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Kazakhstan: Preserving Asia’s Bread Basket

During Earth Week, we’re exploring the connections between climate change and the environment we depend on to sustain us. We start in Kazakhstan, the breadbasket of Central Asia and Afghanistan.

“Ас атасы – нан” – Bread is the head of all foods, Kazakh Proverb

Bread is the lifeblood of the Central Asian diet, so changes in the price and availability of wheat can have significant impacts on food security in the five Central Asian Republics and Afghanistan. In Tajikistan, for example, more than 50% of daily caloric intake comes from bread. While all the countries grow at least a little wheat, it is Kazakhstan—the world’s 7th largest wheat exporter—that occupies the central role in providing this critical staple crop to the entire region.

Bread is the centerpiece of the Central Asian diet. Photo credit: USAID

Yet, climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of droughts in the wheat growing regions, increase extreme temperature events, and change seasonal precipitation patterns. These changes could significantly threaten Kazakhstan’s ability to serve as the region’s breadbasket. Climate change is expected to exacerbate challenges to food security by reducing water availability – critical for agriculture – and increasing natural disasters like droughts and floods. Harvests during drought years in Kazakhstan can be as much as six times smaller than harvests during normal years!

Despite these known trends, there is very little local awareness or concern about climate change in the region. While the Government of Kazakhstan has taken a progressive stance reducing the emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, adaptation to climate change is still a relatively new concept.

USAID is partnering with UNDP and a host of international experts and organizations to improve the climate resiliency of Kazakhstan wheat and Central Asian food security. The goal of our project is to catalyze the process of adaptation in Kazakhstan’s wheat sector, while also opening a regional dialogue around the challenges of climate change to Central Asian food security.

Flour has been a staple of food assistance to Kyrgyzstan, where over 700,000 people have been provided with humanitarian assistance from USAID since 2006. Photo credit: USAID

As the weather becomes more unpredictable and extreme in Kazakhstan’s wheat regions, climate information services that enable farmers, processors, and policymakers to take proactive measures are essential to lessening the harm of this increasing variability. USAID’s program is focusing on improving the understanding of expected climate impacts on wheat in Kazakhstan and developing the capability to provide critical information to key audiences. Our program is also working with the government, the private sector and the research community to mainstream resilience to climate change into their decision making processes, so the growth of the wheat sector in Kazakhstan happens in a way that withstands the changes climate change will bring.

The other Central Asian Republics and Afghanistan – the primary importers of Kazakh wheat – must also be prepared to respond to the impacts of climate change outside their own borders. We’re bringing these countries and Kazakhstan together to discuss risk mitigation strategies that can be taken at a national and regional level to buffer the region against the impacts of climate change on wheat production and food security.

Together with our partners inside and outside the region, USAID is working to ensure that the people of Central Asia and Afghanistan will have a stable, affordable supply of wheat far into the future. The respect accorded to bread and the role it plays in food security is too important to ignore.

Non-hormonal Methods of Contraception Meet Need in DRC

More than 26 percent of married women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) want to avoid pregnancy but aren’t using a modern method of family planning. Furthermore, meeting this demand for family planning is not an easy task in the DRC, where deep-seated traditional and religious views exist around family size, gender roles and the use of contraception.

USAID programs have worked to meet the needs of women in the DRC by expanding access to a wide range of family planning choices from short term to long acting reversible contraceptives and permanent methods. USAID has also identified the need to increase access to non-hormonal methods to increase options for women and couples. Since 2003, USAID and its partners have worked to incorporate fertility awareness-based methods into the DRC context, in particular, the Standard Days Method “SDM” (PDF), developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health with funding from USAID. Using SDM, women track their menstrual cycles with CycleBeads in order to avoid unprotected intercourse during their fertile days and by doing so can prevent pregnancy. Based on World Health Organization analyses (PDF), with perfect use, the SDM is effective 95% of the time, and 88% of the time with average use.

Christopher Hook with members of Maman An’Sar. Photo credit: USAID

CycleBeads have a particularly strong acceptance in the DRC’s religious communities. I recently visited the capital city of Kinshasa and was lucky enough to attend a community training of young women on use of CycleBeads. A local Catholic organization, La Conduite de la Fecondité, conducts these trainings twice per week in thirteen integrated maternal and child health clinics all across Kinshasa. It was a moving experience for me as a development professional (even though I did not speak a word of Lingale!). The training incorporated singing, dancing and call-and-response, which created a fun atmosphere where learning could happen.

Later that day I also met with representatives from Maman An’Sar, a Muslim organization who advocates to local Imams to incorporate family planning messages (PDF) into their weekly sermons. Following a sermon, Maman sends out teams of community health workers who follow up with individuals and couples from the congregations to talk about what they heard. Faith-based organizations like Maman and religious leaders have significant potential to influence positive behavior change within communities and disseminate reproductive health messages.

The use of CycleBeads continues to grow in the DRC. Today, SDM has been scaled-up in 278 of 515 health zones, and CycleBeads are available in more than 1800 sites with trained providers ready to assist potential users. Moreover, SDM has been included in all Ministry of Health norms and protocol documents, ensuring long-term host government support of fertility awareness-based contraception as a key component of the contraceptive method mix.

Access to family planning information and services is only one health challenge in the DRC, but it’s an important one. The DRC has one of the highest rates of child mortality in the world, and enabling couples to determine whether, when and how often to have children is vital to safe motherhood and child survival. Research has shown improving access to family planning and reproductive health services could prevent up to 40 percent of maternal deaths across the world, and save the lives of 1.6 million children (PDF) under the age of five annually. Increasing access not only to hormonal methods of family planning, but also to fertility awareness methods is one way in which USAID and its partners are seeking to meet unmet need in the DRC and across the world.

If you or someone else you know may be interested in using the SDM, please follow this link for the web-based service, and this for the iCycleBead smartphone app.

Educate Girls, Develop Nations

This blog is part of a series focused on USAID’s innovative approach to reaching Millennium Development Goal #2: Achieve universal primary education. The theme “Room to Learn” highlights programs and priority countries where access to education is now a reality.

As President Obama said, if a country is educating its girls, if women have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. Education is a silver bullet for empowering women and girls worldwide.

When girls are educated, their families are healthier, they have fewer children, they wed later, and they have more opportunities to generate income. One extra year of primary school boosts a girl’s future wage 10 to 20 percent and an extra year of secondary school increases that earning potential by 15 to 25 percent. Education also helps moms take better care of their kids.  According to the World Bank (PDF), each additional year of female education reduces child mortality by 18 per thousand births.

A young female student in Alma Village, southern Ethiopia. Photo credit: Susan Liebold

These are amazing statistics but I’ve also been fortunate enough to see for myself the high returns to investing in education. While in Kabul I met with an incredible group of young women who were educated entirely in post-Taliban Afghanistan. They reminded me how critically important education is to peace, prosperity and empowerment.

Those young women represent the future for a country that had virtually no girls in school less than 15 years ago.

Today, Afghan girls are more than a third of the students. I am proud that USAID is supporting community-based schools in Afghanistan and that our literacy effort is playing an instrumental role in ensuring these girls get an education; it is an investment that will pay dividends for generations to come.

Globally, enormous progress has been made in closing the gender gap in primary education over the last 20 years. In most of the world today, a similar percentage of girls and boys attend primary schools. Yet disparities endure—there are 3.6 million more girls out of school compared to boys around the world. Women still comprise the majority (two-thirds) of the illiterate. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, obtaining an education remains particularly tough for women and girls. The World Bank estimates that half of the out-of-school girls in the world live in Sub-Saharan Africa and one quarter of them live in South Asia.

But it’s not just about access. Compounding the problem is a lack of quality education. For example, in Malawi robust primary school enrollment and matriculation rates are reported. However, a closer inspection of the educational system reveals that many students finish their schooling without being able to read. Therefore, a focus on both the quality of education and enrollment rates is needed.

We know that educating women and girls has tremendous multiplying effects for families, communities, and societies.  That is why USAID launched five leadership partnerships involving universities in the U.S. and in Armenia, Paraguay, Rwanda and South Sudan to promote gender equality and women’s leadership. These programs will promote and develop curricula and opportunities for women in business, agriculture, and education in order to increase women’s access to higher education and advanced degrees, strengthen institutional capacity in research and education on women’s leadership, and promote women’s leadership through higher education extension and outreach to underserved communities.

We are very excited to be collaborating with academic institutions in the United States and abroad to advance women’s leadership. These partnerships offer a meaningful and important opportunity to ensure women are empowered, ultimately advancing economies and societies globally.

New Learn-to-Read Method in Yemen Shows Early Promise

This blog is part of a series focused on USAID’s innovative approach to reaching Millennium Development Goal #2: Achieve universal primary education. The theme “Room to Learn” highlights programs and priority countries where access to education is now a reality.

A teacher points to clearly-drawn Arabic characters on a blackboard and the third-grade girls at Aisha School gleefully make the corresponding sounds. A few minutes later the room grows quieter as the girls focus to simultaneously pronounce and write the letter corresponding to its sound. At a nearby school, first-grade boys stumble over themselves to get to the blackboard in time to point at the character that matches the sound their teacher just pronounced.

The students in schools in the Amran govenorate, just outside Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a, are learning to read using a phonics method developed by the Yemeni Ministry of Education with USAID support.  In less than one year, students, parents and teachers alike have embraced the Yemen Early Grade Reading Approach, or YEGRA. “It’s a miracle, the teaching of reading is suddently demystified,” said the principal of a school.

Students at the Aisha School. Photo credit: Emily Walker, USAID

YEGRA focuses on intensive teacher training in a method that teaches first- through third-graders to read using phonics. Each lesson is 70 minutes long, and follows a set procedure, which includes reviewing a familiar story, reading stories aloud, focusing on the sounds that make up words, and writing. The program has also produced brand-new grade-appropriate teaching materials, including readers that children can take home to practice with their parents, and handbooks that help both literate and illiterate parents to support their children’s learning.

Until last year, Yemeni children were taught to read using word recognition and corresponding pictures, but the technique was clearly not effective; when USAID tested young students in 2011, it found that fewer than one-third of third-graders were able to read.

After just eight weeks of the YEGRA method, which has been implemented in 380 of Yemen’s schools, first graders could decipher 10 words per minute – the goal in first grade is to identify 30 words per minute. And, an informal analysis in the governorate of Taizz found that first-grade students could read just six words per minute prior to YEGRA, but after nearly three months of YEGRA lessons, 97 percent of the first-grade students were able to read 20 words a minute.

Ministry of Education and USAID teams visited three Amran schools in March and saw YEGRA’s dynamism firsthand – students were eagerly answering questions and following along in the lessons. They also attended a teacher training, where teachers for grades one through three throughout the region learned interactive teaching techniques and methods for futher engaging students in reading. By next school year, at least an additional 3,000 to 5,000 teachers will be using the YEGRA method.

USAID, in partnership with Yemen’s Ministry of Education and local governments, is also making education more accessible to Yemeni children, and especially girls, by rehabilitating schools to  improve sanitary conditions and make it safer to go to school. USAID has rehabiliated more than 200 schools throughout the country since November 2011, with a particular focus on those in conflict-affected areas. An estimated 280,000 students were unable to go to school during the recent conflict in the southern governorate of Abyan and its aftermath. Together with the Ministry of Education and the Governor of Abyan, USAID completed a major rehabilitation of 10 schools in Abyan, and will rehabilitate and furnish a total of eighteen over the coming months. Next school year, students in Abyan will not only be back in school but they will for the first time learn how to read and write at grade level with YEGRA.

One-third of out-of-school girls in the entire Middle East and North Africa region reside in Yemen and only 53 percent of girls who begin primary school complete basic schooling. Our early education programs in Yemen target both boys and girls, and the Ministry of Education is convinced  that these educational improvements will not only ensure that students can read with comprehension and go on to learn other subjects, but will also increase enrollment and lower dropout rates, especially for girls.

After the success of the first year of YEGRA, the Ministry has initiated reforms to its educational curriculum and is committed to taking the program nationwide with the continued support of USAID and other donors. As this generation of boys and girls learns to read and goes on to master other subjects, the increase in girls’ enrollment should continue to grow. Better access to schools and higher literacy rates will provide greater opportunities for Yemen’s girls. Read more about our work to improve girls’ enrollment and educational opportunities in Yemen.

Improving Education in South Sudan

This blog is part of a series focused on USAID’s innovative approach to reaching Millennium Development Goal #2: Achieve universal primary education. The theme “Room to Learn” highlights programs and priority countries where access to education is now a reality.

After emerging from decades of conflict, South Sudan faces significant challenges in its education sector. Only 27 percent of South Sudanese adults today are literate, one of the lowest rates in the world. Other challenges include inadequate schools; teachers who have had insufficient training; a shortage of teachers, particularly women; lack of a standard curriculum; and a legislative and policy framework on education that is still in development.

Despite these many roadblocks, impressive gains in education have been achieved since 2005. With USAID assistance, primary school enrollment in South Sudan has increased from approximately 300,000 students in 2000 to 1.4 million in 2012. USAID has supported the construction or rehabilitation of 140 primary schools and five secondary schools. To improve teachers’ skills, the Agency helped to rehabilitate four regional teacher training institutes and is encouraging women to become teachers. To address lower literacy and school attendance among girls, USAID has awarded over 9,000 scholarships in the past five years to girls and disadvantaged boys who are unable to pay school fees to complete secondary school.

Sylvain Sumurye, a USAID scholarship recipient, now teaches at Kiri Primary School, Kajo-keji County, Central Equatoria state. Photo credit: Joseph Ayela, Winrock International

Sylvain Sumurye of Kajo-Keji County in Central Equatoria State received one of these scholarships. She had dropped out of school due to an early pregnancy and then was abandoned by her husband. With the USAID-funded scholarship Sylvain completed secondary school and attended Kajo-Keji Teacher Training College. After graduation she was hired as a fifth grade teacher and with the money she earns can support her family and pay her daughter’s school fees. More importantly, Sylvain is now one of the few qualified teachers in South Sudan. Only about 4,000 teachers out of a total of 26,000 teachers are qualified, a shortage that USAID’s South Sudan Teacher Education Program is helping to address through in-service training and development of core teacher professional development frameworks including a curriculum, teacher professional standards, an accreditation system and an affirmative action policy. It expected that this foundational work will support future teacher training activities to improve the quality of teaching in the country. Quality teaching is an important prerequisite for improved learning.

A group of students. Photo credit: Karl Grobl, Education Development Center

In early 2012, USAID embarked on efforts to further solidify improvements in education in South Sudan. The Agency provided technical assistance to the Government of the Republic of South Sudan to help with the drafting and passage of a General Education Bill that will establish a national framework for education. This assistance included the organization of expert panels and public hearings that have enabled citizens and specialists in the field of education to provide input to the drafts. Involving local citizens in the development of this legislation has proven invaluable. Public input has helped provide flexibility in the school calendar so that areas of South Sudan that face challenges remaining open during the rainy season can meet the requirement of being open nine months per year without having to adhere to fixed dates. Other issues discussed in the public hearings included community and parental involvement, the role of women in educational leadership, inclusion of all students, standardized exams, a teachers’ code of conduct, compulsory attendance, and the need to eliminate corporal punishment. USAID’s oversight in ensuring that international norms were being observed in the analysis was crucial to the attainment of a sound legislative framework. The bill was passed by the National Legislative Assembly in July and has become a frequent basis for progressive reform. In the words of Samson Ezekiel Ndukpo, a National Legislative Assembly member who is Chair of the Assembly’s Specialized Committee of Education, Research, Science and Technology, “The bill is very important – it concerns everybody. The bill provides for compulsory and free education for all citizens of the country through primary level, according to the constitution.”

In Congo, Helping Children Catch Up in the Classroom

This originally appeared on The IRC Blog.

This blog is part of a series focused on USAID’s innovative approach to reaching Millennium Development Goal #2: Achieve universal primary education. The theme “Room to Learn” highlights programs and priority countries where access to education is now a reality.

For Fatuma Kitete, a 40-year-old mother of seven, every day comes with a heavy burden. From dawn to dusk, she relentlessly carries plastic canisters filled with sand balanced on her head from the shores of Lake Tanganyika to the town of Kalemie. For her grueling efforts, the construction company, which hires her by the day, pays her roughly $2. That sum buys just one nutrient-poor manioc meal for her large family.

A widow for several years, Fatuma has no help raising her children. She did everything she could to care for them and tried several times to send the elder ones to school, but she could not keep up the monthly educational fee of $2.50 per child, and besides, she needed them to help her carry sand. Her eldest son, now aged 15, was registered only for a couple of semesters eight years ago; her next two daughters, Leontina and Ester, aged 12 and 11 respectively, have been out-of-school for more than four years.

“I saw them often looking at other kids go to school and crying that they could not go as well,” Fatuma recalls. “But what could I do? Luckily we have some old textbooks at home, and they kept reading through them time and again.”

Leontina and Ester during their first week of school in more than four years. Photo credit: Sinziana Demian, IRC

It was this fall and the beginning of the new school year that Fatuma was finally presented with a long-lasting solution: Her children could attend a three-year accelerated learning program, for free, in order to make up for the lost time and eventually be reintegrated in the regular school system. The program, run by the International Rescue Committee with USAID funding, is helping 1,100 boys and girls catch up on their studies at the primary level and work toward the standardized national exam that admits them to secondary school.

Fatuma didn’t think twice: Leontina and Ester would start right away. She borrowed money to buy them new blue-and-white uniforms and proudly walked them the eight kilometers to the learning center on the first morning.

“It was a like a holiday in my family,” Fatuma says. “My girls were finally going to school!”

In Congo today, an estimated 7.6 million children do not attend school. Dropout rates have reached 50%, with girls much more likely than boys to leave primary school. Most families opt to register their sons and keep the girls at home.

For Fatuma, the choice was different. Her eldest son earns a living working odd jobs. “He would have been ashamed to come back to school at his age, with much younger classmates,” she admits. Instead, Leontina and Ester, who with their matching hairstyles share a striking resemblance, now study with several dozen other “accelerated beginners,” practicing simple computations and learning French, the official language of Congo (a country with as many as 250 ethnic groups and more than 240 languages).

“We also drew the human body,” says Ester, timidly, after class. “School is so interesting.”

The center, located on the main road to downtown Kalemie, consists of several reed-walled classrooms arranged around a large, sandy courtyard. Last year, of the 550 students accepted into the program, 99 took and successfully passed the national exams in math, French and general culture. It was by far the best result of any school in the district, and one of the best in the entire Katanga province. Building on this successful experience, the center has doubled the number of students, who will study in two daily shifts.

“This program is a blessing for our children,” says Rebeca Putu, a mother who is also a member of the parents committee. “Most families in Kalemie and surrounding villages would never send their children to school otherwise.”

The IRC is supporting the accelerated learning program as part of a major education effort in three provinces in eastern Congo. In a comprehensive approach aimed at improving access to quality education for 500,000 children and youngsters people, the IRC trains primary school teachers in new methods, runs vocational trainings and literacy classes for youth, and builds, renovates and equips schools and classrooms.

Tracking Tigers for Conservation

The days of tiger hunting from the backs of elephants in the shadow of the Himalayas are thankfully over, but after years of overhunting and loss of habitat, the tiger hunt has taken on a new meaning in Nepal. Today, tourists can still head out on elephant back to spot tigers and the endangered rhinoceros in Chitwan National Park, but the only shooting done is by camera. And now Nepali scientists, with assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development, are using genetic research to track, identify and protect the remaining 125 tigers in this region.

A large adult male tiger seen in the Terai Arc Landscape. Tiger conservation is a top priority in Nepal, a source and transit point of poaching and the illegal trade of wildlife. Photo credit: Christy Williams, WWF

Over the last two years, the USAID-funded “Nepal Tiger Genome Project” has used an innovative genetic technology to build a comprehensive national DNA database of the endangered Bengal tigers living in Nepal’s Terai Arc Landscape—one of the few remaining tiger habitats on the earth—by collecting and recording a unique genetic fingerprint from each adult tiger’s scat.  This closely held information is used to identify every tiger and its territory.  The data is used to protect habitat, as well as inform law enforcement and protect the animals from poachers.

The project extracts each animal’s unique genetic code from non-invasively collected scat samples. To date, the project has collected over 1,100 samples from Nepal’s four major national parks. Findings of this research are expected to facilitate a better understanding of the genetic and population dynamics of Bengal tigers in Nepal. With valuable data of this nature, conservation policies and strategies at local, national, and international levels can be greater informed, and therefore, all the more effective.

“This is the first time systematic sampling was used to collect and build a comprehensive genetic database of Bengal tigers in Nepal. Although tiger genetic work has been going on in India and other countries, such elaborate data collection and archiving has not been tried with Bengal tigers,” stated Mr. Karmacharya who is the principal investigator for the project and also heads the Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, a wholly Nepali-owned and managed by a non-profit private sector institute.

The project is a concerted effort between the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and the Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, with both Nepali and U.S. scientists involved in collecting samples and conducting genetic analysis. Dibesh Karmacharya and Kanchan Thapa are heading the project in close collaboration with Dr. Lisette Waits of the University of Idaho and Dr. Marcella Kelly from Virginia Tech.

Already, the technology is being replicated and expanded to gather genetic information of other species such as the one horned Asian rhinoceros, elephants and snow leopards, allowing conservation professionals to track, and better conserve, these fragile and endangered species not only in Nepal but in other parts of the world too.

#AskUSAID @RajShah Twitter Chat on the Future of #FoodAid

 

On Monday, April 15, USAID Administrator @RajShah participated in a Twitter chat to answer YOUR questions on the proposed Food Aid Reform in President Obama’s 2014 Proposed Budget. People asked questions using #AskUSAID @RajShah on everything from the nutritional value of  #FoodAid to how to better engage with @USAID. From 2:30-3:30 p.m., we received over 20 questions and reached over 700,000 users on Twitter! @RajShah responds to your questions with lightning speed!

Learn more about Food Aid Reform through our fact sheet, Raj Shah’s Speech & Transcript, as well as recent articles from the Washington Post, AP, The Hill, Wall Street Journal, and Huffington Post.

Increasing Access to Education in Northern Nigeria

This blog is part of a series focused on USAID’s innovative approach to reaching Millennium Development Goal #2: Achieve universal primary education. The theme “Room to Learn” highlights programs and priority countries where access to education is now a reality.

Fourteen year-old Ammar Muhammed, born to nomadic parents in Northern Nigeria, is going to school. Not just any school, but a school for gifted children owing to his participation in a USAID-funded basic literacy program at his non-formal school in Nigeria’s northern Bauchi State two years ago.

Ammar in front of his school. Photo Credit: USAID

Forty-two percent of primary-age children in this country, about 10.5 million, are out of school. Less than a third of primary school children proceed to junior secondary school and even fewer go on to complete secondary school. The situation is worse in predominantly Muslim Northern Nigeria where primary school attendance and academic achievement are far below national averages. A recent USAID-funded assessment of reading skills in Hausa, the local language, in the Northern States of Bauchi and Sokoto found that about 70 percent of  P3 (third grade) pupils could not read a single word of a simple narrative text. In this region many students attend non-formal religious schools where the focus is on learning the Quran and Islamic values with no training in basic reading and math skills. In some schools male children (referred to as “Almajiri”) often leave very poor families to attend school and are encouraged to beg on the streets to pay for their care and instruction.

Through its Northern Education Initiative (NEI), USAID is working in the Nigerian States of Bauchi and Sokoto to strengthen state and local governments’ capacity to deliver basic education services by addressing key management, sustainability and oversight issues. To demonstrate to state governments that basic education systems can be strengthened through improvements in teacher training and instructional delivery, the NEI developed new activity-based training manuals, trained about 3,500 teachers, and monitored the delivery of reading and math instruction. Two hundred pilot schools were selected to participate in the program, 80 of which were non-formal Amajiri schools—40 from each state.

Children outside of school in Nigeria. Photo Credit: USAID/Nigeria

Ammar’s school was selected to participate in the pilot. He diligently applied himself to his studies and was one of 200 students from NEI’s 40 demonstration schools in Bauchi State to pass exams for entry to formal schools in 2011. Once admitted to Central Primary School, Gwaram, he was reassessed and placed in Class Five. His teachers were surprised to learn he was a student from an Almajiri school.  “He performed better than other pupils that had spent six years in school and took first position in his class examination,” said Malam Usman Khalifa, head teacher at Central Primary School.

In 2012 Ammar took the Bauchi State Special Secondary School Examination for entry into one of the state’s three schools for gifted children. He passed with flying colors and is now a student at the Special Science Secondary School in Toro. He has now set a new target: to earn university admission. “I want to be a doctor, to help my people,” said Ammar.

 

 

 

Mozambique Turns Potential into Progress through Leadership and Partnership

This originally appeared on Feed the Future.

You’ve heard me say it before: African nations have great potential, particularly for food security. And Mozambique is no exception. Through leadership and partnership, it’s turning that potential into real progress and opportunity.

Last week, I was honored to witness history when Mozambican leaders came together with more than 150 representatives from donor countries, civil society and the private sector to chart a bold path forward to achieve sustainable food security and nutrition.

This boy from rural Senegal isn’t old enough to go to class yet, but he can still enjoy a healthy meal of daharine, a nutritious porridge of rice, chickpeas, and peanut sauce, at a USAID-supported Community Meals program based at the local school. Photo credit: USAID

This two-day official launch of Mozambique’s  New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Maputo provided an important opportunity for participants to have an open dialogue and outline concrete next steps for ensuring mutual accountability and tracking progress at the country level over time. It also enabled discussions around reforming policies that have stifled agricultural innovation, development and growth in Mozambique. Such reforms are the key to unlocking private investment, which is critical to sustainable development.

In his opening remarks, Minister of Agriculture Jose Pacheco quoted a conversation he once had with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug, who said, “Sure, Mozambique has huge potential, but you can’t eat potential.” Pacheco went on to say that Mozambicans need to transform that potential into something useful. While the country’s poverty and undernutrition rates remain high, Mozambique has the potential to grow into a breadbasket for the region. In addition to its vast amounts of fertile land and ideal location along major trade corridors and ports, Mozambique has some of the best records of economic growth in Africa, averaging eight percent per year over the last decade.

Recognizing that donor funding is ultimately finite, the Government of Mozambique has committed to take the necessary steps to create a policy environment that fosters private sector investment in agriculture, which will help ensure the economic, social and environmental sustainability of public sector efforts. Development partners within the G8 and other countries stand ready to assist and support this policy transformation, knowing that if we want our collective efforts to truly reach scale, ensure farmers (especially women) have improved access to markets, and encourage creativity that drives innovation, we need the private sector as a full partner —not just an investor—to contribute energy and expertise to help build and extend value chains and markets across Mozambique.

The second day of the event drew strong participation from the private sector.  One local Mozambican company shared how they provided nearly $1 million in credit for inputs to smallholder farmers who saw their production increase by $10 million as a result. Through the company’s efforts, almost 43,000 smallholder farmers now receive inputs such as improved seeds and fertilizers; have access to improved production technologies; and are selling to a guaranteed market, providing the company with a constant supply of high-quality products for its processing unit.

This was just one example of the positive impact the private sector is having by collaborating with smallholder farmers in Mozambique. In 2012 alone, the private sector invested $7 million worth of agricultural inputs in smallholder farmers. As a result, these farmers received $60 million from purchases of their products, providing them with opportunity, access and incomes that will transform their lives.

In addition to bringing together representatives from diverse sectors and perspectives, the New Alliance launch event illustrated the dynamic transformation that can happen with Mozambique’s demonstrated leadership modeled on the type of country ownership envisioned in the Rome Principles for Sustainable Global Food Security and carried forth through platforms like the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP). In fact, Mozambique officially launched its CAADP agricultural development investment plan last Friday.

Through Feed the Future, the United States looks forward to continuing our close collaboration with the many partners who attended the meeting as we grow and develop together through the New Alliance.

Read more about Africa’s potential in a blog about my previous trip to Ethiopia for the annual CAADP Partnership Platform meeting last month.

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