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Archives for Food Security

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.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (3/5/2012 – 3/10/2012)

March 4: Over the weekend, the Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.) highlighted USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah’s trip to General Mills’ Minnesota headquarters. Shah was in town to present the company with a Global Citizenship award, recognizing several hundred employees who volunteered their time and expertise to educate farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and other African countries through the Partners in Food Solutions program.

March 6: Last Friday, USAID announced the creation of the Donald Payne Fellowship program, which aims to attract diverse young professionals to careers in international development. With the passing of Congressman Payne, Roll Call published a story that included a statement Administrator Shah issued. “There have been few greater friends of USAID, and Rep. Payne’s legacy of helping people and solving problems around the world will continue through this fellowship,” Shah said.

March 8: Speaking at a Congressional hearing to discuss the latest developments in the Horn of Africa, AFP and Voice of America report that Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg testified that the U.S. took immediate action, ensuring direct food assistance to 4.6 million people and emergency health care for nearly one million more. Lindborg also underscored the serious challenges ahead, particularly the unsteady rains which will impact the amount of food the region will be able to produce. The United States and other major donors will meet in Kenya later this month to discuss longer-term Horn of Africa plans.

In Her Own Words: A Malian entrepreneur is given the tools to grow

I have always believed that better tools give better results.

For many years, farmers in West Africa have been struggling with low yields because good-quality seeds are not easily available. Most people need a little convincing to upgrade, especially when they are used to a certain way of doing things. In Africa, the majority of farmers use seeds saved from the previous year’s harvest, which often results in lower yields and vulnerability to disease. They don’t have access to affordable improved seeds: new varieties that have greater yields and are pest- and disease-resistant. Also, using saved seeds costs nothing and farmers are wary of paying for something when they are not sure of the return they will get.

Women farmers give their feedback during a tasting of three varieties of sorghum and groundnut. Photo Credit: Alina Paul-Bossuet, ICRISAT

My dream was to involve our local farmers in producing adapted high-quality seeds that can bring much better returns to smallholder farmers. And this is what’s happening now, enabled by Mali’s revised seed laws and support from initiatives like Feed the Future. To my knowledge, I am the first woman in Mali to develop a successful seed business through producing and marketing high-quality seeds.

The right support makes all the difference. Since 2008, my company, Faso Kaba, and a Feed the Future-supported seed project in Mali have been promoting improved seeds together on demonstration plots using seeds produced by four seed farmer cooperatives trained by the project. The seeds are then sold at Faso Kaba stores. This year, the West Africa Finance Fund (supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) enabled me to invest in a seed cleaning and packaging assembly line to ensure quality standards and facilitate packing. In return, we will clean, at reduced costs, the seeds produced by the seed farmer partners involved in the project.

The Feed the Future seed project has also helped me grow and develop Faso Kaba through business management training and international seed industry best practices. I have just returned from a visit to the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India where I discussed the possibility of creating a seed venture incubator in Mali. I want Faso Kaba to be able to train Malian farmers to become local seed entrepreneurs producing improved varieties. They could then supply the seeds to farmers in their district, helping build local seed industries. Faso Kaba would ensure the supply of improved varieties, provide quality control, and help market the seeds.

I am very proud of Faso Kaba, which shows that a woman can drive this type of pioneering agribusiness in Mali. My mother was my inspiration; she used to produce a very respectable 500 kilograms of sorghum every season, but she didn’t have access to improved seeds. That is why distributing these seeds to both male and female farmers is a real source of pride for us.

I’m an ambitious person and I want to see more women involved in agribusiness. This is a tough challenge because women here are juggling so many responsibilities; they don’t have the time or support to develop businesses like this.

I hope that I can help show them the way.

Learn more about how Feed the Future is working to empower women farmers.

On Valentine’s Day, Reflecting on the Importance of Chocolate Production

Dried cocoa beans in farmers hand: The cocoa journey starts with the raw beans grown on cocoa farms across the world. As part of the Nestlé programme farmers are shown how to dry cocoa beans more effectively, encouraging more even drying and minimizing spoilage. Photo Credit: Nestlé

They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. And whether you’re enjoying the fruits (or beans!) of the world’s cocoa harvest through your favorite candy bar during your afternoon snack, or receiving a heart-shaped box of cream-filled goodness for Valentine’s Day today, it’s worth considering how the delectable confection came to be in the first place – and how supporting the industry can lead to increased global food security.

You might think that’s quite a jump. But cocoa in West Africa contributes considerably to farmer livelihoods and national economies. Collectively, this region’s 2 million smallholder cocoa farmers produce approximately 70% of the world’s supply. With a projected strong, long-term demand, cocoa has great potential to increase these farmers’ incomes. To do so significantly requires improving productivity to make cocoa farming more economically attractive and environmentally sustainable.

The U.S. Government is supporting precisely these efforts with Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative. Through a partnership between the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Cocoa Foundation and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Feed the Future has embarked upon an alliance that will help alleviate poverty and increase farmer incomes in West Africa while strengthening government and regional institutions, advancing food security throughout the region.

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