USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Food Security

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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New FEWS Data – Updated 11/18/2011

Moving Forward

The facts are hard to fully grasp: across the Horn of Africa, there are 13.3 million people in crisis – more than the populations in the cities of Los Angeles and New York combined.

And the crisis is the worst in Somalia, a country gripped by two decades of conflict. Somalis, primarily women and children, have streamed across the borders into Ethiopia and Kenya in search of life-saving food. For those still in Somalia, an early September report (pdf) was heart-wrenching: four million Somalis in crisis, with 750,000 at risk of starvation if critical assistance didn’t reach them over the next few months.

USAID, working with partners, has moved forward with critical and life-saving assistance. We know from past famines that the biggest killer of children weakened by lack of food is preventable diseases. So we have worked to provide vaccinations, clean water and basic hygiene. For nearly six months, our emergency teams have worked to save lives in one of the most difficult places in the world to reach those most in need.

And now, we finally have some good news to report. The USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) and the U.N. Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) released the latest data from Somalia today. The latest information indicates improvements in food security in all areas of Somalia, largely driven by humanitarian assistance, which has significantly improved household food access. Humanitarian assistance has also contributed to sharp drops in food prices, which nonetheless remain above average.

Famine conditions have abated in three of the six areas previously declared as experiencing ongoing famine in southern Somalia. Conditions have improved from famine to emergency levels in Bay, Bakool, and Lower Shabelle regions. Though the data shows improvement, famine conditions persist in Middle Shabelle region and the areas of Mogadishu and Afgoye.

Let me clearly note that while the number of Somalis at risk of imminent starvation has dropped, four million Somalis remain in need of humanitarian assistance through August 2012. We are not declaring victory, but we are heartened to have this critical data affirming that we are reaching many of those so desperately in need of help.

Unfortunately, we also know that the crisis is far from over. We know from past famines that when we stop assistance too early, we have new spikes of mortality and disease.

It is too early to ease up on assistance in Somalia or across the Horn, where more than $750 million in U.S. assistance continues to provide food, treatment for the severely malnourished, health care, clean water, proper sanitation, and hygiene education and supplies to help 4.6 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia.

We remain committed to providing vital emergency assistance, and we continue to look ahead – especially in Ethiopia and Kenya, where we can literally “Feed the Future” by building sustainable solutions through investments in agriculture, livelihoods and health.

And with today’s report, we know we are on the right track in Somalia, but our life-saving efforts continue. Those in the midst of this crisis still need our help, and you can be part of the solution. Join us.

USAID’s Frontlines – October/November 2011

Read the latest edition of USAID’s premier publication, FrontLines to learn more about the Agency’s 50th anniversary as well as its work in food security.

Some highlights:

 This photo tied for second place in the FrontLines USAID 50th anniversary photo contest. Local community members from outside of Dalanzadgad, Mongolia, often travel into town to join in USAID’s entrepreneurial activities, including craft and furniture production. Camels are the preferred mode of travel because they are able to carry many items. 2007. Photo credit: James Orlando

This photo tied for second place in the FrontLines USAID 50th anniversary photo contest. Local community members from outside of Dalanzadgad, Mongolia, often travel into town to join in USAID’s entrepreneurial activities, including craft and furniture production. Camels are the preferred mode of travel because they are able to carry many items. 2007. Photo credit: James Orlando

  • The Agency’s Horn of Africa aid delivers a one-two punch of emergency assistance and long-term support
  • And, check out photos that illustrate the best of USAID’s past and present from the latest FrontLines photo contest, where readers were asked to send in pictures to mark the Agency’s five decades (If you want in on the action, go to the Viewer’s Choice page before Nov. 18 and cast a vote for your favorite image among the official judges’ top-five picks)

If you want an e-mail reminder in your inbox when the latest issue of FrontLines has been posted online, subscribe here.

Working with Our Partners to Lead the Fight Against Global Hunger

Yesterday, we celebrated Howard Buffett and Bill Gates as recipients of the World Food Program USA’s 10th Annual George McGovern Leadership Awards for their extraordinary efforts to fight global hunger. Their work and vision is exemplary, and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah joined a panel at the Global Hunger Conference to discuss how leadership and thoughtful partnerships can make a difference in fighting hunger, poverty, and undernutrition.

At USAID, we lead Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. We working with partner countries and the private sector to advance broad-based economic growth that increases incomes, reduces hunger, and supports better nutrition outcomes. By leveraging private sector resources, we can maximize our reach and effectiveness, and strengthen the long-term sustainability of local systems. We are working with partners like the Word Food Program to do just this, and are supporting its Purchase for Progress initiative to help smallholder farmers gain access to markets so to improve their economic opportunities. This is one example of how we can work together toward a common goal of fighting global hunger and ensuring a better future for generations to come.

View video of Josette Sheeran, Executive Director for the World Food Programme, as she addresses how leveraging private sector resources and working together can help advance food security efforts, improve nutrition, and promote a better future for all.

Join a Discussion on Ending Hunger Through Development

Originally posted on DipNote the U.S. Department of State Official Blog.

On Tuesday, October 25, 2011, Tjada McKenna, Deputy Coordinator for Development, U.S. Feed the Future Initiative will hold a conversation with David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World, on “Ending Hunger Through Development.” The discussion will be moderated by Cheryl Benton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, and streamed live on www.state.gov and DipNote at 2:00 p.m. (ET). You are invited to participate by submitting questions, some of which will be selected for response during the live broadcast. Submit your questions in the comment section of this blog entry.

Through Conversations With America, leaders of national nongovernmental organizations have the opportunity to discuss foreign policy and global issues with senior State Department officials. These conversations aim to provide candid views of the ways in which leaders from the foreign affairs community are engaging the State Department on pressing foreign policy issues. From Afghanistan to India, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and internet freedom to world water issues, the Conversations With America series showcases how both the U.S. government and civil society are working across the globe on issues that concern Americans most.

View other Conversations With America by following this link and by accessing the Conversations With America video podcasts on Apple iTunes.

Blog Action Day: Highlighting the Devastating Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Ed note: This post originally appeared on the White House Blog. As part of Blog Action Day, the White House’s Courtney O’Donnell, who traveled to refugee camps in Kenya this summer with Dr Jill Biden, reflects on how we can all make a difference in the lives of those suffering in the Horn of Africa.

Blog Action Day and World Food Day provide an opportunity for individuals all over the world to spark collective action around the pressing global issue of food. This is particularly important now, as drought in the Horn of Africa and famine in parts of Somalia threaten millions.

Tragically, the worst drought in 60 years is being complicated by a chaotic political situation in Somalia. People are facing not only hunger, but also terrorism and violence.

In August, I traveled to Kenya along with my boss, Dr. Jill Biden and several other U.S. officials to visit the to the largest refugee camp in the world, in Dadaab, Kenya, where nearly 1,300 people arrive every day. We met with families who had walked for days or weeks, often barefoot, with no possessions, desperate to find food and medical care.

We spent time with a mother who had walked for over two weeks with her malnourished children to get to the camp. Her baby was sick with diarrhea; an ailment that seems minor to many of us but in these circumstances could be fatal. Like many of the women in the camps, this mother had walked day and night, through very dangerous conditions to try to save her children.

While the U.S. Government and the international community has mobilized and we are helping millions of people in the region – the scope and pace of this crisis is relentless. Without additional assistance, hundreds of thousands more could die. And most of those deaths will be children.

But there is hope.

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