USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Agriculture

Investing in Women to Defeat Hunger in Malawi

Submitted by guest blogger Anita McCabe, Country Director, Concern Worldwide, Malawi

As the hot, dry breeze wafts through the lakeside district of Nkhotakota, Malawi, a group of women sing as they take turns to water their near-ripe crop of maize. Further downstream, another group is busy making seed beds in preparation for another crop.

Like many women in developing countries, these women face a particular set of responsibilities and vulnerabilities when it comes to providing food for their families. Not only are they the primary caregivers, they are also the producers of food and the income earners. Women farmers in rural areas of Malawi grow, buy, sell, and cook food in order to feed their children. In fact, in all the countries in which I’ve worked during my time with Concern Worldwide, I’ve seen how very hard women must work to ensure the survival of their families, and the burdens they bear.

Women produce between 60 and 80 percent of food in developing countries, and they hold the key to tackling hunger and malnutrition. A woman’s nutritional status is critical not only to her own health but also to her ability to work, and her ability to ensure that her children are properly nourished and healthy.

Nkhotakota has suffered from recurring drought and flooding, and the people here know the consequences. “As a woman, it hurts to see my children cry with hunger” says Grace Kalowa from Thondo village. “It’s more painful as a mother to tell them that I don’t have any food to give them. In their eyes I am supposed to provide for them but knowing that I can’t do anything is heartbreaking. That feeling of desperation is what brought us together as women to drive hunger away from our families.”

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USAID Joins Netherlands, Agriculture Organizations to Boost Southern Sudan Agriculture

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah today in Juba, Sudan, signed a communiqué on behalf of the U.S. Government to help boost private sector engagement in agriculture in southern Sudan, where the vast majority of people rely on agriculture for their livelihood.  In spite of enormous potential of the agriculture sector, most southern Sudanese farmers grow only enough to feed their families, but not to earn an income.

Listen to part of his speech at the event:

USAID, the Netherlands, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, and the International Fertilizer Development Center signed the communiqué, agreeing that they will help develop southern Sudan’s commercial agriculture sector by increasing agricultural productivity, supporting agribusinesses, and improving agricultural research and technology through:

  • Expanded use of quality seed and integrated soil fertility management
  • Development and expansion of an agro-dealer network
  • Revitalization of local agricultural training and research centers
  • Development of policies and regulations that support business development, sound regulatory practices, and innovation
  • Development of institutions that promote and support market infrastructure and information systems
  • Increasing farmers’ and entrepreneurs’ access to finance.

“Any effort to transform agriculture has to be comprehensive,” Shah said.  “The days of doing a small demonstration project in one part of a county and calling that agricultural development must be over.” Noting that he met with smallholder farmers from surrounding villages before the event, he added, “It is the smallholder farmers, most of whom are women, who will determine whether or not this effort succeeds.”

The event was held at Rajaf Farm, a commercial farm near Juba, which is financed by three British and seven Sudanese partners on land that was previously not being farmed or otherwise utilized.  They agreed with the population of adjoining Rajaf Village to help establish a community farm that the villagers will plant and manage, with assistance from the commercial farmers.  The collaboration has brought employment and agricultural training to the village residents, who previously did not earn a daily wage.  Now they earn 3 Sudanese pounds (approximately $1) per hour ($8 per day) to work at Rajaf Farm and are learning technical skills.

From the Field

In Haiti, on May 1st, we inaugurated a rural agricultural research center to celebrate Haiti’s National Agriculture and Labor Day.  Click here for more information on the initiative.

In Afghanistan, CNN will report on eco-projects.  One project that may be highlighted is USAID’s Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased Productive Agriculture (AVIPA) project.  Through this project, we will train farmers on how to mechanize their rural farms in order to increase yields and productivity.

In Jamaica, we will hold a workshop in partnership with Global Deaf Connection to provide business and work readiness training for the hearing impaired.

“What Do Rising Food Prices Mean?”

About the Author: 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

The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization released figures this month showing that global food prices have risen 41 percent since June, primarily due to a combination of bad weather and an increase in global demand. The report has raised concerns about the possibility of a global food crisis, as occurred in 2007-2008. In response to that crisis, the international community, led by the G-8, committed to increase focus on food security and reverse the decade-long decline in assistance for agricultural development. That was the right solution then, and it remains the right solution now. The United States is a proud partner in this effort and is committed to supporting developing countries’ efforts through our $3.5 billion Feed the Future initiative.

Global food security is a top priority for the United States. We are deeply concerned about the pressure that rising prices put on the ability of the poor to purchase food. We are closely watching food prices and their impact on the poor, we are coordinating closely with other governments and international organizations, and we are taking steps to achieve long-term sustainable solutions to food insecurity.

First, it is important to recognize that there are important differences between the current situation and 2007-2008. World food prices have been increasing over the past six months, due to weather-related production losses and strong global demand. The growing demand is fueled by rapid expansion of middle-class households in emerging markets. Despite localized weather-related impacts, the supply side story is not dire: global wheat production is the third largest on record and carry-in stocks are 50 percent higher than in 2007-08. Good harvests of staples in Africa and Latin America have kept local prices of these products low. Record world rice production and the largest carry-in stocks in eight years have resulted in only moderate changes in rice prices. And finally, delivering these record harvests is affordable: ocean freight rates are less than half of the levels seen three years ago.

We learned a lot from the food crisis of three years ago, including the policies it takes to ensure food supplies without making the situation worse. We are working bilaterally and through multilateral institutions, such as the UN food agencies, the G-20, and APEC, to encourage all nations to pursue policies that facilitate agricultural growth and reliable trade flows. It is vital that we all maintain transparent, functioning markets and avoid export barriers, panic purchases, and inordinate increases in stocks, moves which will drive prices higher rather than temper them. Governments understandably want to ensure affordable food supplies for their people. They can best do this by putting in place targeted safety nets for the most vulnerable, and consider reducing import tariffs and taxes.

The long-run answer to meeting increasing global demand for food is agricultural growth, increased productivity, and improved markets, and this requires conditions that encourage investment in agriculture, particularly in the developing world. Many technologies, such as biotechnology, conservation tillage, fortification, drip irrigation, integrated pest management, and new multiple cropping practices, are raising the efficiency and productivity of agricultural resources, as well as the quality of agricultural outputs. By investing in agriculture using these technologies wisely, nations can reduce poverty and increase consumers’ access to nutritious and diverse foods. This is precisely the goal of Feed the Future — to support countries’ aspirations for inclusive economic growth, resilience to crisis, and ultimately food security.

Picture of the Week

Small grants from USAID helped equip about 7,200 people from villages in conflict-affected Northern Pakistan with the tools they needed to re-start their livelihoods, like livestock, seeds, and fertilizers for farmers, and tool kits for plumbers and carpenters, and sewing machines for tailors and seamstresses. Photo Credit: Usman Ghani/USAID

Feed the Future launches Comprehensive Approach to engaging the Private Sector

By:  Tjada McKenna,Director, Private Sector and Innovation Office, Bureau for Food Security

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Administrator Shah proudly announced USAID’s support for the WEF’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative. This initiative is led by 17 global companies, including Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Monsanto, PepsiCo, and Wal-Mart to name a few that are Industry Partners of the Forum. The goal of this initiative is to utilize market-based solutions to increase production by 20%, while decreasing emissions by 20% and reducing the prevalence of rural poverty by 20% every decade.

Today, nearly 1 billion people go hungry everyday – half of them farmers – and malnutrition needlessly robs people of their potential to contribute to their families, their communities and society as a whole. Three-quarters of the poor live in rural areas, most relying on agriculture for their livelihood, with women contributing the bulk of farm labor. And now, these farmers face even tougher constraints as the world must produce more with less and the agriculture sector is entering a new era marked by scarcer resources, greater demand and higher risks of volatility partly owing to global climate change.

Standing alongside the CEO’s of Unilever and Monsanto, Administrator Shah committed USAID, through the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future (FTF) initiative, to promote the development of innovative, large-scale private sector partnerships in FTF focus countries to achieve significant impact on global hunger and malnutrition. This approach will bring together farmers, local businesses, supply chain companies, global corporations, local and national governments and civil society to promote sound investments in agriculture. USAID will support these partnerships by leveraging its own investments in agriculture-led growth in key corridors or breadbasket regions in FtF countries.

For example, USAID through FtF is supporting Tanzania’s Kilimo Kwanza Growth Corridor with an equity investment of $2 million in the Corridor’s $50 million catalytic fund, and is considering additional annual investments up to $10 million. The fund will help open up partnership opportunities for private investment in rural infrastructure (irrigation and rural roads), processing, research and training, institutional capacity building, and nutrition and is expected to leverage nearly $500 million in private sector investment.

In an effort to combat malnutrition, USAID also signed an Memorandum of Understanding with DSM Nutritional Products to work together to improve dietary quality across the developing world, starting with rice fortification in rice staple food countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, and Tanzania. DSM is a global material and life sciences company and a leader in the fields of human and animal nutrition with 70 years of innovative product development and application technology in vitamins and nutrient fortification. USAID will also tap into DSM’s expertise in efforts to improve the nutritional value, shelf-life, and nutritional test methods of food aid commodities.

Work together with FTF focus country governments, USAID will continue to promote the development of dynamic new partnerships directly with the private sector by facilitating the work of both local and private companies who want to contribute to new models of agriculture-led development. We stand ready to build new partnerships based on jointly defined priorities and focused choices to transform agriculture and drive food security.

Supporting Sustainable Livelihoods and Nutritious Meals

Food and nutrition are important elements across all cultures. In America there is a renewed sense of instilling good nutritional habits in children through the First Lady’s campaign against childhood obesity and the newly signed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. At USAID, we are concerned with not only feeding those in need around the world, but making sure they have access to healthy and nutritious meals on a regular basis, as well as a sustainable livelihood.

But for many people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) like Thabit Obed, a farmer from Uganda, managing one’s health is no easy task. The infection causes or aggravates malnutrition through reduced food intake, increased energy needs, and poor nutrient absorption. Malnutrition weakens the immune system, which can hasten the progression of HIV, increase susceptibility to opportunistic infections, and reduce the effectiveness of treatment. Since food and nutrition support is such a critical component of successful HIV/AIDS care and treatment, USAID has an invested program to help those in need.

Mr. Thabit Obed, has mobilized fellow PLWHA to produce groundnuts for therapeutic food to treat malnourished PLWHA. Photo Credit: Mary Nabisere/NuLife

Thabit is a recipient of support from the USAID-funded program, NuLife—Food and Nutrition Interventions for Uganda, a program managed by University Research Co., LLC (URC) that works to improve the health and nutritional status of people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS through integration of nutritional assessment, counseling, and support (NACS) into HIV/AIDS services.

In addition to producing and prescribing food, such as RUTAFA a ready-to-use therapeutic food, the program also works to provide opportunities for farmers in Uganda to expand their businesses.

Through a partnership with RECO Industries, Ltd, a local manufacturer which produces RUTAFA, Thabit was able to expand his small coffee bean farm and begin growing groundnuts.

Thabit, an active community volunteer, became one of more than 4,000 farmers to grow groundnuts as input for RUTAFA. He was trained to support other PLWHA and raise awareness about HIV testing, counseling and treatment.

Through this program and similar partnerships, USAID NuLife has been able to help ensure HIV positive individuals who have recovered from malnutrition through treatment with ready-to-use therapeutic food are being offered an opportunity to earn a living, support their families’ and maintain a healthy nutritional status.

USAID/Uganda designed a program that not only reaches HIV positive clients with critical services and supports local industry and individual farmers, but connects those clients to sustainable livelihood opportunities producing inputs for the very product, RUTAFA, which can support their health and that of their fellow PLWHA.

Picture of the Week: Agricultural Boost in Vietnam

vietnamAgricultural research helps farmers in Vietnam grow more rice and counteract the impacts of climate change on food security. Photo is from Philippe Berry/USAID.

Improving Rural Livelihoods by Empowering African Women Researchers in Agricultural Science

With sharp minds, inquisitive souls, and iron wills, they are an 11-strong group of top-level women scientists in agricultural research with their eyes set on influencing national and regional policy to improve livelihoods in Mozambique and across Africa. Through their work, they are helping to change the face of a continent where women are seldom heard, but are always called on to give and to nurture. They are Mozambique’s scientists in the AWARD program for African Women in Agricultural Research and Development, funded by USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr. Anabela Manhica proudly exhibits a laptop received from the AWARD program. Photo Credit: USAID/Mozambique

Esperanca Chamba, who specializes in natural resources management, is one of 11 women scientists in Mozambique who were selected from among hundreds of applicants from 10 sub-Saharan countries as fellows of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) project. AWARD was established in 2008 by the Gender & Diversity Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, following a three-year pilot program in East Africa. It is a professional development program that strengthens the research and leadership skills of African women in agricultural science, empowering them to contribute more effectively to poverty alleviation and food security in sub-Saharan Africa. The US$15 million, five-year project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID, with plans to extend to a second phase starting in 2013.

Chamba’s example of a foiled attempt in experimental nutrition finely captures the context of women and agricultural research and development in Africa. “Most of the work in the fields is in women’s hands,” says rural extension officer Claudia Nhatembe, during a break from the sweet potato fields on the rich soils of IIAM’s Umbeluzi Agricultural Station, some 30 km outside the capital, Maputo. “It’s hard work–plowing, sowing and harvesting. For men, it’s mostly handling the plantation’s irrigation systems.”

In Africa, women like Nhatembe carry most of the burden of running the household, raising children, tending to their husbands, fetching water, collecting firewood, cooking and cleaning, and plowing and sowing. They are the pillars of society, yet are commonly ignored. “We give rural women a voice, because through our work, they will also have a voice,” says Carla Menezes, a researcher and Head of Nutrition at IIAM, who is studying alternative feeding options for small ruminants to lower production costs of animal breeding in rural households.

“Scientists are on the cutting edge of solving Africa’s food crisis. But we need to urgently address the gender gap in our scientific community,” says Akinwumi Adesina, Vice President of Policy and Partnerships of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. “We need more women pursuing careers in agricultural science because women are the face of African farming.”

Research shows that the number of women enrolling in agricultural sciences is steadily increasing, but women researchers tend to drop out as they move up the career ladder. Termed the “leaky pipeline”, this phenomenon is generally attributed to traditional, male-dominated organizational dynamics, in additional to cultural barriers to women’s education and advancement. AWARD seeks to reverse that trend.

“We need good collaboration to make sure that women are equal partners with men farmers all the way through the process,” U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said recently in Nairobi. “The AWARD program is a great example. It supports women scientists working to improve farming here in Africa and to fight hunger and poverty. And we need women represented in our laboratories, as well as in our fields.”

Recent studies indicate that the majority of those who produce, process, and market Africa’s food are women, but only one in four agricultural researchers is female. A study by AWARD and the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators on “Women’s Participation in Agricultural Research and Higher Education”, which looked at key trends in sub-Saharan Africa, found that the overall proportion of female professional agricultural and higher education staff increased from 18 percent in 2000/01 to 24 percent in 2007/08. On a national basis, female staffing levels were particularly low in Ethiopia, Togo, Niger and Burkina Faso, whereas in Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa levels were high. However, the benchmarking survey—which was conducted in 125 agricultural research and higher education agencies in 15 sub-Saharan countries—showed that only 14 percent of the management positions were held by women.

“Only with the full involvement and leadership of women in agriculture will Africa succeed in its quest for food security and prosperity,” says Vicki Wilde, Director of AWARD and the CGIAR Gender & Diversity Program. “There is no time to lose.”

Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony in southeastern Africa, is a member of the Commonwealth and the only non-English speaking country represented in AWARD. With a population of 20 million, it was ranked 22nd out of 134 countries in the Gender Gap Index for 2010. Although the country scores poorly in terms of educational attainment (123rd), it boasts a good female-to-male ratio in terms of economic participation and opportunity. Analysts say there is an increasing trend in women’s contribution to economic growth, although there is a lowering contribution in sectors like agriculture, where there are more women but incomes are lowest.

“We know the people who matter most aren’t the financiers or the agriculture ministers or the assistance workers and partners. They are the women farmers who are the untapped solution to this problem,” says USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “We’re working to ensure that women get equal access to services and support, such as financial services that preferentially target women and extension services delivered by female workers. To make this happen, we are investing in women producer networks and expanding fellowship programs, such as the AWARD program.”

The 11 Mozambican fellows cover a broad range of agricultural sciences, from forestry management to agro-economics and veterinary medicine, including animal production, reproduction, and nutrition. “I am inquisitive by nature. I feel enraptured by the process of looking at a problem, imagining solutions, and seeking the adequate answer,” says Paula Pimentel, a senior researcher at IIAM, who is currently studying gender relations in goat-breeding families in the remote district of Chicualacuala, about 500 km from Maputo.

What drives all these women is a focus on pro-poor, community-oriented research objectives, and an awareness of the need to combine traditional knowledge with modern methods as a fundamental contribution to scientific advancements. “Learning from local techniques should always be the starting point,” says Anabela Manhiça, Senior Researcher and Head of the Technology Transfer Department at IIAM. “Rural producers have abundant knowledge. It’s always best to learn what they are doing, how they are doing it, and then add the new technology. It doesn’t work when you try to introduce something completely new.”

“These outstanding Mozambicans debunk the myth in some science circles that qualified African women researchers ‘aren’t out there’—that they don’t exist in significant numbers,” says Wilde. “Qualified women scientists are out there. These women prove it.”

Receiving the 2010 Presidential Volunteer Service Award

On December 7, 2010, USAID hosted a luncheon to honor 18 Presidential Volunteer Service Award recipients for their volunteer work under the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer program. The program supports Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, by working to improve agricultural productivity, promote market development, facilitate trade expansion, invest in global innovation and research, promote equitable rural economic growth, and address child malnutrition. Over 13,000 volunteers, 9,848 host organizations, and 103 countries have participated in the Farmer-to-Farmer program since 1986.  Below read  the first hand account of  one of the volunteers honored.

This originally appeared on DGES International.

Mark and I are back from Washington, DC where we enjoyed a few days repose and met a host of interesting people. We were invited to DC by the Partners of the Americas Farmer to Farmer program with whom we have been working for 4 years now. The Volunteer Appreciation Event, on Dec 7th was sponsored by USAID to honor Farmer to Farmer volunteers.

The event was part of USAID’s commitment to global food security. USAID is undergoing a restructuring and is launching the Feed the Future Program focusing on agricultural development and economic growth.

It was a real pleasure for me to meet Peggy Carlson and Meghan Olivier, the two Partners staff people responsible for sponsoring and organizing my trips to Haiti. After working together for 4 years in this modern age of emails and cell phones it was nice to sit down face to face and talk. More important to me was to hug them and thank them for having my back this last year with the earthquake and last month’s riots. Even with my propensity to find myself in the center of the mess, they continue to encourage me to work with them and to return to Haiti. Blessed with such a great team of people, in DC and in Haiti, I am sure we will continue to cultivate change for many more years.

I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with other members of the Partners of the Americas group. We came up with lots of ideas for collaboration and exploration. I especially want to thank Steve Vetters, the Director of Partners, for his support and encouragement. It was very motivating.

The awards were given by Gregory Gottlieb, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Food Security at USAID and Dawn Thomas, Senior Agricultural Program Advisor for USAID. The awards come in gold, silver and bronze levels depending on the number of hours volunteered. I received a GOLD!. To some this probably suggests I’m obsessed and over doing my commitment, but in reality it is a small drop compared to the need. I just hope that each drop can send ripples of positive evolutionary growth. It would be nice if I could see this in my lifetime, but that may be asking too much.

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