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Archives for Agriculture

USAID Supports South Sudan’s First Agricultural Trade Fair

Angela Stephens is a Development Outreach and Communications Officer in the Africa Bureau.

In South Sudan, farmers, researchers, and the private sector are coming together with the help of USAID to showcase the new nation’s agricultural potential.

On November 9 to 12, USAID supported the first agricultural trade fair in Juba, South Sudan. National and international entrepreneurs came to learn about opportunities in agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and forestry. Farmers from 10 different states showcased their products, including items such as cassava, bamboo, flowers, beeswax, gum arabic, fruit, vegetables, and dried fish. Among displays of tractors and farm equipment, students learned about the agricultural industry and experts demonstrated planting and irrigation techniques at interactive exhibits.

“Agriculture affects every citizen of South Sudan, a nation in which more than 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and forestry for their livelihood,” said USAID Deputy Mission Director Peter Natiello at the opening of the fair.

Republic of South Sudan Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny welcomed farmers and exhibitors who came from across South Sudan and the region to attend the fair. As an example of South Sudan’s enormous potential, Vice President Machar described how rich Western Equatoria state is in its agricultural production, including mangoes and pineapple, but farmers face challenges in bringing their goods to market. “This is where we need investors to come in who can buy products and preserve them, either process it locally, can it, or dry it, and then send it to the areas that do not produce these products,” he said.

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In Turkmenistan, USAID Brings New Opportunities to Farmers and Students

In my 24 years with USAID, I have served around the world but somehow had never made it to the former Soviet Union – until last month.  So it was with great excitement that I anticipated my first visit to Central Asia, eager to learn more about the region and our programs there.

The most memorable part of the trip was visiting USAID projects in Turkmenistan during my first three days in the region.  I visited the historical city of Mary (Mar-ree), a caravan city in southeastern Turkmenistan on the original Silk Road about an hour’s flight from the capital, Ashgabat. In the Mary region, USAID is funding a well-received Agricultural Technology Project that works to increase the agricultural productivity of small greenhouse farmers, by providing technical assistance and training in new greenhouse technology.  I toured various greenhouses in the region, including some that USAID has helped rehabilitate.  From what I was told, the yield of various crops (mainly tomatoes, cucumbers, lemons, etc.) has doubled in the rehabilitated greenhouses.  Techniques used include raised roofs, improved heating systems, better irrigation techniques, and more appropriate fertilizer usage.

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For the Hungry, Raising Awareness = Action. We are the Relief.

The sun was beaming down on us. Some were clearly starting to feel tired, hungry, and thirsty.

“Are we there yet?” joked a young man a few feet ahead of me.

“Apple cider?” asked a man standing behind a table set up along the road just for us. “We have cookies, too. Take what you’d like!”

We were less than two miles into a six-mile CROP Hunger Walk in Arlington, VA. Sponsored by Church World Service (CWS), about 2,000 CROP Hunger Walks are organized each year by local groups in communities across the United States to raise awareness about hunger at home and around the world.  I was honored to have been invited to help kick off the walk and participate with about 100 others who were taking time out of their Saturday morning to demonstrate a commitment to ending the plight of those suffering from hunger.

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In Rome, Land Governance Negotiations Move Forward

The U.S. is chairing the UN FAO Committee for Food Security’s intergovernmental negotiations on Voluntary Guidelines for the Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VG).  To date, these negotiations  have included over 70 countries, the private sector, multilateral institutions and some 50 civil society organizations (CSO).   By the end of October 2011 approximately 70% of the VGs have been negotiated and agreed to.  The US is hopeful that this process will be completed in early 2012.

The nature of these negotiations is unique in the UN system as civil society participates on an equal basis throughout the dialog process before consensus is reached among the members.  Civil society organizations have been very collaborative and brought much-needed field-level information to the discussion of the VGs.  The USG was frequently in agreement with the CSOs, and  publically aligned with them on the need to complete the VG before the Committee for Food Security or any other body takes on the highly charged issue of “land grabbing” under the rubric of Responsible Agricultural Investments.

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Greater Private Sector Diversity Sought on USDA’s Agricultural Trade Advisory Committees

As featured in the USDA Blog

The face of America – and of American agriculture – is changing. The number of farms in the United States has grown 4 percent and the operators of those farms have become more diverse in the past five years, according to results of USDA’s most recent Census of Agriculture.  The 2007 Census counted nearly 30 percent more women as principal farm operators. The count of Hispanic operators grew by 10 percent, and the counts of American Indian, Asian and Black farm operators increased as well.  In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of minority-owned businesses grew more than 45 percent between 2002 and 2007.

To reflect the diversity of our agricultural sector and business community, USDA is stepping up its efforts to continually supplement its seven Agricultural Trade Advisory Committees (ATACs) with new members, especially those who represent minorities, women, or persons with disabilities. We believe that people with different backgrounds and views will make the work of these committees, and thus of USDA, more effective.

Applicants should represent a U.S. entity with an interest in agricultural trade and have expertise and knowledge of agricultural trade as it relates to policy and commodity-specific issues. For example, Robert Anderson of Sustainable Strategies LLC has served at different points in time on both the Fruits and Vegetables ATAC and the Processed Foods ATAC. Of his experience, Anderson said, “I had the opportunity to meet directly with the highest levels of international trade leadership in the United States and globally. Most importantly, the U.S. government actually seeks our input, listens, and responds to the needs and expectations of the U.S. agricultural industry.”

At a time when our economy is trying to rebound from a serious recession, having a voice on one of these committees can make a significant impact on the government decisions that affect our economic future. That’s because agricultural trade plays an extremely important role in the health of our nation’s economy. U.S. agricultural exports have consistently contributed to the positive U.S. trade balance, creating jobs and boosting economic growth. In fiscal 2011, U.S. agricultural exports were forecast to reach a record $137 billion, which supported more than one million jobs in America this year.

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Public Private Partnership Week: Passion Fruit, Opening the Path for a Brighter Future

Rural farmers in Paraguay are having great success selling their passion fruit through farming associations to a leading corporate juice brand. This is thanks to USAID’s support through Paraguay Productivo, a program that connects small farmers with private sector buyers.

Lucia Santos and her grandson who have benefited from the cooperative with Frutika. Photo Credit: Laura Rodriguez/USAID

Last week, I had the chance to visit some farmers in Paraguay’s Itapúa province and learn about their experiences with Paraguay Productivo and especially the leading local buyer, Frutika. I was thrilled to see the benefits of the program for myself and hear the testimony of small-scale farmer, Lucia Santos, whose life has been transformed through her production work. In the following video she says that she now has enough money to buy necessary items for her family.

USAID/Paraguay Productivo has GDA (Global Development Alliances) agreements with 20 organizations, mainly small farmer cooperatives & private firms and has generated $9.8 million U.S. dollars  in local sales and exports. Paraguay Productivo is working with Cooperatives and associations that have over 100,000 members some of them in production and many others in savings and credits cooperatives.

The program also provides technical support to farmers, including advising them on how to best produce crops. And it has helped them find buyers like Frutika, one of Paraguay’s most successful food processing and distribution companies, which buys passion fruit and other products from small farmers.

This is a win-win arrangement. The company can count on a reliable source of passion fruit and rural producers now have a reliable buyer. Since the initial agreement in 2009, approximately 300 small farmers have joined the program and started producing passion fruit and another 250 farmers are preparing to cultivate more passion fruit.

Some municipalities are joining the effort because they are investing in nursery production for passion fruit. In rural Paraguay where the poverty rate is as high as 48 %, this assistance is really helping to transform people’s lives.

Beneficiary Norma Riveros, credits her passion fruit sales to her participation in Paraguay Productivo, which ensures her and her family a regular income. They can now afford to buy a machine that helps them clear the field and improve crop yield. I also had a chance to speak to 19 year old passion fruit farmer and business student, Rolando Fretes, one of the cooperatives’ young leaders. In this video he talks about his work and explains why Paraguay Productivo is important to his community:

At the end of the day, I visited the production plant at Frutika and saw first-hand the results of the farmers’ hard labor. Frutika is one of the best-selling companies in Paraguay, and the leading provider of juices such as orange juice, passion fruit, and peach. Here, Engineer Celso Cubilla discusses the importance the company’s partnership with Paraguay Productivo to its business goals.

In short, there is no denying that this public private partnership is beneficial to Paraguay’s economy and all the parties involved: USAID, the rural farmers and Frutika.

50 Years of Partnership with Kenya – Part 1 of 4

Agriculture is the largest single employer in Kenya and counts for one fourth of the country’s GDP, but the current agricultural production methods in Kenya are inefficient, causing economic stagnation and poverty.  USAID and partners on the ground in Kenya have developed competitive programs for maize, dairy, passion fruit, and small hold farmers to help improve productivity.  These initiatives – like USAID’s Feed the Future – have transformed lives, promoted sustainable agricultural development, and improved the nutritional options for many of Kenya’s people.

In the coming weeks, we will highlight 4 videos celebrating USAID’s partnership with Kenya. The first video in this series shows the variety of agriculture programs and activities that have occurred over the past 50 years and the impact that they have had on the people of Kenya.

Women and Agriculture: Behind the Scenes

After an event on Monday with Secretary Clinton to promote food security, influential leaders discuss the important role women play in strengthening global agriculture.

Featured in this short video:

Kathy Spahn, President of Helen Keller International; Dr. Jose Granziano da Silva, Director General Elect of UN FAO; and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.

This Week at USAID – September 12, 2011

Administrator Raj Shah participates in a panel discussion about “Leveraging Malaria Platforms to Improve Family Health” during the The Summit to Save Lives, which is presented by the George W. Bush Institute.

Later in the week, Administrator Shah heads to Haiti to meet with USAID Mission staff and to visit an agricultural training center.

The World at 7 Billion People: Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg speaks at the National Geographic Society Headquarters to raise awareness around global population issues related to women and girls.

Assistant to the Administrator Susan Reichle talks about USAID’s progress towards implementing President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development at a town hall hosted by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

From Emergency Aid to Economic Empowerment

Last week, I traveled with four of my USAID colleagues to a drought-stricken area of Ethiopia as part of a larger visit to the Horn of Africa region. The worst drought the region has seen in 60 years has put more than 12.4 million people in Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Ethiopia in need of urgent assistance.

One purpose of our visit was to observe the drought emergency, but we were also there to determine how to better merge USAID’s drought recovery programs with long-term development programs like Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s multi-agency global food security initiative. It all seems simple enough, but the more we saw, the more we realized the complexities of our work.  As difficult as it is to feed people in the midst of a crisis, it is much harder to prepare them before a crisis so food aid will not be required in the first place.

The Bokko Health Center in Ethiopia’s East Hararghe Zone is a lone outpost in the battle against this drought. There we found 10 skeletal children clinging to their mothers, trying to take in as much therapeutic food as they could. I have seen many severely malnourished children over a career spanning 30 years, but it never gets any easier to see a child who is two years old but weighs only 10 pounds. You just can’t help but compare your own children’s robustness with the hard circumstance of these kids. Our job is to make sure these kids get the right foods to keep them alive and give them the chance to grow.

After three more stops to view a health center and two USAID-supported projects in topsoil restoration and pastoralist market support, we began to work our way back to Addis Ababa. We stopped at the small farm of Wozro (Mrs.) Terunesh.  A thin woman and a widow, with the distinctive neck tattoos of Oromia, Mrs. Terunesh is the quintessential entrepreneur. With help from a USAID-supported Land O’Lakes dairy livestock program, she now has two cows that give milk and help support her. But she hasn’t stopped there; she has moved on to raising chickens. She also formed a women’s group that uses drip irrigation to grow tomatoes and onions that bring in more income. Most importantly, she is the master farmer who teaches some 50 other local women how to be better farmers. She had the drive to improve her circumstances, and fortunately USAID could give her the training that she needed to go even further than she could have on her own. With women making up 70% of the agricultural workforce in many African countries, projects like the one helping Mrs. Terunesh are essential to lessening gaps in gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the welfare of women and girls.

Our trip took us from drought to terrace to land tenure to livestock to diversified smallholder. Seeing it all firsthand, we felt that we better understood how USAID is helping a very diverse set of actors improve their livelihoods. Ethiopia still faces the deepening pain of this drought, which continues to cause many children to struggle for their lives. But we are working to reach more and more of these children through our comprehensive programs, from therapeutic feeding to dairy, to make a lasting difference. Ultimately, we aim to help them develop the resources and capacity so that in the future, they are more resilient to the more frequent droughts plaguing the Horn of Africa.

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