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Archives for Food Security

Pounds of Prevention – Focus on Afghanistan

USAID is helping farmers in Ghor Province, Afghanistan, improve how they identify potato seeds (A), sort and store them (B), plant them (C), and harvest them (D), reducing the risk of crop loss at every step. Photo Credit: Catholic Relief Services

In this installment of USAID’s Pounds of Prevention series, we take a look at how USAID—through its partnership with Catholic Relief Services— is helping vulnerable farmers reduce post-harvest losses as a result of poor storage conditions. We focus on western Afghanistan, where the potato plays a key role in nourishing families through the harsh winter months. In the traditional-style potato storage pit, farmers lost up to half of their potato seeds to rot due to poor ventilation. Read on to learn how, with just a few modifications to the pit design, losses have decreased from 50 percent to just 5 percent.

Bangladeshi Farmers Reap Rewards from New Agricultural Techniques

Half a world away from Des Moines, Iowa, where the World Food Prize “Borlaug Dialogue” International Symposium is being held this week, Bangladeshi farmers are hard at work sowing wheat and maize in their fields.

This year, however, something is different. For many farmers, new techniques supported by USAID are helping to reduce costs, achieve better yields, and earn higher profits. Something as simple as planting crops in raised beds or reducing tillage can have an outsized effect on crop yields and earnings.

Stamping out rural hunger and poverty in Bangladesh is not some distant dream. It is a real and attainable prospect, and with support from the U.S. Government’s global food security initiative, Feed the Future, we are doing our part.

To watch how the simple but powerful techniques we support are changing the lives of Bangladeshi farmers, check out the three embedded clips below on strip tillage, bed planting, and saving water and overcoming salinity. The longer version of the video (20 minutes)—”Save More, Grow More, Earn More“—is also well worth a view.

Strip Tillage
How do farmers produce a profitable crop with hardly any irrigation at all? Farmers in Bangladesh are showing the way by planting into mulch, and using simple machines that plow only a small line in their fields, into which seed and fertilizer are dropped at the same time. These easy-to-implement practices conserve precious soil moisture and improve their investment in fertilizer.

Bed Planting
Farmers across Bangladesh are putting the problem of high irrigation costs and water scarcity to bed—literally. Using the simple and effective technique of planting their rice, wheat, maize and legume crops on raised beds, farmers are getting more crop per drop and reducing irrigation requirements by up to 40 percent.

Overcoming Salinity with Conservation Agriculture
Despite increasing fuel and irrigation costs, as well as crop-damaging soil salinity, innovative farmers in Bangladesh are conserving soil moisture and overcoming salinity with conservation agriculture. By not fully plowing their fields, using appropriate machinery to sow their crops in lines under a layer of water-conserving mulch, and rotating between profitable crops, farmers are beating the odds to achieve profitable maize, wheat and legume yields.

We Live in a Hungry World

I work for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and my business is food. Food assistance, that is. USAID provides food assistance every day to millions of hungry people around the world.  Our food assistance improves the lives of ordinary people who we at USAID call “vulnerable,” or “food insecure.”  When we distribute food or vouchers, it’s often to refugees, who have fled ethnic violence and bloodshed in a neighboring country; or to victims of a recent earthquake or flood, their homes and livelihoods destroyed, sometimes in a matter of seconds; or to kids, as an incentive to attend school; or to malnourished children and their mothers, who need a boost in calories, vitamins and other micro-nutrients to be able to continue their normal daily routine.

Darfuri women measure food aid rations Photo credit: Stan Stalla, USAID

And what is that routine?  In many developing countries, even during the best of times, daily routines are centered around where the next meal will come from. It’s hard to forget the look of dozens of women, wrapped in colorful garb, lined up under acacia trees in a north African desert, waiting patiently to receive their monthly ration of USAID food aid during the months of each year known as “The Hunger Season.”  And then, there are the farmers with tools raised high over their heads, cleaning irrigation canals to get ready for the next rice planting season, buffered by American sacks of wheat or corn meal, along with split yellow peas and vegetable oil.  Called “food for work,” this is an effort to help people unable to cover their basic needs through building community assets such as irrigation canals in exchange for food.

No matter how dramatic the images of people receiving food aid, it’s the daily, personal reminders of what it means to be hungry, and what we are doing to address that hunger for the long-term, which affect me the most….even after more than thirty years in this business.

The recent severe drought in the Horn of Africa brought sharply into focus the need to help communities be more resilient. Resilience means supporting communities so they can recover from shocks and disasters and get on with building their lives—so they won’t continue to need food aid.

In many ways, USAID’s food aid programs have been doing this for a long time, by helping farmers move beyond subsistence and farm more productively so they have a surplus to store or to sell, and can break the cycle of poverty and hunger.  I have seen examples of this every day in my years with USAID, from Ethiopia to Haiti to Burundi.  We are not just about handing out food in emergencies, but actively seek to help families become more food secure over the long run.  Lessons we have learned from both the Horn of Africa and the Sahel are being applied to improve our relief efforts in part of Southern Africa experiencing worsening drought today.

We are fortunate to live in a bountiful country.  On World Food Day, it’s good to contemplate our good fortune, and to be grateful for the chance to share some of that with our sisters and brothers on the other side of the globe.

Stan Stalla is a Food for Peace Officer based in Burundi.  Stan has worked for USAID for over 30 years, with recent postings in Ethiopia, Pakistan and Haiti.

From the Field: Farmer Cooperatives in Mozambique

Last week I had the chance to travel around Mozambique with two Senate staff members who were interested in seeing how the U.S. Government is improving food security in the country. We visited the Nacololo community in Monapo District of Nampula Province in the northeast, where USAID partner Save the Children has been implementing a development food assistance program since 2008.

Called SANA, or ‘good health’ in the local language Emakwa, the program focuses on assisting rural communities with market-driven agriculture, community-managed nutrition, and disaster preparedness and management. USAID has actively integrated SANA activities with other U.S. Government-funded initiatives, such as Feed the Future and the USAID-funded program Strengthening Communities through Integrated Programming (SCIP), to address community development in a holistic manner.

In Nacololo we met community members from ten farmers associations that USAID and its partners helped the community establish. Association forming is the first step USAID takes to help farmers learn better farming techniques as well as begin to develop their farms into businesses. Of the ten associations, three are now formal legal entities, one a forum (union of associations), and one a cooperative. Cooperatives are the highest level of farmer organizations, where farmers are actively working to make a profit by marketing their products nationally and in some cases for the export market.

The Senate staff members saw firsthand farmers taking that next step towards advancing their farming businesses through the integration of SANA with Feed the Future, which aims to support Mozambique’s economic growth, in part by strengthening targeted agricultural value chains.

The cooperative Ossucana Limited of Nacololo was a good example of this integration. It was formed in February 2012 and has 15 individual members. The cooperative is funded by members from an existing association – initially established under the development food assistance program – who have transitioned from their association to form the cooperative.

This advancement from association to cooperative has been important in solidifying the gains farmers have made to make their farming more profitable. Feed the Future is building on development food assistance achievements, enabling farmers to make connections to buyers and commodity markets, growing their businesses and increasing their incomes for the long term. One cooperative, for example, is already selling its sesame to India through connections made to a sesame exporter. This effort will ensure sustainability of the gains farmers have made, and lead to long-term food security.

Leonor Domingues is Food Security and Disaster Response Advisor for USAID’s Mission in Mozambique. For seven years she has overseen the Title II development food assistance programs.

USAID Hack for Hunger Winners Showcase Open Data on World Food Day

On Friday, September 14 across seven time zones,  technicians, designers, storytellers and development experts poured into USAID’s Innovation lab with one shared purpose: food.  They joined an online gathering of advocates across five countries for the chance to help tackle critical food security challenges in developing countries by participating in USAID’s Hack for Hunger.

Working throughout the weekend teams applied open data to build products that addressed key challenges outlined by USAID, USDA, and food security stakeholders months prior. On Sunday afternoon a panel of judges expert in food security, open data, entrepreneurship, and open government evaluated the teams based on incorporation of open data, how easy their project was to use, and its relevance to food security.

Winning teams include established organizations like Grameen Bank and Palantir Technologies, small startups including Digital Green, Sonjara, and GeoWiki; and proof-of-concept upstarts like PineApple project and Grower’s Nation.  Visit PineApple’s website and input your location to be provided with suggestions of optimal crops to plant based on known, elevation, soil PH and annual rainfall data. Grameen data on crop blights generate a heat map that Ari Gesher of Palantir labs describes “gives some sense of where maggots and soy beans are colliding, and where the maggots are winning” With this data a text-message can be sent to farmers to warn them of outbreaks of diseases that can affect their crops. The Geo-Wiki Project combines Google Earth data with crowdsourced information to identify land grabs and offers a platform for non-technical volunteers to help combat illegal actions that affect food security.

But, the hacking doesn’t stop.  Teams continue refining their applications, adding in monitoring & evaluation tools like SMS-based Q&A plugins, incorporating still more detailed data, and partnering with similar organizations to bring products to scale. Tomorrow is October 16, World Food Day, and Assistant to the Administrator Paul Weisenfeld and Chief Innovation Officer Maura O’Neill will join winning teams onstage at the Iowa Hunger Summit, the kick-off to the week-long World Food Prize events, and showcase products built at Hack for Hunger.

USAID has a long history of working with frontier technologies.  Hackathons, crowdsourcing cleanups, and other events are just the latest in engaging tech advocates. USAID Administrator Raj Shah has issued a call to action: “Our Agency must serve as a platform that connects the world’s biggest development challenges to development problem-solvers – all around the world.”

We’re looking ahead to a “Development Datapalooza” that the White House plans to host in early December to announce new datasets and showcase products and organizations that use USAID and development data and build innovative products for greater development impact.  As with any tech and hackathon event, anyone is welcome to get involved.

Visit http://idea.usaid.gov/opendata to learn more about Hack for Hunger.

Pounds of Prevention – Focus on Malawi

“Pounds of Prevention” is a series of short articles that illustrate how disaster risk reduction works and why it is important. Take a behind-the-scenes look at aid work in action, long before the disaster occurs. How is that possible? Read on!

A farmer in Malawi demonstrates how she diverts water from a main irrigation channel to a row of crops. Photo: Helen Ho, USAID

Today’s installment, Pounds of Prevention – Focus on Malawi highlights our work in the southern parts of the country where prolonged dry conditions and macroeconomic forces have combined to drive up food prices, making it especially difficult for poor and vulnerable households to grow or buy enough to feed their families.

Throughout the past decade, however, USAID has worked to improve people’s ability to weather and recover from these types of shocks. In partnership with a variety of groups, USAID is helping farmers to access capital and credit, conserve water and soil, grow different crop varieties, and construct small-scale irrigation systems.

Results, Results, Results

Originally posted at 1,000 Days

Last week at the High-Level Meeting on Scaling Up Nutrition in New York City, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the progress being made by the 30 countries that have committed to putting nutrition at the heart of their approach to development.  The 30 SUN countries are home to 56 million children suffering from stunted growth due to chronic malnutrition, representing more than one-quarter of the world’s stunted children.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses the 2nd Annual High-level Meeting on Scaling Up Nutrition. Photo credit: John Gillespie UNIC

Putting nutrition front and center

The Secretary General stressed the importance of boosting global efforts to end “the hidden disgrace of stunting.” His comments were echoed by Anthony Lake, Chairman of the SUN Lead Group and Executive Director of UNICEF, who noted that stunting is one of the most under-recognized and under-attended issues in the world today, yet it can be prevented for approximately $15 per child.

Over the past year, countries in the SUN movement have set themselves clear targets, scaled up programs targeting women and children, and put into place the necessary resources to begin to tackle to problem of malnutrition.  At the meeting, several leaders highlighted new or intensified commitments to scale up nutrition, including:

  • Peru’s First Lady, Nadine Heredia, who indicated that tackling child malnutrition is a critical pathway to breaking the cycle of poverty between generations in Peru and highlighted that the Peruvian President has signed a commitment to protect a $1 billion budget allocation for fighting child malnutrition.
  • Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, World Bank Vice President for Human Development, announced that the World Bank committed to increase investments in nutrition from $100 million per year to $560 million over the next two years which would expand the Bank’s reach into 36 countries, where 70 percent of the world’s stunted children live.
  • Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, committed to decrease stunting by 20% over five years in 14 of the 30 SUN countries:  Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.  He also highlighted results achieved with U.S. funds to date.  In Uganda, U.S. funding has meant that 50 million children received vitamin A supplementation last year, along with a 90% increase in the use of cooking fortified with Vitamin A.  Collective efforts in Tanzania have encouraged the government to hire more than 100 district nutrition officers, leading teams that have the potential to reach more than 20 million people.  An initiative with the Government of Bangladesh, CARE and 44 local organizations has created a 30 percent reduction in stunting for children under age five.

While progress at country-level to scale up nutrition has indeed accelerated since the SUN movement was born in 2010, the focus is now on results, results, results.  From now until 2015—the next critical benchmark for the SUN movement and the year the world takes stock of its progress against the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—success will depend on the ability to translate political will into tangible and lasting improvements in rates of malnutrition.  The road ahead will likely be a challenging one as global economic problems persist, and food price crises and climactic shocks continue to threaten progress toward curbing chronic malnutrition.  This is precisely why now, more than ever, the global community must rally to mobilize unprecedented resources behind ending the “hidden disgrace” of chronic malnutrition.

Recipe: Raj and Shivam Shah’s rainbow hash browns

Originally featured on the One Campaign

Ever since ONE members started submitting recipes to our Digital Sweet Potato Cookbook, I’ve been searching for that perfect dish to cook and write about for the ONE Blog. It had to be something simple, healthy and versatile. So, when I saw USAID Administrator Raj Shah’s family recipe for rainbow hash browns, I knew I struck gold.

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The Japanese have long held the belief that eating dishes with at least five colors is the key to good health — so I was pleased to see that this dish had red peppers, orange sweet potatoes, yellow corn, green peas and spinach and purple onions. Sweet potatoes and spinach are particularly nutrient-dense, and it’s foods like these that need to be on the plates of the world’s poorest children to help them grow healthy and strong.

These rainbow hash browns are great because you can eat them for almost any occasion — under a fried egg for brunch, as a side dish for roasted chicken, as a topping for bruschetta. In my case, I tossed it with some whole grain spaghetti with a little extra olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. And it’s super easy to cook. I think the hardest part was cutting the sweet potatoes up into cubes.

The Shah family didn’t include specific measurements in their recipe, so I took the liberty of adding more of what I liked (corn and peas) and less of what I didn’t (red peppers… I’ve never been a big fan!). This is the kind of dish that can’t go wrong — so I hope you give it a try just like I did. Here’s a step-by-step:

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Rainbow Hash Browns (or Rainbow Bruschetta)
Submitted by USAID Administrator Raj Shah

Dice sweet potatoes, red bell pepper, red onion and garlic and sauté in pan (with olive oil) until sweet potatoes are slightly charred but tender.

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Add frozen or fresh green peas and corn and sauté for a few more minutes. Add fresh chopped spinach or kale and sauté for a few more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Garnish with freshly chopped parsley or cilantro. Serve warm with eggs in lieu of traditional hash browns, or on toasted baguette for an alternative bruschetta, or simply as a hearty side dish to any tasty meal.

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Now that sweet potatoes are on your mind, take the next step and SIGN OUR PETITION to end global child malnutrition around the world. Nutrient-dense foods like the sweet potato are a vital part of a child’s health, but far too many children don’t have access to these kinds of vegetables. So, let’s urge world leaders to make it happen:

Live @ UNGA – Day Three

To see the online conversation at UNGA, visit USAID’s Storify Feed

Day three at UNGA included two marquee events spotlighting progress to date on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.  We also announced a new partnership to expand access to contraception for 27 million women and girls in low-income countries.

With only 15 months until the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline, USAID partnered on an event with the UK Department for International Development for a second year to draw attention to the importance of the global community working together to reach the MDG targets by 2015.  The event brought to life the enormous development advancements made on the way to achieving the MDGs and featured innovators from across the development community sharing transformative programs and policies.  The world has met two MDG targets ahead of the 2015 deadline – poverty has been cut by 50 percent globally and the proportion of people with no safe drinking water has been cut in half.

That afternoon, Administrator Shah co-hosted with other G8 members the New Alliance: Progress and the Way Forward event.  President Obama announced the New Alliance for Food Security & Nutrition earlier this year, in which G8 nations, African partner countries and private sector partners aim to help lift 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty in the next 10 years by supporting agricultural development. Initially launched in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania, at the event, representatives from the New Alliance, G8 countries and the private sector announced the expansion to other African countries, including Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mozambique.

Finally, Administrator Shah took part in the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children. Prior to the meeting, Dr. Shah joined the Commission Co-Chairs, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, alongside former President Bill Clinton, to launch a new partnership to make a safe, effective, long-acting, reversible method of contraception available to more than 27 million women in the world’s poorest nations. Under the agreement, Bayer is reducing by more than half the current 18 USD price of its long-acting, reversible method of contraception, Jadelle, in return for a commitment to assure funding for at least 27 million contraceptive devices over the next six years.  Dr. Shah stated, “The US Agency for International Development is proud to have funded the development of this life-saving product. Today is a major step forward to making this product more accessible to millions of women, empowering them with the ability to make decisions about their health and family.”

As always, follow us live on Twitter to keep up with the latest developments!

5 More Questions about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

Tjada McKenna is the Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future and Jonathan Shrier is Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security and Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy for Feed the Future.

This post was originally featured on FeedtheFuture.gov

Women and children pick green beans at the Dodicha Vegetable Cooperative in Ethiopia. The beans will be sold to a local exporter, who will sell them to supermarkets in Europe. Credit: K. Stefanova/USAID

In May 2012 we answered a few of the most common questions about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in the blog post Five Questions about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. This blog post follows with additional answers to other common questions about the New Alliance and progress.

1. What has happened with the New Alliance since the G8 announced it at the Camp David Summit in May 2012?

While it has only been a few months, we’re excited about the progress and momentum of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which is a unique partnership between African governments, members of the G8, and the private sector to work together to accelerate investments in agriculture to improve productivity, livelihoods and food security for smallholder farmers. This New Alliance aims to raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years through sustained and inclusive agricultural growth.

In May, President Obama launched the New Alliance with three initial countries—Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania. Each partner country developed a Country Cooperation Framework outlining key commitments by governments, donors, and the private sector. These commitments totaled more than $3 billion from more than 45 African and multinational companies.

Over the past 4 months, 21 additional private sector companies, most of them African, signed letters of intent, committing themselves to invest an additional $500 million in African agriculture—and more companies are lining up to sign letters of intent.

We’ve been very encouraged that despite some unexpected and difficult leadership transitions in Ghana and Ethiopia, the governments of all three initial New Alliance countries demonstrated continued country ownership, hosting New Alliance planning meetings. A wide range of stakeholders, including senior government officials, the private sector, and civil society met to discuss:

  • The alignment of New Alliance activities with existing country plans, processes and institutions.
  • Progress against policy reform commitments to create a positive enabling environment for the private sector.
  • Coordination of all partners to achieve shared objectives.
  • Priority-setting to show tangible outcomes and progress in the near term.
  • A way forward with tracking New Alliance implementation in each country.

And three more African countries have developed—jointly with private sector and G8 partners—their own Country Cooperation Frameworks. Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Mozambique officially announced these new frameworks on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York City in September 2012.

2. What is the relationship between the Feed the Future initiative and the New Alliance?

The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is a commitment made by the G8 leaders to work in close partnership with African governments and the private sector toward a common goal to raise productivity and address global food security, nutrition and poverty. As a G8 member, the United States contributes to this new global partnership through whole-of-government efforts such as President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future.

Feed the Future embodies many of the core principles of the New Alliance, including:

  • Strengthening and building upon existing country plans and processes.
  • Coordinating and collaborating with other donors to create transformative change in a country.
  • Leveraging innovation and private sector investment to transform agricultural value chains for smallholder farmers, especially women.

3. How does nutrition factor in to the New Alliance?

The United States and other G8 members are committed to improving global nutrition, especially for women and children. And we recognize that nutrition interventions historically have high rates of return on impacting development.

In the context of the New Alliance, the G8 committed to:

  • Actively support the Scaling Up Nutrition movement and welcome the commitment of African partners to improve the nutritional well-being of their populations, especially during the critical first 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday.
  • Improve tracking and disbursements for nutrition across sectors and ensure coordination of nutrition activities across sectors.
  • Support the accelerated release, adoption and consumption of biofortified crop varieties, crop diversification, and related technologies to improve the nutritional quality of food in Africa.
  • Develop a nutrition policy research agenda and support the efforts of African institutions, civil society and private sector partners to establish regional nutritional learning centers.

4. How will the New Alliance ensure that partners uphold their commitments?

In order to implement and track progress of the New Alliance over time, we are implementing a new approach to development that enlarges the development sphere beyond the donor and partner government paradigm to include private sector and civil society actors and build upon existing effective and collaborative accountability initiatives. Impact for smallholder farmers and women at the country level drives this new approach.

The New Alliance is committed to mutual accountability of all partners, and partners have expressed a strong desire to ensure that activities and investments are consistent with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security and the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment.

The New Alliance intends to build on the accountability work of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program and L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, which respectively track the commitments, investments and impacts of African governments and donors. At the Camp David Summit, the G8 agreed to convene a Leadership Council to drive and track implementation. This Council will report to the G8 and African Union on progress toward achieving the commitments under the New Alliance, including commitments made by the private sector.

The G8 also agreed to report to the 2013 Summit on the implementation of the New Alliance (including the actions of the private sector) in collaboration with the African Union. The Leadership Council convened its first meeting in September 2012 and continues to discuss options about how to best ensure mutual accountability.

5. Why does the New Alliance focus on Africa? What is the United States doing to improve food security elsewhere in the world?

As part of our commitment to do development differently and work in partnership behind country-led plans, the New Alliance is working in partnership to strengthen African commitments to promote and protect food security and nutrition—articulated in multiple settings since 2003 and validated by tremendous progress made in Africa since 2009.

Africa is home to seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies and the rate of return on foreign investment is higher in Africa than in any other developing region. Doing business in Africa makes good business sense. It is a growing place of opportunity for both business and agriculture. The New Alliance is combining smart assistance with leveraged private sector investments in African agriculture to benefit both resource-poor smallholder farmers and increase private sector growth.

While the New Alliance focuses on Africa, the U.S. Government also works to improve food security—in partnership with countries—throughout the world through the Feed the Future initiative.

Read more about the New Alliance on the Feed the Future website.

Tjada McKenna is Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future and Jonathan Shrier is Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security and Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy for Feed the Future

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