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Archives for Agriculture

Refrigerated Containers Open the World’s Markets to Fresh Fruit From Afghanistan

This originally appeared on Dipnote.

On December 3, 2010, Afghan farmers and merchants took an important step forward in world trade by exporting Afghanistan’s first-ever, 40-foot refrigerated container (“reefer”) of pomegranates, destined for buyers in Canada. Subsequent reefer shipments will go to Dubai and Holland through the seaport in Karachi, Pakistan.

President H.E. Hamid Karzai inspects Afghan pomegranates ready for export as Roots of Peace President and founder Heidi Kuhn looks on. Photo credit: USAID/Afghanistan, CHAMP

Canadians will soon enjoy the juiciest and tastiest pomegranates from Afghanistan. In the past, exporting chilled fresh fruit to distant markets was impossible, because Afghanistan did not have the required cold-chain infrastructure, trade agreements, or skilled merchants. Now, however, the U.S. Government is assisting with the infrastructure and trade policy essentials for Afghan exports of chilled fresh fruit. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is bringing these components together by training farmers to produce higher quality products, and linking them with merchants who have been trained in packaging techniques, and connecting them to new international markets.

USAID, through its Commercial Horticulture and Agriculture Marketing Program (CHAMP), has facilitated the shipment of fresh fruit through Karachi to international markets. In August, CHAMP assisted Afghan merchants with the first-ever reefer shipment of chilled grapes to India by road. Shipments through Pakistan are now an option due to recent changes in Afghanistan-Pakistan trade policy. The chilled fruit was packed in refrigerated houses built with funding from local merchants, and the governments of the United States and India.

The incentives to adopt new practices lie in increased profits. Pomegranate growers receive price increases of 136 percent for their higher-quality fruits. Merchants have seen enough increase in profits that they are continuing to use the new marketing techniques without CHAMP assistance. After testing the market with CHAMP assistance in 2009, merchants shipped 28 reefers of grapes to Karachi. Following the trial to India this year, merchants are planning to continue chilled grape shipments next year.

Afghan farmers, merchants, and government officials are optimistic that this year’s marketing trials will yield results that will sustain the expansion of pomegranate, grape, and other fresh fruit exports. USAID and collaborating merchants are planning to test fresh fruit markets in Australia, Ukraine, Germany, and Russia next year.

U.S.-India Collaboration: Unlocking Opportunities in Agribusiness and Improving Lives

After nearly 60 years of U.S. assistance to India, the two nations are taking development cooperation to new levels. This was one of the core messages President Barack Obama took to his first official state visit to India earlier this month, where he was accompanied by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

On November 7, a demonstration of this strategic partnership convened in a momentous occasion for USAID — an Agriculture and Food Security Exposition in Mumbai. Administrator Shah had the honor of escorting President Obama, along with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, through an array of innovative agricultural exhibits on display at St. Xavier’s College.  The event, co-hosted by USAID, USDA, and the Confederation of Indian Industry, provided an exciting opportunity for the notable trio to visit with Indian farmers who shared how new, pioneering tools and technologies are increasing their productivity.

One farmer demonstrated how he receives crop information on his cell phone, while another showed how he obtains information on market rates at village Internet kiosks, enabling him to better negotiate the sale of his produce.

A woman farmer using a small metal tube to strip corn cobs showcased the work of India’s Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering. The Institute has been working to create more compact, lighter versions of common farming tools to increase the productivity of female farmers. A memorable moment was when the President picked up the tool, turned to the reporters, and said in jest, “Look at this. It’s like an infomercial.  I want one of those!” After a brief chuckle, he commented on the importance of the tool in reducing women’s labor time up to 30 percent.

Alongside the expo, Secretary Vilsack and Dr. Shah hosted a roundtable discussion with Indian agriculture experts, where they heard about the most promising agricultural innovations to address the gaps that remain in India’s agriculture sector.  The take-away: strengthened collaboration will unlock new opportunities for U.S. and Indian agribusiness.

The United States and India plan to extend these innovations to other countries to promote global food security. Their partnership is emblematic of one where peer nations work side by side to develop the kinds of innovations and solutions that can help improve the lives of more and more people, not only in India and the United States, but also around the world. USAID will play a key role.

From the Field

In Nicaragua, we will co-sponsor The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ two-day fair from November 11-12th in Managua to continue the celebration of World Food Day. The purpose of this activity is to bring attention to the serious problem of world food security.  As the second poorest country in the hemisphere, the issue of food security is critical for Nicaragua.

In Iraq, we will hold training as part of the Iraq Legislative Strengthening Project (ILSP).  The training will focus on 1) Legislative Drafting Training, 2) Analyzing Law 56 of 1977 “collecting Governmental Debts”, 3) Basic Report Writing and 4) Motivation and Team Building.

In Kyrgyzstan, we will open a Food for Peace food distribution site.  This event will support transparency of food distribution and also support reconciliation and trust among ethnic group beneficiaries.

Picture of the Week: Increased Agricultural Productivity in Haiti

A farmer shows an example of a pepper grown at a farm that is part of a USAID WINNER project in Kenscoff, outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 6. Photo Credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID

A farmer shows an example of a pepper grown at a farm that is part of a USAID WINNER project in Kenscoff, outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources program or WINNER for short, is a five-year, $126 million program funded by USAID to increase productivity in the country’s ailing agricultural sector.  Photo is from Kendra Helmer/USAID.

Haitian Farmers Seeing Sprouts of Success

Cherilien raised a potato into the sunlight for a gathering crowd of Haitian farmers and visitors to see. Cherilien explained that he normally produces 110 pounds of potatoes each year, but this year he produced 440 pounds.

Cherilien disappeared into the group of farmers as another Haitian farmer, Marisette, chimed in, “We used to not have good yields, but now we have good yields.”

Cherilien, Marisette, and other farmers joined representatives from USAID and the government of Haiti at the Wynne Farm, a mountaintop training facility for farmers in Haiti, to discuss their successful Spring 2010 crop season. USAID announced that crops averaged an increase of 75 percent over the previous year for sorghum, corn, beans and potatoes.

The good news is giving farmers hope despite the recent decline in Haiti’s agricultural sector. Sixty percent of Haitians are employed in agriculture, and still, a whopping 23 percent of Haitian imports are food. Experts cite many reasons for the struggling sector from erosion and deforestation to Haiti’s mountainous geography.

A photo taken at Wynne farm by my colleague, Kendra Helmer, shows rows of vegetables wrapped around a mountain ridge. The landscape looks like something out of a Salvador Dali painting, and one can imagine that farming these steep slopes challenges even the most sure-footed agrarians.

So, how did the farmers who gathered at Wynne Farm defy the odds? Because they are hard working, of course, but also because they are participating in the Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources program. WINNER, for short, is a five-year, $126 million program funded by USAID to increase productivity in the country’s ailing agricultural sector.

WINNER advisers at Wynne Farm work with Haitians to teach them innovative farming techniques, strengthen farmer associations, and provide access to expertise and vital supplies (seeds, fertilizers, credit and tools). Among the more impressive features of Wynne Farm is the greenhouse, the training ground for farmers to learn innovative techniques like vertical agriculture.

WINNER works in other parts of the country, too, with more than 250 community-based organizations that represent 50,000 small farmers. The program is increasing food productivity, dredging and widening rivers, constructing small dams and water catchments, treating ravines, and reforesting the land.

Mark Feierstein, USAID’s new Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, was present at Wynne Farm to announce the exciting news about WINNER’s increased productivity, but truth be told, he seemed more interested in hearing from farmers like Cherilien and Marisette than talking himself. One thing he made clear was that agriculture will remain a priority for USAID’s work in Haiti – a sentiment that seemed to conjure a sense of relief and hope among the farmers.

This Week at USAID – October 11, 2010

Administrator Shah opens a weeklong training for over 80 USAID communications staff from USAID Missions all over the world.  These communicators are in Washington, D.C. to engage with senior officials about elevating development, particularly the first-ever national development strategy issued by a U.S. President and “USAID Forward”, the Agency’s change management agenda.  Sessions featured during the week include: a meeting with staff from the National Security Council, a joint session at the annual State Department Public Affairs Officer’s conference, and a panel discussion with leading foreign policy journalists at the Newseum.

Administrator Shah travels to Des Moines, Iowa to speak at the Borlaug Dialogue, which is held each year in conjunction with the awarding of the World Food Prize.  The theme of the conference is: smallholder agriculture, “Take it to the Farmer“.  Dr Shah will focus on how you take interest in fighting poverty to the smallholder farmer.  He will also promote progress under Feed the Future, the Administration’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Food Security Month @ USAID: Expanding Our Toolkit in the Fight Against Global Hunger

This orginally appeared on DipNote.

I am halfway around the world from Washington, and on October 6, I participated in the Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum. I traveled to Malaysia and Indonesia this week to discuss trade, investment, entrepreneurship, energy, and of course, agriculture. I am proud to be part of President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s renewed commitment to political, economic, and educational engagement with dynamic emerging economies like Indonesia. I am especially pleased to be back in Indonesia after my successful visit this past spring, during which we discussed the issues of post-harvest loss and agricultural biotechnology.

The Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum builds on that work by including many distinguished participants to chart a course for the future. Dr. Bayu Krishnamurti, Indonesian Vice Minister of Agriculture, Ambassador Eric Bost of the Borlaug Institute, and many other luminaries in the field have come together to discuss new agricultural technologies, investment in post-harvest infrastructure, and expanded cooperation at research universities.

Ultimately, we are all here to reaffirm our commitment to fight global hunger. While there are no magic bullets in this battle, we must look to new technologies, including biotechnology, for the role that they can play in the “new green revolution.’ I believe that biotechnology, and the improved crops it can develop, will prove to be an important new element in our traditional package of tools to increase productivity and address head-on the challenges of hunger and climate change.

To that end, we are renewing several key partnerships in the area of biotechnology. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will work with the Indonesian government and the Program for Biosafety Systems to develop a new and fully functional biosafety framework in Indonesia.

We are also building on long-standing partnerships with international agriculture research centers. USAID will be supporting collaboration between the International Rice Research Institute and the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development, and other partners to roll-out Golden Rice, an important food-based approach to alleviating Vitamin A deficiency and associated serious health issues in Indonesia.

In the face of one child dying of malnutrition every six seconds, our greatest tool is increased cooperation and collaboration to develop and share the best solutions possible.

Food Security Month @ USAID: Linking Agriculture, Economic Growth, and Nutrition

Throughout October USAID will be highlighting our broad-based work in food security – which spans from emergency food aid assistance through the Food for Peace Program to the game-changing global hunger initiative called Feed the Future. Our development programs overseas are linking vulnerable populations to opportunities for economic growth and linking agricultural benefits to nutrition elements in new, innovative ways. This month we will feature how we are working across the U.S. Government to reduce global hunger and improve lives.

The Obama Administration’s $3.5 billion commitment to tackle food security through Feed the Future and its announcement of the first-ever global policy directive on development demonstrates a renewed focus and investment to address hunger. As USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has stated, “We know food security facilitates stable communities and resilient nations. We know agricultural development growth is more effective at reducing poverty than general economic growth. And we know children need nutrition to learn and grow, especially in those critical early years of their lives.”

Next week, the Borlaug Dialogue will bring together hundreds of global leaders on agriculture, food and development to discuss food security themes in Des Moines, Iowa. The annual conference includes announcing the World Food Prize winner and will focus on “Take it to the Farmer: Reaching the World’s Smallholders”. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will be a keynote speaker at the event and will announce new USAID programs that will increase capacity and incomes of smallholder farmers across the globe.

October also includes World Food Day, a worldwide event to unite and inspire year-round action to alleviate hunger. We will join many of our partner organizations on this day of awareness and understanding by highlighting the urgent need to reduce hunger with the strong global will and partnership it requires.

Personally, I am honored to be a part of the Feed the Future team. It is a whole-of-government approach that invests in plans that are country-led and country-owned. Our cross-cutting themes of gender, nutrition, private sector, and research recognize that we must take a holistic approach to get this right. Much like the Green Revolution nearly 50 years ago, the renewed global focus on agriculture has the ability to transform agriculture and, ultimately, reduce the number of hungry in the world.

Miller Finds Fortune in Rice Cultivation

Joseph Ununu, 45, learned early in life to grow rice; it was a family vocation. But a pest infestation of rice fields in Abakaliki, Eastern Nigeria, in the 1990s, took away his zeal. The pests devastated his four-hectare rice farm, forcing him to shift attention to milling, which only earned marginal income for his family.

In 2006, USAID’s Maximizing Agricultural Revenue and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites (MARKETS) program changed the fortunes of many rice farmers and processors in the area—including Ununu. They were introduced to best practices in rice farming, high-yielding rice varieties, and use and application of herbicides.

Even though Ununu participated in these training sessions on rice cultivation, he was not enthusiastic initially; he stayed focused on milling.

However, after hearing from other farmers who benefited from USAID’s program, in 2009 he returned to rice farming on 12 hectares of dispersed farmlands in Abakaliki. With careful application of what he had learned, Ununu says that he was amazed at the growth rate of his crops. “I had to leave the four rice mills for my family to manage, and focused attention on nurturing my rice farms,’’ he says.

Ununu’s yields have earned him substantial income. He harvested more than 330 bags of paddy rice of 100 kilograms each, earning $2,000 to purchase two modern processing machines designed to mill long-grain rice. He also earned more than $3,000 from another sale which enabled him to send his first son to university and meet other family needs. Ununu still has more than 70 bags of paddy rice in his warehouse. He employs 30 people in his rice mill and engages more than 60 farmhands on his rice fields. Last year, Ununu earned more than $13,000 from growing rice.

“Thanks to USAID, I am a proud member of my community and an employer of labor,’’ he says.

Country Leadership and Partnership for Food Security in Uganda

I just returned from a two-day High-Level Business Meeting in Kampala, Uganda. The business discussed was food security – specifically, the Government was seeking feedback and support for its plan to address food security through agriculture-led development.

Food security leaders in Kampala, Uganda. Photo Credit: Fred Mukasa

This was a unique experience where I saw what the term “country-led” really means in practice. The Government of Uganda developed its food security plan, known more formally as the Agriculture Sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan, or DSIP, under the auspices of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), an Africa-led and Africa-owned initiative geared towards growing economies and alleviating poverty. The Government led the process in developing the DSIP, but the product we are discussing today would not have been possible without real partnership with local farmers’ organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, development partners, and other stakeholders, all of whom were represented at the meeting.

The Honorable Hope Mwesigye, the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, described the importance of this partnership best, “We shall not implement [the DSIP] alone; we have you as our partners in the journey.”

Later on the meeting, the findings of an independent technical review of the DSIP were presented and each group of stakeholders provided substantial feedback to the government on the plan. I was impressed to see that instead of a closed-door meeting, the Government led an open floor discussion with the entire audience until all major issues were worked out!

Working with such a broad array of partners is not easy, and the day was certainly not without tensions and heated discussions. But the spirit of transparency and cooperation prevailed and by the end of the first day of the meeting, the group had a reached consensus on a roadmap to move forward.

On the second day, the Ugandan Government reaffirmed their commitment to fund 75 percent of the DSIP using existing resources. In concert, high-level officials from development agencies and donors formalized their partnership with the Government of Uganda by committing to align their support with the DSIP and work together with the country towards the shared goal of combating hunger, undernutrition and poverty and achieving Millennium Development Goal 1 . Through the Business Meeting, the Government and their partners exemplified the principles of country leadership and partnership, which all parties have agreed to continue.

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