Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.
Today we celebrate the visionary leadership of President Abraham Lincoln in signing the Morrill Act 150 years ago. Even as our nation prepared to enter one of the most brutal and challenging periods of its existence, President Lincoln demonstrated a powerful understanding that America’s success would depend on investment in the agricultural development of its new frontier. His foresight led to the creation of the most productive science- and engineering-based agricultural economy the world has ever seen. The new U.S. land-grant system democratized American access to education, graduating young scientists and engineers who have continued to transform the American economy through generations as no other single investment has.
Feeding the world’s hungry and access to energy are typically viewed as separate development goals. But it is becoming abundantly clear to those of us here in Rio de Janiero at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (RIO+20) that they are intertwined. The facts speak for themselves:
An estimated 850 million people go to bed each night hungry;
The world population grows by 77 million people each year, and by 2050 the population will be an estimated nine billion;
To meet this demand, global food production must increase by 70 percent by 2050.
PoweringAg, USAID’s new Grand Challenge, invites ideas and innovation on powering up energy in developing countries. The effort is expected to help women with 43 percent of the world’s farmers estimated to be female.
To feed nine billion people, we will need to increase food production on the land already growing today’s food supply, and access to sustainable energy is key.
The magnitude of the challenge is illustrated in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) where only fourteen percent of people in rural areas have access to electricity. Post-harvest losses have risen as high as fifty percent in SSA, but with the introduction of cold storage, refrigerated transport, and business models to store produce could dramatically reduce levels of hunger.
You’re invited to join Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development, which is a multi-year initiative focused on promoting affordable, clean energy solutions for farmers and agribusinesses throughout the developing world. Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development supports market-driven approaches that link modern energy service providers with farmers, processors, input suppliers, and traders. These approaches aim to further integrate clean energy technologies in the agricultural sector to increase production, employ new value-added processing techniques, and reduce post-harvest loss. This Energy Grand Challenge for Development was launched last week at the Frontiers in Development conference and includes an online ideation community that you’re encouraged to join through www.PoweringAg.org– find it by clicking on “Join the Community.”
Powering Agriculture: A Grand Challenge for Development is implemented under the Grand Challenge for Development program that invites innovators everywhere to apply science, technology, and creative business models to address obstacles in the path of human development. USAID and its partners – the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Duke Energy, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) – seek to catalyze a movement of solvers to identify clean energy solutions to intensify the agriculture sector, enhance food security, and decouple food production from the use of fossil fuels. For more information on how to join the community now, share ideas, review the pre-solicitation notice, and apply for a grant starting July 12th, please visit: www.PoweringAg.org.
This week USAID announced that it will close its Mission to Panama in September, a reflection of Panama’s own great advances in development. Our assistance program to Panama began in 1940 with technical assistance for the establishment of a rubber plantation. Since then, we have provided $1.2 billion in economic assistance to Panama.
Our development initiatives in Panama have facilitated public-private partnerships and strategic development alliances leveraging local and external resources. As a result the sustainability of our joint activities will continue long after our Mission closes.
Today 1.4 billion people lack access to clean energy. The impact of this limited energy access is particularly pronounced in the agricultural sectors of developing countries, where three out of four people living in poverty have livelihoods connected to agriculture. The lack of modern energy services impacts every aspect from farm to market – from irrigation and harvesting to processing and storage.
On June 12, 2012, USAID and its partners will launch ‘Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge‘. This global effort will increase clean energy access and support economic growth in the developing world through finding and scaling effective, clean energy solutions for farmers and agri-businesses. Success will result in enhanced food security and increased economic resiliency in the host communities.
Visit PoweringAg.org to learn more, join the forum, watch the launch event and ultimately, to submit proposals.
Inexpensive video production has become a viable way for agricultural organizations to communicate with beneficiaries, donors, and the public. And it’s not just posting on YouTube. Devices such as handheld projectors and tablet computers have come down in price, enabling practitioners to disseminate to farmers in rural areas with minimal technology. Social networks – just a few years ago only the purview of wealthy countries – are now truly global. In regions with electricity, a well-executed video can now go viral – and become more impactful than the slickest behavior change campaigns of decades past.
It is exciting, but that doesn’t make it simple. Organizations continue to make low quality videos that fail to engage their audience or reflect the core objectives of their project.
The toolkit is also the basis for a series of four workshops offered this month to USAID implementing partners by toolkit author Josh Woodard and myself, in Kenya, Mozambique, and Ghana. The first of the trainings was completed last week in Nairobi.
The workshop focuses on implementing your low-cost video vision, which requires skills beyond playing Spielberg: strategically thinking about message, storyboarding narrative concepts, planning dissemination, troubleshooting inevitably buggy software, and personal perseverance, all play a role in a video’s success or failure.
One participant, Victor Nzai, program assistant for USAID-funded Agricultural Market Development Trust of Kenya (AGMARK) project focused on agro-pastoral development, felt the training would improve his project’s ability to encourage farmers to efficiently integrate grazing range land and food production in Kenya.
“We have been doing dissemination via field days quite successfully, but with video, we can reach many more farmers than before,” said Nzai. “We shall shoot the videos ourselves, and edit them into comprehensive tools that can be presented by a facilitator.”
Agricultural development practitioners are looking for new ways to leverage video to circulate information and engage local farmers. Video can help them do it – but it is the holistic consideration of concept, design, and execution that will maximize chances for success.
“Not everyone will adopt our ideas,” said Nzai. “But when we multiply the number of farmers we reach, we are able to tune our message with video to encourage farmers and pastoralists to consider better ways.”
Officials from the Republic of South Sudan and United States Government on March 8 inaugurated the Boma National Park Headquarters and Boma Payam Headquarters in Jonglei State, drawing attention to the important role that the establishment of protected area management and local governance infrastructure and capacity can play in contributing to security, stability, eco-tourism development and economic growth, especially in the more isolated regions of South Sudan. This critical infrastructure was built with funding from the U.S. Government through USAID under the auspices of its partnership with the Republic of South Sudan.
Wildlife in Boma National Park includes several varieties of antelope, such as white-eared kob. Photo Credit: Michelle Barrett/USAID
Boma National Park covers 20,000 square kilometers of woodland savanna and grassland in Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria states. The park protects one of the largest intact savanna ecosystems in East Africa, hosting significant wildlife populations, including elephants, giraffe, buffalo, numerous antelopes (including white-eared kob, common eland, lesser kudu, Bohor reedbuck, gazelles, tiang, Lelwel hartebeest, Beisa oryx, and roan), and an impressive diversity of migratory birds. Boma was established as a national park in 1986, when South Sudan was part of Sudan.
Jonglei State, particularly the isolated and remote regions around Boma National Park, has been marked by ongoing instability and insecurity through the continued presence of rebel militias and fighting between ethnic groups fueled by the prevalence of small arms, lack of government presence, and inaccessibility in the rainy season, due to absence of roads.
Protected area management has a critical role to play in strengthening and supporting local government and improving security in addition to protecting biodiversity and providing a sustainable foundation for economic growth. USAID and the Wildlife Conservation Society are supporting the South Sudan Wildlife Forces to undertake law enforcement and monitoring activities and to develop security partnerships with other armed forces and local communities.
U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Susan D. Page, who represented the U.S. Government at the event, said, “It is so important that we continue to work together to preserve this area and its wildlife, which are threatened by hasty and unplanned development, or by wildlife poachers, who would ruin a world treasure for their own short-term benefit.”
During my recent visit to Jenin, in the northern West Bank, I had the chance to visit the Canaan Fair Trade Company. With USAID assistance, Canaan is helping Palestinian growers increase their yields and tap into the rapidly growing global market in organic, fair trade products. The projects I saw showed how relatively modest investments can pay huge dividends for rural communities.
Assistant Administrator Mara Rudman sampling Palestinian delicacies while visiting Canaan Fair Trade. Credit: Ghassan Al 'Jamal, USAID/WestBank/Gaza
Growers in the hills and valleys around Jenin have been making healthy organic cold-pressed olive oil and other local delicacies for centuries. But frequent droughts and growing practices that did not always most effectively conserve an unreliable water supply, combined with a limited local market for their products, have made it extremely challenging for growers to realize substantial profits from their hard work.
By bringing together local growers to raise standards, improve packaging, and market their goods jointly under the Canaan Fair Trade brand, Canaan has helped growers to reap greater rewards from their products while producing more sustainable results and conserving the resources used in doing so. Word of their successes spread quickly and today Canaan sources its agricultural food products from a network of 49 cooperatives, providing incomes for more than 1,700 farming families belonging to the Palestine Fair Trade Association.
A machine in the Canaan Fair Trade facility affixes labels reading “Delicacies from the Land of Milk and Honey.” Photo Credit: Canaan Fair Trade
With USAID’s support, Canaan has been able to find new markets by preparing for and participating in the 2010 and 2011 Fancy Food Shows in the United States. These shows are the largest specialty food fairs in North America. Canaan’s management told me during my visit that their products are proving so popular in North America and Europe that the company is looking to expand further. To assist Canaan in this, we also have been able to partner with them on initiatives to help growers increase their yields.
February 27: Over the weekend, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah visited the campus of Bethel University, in Arden Hills, Minnesota. Administrator Shah praised Bethel for their commitment to international engagement and discussed USAID’s work in the areas of global health and food security. While in Minnesota, Administrator Shah also visited General Mills headquarters and recognized employee volunteers for their global citizenship.
February 27:Bloomberg highlighted the release of the “Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index,” the first ever report to measure the impact women play in food growth in developing countries. USAID was a key partner in the development of the report and the index will be applied to all programs in President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative.
February 29:The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed written by Senator John Kerry, discussing his support for foreign aid and the work being performed by USAID and the State Department. Citing former President Ronald Reagan, Kerry writes that Reagan “knew that diplomacy and development policy neutralize threats before they become crises; manage crises if threats escalate; and assure security and stability after conflicts are resolved, all at a fraction of the cost of military deployment.”