This Thursday, many of us will gather around tables piled high with turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.
More importantly, we will pause to reflect on what we are thankful for and what we can do to help those who are less fortunate. From stocking the shelves of food pantries to wrapping gifts for children in need, the holiday season is a time of year when the spirit of compassion and generosity of American families is particularly apparent.
This has been especially true in the last few weeks, as the United States has rallied a swift and life-saving response in the Philippines, where Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 4,000 people. Our disaster response teams—civilian and military—have already reached tens of thousands of survivors. Less than ten days after the storm made landfall, we had the water system up and running in hardest-hit Tacloban, supplying 200,000 people with clean water.
“Our military personnel and USAID team do this better than anybody in the world,” President Obama shared in a video message. I couldn’t agree more. In these moments of crisis, we’re proud to represent our nation’s tradition of generosity, especially as we celebrate a holiday with its roots in the spirit of gratitude.
At the end of the day, we remain committed to ensuring our assistance not only saves lives today, but reduces the risk of disaster tomorrow. From Syria (pdf) to Somalia, we’re working to bring long-term food security to the 840 million people around the world who go to bed hungry every night. We’re also working to reduce the high rates of poor nutrition that contribute to nearly half of all deaths in children under the age of five each year.
In the last year, we have directly helped more than 9 million households transform their farms and fields with our investments in agriculture and food security through Feed the Future. We’ve also reached 12 million children with nutrition programs that can prevent and treat undernutrition and improve child survival.
While there is still a lot of work to be done, we’re helping transform the face of poverty and hunger around the world—advancing progress toward the Millennium Development Goal to halve the prevalence of hunger by 2015, a target that’s within reach if the global community continues to strengthen our focus and energy.
We know that hunger is not hopeless. It is solvable.
If we continue to invest in smallholder farmers—especially women—and support good nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday, we can meet the global challenge of sustainably increasing agricultural production for a growing population. By scaling up promising innovations from farm to market to table, we can tackle extreme poverty by the roots and shape a future of prosperity and progress.
This week, we’re thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this collective global effort and wish you and your families a happy Thanksgiving.
Led by USAID, Feed the Future draws on the agricultural, trade, investment, development and policy resources and expertise of 10 federal agencies. Learn more about USAID’s long history of leadership in agricultural development.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—The U.S. Government joined with the Ethiopian Pulses, Oilseeds and Spices Processors and Exporters Association (EPOSPEA) and other industry leaders and stakeholders as a major sponsor for the third international conference on pulses, oilseeds and spices, one of the largest segments of the agricultural sector. More than 250 Ethiopian and international importers, exporters, invited guests and government officials from around the world attended yesterday’s opening of the conference.
“EPOSPEA is collaborating with USAID to market Ethiopia to international buyers and secure global opportunities to benefit the economy as well as exporters,” said EPOSPEA President Haile Berhe. “Further, USAID is helping the association implement an oilseed strategy for Ethiopia and Africa—bringing the vision of an African Oilseeds Federation to reality.”
“We have confidence that the Ethiopian Pulses, Oilseeds and Spices Processors and Exporters Association will continue to grow and thrive—culminating in higher quality, improved yields, more export volume and foreign exchange earnings, contributing more to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers,” said USAID Ethiopia Mission Director Dennis Weller.
Developing the sesame and chickpea value chains are an important part of USAID’s Agricultural Growth Program-Agribusiness Market Development, the flagship project under the U.S. President’s Feed the Future initiative in Ethiopia.
This press release originally appeared on the USAID website.
In rural Liberia, information typically moves through verbal communication. People living in rural areas do not usually write letters, read the newspaper, or watch television due to high illiteracy and lack of infrastructure. As a result, community radio stations are quickly becoming the simplest way to relay information to isolated communities.
There are over 40 community radio stations throughout the country, some of which broadcast to as many as 200,000 people. Since the Liberian conflict ended in 2003, donor support has increased the capacity and financial sustainability of the major rural community radio stations and created an opportunity to deliver important messages via the airwaves.
In today’s Liberia, the agriculture sector represents over 60 percent of the nation’s GDP, however there are only 130 registered agribusinesses, a mere two percent of all registered businesses.
Improved radio stations have created the perfect medium to reach rural listeners with agriculture and community development messages. In 2013, the USAID Food and Enterprise Development Program began harnessing both the medium and the message to help smallholder farmers. The program is part of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
As part of its mandate to strengthen the agriculture extension delivery system, USAID has worked with 27 community radio journalists from 14 radio stations to promote the farming sector, agribusiness, and increase communication among radio listeners. The USAID program provided journalists with training to reach a larger audience involved with agriculture through community radio platforms.
“We can’t rely on these radio stations to replace agriculture extension delivery, but they play a major role in notifying farmers about program information as well as best practices,” explains Doe Adovor, USAID Food and Enterprise Development Extension Specialist.
‘Soil, the Bank’ Debuts on KR 94.5
Chester Dolo, 26, never set out to become a journalist. In fact, he is studying business management at the Liberian International Business College in Ganta, Northern Liberia. But he has kept his day job at the Kergheamahan Radio station because jobs aren’t easy to come by in his hometown.
After graduating from high school in 2007, Chester quickly rose through the ranks of the community radio station. He started as a broadcaster, moved to senior reporter, then to program manager, and finally to station manager. Chester has made a name for himself on the Ganta radio station and it has much to do with his reading and speaking skills.
“My father’s a reverend and he made me read scriptures at church every Sunday because I could read out loud,” he explains.
KR 94.5—as it is known—gives the people of Ganta and the surrounding areas plenty of talk radio, especially politics, culture, and the weekend’s football results. The community station was born in 2004 after the Liberian conflict but never broadcasted news and information about agriculture, the main livelihood of the majority of the listeners. Now, Chester is changing the radio’s programming.
A USAID training event emphasized agriculture issues and allowed journalists to work in groups and demonstrate their skills and creativity to create their first agriculture-based program. When the 10-day training ended, journalists returned to their radio stations armed with a new outlook on the role of agriculture and agribusiness in community radio.
“Prior to that [training], we didn’t think much about farmers as listeners. The radio is one way to make them see farming as a business and not just survival. We can share a lot of useful information,” Chester explains. “Liberians spend $200 million every year on importing rice. We journalists can create awareness towards growing our own rice for consumption.”
Every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. and Friday morning at 9 a.m. the people in and around Ganta tune in to “Soil, the Bank”. The 30 minute program takes listeners to the farms in Nimba County to learn about the challenges and problems of farming in Liberia. Listeners hear interviews with farmers as well as USAID experts on rice, cassava, vegetable farming and animal husbandry. The program also involves agribusiness owners like fertilizer and pesticide suppliers to provide listeners a chance to ask questions. Experts also share ideas on finding markets for the region’s produce.
“A lot of farmers talk about being cheated by wholesalers. Now new buyers who want to find farmers and good produce can use the community radio to transmit their messages,” Chester explains.
After its first month on the air, “Soil, the Bank” is slowly gaining recognition. And as farmers and farm suppliers become more aware of the program, the radio station expects to sell more advertisements. Chester doesn’t plan to run the radio station his entire life, but if agriculture-focused radio can become successful, journalism might one day become a well-paid job.
Washington, DC—Today, during a speech at The George Washington University’s Feeding the Planet Summit, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah announced 10 new Feed the Future Innovation Labs to increase global food security and help smallholder farmers boost incomes and improve nutrition.
These Innovation Labs draw on the expertise of top U.S. universities and developing country research institutions, and will tackle some of the world’s most challenging agricultural research problems. The U.S. university-led Innovation Labs are central to advancing novel solutions in support of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
“Throughout history, our greatest development advances have come from introducing safe, proven and appropriate technologies to the world's most vulnerable people,” said Dr. Shah. “Building upon a strong history of research collaboration, these new Feed the Future Innovation Labs will draw on the very best research, extension and education strengths of the U.S. and global university community to improve nutrition, end hunger, and help eradicate extreme poverty around the world.”
The new labs are part of the Feed the Future Food Security Innovation Center, launched in 2012 to support innovative research aimed at transforming agricultural production systems through “sustainable intensification”—or producing more food in an environmentally sensitive manner—ensuring access to nutritious and safe foods, creating enabling and supportive policies, and addressing the emerging challenges of climate change and natural resource scarcity. The newest additions include:
These new research labs join the recently announced Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum & Millet led by Kansas State University and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy led by Michigan State University, as well as a number of other Innovation Labs representing the breadth and diversity of U.S. university agricultural research programs. A full list of the Feed the Future Innovation Labs can be found here.
About Feed the Future: Feed the Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, Feed the Future supports partner countries in developing their agriculture sectors to spur economic growth and trade that increase incomes and reduce hunger, poverty and undernutrition. More information: www.feedthefuture.gov
This press release originally appeared on the USAID website.
As part of USAID’s 52nd birthday celebration, we highlight a Feed the Future partnership that is helping to improve nutrition in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has the highest cattle population in Africa, at 52 million, including 10.5 million dairy cattle.
In 2011-2012, Ethiopia produced 3.3 billion liters of milk but only about five percent of it was sold in commercial markets. Despite an active dairy sector, individual consumption of milk in Ethiopia is only 19 liters per year and child undernutrition rates are among the highest in the world.
About an hour and half drive outside of Addis Ababa, Project Mercy, a faith-based relief and development organization, owns a 350-acre dairy farm in Cha Cha, Amhara Regional State. Through its Dairy Cattle Breeding Program, Project Mercy has a vision to help improve the nutritional status of men, women and children and generate new incomes by cross breeding Ethiopian indigenous cattle with the local British Jersey breed.
Currently, Ethiopian indigenous cattle only produce one to two quarts of milk per day, which is not enough for the typical Ethiopian family of eight. As a result, the majority of children in Ethiopia do not consume milk, leading to malnourishment and other complications such as stunted growth.
As part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, the USAID Agricultural Growth Program-Livestock Market Development project is partnering with Project Mercy to help the organization achieve its vision.
Through this partnership, the project is providing technical assistance to beneficiaries before and after the dairy cows are transferred to local families. Technical assistance includes activities such as developing a farm management plan, hosting training sessions and improving animal feed production. All of these ensure that the crossbreed will achieve its highest levels of production and will increase milk production up to 12 quarts per day. In addition, the project is linking targeted households to new markets where families will be able to sell their milk products.
This project contributes to the goals of Feed the Future, which works to reduce poverty, hunger and undernutrition in 19 focus countries around the world. USAID is the lead agency for this whole-of-government initiative.
Watch the short video below to learn more about this partnership.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog.
Soon after I arrived in Cambodia, I made a trip to see a few of the activities that USAID supports to improve the lives of rural Cambodians. Agriculture—especially rice—is of huge importance to Cambodia and I was able to see how our support is helping farmers become more successful by introducing new techniques. I also saw how our funds are improving Cambodian children’s education by strengthening school facilities and increasing their knowledge about nutrition.
Not far from Cambodia’s most famous landmark, Angkor Wat, farmers in Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces are learning about better, more efficient ways to raise fish and grow crops and vegetables. In addition to the training and supplies they receive through our food security program, USAID HARVEST, rural families are also eating better as a result of the nutritional information provided by HARVEST’s trainers.
The bottom line is that their production is allowing farmers to earn more income and provide their families with a more diverse and nutritional food basket. Greg Beck, USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Asia Bureau, saw this when he enjoyed personal interaction with one such farmer during his visit this year. Read about his reflections on his Cambodia visit here.
Nutrition is a very important priority for me and my team, as it continues to be one of Cambodia’s main development challenges.
Studies show that too many Cambodians suffer from malnutrition. That’s why USAID’s program (Improving Basic Education in Cambodia) not only focuses on the classroom, but in the vegetable garden, too. In addition to providing computer labs, the project also teaches students about nutrition, water and sanitation by teaching them to install and maintain a vegetable garden. They also learn about the importance of protein and how important fish is to their protein requirements. These valuable nutritional resources will help school children eat right, grow strong and eventually join Cambodia’s growing workforce.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog. USAID HARVEST is part of the U.S. Government's Feed the Future initiative.
In the world’s newest nation of South Sudan, the legacy of four decades of civil war continues to challenge efforts to gather reliable current statistics on health, education, the economy and other factors. USAID and other development partners are seeking to help the South Sudanese people build a robust and resilient economy.
Key to that effort is modernizing and expanding the agriculture sector.
Because decades of war often forced people from their land, South Sudan as a whole lost much of its agricultural knowledge base. As a result, most of South Sudan’s food is imported, despite significant arable land, plentiful water and good quality soil.
In spite of the challenges, most South Sudanese are still involved in agriculture, typically as subsistence farmers producing crops such as maize, sorghum, cassava and groundnuts. Production levels are low, however, and even farmers in the most fertile region—the “Greenbelt” that crosses the three Equatoria states—are affected by a number of adverse conditions, including poor quality seeds, deficient farming equipment, lack of roads to get their goods to market and post-harvest losses due to inadequate or nonexistent storage.
To examine the effects of USAID’s assistance in South Sudan’s agriculture sector since 2012, a USAID team led by economist Paul Pleva recently completed a cost-benefit analysis of the $26 million in USAID funds currently being spent annually in South Sudan in support of the Feed the Future initiative.
Part of the analysis examined two different techniques for improving crop yields, both being promoted under USAID’s Food, Agribusiness and Rural Markets (FARM) project. Begun in 2010, the FARM project seeks to boost agricultural growth through improved inputs, strengthen market linkages, improve the conditions for private sector investment and improve infrastructure to facilitate trade.
Pleva analyzed the two techniques being implemented through the FARM project to improve crop yields. One technique required relatively expensive farming inputs, but promised potentially dramatic yield increases. A second technique focused on more simple improvements such as improved seeds, proper weeding and seed row spacing for more modest yield increases.
The team observed actual outcomes produced by the two techniques and considered the sustainability of each.
Pleva led a collaborative effort to collect data from multiple sources, identify inconsistencies and compare the quality of those sources. He used inexpensive technologies such as Google Apps to ensure that USAID implementing partners around the world could provide input.
After comparing the results, the USAID team found that of the two interventions, the cheaper technique of improving farming yields resulted in greater profitability for South Sudanese farmers and provided a much better chance of sustainability after the project ends. The evidence for this finding was significant and, as a result, USAID turned the focus of the project toward the cheaper and more sustainable intervention.
Small sums can generate big returns—in this case for both farmers and USAID. USAID made a modest investment of resources—the staff time of a small team—to conduct the cost-benefit analysis, and in doing so, increased the development impact of taxpayer dollars significantly.
Farmers in South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, stand to benefit economically from the findings of this analysis—a potential path out of poverty.
By using economic analysis to prove that simple techniques can best assist South Sudan’s farmers, USAID had avoided an all too common trap in development—unsustainable projects that fall apart when donors conclude a project or cease assistance to a sector or country.
Lessons like this one not only save money in the short-term, but by helping people to increase their household income and food security they also decrease the likelihood that emergency funds will be needed to help these communities in the future.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog.
Working with USAID over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to see tremendous growth and change in many countries, and that impact has been particularly felt in Cambodia as part of Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative.
Feed the Future supports countries in developing their own agriculture sectors to generate opportunities for economic growth and trade that help reduce poverty and hunger. Agriculture sector growth has proven to be an effective way of reducing poverty, and Feed the Future’s efforts contribute significantly to President Obama’s goal of ending extreme poverty within two decades.
The initiative works with families that rely on agriculture for their livelihood, helping them grow more food, raise their incomes, improve their nutrition, and learn farming techniques that enable sustainable income and production for generations.
During my most recent visit to Cambodia, I was able to see these changes taking place first-hand.
I visited 62-year-old Mrs. Koy Muot, who, through techniques learned via Feed the Future, was able to increase her vegetable production and sell a portion of that as a result. Her income doubled from one short growing season, illustrating the important felt impact this program is having. Even more compelling was her newfound ability to reinvest in her family by purchasing school books and clothes for her grandson and more seeds for her garden next season.
Mrs. Muot was able to make these changes through Feed the Future’s HARVEST program, which helps Cambodians improve on all aspects of food security, from production and access to nutrition in the country while also helping farmers adapt their production techniques to make them more resilient to climate change.
She learned about drip irrigation, water use and pest management in classes. She was provided with basic equipment and supplies she would need to implement her newly learned farming practices in exchange for her time, land and labor. She allowed her land to be used as the demonstration plot, with a garden on one side using traditional techniques and on the other side, a garden using HARVEST techniques.
I have to say, the difference between the two plots was remarkable. The HARVEST side showed a lush garden full of mouth-watering vegetables, while on the other side sat a choked patch of land struggling to survive.
With her newly learned agriculture skills, Mrs. Muot was able to more than double her income, from $30 a year to $66. Now, every year, she can sell as much as 485 lbs (220 kg) of amaranth, morning glory and long-bean, and keep 100 pounds (45 kg) for her and her family to enjoy.
“After I joined the program, I learned new techniques to grow vegetables. The production now is much better than the traditional way. I consume some and sell the rest. Now I can support my children and grandchildren,” said Koy.
The Feed the Future HARVEST program works in four provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom areas of Cambodia with some of the highest rates of poor and food insecure families but some of the best opportunities to address these issues through improved agricultural practices. Together with the help of 22 Cambodian NGOs, USAID has worked with and assisted over 47,000 households and beneficiaries including 102 schools and health centers in more than 461 villages.
I’m proud of the hard work that my colleagues at USAID in Cambodia have done with our partners there to make Mrs. Muot’s life better—and those of generations that follow her.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog.
In 1977, our father earned a USAID scholarship to leave Mali and pursue graduate studies at Purdue University. As one of the first Africans to benefit from an effort to identify and train the next generation of agriculture experts, he earned his doctorate and went on to work for the United Nations for the next three decades as a food security and sustainable development expert.
In the 1980s, he was stationed to work in Ethiopia during the height of the famine, which made a lasting impression on our family. Almost four decades later, USAID brought us together with President Obama to share our idea for transforming the rice industry and combating farmer poverty and malnutrition in Mali.
Taking part in Feed the Future’s Agricultural Technology Marketplace during President Obama’s visit to Senegal was a great honor for us. The struggle against food insecurity and malnutrition forms a fundamental part of our identity due to our father’s work and our experiences growing up in Ethiopia and Mali. We are acutely aware of how fortunate we are. Our father—the only child in a family of 14 to finish high school—instilled a deep sense of obligation in us from a very young age.
And about four years ago, while still in college in the United States, that sense of obligation turned into action.
A spike in rice prices in 2008 captured our attention. We were angered to witness how the increase in prices led to even greater food insecurity in Mali. We committed ourselves to tackling food shortages and malnutrition in Mali, in part by producing a locally grown vitamin-fortified rice.
We had almost no knowledge of the rice plant, rice production or rice processing, so we had to a lot of homework. We searched online for studies by USAID, picked the brains of professors, emailed our business model and financial projections to seasoned entrepreneurs to deconstruct, and video chatted with technology providers in Argentina and China to put together a business plan that won over $130,000 in prize money and awards. With these funds, we returned to Mali in 2011 to conduct a pilot study that culminated in the marketing of locally-produced fortified rice in Africa for the first time, selling 10 tons despite the new entry of this product into local markets.
Today, we are the founders of Malô, a Malian social enterprise that produces high quality, fortified rice to address the twin problems of farmer poverty and malnutrition. We work in partnership with a 30,000-member farmer cooperative in Mali’s biggest rice producing zone.
Our first processing and fortification facility, with the capacity to meet the needs of more than 25,000 people per year, will be up and running by the end of 2013. And plans for a processing center to feed a million people a year are back on track after a period of political uncertainty. Next year we will begin production of fortified rice kernels in Mali so other rice millers in West Africa can offer affordable fortified rice to their customers.
In our brief chat with President Obama, we were impressed by his desire to understand the details of Malô’s business model as well as what it meant for farmers and consumers. Hearing him articulate his philosophy for achieving food security, in person, was powerful. He stressed that economic growth as a result of improved performance in the agriculture sector was most effective in reducing poverty. He also said that food aid was no longer sufficient and that by leveraging investments by companies, the impact will be deeper and broader. And finally, he argued that bolstering African agriculture should not be seen as a burden or waste, but a remarkable opportunity for all.
After our experience in Senegal, we are convinced more than ever that helping nourish the future is our life’s calling. Together with our partners, we are excited about the promise of African farmers and consumers—and meeting their aspirations will be a fun and rewarding journey.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog. It is part of a series of posts by marketplace participants who met Obama in June 2013.