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Archives for Agriculture

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.

New Invasive Species Database: Supports Food Security and Public Health

By James Hester, Director of USAID’s Office of Natural Resources Management

African farmers lose more than $7 billion in maize crops from the invasive witchweed, according to estimates by the United Nations. Overall, agricultural losses to invasive species may amount to more than $12 billion for Africa’s eight principal crops. African farmers are not alone in this challenge – worldwide, invasive species are among the larger causes of reduced food production and post-harvest losses.

In addition, invasive species can be major vectors for human and animal diseases that were previously not found in a region.  Malaria, West Nile virus, Rift Valley fever, and Lyme disease are just a few of the many diseases that are spreading as the insects that carry them find their way into new regions and countries.

Africanized bees, fire ants, snakehead fish, kudzu, carp, water hyacinth, and thousands of other species are spreading to countries where they are not native, and in which few or no natural predators exist – creating serious economic and social issues.

To get a handle on this problem, USAID, along with a large group of partners, have collaborated to develop an innovative, international invasive species compendium – a scientific database of invasive species, animal diseases, and affected areas around the world.  This new internet-based system is available for public use at no cost.  It presently contains a bibliographic database of about 1,500 invasive species, along with more than 65,000 records and full text documents, both of which are updated weekly.

This is a living compendium, and it will continue to grow over time. It is structured to help scientists with expertise in invasive species communicate with each other, and to support each other – from across the globe if necessary – as they work to address the problems created by invasive species.  It also includes common names in addition to the Latin taxonomic names, as well as other non-technical materials so the general public can take advantage of the depth of knowledge this new website offers.

The website features a library with sections on the characteristics of invasive species, the way they are dispersed, and the impacts they have on economies, habitats, and societies. It also addresses how to detect, manage, and control invasive species. This video introduces the database and explains how to use it.

USAID, along with USDA and other international donors including the U.K. Department for International Development, the Canadian International Development Agency, and Australian Aid, among others, all helped fund this project. USAID’s partner in developing the technical database was CABI – a private, international organization with 46 member countries dedicated to the generation, accessibility, and use of knowledge for sustainable agriculture, environmental management, and human development.

U.S. Response to Drought in Horn of Africa

Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator, USAID

Here at the port of Djibouti, thousands of metric tons of food assistance are ready to be shipped as part of the U.S. response to the massive drought currently ravaging the Horn of Africa. USAID is mobilizing nutritious split peas, along with  vitamin-fortified corn-soya blend and other commodities, from warehouses around the world to assist the more than 10 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia most affected by the drought.

The USAID-funded Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) began warning of the possibility of this crisis as early as summer 2010. Today, it has developed into the region’s worst drought since the 1950s. Consecutive seasons of poor rainfall have resulted in failed crops, dying livestock, and sky-high market prices—the cost of staple cereals are 40 to 240 percent higher in some areas. Malnutrition has reached emergency levels: one out of every two Somali refugees arriving in Ethiopia and one out of every three arriving in Kenya is acutely malnourished.

This week, USAID activated a disaster assistance response team (DART) operating out of Ethiopia and Kenya to work with the World Food Program, UNICEF, and over a dozen other organizations to coordinate emergency efforts to relieve the crisis. So far this year, the United States has provided more than $366 million to respond to the drought in the Horn of Africa, and continues to explore additional ways to assist those in need.

Learn more about USAID’s response to the drought in the Horn of Africa.

USAID-World Bank Study Explores Viability of Integrated Farming in South Darfur

USAID, the World Bank, and the South Darfur Ministry of Agriculture and Forests held a workshop in Khartoum June 26 to discuss the new report, Rehabilitation of Gum Arabic Ecosystems in South Darfur, which examines the role of farming systems that integrate gum arabic, livestock, and food grains as a viable option in South Darfur to reduce poverty, conflict over natural resources, and degradation of the environment.

Warehouse in Khartoum where women sort, clean gum arabic for export. Photo Credit: USAID/Sudan

Financed by USAID and the World Bank’s Post-Conflict Fund, the report originated from a request in 2009 by the Governor of South Darfur that the World Bank propose a plan to rehabilitate gum arabic production in South Darfur, which is the center of the Darfur region’s gum arabic industry.

Gum arabic, the dried sap of the Acacia senegal tree, is used in pharmaceutical, industrial, and food products, including soft drinks and confections. It keeps sugar uniformly suspended in carbonated drinks, binds newspaper ink to paper, and is used as a coating on medications.

Sudan is the world’s largest producer of gum arabic, providing as much as half of the world supply. The United States imports approximately 25 percent of Sudan’s gum arabic, which is exempt from trade sanctions.

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The Keys to Sustainability: Capacity Building and Country Ownership

Dr. Montague Demment is Associate Vice President for International Development at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and professor of ecology at the University of California, Davis. This item was originally posted on Agrilinks.

The big question for us all: How do we make agricultural development work and work sustainably? Perhaps the most important game-changer in my opinion is capacity building –both human and institutional – in agriculture and related sciences. Many in the development community agree that this investment was perhaps USAID’s most important and sustained contribution in its 50 years of existence, but now it has faded.

While outsiders struggle to understand how to work at the local level, deal with unfamiliar cultural and economic issues, and make appropriate connections, trained nationals can much more easily stimulate economic and social development. Their impact can be decades-long contributions and when combined with institutional capacity, can sustain development indefinitely.

While it’s true that there is brain drain, that is not the whole story. Two points: first, while some go, others stay. Some loss is no reason to abandon capacity building. We know how to minimize brain drain in the design of our training. Second, many trained individuals who leave initially return and apply their skills through joint business and research projects, investments in startups, and volunteering their expertise.

If we hold up country-driven development as a key element in our approach to FTF, then we need to support the capacity of countries to make their own wise decisions.

So if we want to set the stage for addressing poverty and malnutrition over the next 40 years, creating greater equality globally and having enough economic growth to stabilize human populations by 2050, then we need to find a way now to educate a whole new cohort of people from developing countries who will carry much of the intellectual and political responsibility for achieving those goals.

Senior Leadership Highlight the Importance of Research to the Success of Feed the Future

by Meaghan Murphy, Agriculture and Food Security Portfolio Manager at The QED Group.  This item was originally posted at Agrilinks.

Peter McPherson, President of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, opened the Feed the Future Research Forum welcoming the over 300 participants in the room. He highlighted the 10 themes raised through the e-consultation process that will be taken on through the forum, encouraging participants to think with specificity in the work sessions and throughout the three days, about the framework and partnerships needed to address them.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah reinforced this forum as an opportunity for the US government and USAID to continue deep listening, engagement with and learning from the convened community of experts. He challenged participants of the Forum to bring a lens of strategic focus and also discipline to identify the few “big ideas” and breakthroughs needed to guide the FTF research agenda.  He highlighted a new Leadership Initiative, announced earlier in the day which will support higher education initiatives and institutions, leadership development and capacity building. Administrator Shah proposed several hypotheses to be considered over the coming days, including a focus on dramatic change in four systems globally: 1) Rice and wheat system in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, 2) the Maize mixed systems of Central and Southern Africa, 3) Sudan and the Sahel, and 4) the Ethiopian Highlands. Also encouraged was a hard look at what type of research is invested in and an alignment of funding allocated to these priorities. Other hypotheses emphasized crop research (with focus on climate resistance), animal research, and research on human nutrition, as well as the importance of both public and private sector engagement in moving these forward. Finally, Shah highlighted the combined excellence of USAID and USDA  and the importance of strong partnerships moving forward for the common goal and purpose of Feed the Future.

Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director at the National Security Council, highlighted why this initiative is such a priority to President Obama and this administration and where it came from. She reinforced the theme of engagement and the critical role expertise from the broad community represented in the room will continue to play at all stages. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of USDA closed the session highlighting both the great opportunity and enthusiasm of having such focus and attention on this issue from the very top as well as the very real challenges and the very difficult resource decisions facing us all.  Both underlined the emphasis on focus, partnership, and demonstrable wins to keep the support and continued momentum in place.

Innovating Our Way to a Second Green Revolution

Robert D. Hormats serves as Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs. Originally posted on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State official blog.

Nearly one billion people — one seventh of the world’s population — suffer from chronic hunger. Because of extreme hunger and poverty, children, adults, and indeed entire societies are prevented from achieving their full potential. But, through the work of many, progress is being made.

Today, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn of the World Food Prize Foundation, and I honored the former President of Ghana, H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor, and the former President of Brazil, H.E. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as recipients of the 2011 World Food Prize. Their commitment and visionary leadership have propelled Ghana and Brazil toward meeting Goal 1 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals — to reduce the prevalence of poverty and hunger by half by the year 2015.

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the World Food Prize. It recognizes the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. In preparations for the awards ceremony, I was reminded of the visionary work of Dr. Norman Borlaug, the founder of the World Food Prize, and the crucial impact of innovation in addressing global hunger. Dr. Borlaug’s life story and dramatic successes merit our ongoing respect and appreciation, and should inspire use to better address the food security challenges that we face today.

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