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Archives for Agriculture

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.

U.S. Government brings Sanitation Technology to Families in the Amazon

Submitted by Lisa Hibbert-Simpson

The United States Mission in Brazil, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and in partnership with the Cargill Foundation and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), celebrates the completion of the implementation of a social technology for sewage treatment in the rural area of Porto Velho, in Rondonia state. Seventeen families from a rural community, which had biodigester toilets installed in their residences, attended a breakfast with all project partners.

The technology used is cheap and, besides treating the domestic sewage, it prevents the contamination of soil and groundwater and generates compost that can be used for organic production.

Sewage treatment system for rural areas improves public health and the environment in Rondonia state capital, Porto Velho. Photo Credit: USAID / Mark Mitchell

“We saw an excellent opportunity in this project, because it combines environment conservation with the improvement of people’s lives in the Amazon region, which is part of the scope of environmental programs that the U.S. government supports in Brazil,” said Lisa Kubiske, Deputy Chief of Mission for the United States Embassy in Brazil.

This project is one of a number of joint efforts between the United States and Brazil to strengthen environmental protection and support local development.

How it works

The technology, known as a septic biodigester tank, was developed by Embrapa and works by transporting sewage from home toilets into a cement tank that transforms the material into an organic fertilizer via anaerobic biodigestion.

The first tank was built in March and installed at the residence of Luciano Alves do Prado’s. Five months after its installation, Mr. Prado is already using the compost for his açaí plantation. “The implantation of these tanks was an improvement, mainly because it prevents the pollution of water. This is new for Porto Velho,” said Mr. Prado.

The project was funded by USAID, coordinated by the Cargill Foundation and Cargill Porto Velho, and received technical support from Embrapa. The initiative is an alternative solution to the issue of sanitation in rural areas of the Amazon.

“The success of this project is due to the commitment of everyone involved in the process, particularly beneficiary families, who were willing to acquire new skills and knowledge to take care of their sanitation systems”, said Denise Cantarelli, manager of the Cargill Foundation.

“The septic biodigester tank is a cheap and environmentally friendly basic sanitation system that benefits both the environment and public health. The technology is already used in other regions of Brazil and presents itself as a successful alternative for the treatment of sewage,” explains Wilson Tadeu Lopes da Silva, technician for Embrapa.

Partnership Plans Announced at Southern Sudan Agriculture Conference

Submitted by Angela Stephens

Despite enormous potential for Southern Sudan’s agriculture sector, decades of conflict and the legacies of war—including poor transport, limited storage capacity and processing facilities, and a poor investment climate—have hindered agriculture development.  As a result, most southern Sudanese farmers produce for subsistence rather than profit, and consumers suffer from high prices of food products, many of which are imported from neighboring countries.

USAID and the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan hosted a conference in Nairobi August 24-25 with the Government of Southern Sudan to address these challenges and revitalize agriculture in southern Sudan, with the goal of improving food security and economic growth for the people of the region.

At the conference, USAID and the Government of Southern Sudan launched an Agriculture Innovation Fund designed to finance public-private sector partnerships promoting new approaches to agricultural development in southern Sudan.  USAID also described its plans to establish a United States-Southern Sudan Agriculture Advisory Council composed of agriculture experts from the two governments, and from universities in the United States and southern Sudan, to provide expert advice to the governments on the design and assessment of agriculture development programs in the region.  In addition, USAID is working to establish partnerships on agriculture education between Juba University, Catholic University of Sudan, John Garang University, and leading U.S. educational institutions.

Howard G. Buffett, President of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, participated in a panel on private sector partnerships and pledged support for a seeds program with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

 

This Week at USAID – August 2, 2010

Administrator Shah will join President Obama at the White House for a town hall during the Presidential Young African Leaders Forum.  As a global leader in empowering and engaging youth, USAID works to ensure that young people have access to skills and opportunities to be active and effective citizens who contribute to their country’s overall stability and development.

Ambassador Garvelink, Deputy Coordinator of Feed the Future, will speak at two sessions during the International Food Aid and Development Conference in Kansas City.  His keynote address will underscore the U.S. commitment to addressing global hunger and food security, highlighting the whole-of-government approach and goals of Feed the Future.

Pic of the Week

Haitian workers are building a USAID-funded irrigation canal. Photo by Herve Jean-Charles.

As Haiti passes six months since the earthquake, men and women are employed in the USAID-funded reconstruction of an irrigation canal that not only provides a source of water for agriculture and livestock, but also a source of income for Haitians.

Long-Term Investments to Bring Real-Life Improvements to People of Pakistan

A summary map on the activities announced or underway in Pakistan.

During Dr. Raj Shah’s whirlwind two-day visit to Pakistan with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the ongoing Strategic Dialogue between the two countries, the U.S. announced more than $500 million in new development assistance for Pakistan. 

The new projects include the completion of two hydroelectric dams in South Waziristan and Gilgit-Baltistan that will supply more than 34 megawatts of additional power to 280,000 residents in those areas, the renovation and construction of three medical facilities, economic growth programs and seven projects to improve water distribution and efficiency in the country. Much of the assistance will be delivered by USAID.

The United States shares with Pakistan a vision of a future in which all people can live safe, healthy, and productive lives. Dr. Shah spoke with press about USAID’s role in Pakistan, saying that “Our commitment is broad and deep,” and one that encompasses programs ranging from health and energy to economic growth and agriculture. 

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USAID in the News – July 2nd to July 9th

USAID is helping bring popular children’s television program Sesame Street to Nigeria through a five year grant. The show will be a 30 minute program titled Sesame Square that will run for three years. A portion of the grant will be focused on outreach programs for the country’s 25 million preschool-age children of whom only 10 percent are enrolled in school. The intent of this grant is to aid the country in building a strong foundation of basic literacy and numeracy as well as concentrating on the prevalent social issues. Sesame Square will be hosted by Kami, a lady Muppet who is HIV-positive, and another furry blue boy Muppet who has yet to be named. A national text vote campaign is currently in place to help name the unnamed Muppet and raise program awareness.

Albanian food producers, through USAID support, presented their products at an agro-food fair in New York last week. Over the last two years, USAID’s Competitiveness of Albanian Agriculture (CAA) program had aided Albanian agro-businesses in exploring profitable international markets. The New York food fair helped the nation establish trade contacts and provided information about the current and potential role of agriculture and food industry in the Balkans to American investors.

USAID Mission Director Pamela White participated in the celebration of the signing of a $15 million Threshold Program grant with Liberia. The grant will fund a three year program coordinated by USAID that will focus on improving land rights and access as well as girls’ primary education and trade policy. The people of Liberia chose these areas themselves as part of their national development strategy.

Liberia was chosen for the program by the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Board of Directors because of their progress and commitment to reform. The MCC has currently signed 22 threshold programs in 20 countries. MCC is a US Government agency that was devised to assist developing countries and is based on the idea that aid is “most effective when it reinforces sound political, economic, and social policies that promote poverty reduction through economic growth.”

On Tuesday in Kigali, USAID announced that it will contribute $2.5 million for two years to the East African Power Pool (EAPP) project. The announcement was made at the two-day EAPP Steering Committee Conference which included USAID officials as well as stakeholders in the energy sector from the eight member countries. Candace Buzzard, Director of USAID’s Regional Growth and Integration Office, spoke at the conference to address concerns about the lack of electricity and efficient clean power. She also mentioned that the collaboration between USAID and EAPP will produce significant results exploiting clean and renewable energy resources as well as improving cross-border energy trade policies and regulations.

Pic of the Week – Strawberries in Pakistan

USAID brings strawberries to Pakistan.

Abdul Karim sits under a makeshift shelter packing freshly picked strawberries. USAID is working with farmers to modernize their agricultural production chain, and strengthen market linkages between farmers, food producers, and exporters.

Aware of the strawberry’s potential, the Competitiveness Support Fund (CSF), a joint initiative of the Pakistani government and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), saw an opportunity to help farmers and boost the economic growth of the region with the production of such a marketable commodity.

A pilot program of the Sindh provincial government with technical support from USAID is working with several dozen farmers to modernize their agricultural production chain, and strengthen market linkages between small-scale farmers, large-scale food producers, and exporters to substantially increase agricultural incomes.

Demonstrations were given to local farmers on modern farming techniques like high-efficiency drip irrigation, as well as post-harvest handling such as proper cooling, storage and packaging of the fragile berries.

USAID Helps Put Albanian Products on the Road to Markets

Mr. Ruzhdi Koni, owner of AgroKoni Trading Company, sends off his first shipment of watermelons to a distributor in Lithuania. With USAID support, Albanian farmers and traders like Mr. Koni, are able to find lucrative international markets.

Albania is a country that produces a wealth of high-quality agricultural products and because of its geography and climate it can enter produce markets in the region and in the European Union earlier in a given year for premium prices. But that potential has not been fully met because Albania’s agriculture sector does not have adequate technological and business sophistication to be competitive.

Albanian farms are usually small, family-run operations, many of which cannot meet large purchase orders nor send their products to distant markets. Helping Albanian farmers overcome these difficulties would have an impact on reducing poverty and supporting economic development in rural areas where the poverty levels are much higher than the national average.

With USAID support, Albanian farmers, processors and traders are gaining the knowledge and skills they need to better reach regional and even international markets. Last week, USAID helped Agro-Koni, an Albanian producer of improved seedlings and consolidator, export 10 containers of early-season watermelons to Lithuania, valued at over US$50,000. The sale marks a milestone in a year-long process, where USAID’s assistance enabled Mr. Ruzhdi Koni, owner of AgroKoni, to navigate the complex process of establishing trade links with a regional buyer. Koni is preparing for two additional shipments in the coming weeks that would provide his company more than $100,000 in sales.

USAID’s five-year, Albanian Agriculture Competitiveness program is working with farmers, processors, suppliers and traders to build an integrated value-chain network that will increase the competitiveness of Albanian agriculture. Since it began in 2007, the project has had increased domestic and export sales by over 65% for assisted clients.

USAID has also published the first Albania’s Buyer Guide, a user-friendly directory with contacts for companies interested in purchasing Albanian products.

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