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Archives for Food Security

Advancing Food and Nutrition Security – A Student Perspective

Written by Brendan Rice, Student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Originally posted at the Universities Fighting Global Hunger Blog

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ annual symposium, Advancing Food and Nutrition Security at the 2012 G8 Summit, brought together G8 and African leaders, international organizations, businesses, and civil society to emphasize the importance of agricultural development and nutrition security.

As a student and a member of the growing Universities Fighting World Hunger movement, this event was incredibly powerful and motivating. As students, we frame hunger as a structural issue. Food price volatility and under-investment in agricultural sectors of developing countries are structural issues that continue the crisis of hunger. These underlying causes of hunger can seem infinitely enormous and complex, but the symposium leading up to the G8 Summit at Camp David gives context and invigorates the work that we all do towards making hunger a distant memory. At the symposium, leaders including President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and the rock star, Bono, showed that advancing food security is a priority. The work that we do on our campuses is not done in isolation. Instead, we are tapping into an energy that is now emanating from the highest levels of power.

At the symposium, President Obama laid out the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which builds off of the commitments made at L’Aquila. The new phase of this shared initiative towards global food security focuses on empowering agricultural growth through country plans, private sector involvement, and G8 commitments.

Framing hunger as a solvable problem is central to the work that we do as students. As a human family, we have the tools, resources, and knowledge to end hunger in our world of plenty. This issue is not necessarily about coming up with a solution. Instead, it is about advancing the steps we already know work to end hunger through creating the public and political will to do so. The symposium and Obama’s announcement set up a framework of global imperatives.

Despite the diverse ideas and sectors represented, there were a number of themes that emerged throughout the symposium, many of which were clearly outlined in Secretary Clinton’s closing speech. These included a focus on smallholder farmers, nutrition with a focus on the first 1000 days of life, and the importance of women in food security. The heads of state of Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania all made clear the importance of investing in the agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers, many of whom are women.

The framework is in place, and now it is time to move towards action. During his speech at the symposium, President Obama called for “all hands on deck.” Students and future leaders are central to maintaining the commitments made and continuing to demand a food-secure world. Secretary Clinton laid out the challenge succinctly in her speech at the symposium. By 2050, there will be 9 billion people on the planet, and agricultural productivity must increase by 70 percent in order to keep pace. Bono stated that this challenge can and will be met, but not without Africa. Bono reminded us that the issue of hunger sears our collective conscience, so as a collective soul, this challenge is one that we must confront.

Representing students from around the world, Universities Fighting World Hunger is moving through strong conviction and grounded motivation to end hunger. To borrow a thought from Secretary Clinton, what can hold us back can be as simple as “plain old inertia.” In this we find hope because as part of the next generation of leaders, the inertia of the morally outrageous status quo of 1 billion people going hungry will be replaced by the exhilarating possibility of a fair and just global food system.

New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

Gayle Smith is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director at the National Security Council and Dr. Rajiv Shah is USAID Administrator.  This item was originally posted on the White House Blog.

This weekend, the leaders of the world’s largest economies and four African heads of state will come together at the 2012 G8 Summit at Camp David for a very different kind of discussion on Africa. Joined by private sector leaders for the first time, the President will host a dynamic discussion on global efforts to fight food insecurity and improve nutrition. In 2009 at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, President Obama and G8 leaders responded to the spike in world food prices and focused attention on strengthening food security to help countries end hunger. Reversing decades of decline in global agricultural development, L’Aquila committed leaders to supporting comprehensive plans designed by the developing countries themselves and built around smarter, more focused investments.

This weekend, the G-8 and African partners will launch the next phase of these efforts: theNew Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The New Alliance is a commitment by G8 nations, African countries and private sector partners to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years through inclusive and sustained agricultural growth.

Across history, the private sector has served as an engine of growth and transformation in nearly every country in the world. But although foreign direct investment flows to Africa now hover around $80 billion and trade has tripled over the last decade, this private sector boom has largely missed Africa’s agricultural economy.

This transformation – from aid alone to aid AND private investment; from just providing assistance to combining assistance and investment – is at the heart of our approach to the next steps of food security and why we’re placing such an emphasis on bringing in private capital and expanding access to markets.

More than 45 private sector firms—from large multinational companies like Yara International to small local businesses like Ethiopia’s Omega Farms—have stepped forward to invest more than $3 billion in African agriculture. And building on a decade of strong leadership, African countries are committing to specific policy reforms that shape a better environment for business.

Alongside them, donor countries are seeking to maintain their investments and accelerate implementation of country-owned plans. We are also supporting new advances in science and technology, like highly nutritious seeds that can withstand droughts and thrive in floods, and new tools to help poor farmers manage risk.  And the New Alliance is elevating an emphasis on undernutrition, which robs children of their lifelong potential and undermines investments in education, health and economic growth.

With this smart approach, working together, we can deliver real results for millions of families and help build a safer, more prosperous future for us all.

Helping Women Feed the World

Seema Jalan.   Photo: Women ThriveClose to a billion people worldwide go to bed hungry every night, and at least six out of ten are women. It’s ironic, because women in developing countries are largely responsible for feeding their children and growing the food that will feed their families. Around the world, the traditional image of a farmer is not a man on a tractor but a woman farming a piece of land about the size of a three-car garage.

That’s why we’re excited that governments, civil societies, universities, and private companies have begun investing in long-term programs to combat hunger and invest in farmers worldwide. Through the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, women are being recognized as playing a major role in tackling global hunger.

Over the next few days, G8 leaders from the world’s biggest economies will meet on critical global issues, including the challenge of feeding the world’s seven billion people. Here are seven things we at Women Thrive believe any program—whether from government, an NGO or private company– have to do to succeed by reaching women.

  1. Work with female farmers, who often play very different roles than men in agriculture. Women often grow different crops, work at different times of day and have different priorities than male farmers. Coming up with a one-size-fits-all program usually means you don’t reach women farmers.
  2. Ensure property rights for women, so that they can actually own the land they farm and gain control over their crops. Over and over, I’ve seen that women work on the farm, but don’t see the income from it because it’s usually men who own the land and take the crops to market to sell.
  3. Increase access to credit and financial services, so that women can properly save, and purchase seeds, fertilizer, and other tools to increase their productivity.
  4. Provide women farmers with time and labor-saving tools, which would make farming, cooking, and marketing easier and would allow women to carry out their household and childcare responsibilities more efficiently.
  5. Enhance transportation and technology infrastructure such as irrigation and roads, which would save women time and increase their income. But make sure they are roads from villages to local markets, not just four-lane highways from export-processing zones to ports.
  6. Expand skills training to women farmers so that they are more successful and productive in their work. And that might mean going to train them in their homes instead of setting up a training station far away from the village when women have children to look after at home.
  7. Integrate natural resource management, which simply means teaching women how to conserve things like water, land, and fuel to increase productivity as well as preserve the environment.

Women in developing countries may seem remote and far away but the more I travel the more I realize how much we all have in common. Mothers around the world just want to the basic dignity to feed and provide for their families. And simple, targeted investment can have an enormous gain. If women can feed their loved ones and themselves with maize, cassava and plantains, they can transform their families, communities, and societies. And since women are the majority of farmers in some areas, this makes an enormous impact on food security. We will all be the better for it.

For more information about Women Thrive Worldwide, please visit: http://www.womenthrive.org/

Achieving Global Food Security

Gebisa Ejeta, 2009 World Food Prize laureate and director of the Purdue University Center for Global Food Security

All of us share a stake in the search for practical and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty and the misery and inhumanity of world hunger.

Global food security is a crippling, global problem. Nearly 1 billion of the world’s 7 billion people suffer from chronic hunger because of economic, social, political and environmental conditions. One of the greatest challenges of humanity in the 21st century will be to meet the food needs of a world population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. It is projected that agriculture will need to double crop and livestock production by mid-century, while producing it more efficiently and safeguarding the sustainability of our natural resources. This is a tremendous undertaking that we must accept.

The U.S. government is exhibiting great global leadership in highlighting the importance of global food and nutrition security this weekend at the G8 Summit at Camp David, starting with President Obama’s opening keynote at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs’ Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, where he is expected to highlight G-8 efforts to promote food security, improve nutrition and alleviate poverty.

I applaud his efforts and those of the G-8 to tackle this critical issue. We know that Africa is particularly at-risk to factors that lead to food insecurity, and focus should be placed on building the capacity of African institutions. We also know that the private sector can play an essential role in shouldering some of the responsibilities in global food security by ramping up innovations in agriculture that are generated by universities such as Purdue, where I and many of my colleagues currently work to help the world meet the growing need for food and energy in the coming decades. The Purdue Center for Global Food Security, which collaborates with other universities and research organizations within the U.S. and internationally, focuses on education, research and development, and advocacy to help humanity rise to those challenges.

As I have advocated in the past (pdf), I believe that meeting our food security challenges for the 21st century will require an advancement of scientific initiatives to improve crop varieties, to create more environmentally sustainable fertilizers and pesticides, to reduce pre- and post-harvest losses, and to develop new and more productive farming methods. Equally important is making sure that new technologies reach the world’s poorest farmers. Working together – governments, universities, the private sector and NGOs – we can solve one of the greatest challenges of this century.

Talking G8, Hunger and Food Security with ONE

This week USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg took a moment to speak with ONE about the upcoming G8 summit, hunger, and food security. Their conversation was just posted on the ONE Blog.

ONE: Hunger is a global issue — how is a focus on growth in the agricultural sector so central to poverty reduction, and why is an emphasis on Africa particularly important?

Ambassador Steinberg: Food security is vital to human security. On a national level, countries marked by hunger, volatile food prices, and poverty stemming from a lack of agricultural productivity face constant political and security crises that undercut stability and economic development.

At the personal level as well, hunger and malnutrition affects the entire life-cycle, causing stunting in infants and young children, poor concentration and inadequate learning in school-aged kids, low resistance to communicable and infectious diseases, and low productivity and high absenteeism in the work place.

Africa is particularly vulnerable to the effects of hunger and malnutrition, and is the only continent where agricultural productivity has remained stagnant for the past three decades. Given that growth in agriculture is, on average, at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors, investments in agriculture are fundamental to transforming Africa and the rest of the developing world and eradicating poverty and hunger.

Read the full Q & A on the ONE Blog.

Guidelines Support Best Practices for Increasing Food Production and Promoting Sustainable Development

Last Friday in Rome, members of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) unanimously endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. As chair for the negotiations that drafted the text of the Guidelines and Chief of USAID’s Land Tenure Division, I welcome the endorsement as a significant step forward towards addressing tenure issues that impact food security and sustainable development around the world.

This occasion signals an unprecedented recognition by governments and civil society of the importance of improving land and other resource governance systems as a strategy for reducing food insecurity. Securing land rights for men and women, indigenous people and other vulnerable groups, will help accomplish this goal. While the Guidelines are a negotiated text, they accommodate many differing viewpoints and include numerous technical recommendations reflecting best tenure practice, including the recognition of informal, or customary, tenure.

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Spotlight on Food Security: The Key to Economic, Environmental, and Global Stability

You may have noticed a lot of increased talk about “food security” lately, particularly in the international development realm. There’s good reason for that.

A family experiences food security when it lives without hunger or even fear of hunger. In essence, it means that people have enough food to live happy, healthy lives. It’s a right I’m sure we all wish were accessible to every man, woman, and child on the planet.

Yet global hunger and chronic malnutrition remain two of the greatest development challenges today. Nearly 20 percent of all people in the world live on less than $1.25 a day, and almost one billion suffer from chronic hunger. Compounding this problem is the fact that, by 2050, the global population is expected to grow to more than nine billion people, requiring up to a 70 percent increase in agricultural production to feed us all. Given increasingly limited natural resources, we’ll also need to produce this additional food with less land, water, and other resources.

The challenge is indeed great, but there are opportunities for solutions. An estimated 75 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas, where farming can be a key economic driver. Because growth in agriculture is, on average, at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors, we already know that investments in agricultural development are fundamental to alleviating hunger and propelling long-term economic growth.

The time to accelerate these investments and growth is now. The G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy and the World Food Summit in Rome in 2009 united the global community to intensify efforts to advance food security by scaling up investment in the agricultural sector, which had been suffering from extreme underinvestment for several years. Feed the Future is the United States’ contribution to this collaborative global effort, which is centered on country-owned processes to improve food security, agricultural production, nutrition, trade, and broad-based economic growth through development of the agricultural sector. We’ve made a lot of progress, as a recent report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has noted. But we’re only just getting started.

Three years after L’Aquila, the leaders of the G-8 are preparing to meet once again, this time at the 2012 G-8 Summit at Camp David on May 19. This Summit is expected to build upon the food and nutrition successes of L’Aquila by focusing on creating a better environment to mobilize private sector investment as a catalyst for long-term economic growth. Through the collective engagement of international donors, country governments, the private sector, the NGO community, and civil society organizations, we can help break the cycle of hunger and poverty so that countries can feed themselves, helping their communities to thrive. This work is important because it translates to a healthy, prosperous, and sustainable future for us all.

Responding to Acute Malnutrition in the Sahel

I recently returned from Niger and Mauritania, in Africa’s Sahel region, assessing nutrition-focused humanitarian assistance.  This was not my first trip to the region, as I was also there with USAID in 2010 when a failed harvest and poor pasture conditions led to food insecurity conditions nationwide and a significant rise in acute malnutrition among young children.  This year, without much time for families and communities to recover and restore livelihoods, we are again facing a humanitarian crisis.  Another drought, coupled with high food prices, and conflict in northern Mali displacing some 250,000 people, often to areas with limited resources and capacity, means that millions of people may need emergency assistance in the coming weeks and months, and acute malnutrition rates are again climbing.

The causes of hunger and malnutrition in the Sahel are complex and deeply rooted.  Even with a good harvest, particularly vulnerable communities cannot afford to buy available food in the market.  Poor health care, sanitation, and feeding practices are also major contributors to malnutrition. However, a drought and failed harvest makes it that much worse.  The hardship, food insecurity and acute malnutrition vary by district, village and community, and public health and nutrition monitoring must be very specific and localized to identify existing pockets of need.

USAID Public Health advisor Mark Phelan in Niger. Photo Credit: USAID

We are indeed facing a crisis, but I am encouraged by what is being done differently, by ways we have applied lessons learned in the Sahel during food crises in 2010 and 2005, though we still have a long way to go.  Improved forecasting of malnutrition cases, earlier initiation of programs, better relief agency coordination, all add up to keeping more children alive and well.  Especially for children under 5, whose growth and development is most at risk from acute malnutrition, we are seeing the impact of more effective health monitoring, recognition of need, and response.

In the Sahel, USAID’s approach supports national and regional structures that promote food security and nutrition, while providing short-term assistance to vulnerable populations – such as food assistance and treatment for acute malnutrition.  We are supporting nutrition pipelines to ensure adequate stockpiles of ready-to-use therapeutic foods are in place while training health staff and volunteers, and increasing nutrition screening and nutrition education.

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Project Impacting Food Security, Empowering Women Begins With Land

The kebele of Debeso, a majority Muslim community in southern Ethiopia, faces many of the same challenges one encounters across the country. Scarce water resources, near exclusive economic dependence on agriculture, and a government that owns all land in the country, create feelings of insecurity and hardship among rural Ethiopians, who represent about 85% of the total population. Located in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples region, Debeso is one place where USAID is working to address some of these challenges. Through a project centered on surveying land parcels using GPS technology and issuing land certificates to those occupying the land, USAID and the Government of Ethiopia help secure property rights so that residents can focus on investing in production and limit conflict.

Two weeks after receiving their certificates, some Debeso residents are already planning to use it as an assurance for creating rental and sharecropping agreements. A month ago they would have hesitated to make these types of arrangements for fear that those farming the land would claim it as their own. The certificate, accompanied by a parcel map, also gives land holders accurate measurements of property which help them set fair prices for use agreements, improve economic benefits, and avoid boundary disputes.

These women and men in Debeso now have secure property rights through a USAID land certificate project. Photo Credit: Gregory Myers, USAID

The land certification project provides equal benefits to men and women. Married women are listed as rights’ holders on the certificates along with their husbands, and certificates can be issued to an individual woman. Before certification, individual women were vulnerable to claims from others and could spend a large amount of time disputing a border; now they feel safer and can justify a claim quickly.

Both men and women in Debeso expressed a desire to use the certificate to access microcredit loans. One gentleman noted that with certificates from a previous project, about 50 land holders were able secure loans of as little as 55 US dollars, up to 300 US dollars. This credit allows land holders to invest in fertilizer and other technologies to increase production.

Just 20 years ago, the idea of smallholder farmers having secure land over time was unthinkable in Ethiopia. Under the Derg government, in power from 1974 to 1991, land boundaries were allocated and modified by the state frequently. Based on the outcomes of USAID’s land certification demonstration projects, the government’s approach to land rights is changing and communities are finding their own ways to solve some local food production challenges.

Moving Food Faster to Those Who Need it Most in the Sahel

This week, urgently needed food – 33,700 tons of sorghum from American farmers – will depart the United States for West Africa, as a part of the U.S. Government’s response to the drought in the Sahel.

Due to poor harvests, high food prices, and a number of conflicts in the region, a dire humanitarian situation is looming for chronically vulnerable populations across the Sahel region of western Africa.

The food we are shipping this week should arrive by late April, just four to five weeks from now. USAID’s speedy contribution complements efforts of the UN World Food Program and other agencies to procure food for the hungry regionally. Because markets in the Sahel are currently stretched to meet the demand for food, internationally sourced assistance is vital to ensure that food prices don’t rise even higher. With 7 to 12 million people in need of assistance, time is of the essence, particularly with the next rainy season to begin in June, when roads will be impassable and populations will be difficult to reach.

This sorghum is destined to feed individuals in two areas of Chad: children and moderately malnourished mothers affected by the drought in the western and central Sahelian regions of Chad, and in eastern Chad Sudanese refugees – mainly pregnant and nursing women and malnourished children – as well as internally displaced people, returnees, and school children in eastern Chad. USAID is providing additional food aid and emergency cash resources to support both UN agencies and other organizations working across the Sahel to combat the effects of drought and high food prices.

Food aid is just one aspect of the overall USAID response to the crisis in the Sahel. USAID is also focusing on improving nutrition, increasing agricultural production, linking individuals to local markets through voucher programs, rehabilitating public infrastructure through cash-for-work schemes, and mitigating conflict, among other activities. In addition to providing life-saving assistance, these efforts aim to alleviate poverty and build community resilience to withstand future shocks. With an announcement yesterday of an additional $120 million in emergency assistance, the U.S. government is providing nearly $200 million in humanitarian assistance this fiscal year to the Sahel region.

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