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Archives for Food Security

Focus on Nutrition: Creating Inclusive Partnerships and Deepening our Knowledge

This originally appeared on DipNote.

Recently, I visited Bangladesh to find out how you feed a country that has half the population of the United States squeezed into an area the size of the state of Iowa. One thing is for certain: no one can do it alone. During my trip, I witnessed how partnerships among a broad range of stakeholders — the Rome-based UN agencies, the Government of Bangladesh, donor countries, civil society and the private sector — are coming together to change the way we address chronic hunger. The U.S. government is supporting partnerships that deliver food, including fortified vegetable oil, in conjunction with health and other interventions that help ensure our programs translate into better nutrition outcomes.

Good nutrition is crucial during the first 1,000 days — from the mother’s pregnancy through the child’s second birthday — because it affects lifelong mental and physical development, IQ, school achievement, and, ultimately, work capacity and income generation. Thus, nourishing children not only enables individuals to achieve their full potential, but creates the conditions for nations to grow and prosper. This is one of the reasons why nutrition is the critical link between Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative, the game-changing Presidential initiatives that address global hunger and maternal and child health as part of a broader strategy to drive sustainable and broad-based growth.

We know that we have to look at child malnutrition in new ways to accelerate progress toward the first Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty and hunger by 2015. We know that better targeting and implementation of nutrition programs can greatly increase the effectiveness of our assistance and, most importantly, the ability of all children to thrive. We also know, as Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton stated at the “1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future” event in New York last month, that prevention is better, and less expensive, than treatment.

The U.S. government is leading programs that focus on preventing malnutrition before it occurs. Core components of this new approach aim at improving the quality and use of health services, caretaker behaviors and dietary intake. Pregnant women and lactating mothers attend monthly pre- and post-natal services and nutrition education sessions while children up to 24 months are weighed and provided with basic care. Sick or malnourished mothers and children are treated or referred for additional care. Mothers and babies receive supplementary food in addition to a household food ration. As the international community recognizes, we need comprehensive approaches that draw from a broad toolbox in order to prevent and treat malnutrition effectively.

In addition to working to improve our programs on the ground, we are increasing the quality and scope of our food assistance commodities. We recently established a pilot effort to introduce and field-test new or improved micronutrient-fortified food aid products. We are also pursuing innovation around the nutritional content, product composition, and packaging of food products delivered through humanitarian assistance programs. Congress made $14 million available to support these two efforts in fiscal year 2010.

The American people will continue to provide emergency food aid assistance to vulnerable populations. And we are working with top researchers to help ensure that the food aid provided has a high nutritional value. With Tufts University’s School of Nutrition, we are examining nutritional needs and how we can best meet those needs — be they in Bangladesh or the Great Lakes of Central Africa — where I’ve seen incredible work being done. The study includes a scientific review of current enrichment and fortification technologies, a review of methods for delivery of micronutrients and an active consultative process that involves industry, academic and operational experts. Ultimately, it will provide recommendations on how to meet the nutritional needs of vulnerable populations with food aid assistance in a cost-effective manner.

While we expect that some time will be necessary to implement the recommendations, make the necessary changes in formulations, and test new products, our purpose is clear: We are committed to delivering high-quality, nutritious food assistance to people in need. As reaffirmed in the Committee on World Food Security nutrition side event last week, nutrition science has pointed the way to interventions that are basic, low-cost and effective. There is political will to scale up nutrition, align our efforts and measure our results. As Secretary Clinton has emphasized, we must use this remarkable opportunity to make a measurable impact on child hunger and malnutrition.

This Week at USAID – October 11, 2010

Administrator Shah opens a weeklong training for over 80 USAID communications staff from USAID Missions all over the world.  These communicators are in Washington, D.C. to engage with senior officials about elevating development, particularly the first-ever national development strategy issued by a U.S. President and “USAID Forward”, the Agency’s change management agenda.  Sessions featured during the week include: a meeting with staff from the National Security Council, a joint session at the annual State Department Public Affairs Officer’s conference, and a panel discussion with leading foreign policy journalists at the Newseum.

Administrator Shah travels to Des Moines, Iowa to speak at the Borlaug Dialogue, which is held each year in conjunction with the awarding of the World Food Prize.  The theme of the conference is: smallholder agriculture, “Take it to the Farmer“.  Dr Shah will focus on how you take interest in fighting poverty to the smallholder farmer.  He will also promote progress under Feed the Future, the Administration’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Food Voucher Program Will Assist Sudanese Families

Most U.S. food assistance to Sudan is “in-kind” aid—food that is grown by farmers in the United States, purchased on the open market, then shipped to Sudan. Voucher programs, on the other hand, offer an alternative and complementary approach that gives families access to foods they are already familiar with and boosts local economic activity. Recently, USAID awarded its first grant for a food voucher program in Sudan, a landmark initiative that will nourish hungry families by lowering the cost of life-saving foods already available in local markets.

Food aid being distributed in Darfur, Sudan, earlier this year. Photo: Rebecca Dobbins/USAID

This grant, awarded to the World Food Program (WFP), provides more than $2.25 million for food vouchers that will be distributed to 129,000 people affected by drought in North Kordofan and North Darfur through the end of the year. Using vouchers worth $8 to $20, families can select a minimum of three food items from approved merchants, alleviating some of the hardship brought on by seasonal drought.

Overall in 2010, USAID has provided $404 million in food aid to 6.1 million food-insecure people in Sudan.

Food Security Month @ USAID: Expanding Our Toolkit in the Fight Against Global Hunger

This orginally appeared on DipNote.

I am halfway around the world from Washington, and on October 6, I participated in the Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum. I traveled to Malaysia and Indonesia this week to discuss trade, investment, entrepreneurship, energy, and of course, agriculture. I am proud to be part of President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s renewed commitment to political, economic, and educational engagement with dynamic emerging economies like Indonesia. I am especially pleased to be back in Indonesia after my successful visit this past spring, during which we discussed the issues of post-harvest loss and agricultural biotechnology.

The Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum builds on that work by including many distinguished participants to chart a course for the future. Dr. Bayu Krishnamurti, Indonesian Vice Minister of Agriculture, Ambassador Eric Bost of the Borlaug Institute, and many other luminaries in the field have come together to discuss new agricultural technologies, investment in post-harvest infrastructure, and expanded cooperation at research universities.

Ultimately, we are all here to reaffirm our commitment to fight global hunger. While there are no magic bullets in this battle, we must look to new technologies, including biotechnology, for the role that they can play in the “new green revolution.’ I believe that biotechnology, and the improved crops it can develop, will prove to be an important new element in our traditional package of tools to increase productivity and address head-on the challenges of hunger and climate change.

To that end, we are renewing several key partnerships in the area of biotechnology. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will work with the Indonesian government and the Program for Biosafety Systems to develop a new and fully functional biosafety framework in Indonesia.

We are also building on long-standing partnerships with international agriculture research centers. USAID will be supporting collaboration between the International Rice Research Institute and the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development, and other partners to roll-out Golden Rice, an important food-based approach to alleviating Vitamin A deficiency and associated serious health issues in Indonesia.

In the face of one child dying of malnutrition every six seconds, our greatest tool is increased cooperation and collaboration to develop and share the best solutions possible.

Pic of the Week: Women Farmers in Tanzania Boost Incomes and Improve Nutrition

Maza Wanawake Kwanza Growers Association 3The twelve members of the Wanawake Kwanza (Women First) growers association in Tanzania, have received Feed the Future support through USAID to boost their incomes and improve nutrition in the village.

After only two months of growing vegetables on a single acre plot, these women have saved nearly $500. Based on their success, Maza village authorities have made an additional 1.5 acres available to the group and other women in the village are now organizing themselves into similar groups.

USAID worked as a catalyst getting them started by providing initial training, seeds and a treadle pump for irrigation. Now that they are up and running, USAID will help the women to register their association, provide technical assistance and additional training and develop business plans so that they can make their efforts sustainable for the future.

Food Security Month @ USAID: Linking Agriculture, Economic Growth, and Nutrition

Throughout October USAID will be highlighting our broad-based work in food security – which spans from emergency food aid assistance through the Food for Peace Program to the game-changing global hunger initiative called Feed the Future. Our development programs overseas are linking vulnerable populations to opportunities for economic growth and linking agricultural benefits to nutrition elements in new, innovative ways. This month we will feature how we are working across the U.S. Government to reduce global hunger and improve lives.

The Obama Administration’s $3.5 billion commitment to tackle food security through Feed the Future and its announcement of the first-ever global policy directive on development demonstrates a renewed focus and investment to address hunger. As USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has stated, “We know food security facilitates stable communities and resilient nations. We know agricultural development growth is more effective at reducing poverty than general economic growth. And we know children need nutrition to learn and grow, especially in those critical early years of their lives.”

Next week, the Borlaug Dialogue will bring together hundreds of global leaders on agriculture, food and development to discuss food security themes in Des Moines, Iowa. The annual conference includes announcing the World Food Prize winner and will focus on “Take it to the Farmer: Reaching the World’s Smallholders”. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will be a keynote speaker at the event and will announce new USAID programs that will increase capacity and incomes of smallholder farmers across the globe.

October also includes World Food Day, a worldwide event to unite and inspire year-round action to alleviate hunger. We will join many of our partner organizations on this day of awareness and understanding by highlighting the urgent need to reduce hunger with the strong global will and partnership it requires.

Personally, I am honored to be a part of the Feed the Future team. It is a whole-of-government approach that invests in plans that are country-led and country-owned. Our cross-cutting themes of gender, nutrition, private sector, and research recognize that we must take a holistic approach to get this right. Much like the Green Revolution nearly 50 years ago, the renewed global focus on agriculture has the ability to transform agriculture and, ultimately, reduce the number of hungry in the world.

From the Field

In Madagascar, as part of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), we will launch an indoor residual spraying campaign (IRS).  The campaign will cover 16 districts in Madagascar, including 6 in the central highlands, and 10 in the northwest and southwest. IRS involves the coordinated, timely spraying of the inside walls of houses with insecticides. Mosquitoes are killed when they land on these sprayed walls, reducing malaria transmission.

In Senegal, a report of a study on the Feminization of HIV/AIDS in Senegal will be released.  According to the 2008 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) report, approximately two women are HIV positive for every HIV-positive man. This feminization of the epidemic is a sharp shift from the beginning of the epidemic, when the numbers of HIV-positive men were higher. Women 25 to 29 years of age now have the highest prevalence of any age group at 1.5 percent, according to the 2005 Senegal Demographic and Health Survey (SDHS), with the next highest group, men 35 to 39 years of age, at 0.7 percent.

In Zimbabwe, we will launch the Promoting Recovery in Zimbabwe (PRIZE) Consortium.  The PRIZE consortium is an initiative funded through the Food for Peace program to address the acute relief and recovery needs of Zimbabweans arising from economic, political and environmental shocks that have plagued Zimbabwe.  It provides emergency food aid and seeks to improve long term food security through agricultural program and development of community skills.

Country Leadership and Partnership for Food Security in Uganda

I just returned from a two-day High-Level Business Meeting in Kampala, Uganda. The business discussed was food security – specifically, the Government was seeking feedback and support for its plan to address food security through agriculture-led development.

Food security leaders in Kampala, Uganda. Photo Credit: Fred Mukasa

This was a unique experience where I saw what the term “country-led” really means in practice. The Government of Uganda developed its food security plan, known more formally as the Agriculture Sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan, or DSIP, under the auspices of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), an Africa-led and Africa-owned initiative geared towards growing economies and alleviating poverty. The Government led the process in developing the DSIP, but the product we are discussing today would not have been possible without real partnership with local farmers’ organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, development partners, and other stakeholders, all of whom were represented at the meeting.

The Honorable Hope Mwesigye, the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, described the importance of this partnership best, “We shall not implement [the DSIP] alone; we have you as our partners in the journey.”

Later on the meeting, the findings of an independent technical review of the DSIP were presented and each group of stakeholders provided substantial feedback to the government on the plan. I was impressed to see that instead of a closed-door meeting, the Government led an open floor discussion with the entire audience until all major issues were worked out!

Working with such a broad array of partners is not easy, and the day was certainly not without tensions and heated discussions. But the spirit of transparency and cooperation prevailed and by the end of the first day of the meeting, the group had a reached consensus on a roadmap to move forward.

On the second day, the Ugandan Government reaffirmed their commitment to fund 75 percent of the DSIP using existing resources. In concert, high-level officials from development agencies and donors formalized their partnership with the Government of Uganda by committing to align their support with the DSIP and work together with the country towards the shared goal of combating hunger, undernutrition and poverty and achieving Millennium Development Goal 1 . Through the Business Meeting, the Government and their partners exemplified the principles of country leadership and partnership, which all parties have agreed to continue.

USAID Eases Hardships of Haiti’s Earthquake Survivors

After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, an estimated 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes. Approximately 100,000 earthquake survivors fled Port-au-Prince to Haiti’s Central Plateau.

While the area was one of the country’s poorest regions even before the earthquake, it’s seen an influx of survivors who’ve come to live with family and friends, straining already limited resources.

To ease the hardships in the Central Plateau, USAID partner Mercy Corps is providing immediate financial assistance through cash-for-work programs for both the displaced earthquake survivors and the families who took them in.

With USAID/OFDA support, Mercy Corps is providing livelihood opportunities to 2,000 people per week in the Central Plateau. An additional 20,000 people are on track to benefit from the cash-for-work program.

These projects give a member of each household 30 days of employment on a community-selected project geared at improving infrastructure or agricultural production, such as rehabilitating roads, farmland or irrigation systems. Some have used their salary and tools from the programs to start more sustainable small businesses.

Under USAID’s Food Security Program in Haiti, Mercy Corps will also provide food vouchers to 100,000 in the Central Plateau and Lower Artibonite region. This new initiative provides grants, cash or vouchers to buy desperately needed food.

In the town of Mirebalais, Mercy Corps employs Haitians to clear debris from canals and other public spaces to mitigate flooding during hurricane season. Watch a video on this important program.

View photos of Mercy Corps’ work in Mirebalais on Facebook and Flickr.

This Week at USAID – August 2, 2010

Administrator Shah will join President Obama at the White House for a town hall during the Presidential Young African Leaders Forum.  As a global leader in empowering and engaging youth, USAID works to ensure that young people have access to skills and opportunities to be active and effective citizens who contribute to their country’s overall stability and development.

Ambassador Garvelink, Deputy Coordinator of Feed the Future, will speak at two sessions during the International Food Aid and Development Conference in Kansas City.  His keynote address will underscore the U.S. commitment to addressing global hunger and food security, highlighting the whole-of-government approach and goals of Feed the Future.

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