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Food Security at the Grassroots

By Jean Harman

For 50 years, Peace Corps volunteers have worked side by side with rural communities to promote sustainable agriculture and infant and young child nutrition. Today, under President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative and with support from USAID, Peace Corps volunteers are engaged more than ever before in promoting evidence-based practices to enhance food security and reduce poverty at the grassroots level. 

For the Peace Corps, food security is not just about agriculture. Peace Corps Volunteers working across sectors—from environment to community economic development—are an important part of Feed the Future. Through this whole-of-government initiative, the agency will field 1,000 Feed the Future Peace Corps Volunteers. Here are their stories!

In Senegal, Peace Corps volunteers train master farmers, who use their own parcels to help to convey the importance of mulching and peanut shells to soil fertility. One master farmer saw first-hand the benefit of using peanut shells as mulch—doing so led to yields twice as high as on neighboring farms.

In northern Ghana, Peace Corps volunteers help to diversify livelihoods by introducing cashew growing. At the invitation of the Peace Corps, representatives from farmer cooperatives and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture demonstrate to community members proper storage of nuts and fruits, as well as processing and packaging. 

Peace Corps volunteers across Africa teach the Positive Deviance/Hearth Nutrition Model, aimed at addressing malnutrition among children and changing infant and young child nutritional practices. Nutritional rehabilitation results collected by the Peace Corps in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea show that, onaverage, 42 percent of children had gained at least 200 grams during the 12-day Hearth Nutrition intervention period. One month from the initial start date, 66 percent of children had gained at least 200 grams, with an average weight gain of 448 grams. This increase shows that care providers continue to use techniques learned from the Hearth Nutrition Model after the intervention has ended.  

Jean Harman is the Peace Corps’ global food security lead. An agricultural economist and Africa expert with years of experience in trade and development, she has also worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

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