called Community Markets for Conservation, or COMACO, that was working with poachers, as well as charcoal producers (who illegally cut down trees to produce charcoal) to teach them conservation farming as an alternative means of survival.

Tembo traded in his gun. Today he makes a good living as a beekeeper and rice farmer. He recently bought a grinding mill that he operates as a small business with his wife.

“I cry when I think of all the wild animals I killed to better myself, but instead remained poor and made my community poorer from the loss of this resource,” Tembo says. “COMACO opened my eyes to a better life and gave me the tools to change my life, and I have committed myself to helping others like me to put down their guns.”

No Better Choice

In Zambia’s Eastern province, almost 80 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Half are undernourished.

“In the absence of skills, inputs and markets, what alternatives were there but to poach, if families living near wildlife areas had to survive?” says Dale Lewis, an American elephant biologist-turned-conservationist who has lived and worked in Zambia for more than 20 years.

He founded COMACO in 2003 as a new approach to conservation in Zambia that recognizes hunger and survival as the underlying reasons why people like Tembo resort to poaching and other forms of resource exploitation.

“It was time to get bold and take on this challenge,” says Lewis.

But COMACO needed a market for these farmers to sell the crops they were learning to grow—things like peanuts, rice, soy and honey.

Continue reading this article in the May/June 2013 edition of USAID FrontLines.

June 10, 2013

In the under-developed, rural farmlands of Zambia’s Eastern province, the peanut is a choice crop, especially among women. Peanuts add protein to diets and bring cash needed for school fees and other important family expenses. Because of this, USAID has focused on helping farmers in Eastern province grow and market greater amounts of the crop through President Barack Obama’s flagship U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future.

One Feed the Future project is introducing improved peanut varieties to smallholder farmers and teaching them how to grow them. The project also works with local firms to expand peanut oil and butter production and sales to local and regional markets, bringing more money back to the farmers.

Experiences from other countries show, however, that with the commercialization of agricultural products, men often take on the majority of new opportunities and sometimes take over production and marketing. The Feed the Future project in Zambia is taking on the challenge of doubling peanut yields in Eastern province while ensuring women have opportunities to participate in—and benefit from—production and trade.

How exactly does Feed the Future help empower women to have these opportunities? “By giving them the tools and training they need to stay competitive,” says Anna Toness, USAID/Zambia economic growth team leader.

One example of the project’s impact can be found with Gladys Dhaka, 57, who has been a member of the Katete Women’s Development Association for many years. The association, with support from Feed the Future, empowers women in local communities to engage in agricultural activities—including growing peanut crops—through technical, economic and social training. But up until recently, Dhaka admits their success has been limited: “We have empowered women socially but not economically.”

Through USAID, Feed the Future is working in partnership with the Zambian Government Agricultural Research Institute to introduce improved hybrid seed varieties and train women like Dhaka to become certified seed growers of these higher-quality seeds, which fetch a premium price. Her main customer will be the association itself, which will distribute seeds to more of its members to increase the number of women involved in peanut production.

Dhaka’s husband is proud: “I’m not jealous of her. We decide together. We sit down together and discuss.”

And Dhaka has a newfound respect for the association: “With the Women’s Development Association, I will go somewhere from where I am.”

Women are also gaining access to advanced processing technologies. Vainess Phiri, program coordinator for the Katete Women’s Development Association, manages a peanut oil expeller the association purchased with a Feed the Future grant. The oil expeller means the association can enter into peanut processing and marketing, areas often dominated by men.

Of the association’s 3,500 members, almost 1,000 of them grow peanuts. With the association in the oil-processing business, these women have a ready market for their crop.

“Now we can buy peanuts from our members and increase benefits by selling the processed oil,” says Phiri.

The expeller—a compact, electric press—is operated by a man who is employed by the association. He is training association members to operate and maintain the expeller.

When asked what the expeller means to the association, Phiri sums it up in one word: “Sustainability. The money we make from the oil will allow us to continue our projects after our donor support has stopped. If we are to keep empowering our women, we need to be able to make our own money and not always depend on others.”

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2013 edition of USAID FrontLines.

June 10, 2013

Gulbahor Rajabova never dreamed she would one day be a land activist in her rural home town in northern Tajikistan. But, when her farm was stolen out from under her by an influential businessman, she was left with no choice.

It happened five years ago as she was leading a 50-member farmers’ collective reorganized from a former Soviet Union cotton farm. One of the members used his business connections to persuade local authorities to assign half the land directly to him. The remaining 49 people, mostly women, were left with the least productive land and a $40,000 debt.

Rajabova knew this land transaction had taken place illegally, but she had nowhere to turn. She showed the fraudulent documents to local authorities, but they refused to take action.  

As she was losing hope, she met lawyer Nodira Sidykova, the director of a USAID-supported legal aid center in Spitaman, Tajikistan, who agreed to take her case. They lost two appeals before reaching the Supreme Court and winning a favorable ruling. The court ordered the businessman to return the land to Rajabova and pay $17,000 towards the farm’s debt.

“We are teaching farmers about the law and to not be afraid to go to court and protect their interests under the law,” said Sidykova, who once aspired to become a judge but later realized she could make more of a difference focusing on land rights in her community.

Over the last three years, she has been part of a USAID-funded network of legal aid centers that have helped more than 100,000 farmers learn about and assert their rights. Through the support of one NGO in the network, “Rural Women,” the number of registered women-led family farms in four districts increased almost threefold, from 87 to 240. Many of these gains are being expanded through the U.S. Government’s flagship food security initiative,Feed the Future.

The program to improve farmers’ land rights put the brakes on what has become a sad rite of passage, particularly for female farmers. When farmers lack knowledge about their rights as workers on a collective farm, they are susceptible to exploitation. Farm members are paid in cotton stalks instead of cash, they don’t receive the maternity or sick leave benefits they are entitled to, and they face severe intimidation if they try to leave.

Without control over their land and without a source of income, these farmers are unable to grow enough nutritious food to feed their families. In fact, according to the USAID-funded 2012 Demographic Health Survey, 12 percent of children in Tajikistan are underweight, reflecting both acute and chronic under-nutrition; 10 percent of children are wasted--indicated by an acute, rapid weight loss and low weight for height; and 4 percent are severely wasted. Twenty-six percent of children under age 5 are stunted, of whom nearly half are severely stunted. As part of Feed the Future, farmers are learning how to break their dependency on unprofitable non-food crops such as cotton and support their families while growing nutritious food instead.

Breaking with Tradition

In Tajikistan, all land is owned by the government, but after the end of the Soviet Union, land-use rights were given to small-sized private collective farms. Individuals have the right to withdraw from the state or collective farm to establish private farms, but the process is not easy.

Continue reading this article in the May/June 2013 edition of USAID FrontLines.


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