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Archives for Food Security

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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Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food

For several years, aid organizations have used Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) for the community-based treatment of severe malnutrition. The product’s effectiveness has been called nothing short of miraculous as emaciated children were nursed back to life in their own homes using this nutrient-dense, highly fortified paste. Instead of children being hospitalized for several weeks, RUTF provides an option for outpatient treatment of severe malnutrition, where the caregiver provides a child two, 92-gram packets of RUTF per day. The two packets provide about 1,000 calories, plus a very broad range of vitamins and minerals. As long as a severely malnourished child has enough appetite to consume them, the recuperative process will be complete in about six to ten weeks.

In the past, RUTF was not available as a USAID-donated commodity. Aid organizations had to buy the product using precious donor funds. But in response to the desperate need of victims of famine, war, and drought in the Horn of Africa, and recommendations of a recent USAID Food Aid Quality Review, USAID added RUTF to its list of commodities available to partners implementing humanitarian programs.

As a long-time food technologist for both USAID and the U.S. Army, I am very excited we have received the first shipments of RUTF from three valued suppliers: Edesia, Tabatchnick Fine Foods, and MANA Nutritive Aid Products. The product is able to bring many of those children back from the brink of starvation, and it is just one of many steps that will be taken to expand and improve the humanitarian foods provided by USAID.

I am acutely aware of the critical 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, when providing the proper nutrition can positively impact the rest of a child’s life. As we commemorate another World Food Day, I am proud of USAID’s commitment to changing the future by changing the lives of those most vulnerable children, and I am honored to be a part of that effort.

Stephen Moody, Senior Advisor for Food Technology, Office of Food for Peace, USAID. Stephen provides USAID with advice on formulation, development, processing, and packaging technologies for new and existing food products for humanitarian assistance and emergency feeding programs. He received a MS in Food Science from Kansas State University in 2000. Stephen is a member of the Institute of Food Technologists, a senior member of the American Society for Quality, and holds dual certifications as an ASQ Certified Quality Auditor and ASQ Certified Quality Engineer. He retired from active duty in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps after 24 years of service. Among his many positions was that of Food Safety Officer for the US Army Central Command in the Persian Gulf where he was responsible for the inspection and approval of local sources for food and bottled water in East Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

The Important Role of Women in Feeding the World’s Population

In this Feed the Future video, narrator Matt Damon discusses the importance of increasing food production around the world and notes the importance of equipping women with the right tools, training, and technology to see as much as a 30 percent increase in food production. Feed the Future is the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative.

Visit http://www.state.gov/video for more video and text transcript.

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