USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Food Security

Sweet Rewards for Peruvian Farmers Who Trade Coca for Chocolate

A close up of recently harvested red and green cacao pods

Cacao pods ready for processing/USAID

I always enjoy the chance to take Washington visitors out of the vibrant capital city of Lima and into the Amazon. There they see first-hand the complex challenges that Peru faces, including the presence of transnational criminal organizations and the coca fields that dot the landscape. But they also see the bravery and enthusiasm of rural farmers who have turned away from coca farming and are now growing coffee and some of the world’s best cacao, used by chocolate producers in the United States and around the world.

Peru remains a leading producer of cocaine, an illegal industry that enriches criminal organizations, fuels violence and perpetuates poverty in rural communities. Peruvian cocaine can be found on the streets of the United States and Europe. And the criminal networks that produce and sell cocaine in Peru threaten the security of the entire hemisphere.

Farmers like Rolando Herrera, who decide to grow coca, are often at the mercy of these cartels. And while coca generates income, it does not lead to development. Banks, pharmacies and farm suppliers do not want to set up shop in narco-trafficking zones. Schools and health clinics cannot recruit teachers and nurses to such areas. As one farmer told me, “coca gives you work, but doesn’t give you a future.” As a result, like Rolando, many communities are agreeing to abandon coca farming and join the licit economy.

The U.S. Government works closely with the Government of Peru in its efforts to disrupt the operations of criminal networks, eradicate coca and help farmers like Rolando develop lucrative, legal crops. USAID Administrator Mark Green recently visited Peru and saw first-hand this dynamic and the way the Agency partners with Peruvian officials and citizens to reduce this transnational scourge.

A woman (Irene Chamalla), left, and a man (USAID Peru Mission Director Lawrrence Rubey), right, stand outdoors holding a tray of unprocessed cacao pods

USAID Peru Mission Director Lawrence Rubey and Irene Chamalla, cacao farmer and representative of the Colpa de Loros Cooperative in a cacao farm in Campo Verde, Ucayali. / USAID

USAID works in partnership with both the Peruvian Commission for Development and Life Without Drugs (DEVIDA) and the private sector to connect farmers to national and international markets. This model works.

Data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime show that in areas where coca eradication was paired with sustained assistance to farmers and greater investment in infrastructure and social services by the Peruvian government, coca cultivation decreased by nearly 90 percent from 2011-2016. Most importantly, communities that were mired in a poverty trap because of coca now have a much brighter future.

Much of this success is because of the Government of Peru’s growing commitment to invest its own resources to stop the production and trafficking of cocaine.

The government has dramatically increased its counter-narcotics budget from $145 million in 2012 to $214 million in 2017. And in 2013, Peru expanded the role of DEVIDA from a coordinating and policymaking agency to one with a field presence that works directly with communities to improve government services and create economic opportunities. Today, DEVIDA’s budget is over $45 million, up from just $4 million in 2010.

A large group of men and women pose in lines among trees

USAID Peru Mission Director Lawrence Rubey in a cacao farm in Ucayali together with a group of farmers benefited from the Peru Cacao Alliance, a public-private partnership sponsored by USAID. / USAID

A perfect example of DEVIDA’s success is the former coca stronghold of the Monzon Valley, which once held about 10,000 hectares of coca. Here, the average income in 2013 was $1.89 per person per day, well below Peru’s extreme poverty line of $2.20 per person per day. With DEVIDA’s assistance, households saw a 53 percent increase in income from 2012 to 2016, and the percentage of extremely poor families dropped by 55 to 30 percent.

USAID is committed to helping Peruvians and their government. Our partnership is more cost-effective than ever as it leverages more external resources every year. Peru’s national production of high-quality, exportable cacao is expected to more than double by 2021, helping to feed the growing demand for dark chocolate and supply the $35 billion U.S. confectionery industry that employs 55,000 workers. In 2015, USAID leveraged $11 million from the private sector to generate $48 million in total sales of legal crops.

There is certainly more work to be done, but Peru is clearly gaining traction against the criminal organizations that operate in the rural Amazon. Given the commitment of the Peruvian Government, I am confident that progress will continue. And Rolando and thousands of other former coca farmers seeking a more secure future will see to it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lawrence Rubey is the director of USAID’s mission in Peru.

A Man Among Men

Themba stands outdoors speaking to a group of people who are sitting on the ground

Themba talks to beneficiaries

Here’s how we’re transforming gender norms to improve food security in rural Zimbabwe

In 2014, I was on a site visit to one of our food security activities and shared with beneficiaries my experiences supporting my wife to care for and feed our daughter, Simpie. A group of about 20 gathered under a tree, sitting in the dirt and listening attentively.

I told them I could comfortably change Simpie’s diapers, and that I trained her to use a potty and dressed her up nicely, taking care to match the colors of her clothes. I also did her hair, and you would never know it was not her mother who did it! I am proud of all that.

The women seemed to enjoy my story, especially when I shared that I cook, and had introduced Simpie to maize flour porridge fortified with either peanut butter or eggs. Like most 2 year olds, she was a fussy eater and feeding her required patience, encouragement and even goal setting— all of this based on trust and a strong relationship.

Two men stand outdoors, both looking at a printed chart

I got a different reaction from the men. None of them made eye contact with me as I spoke. To the contrary, they looked at the ground and started using sticks or their index fingers to draw in the soil.

It was clear I was causing discomfort. I could practically hear their thoughts: “That is women stuff.” I would not be surprised if some thought “wadliswa” or “akadyiswa,” meaning that my wife had used a love potion on me. Most traditional men couldn’t imagine a man in his right mind caring for his child in this way.

In a profound way, men directly and indirectly influence mothers’ ability to feed and care for their children. In a typical day in rural Zimbabwe, a mother must collect water, search for firewood, make a fire, cook and wash dishes, repeating this cycle for every meal. She must also spend a large proportion of the day tending to the family’s crops.

Mothers simply do not have the time in the day to focus on all their responsibilities, including the childcare and nutrition necessary for the healthy growth and future productivity of their children.

In 2014 when I gave that talk, USAID had just launched two Food for Peace activities, implemented by consortia led by World Vision and Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture, to reduce stunting in rural parts of Zimbabwe, where approximately one-third of children were malnourished. These activities addressed the root causes of malnutrition, including gender norms that prohibit healthy infant and young child feeding practices.

It was evident that to improve child nutrition, USAID and our partners had to work with men.

So our partners devised strategies to increase male involvement, including the concept of Male Champions as community role models. Their campaign motto: “Indoda Emadodeni,” or Man among Men. Male Champions recruit their peers and organize monthly meetings to discuss men’s roles and responsibilities.

Monthly group trainings are interactive and challenge men to debate and resolve problems. Our partners also engaged traditional leaders in gender dialogues to reflect on and challenge social norms that are a barrier to optimal nutritional practices and gender equity.

Headman and Male Champion Munyaradzi Gwenhamo said, “From when we were children, cooking has been a woman’s duty in our society. If a man is seen cooking, he will be a laughing stock ofA man stands ourdoors, holding a badge that reads "USAID Male Advocate" the village. Bad things would be said about his wife, especially being accused of using love potions. However, after male advocates training, I realized that manhood would not be lost by cooking. Actually, I am realizing I am a better cook! I can prepare porridge for my child and feed her. She loves me. My wife also feels relieved when I do so; she is happy too.”

The impact of Male Champions is not merely anecdotal. In areas where the campaign was piloted, a survey found statistically significant improvement in supportive behaviors such as fetching water and firewood, caring for the children, accompanying their wives to a health facility and cooking.

According to annual partner reporting, there was an increase in joint decision-making between spouses from 30 percent in 2016 to 82 percent in 2017. The proportion of men accompanying their spouses for antenatal care visits increased from 55 percent in 2016 to 67 percent in 2017.

In just four years, I am seeing major progress. Already, when I share my experiences caring for my daughter, men no longer hide their faces with embarrassment but rather look at me with appreciation—or at least amusement—and say “uyindoda emadodeni” (you are a man among men), high praise that does not come that easily.

It is important to me that I can advocate for these changes because I practice them myself in my own family. It is even more rewarding to see other Zimbabwean men who are now doing the same.

RELATED LINKS:

Themba Nduna is a nutrition advisor in USAID/Zimbabwe’s office of Humanitarian Assistance and Resilience.

Ghanaian Chef Works to End Hunger by Reducing Food Waste

In 2011, Elijah Amoo Addo was taking out the trash at a restaurant in Accra, Ghana where he worked as the head chef when he came across a homeless man scrounging through the dumpster for food. The man said he was collecting the leftovers to feed his friends on the street.

Founder of Food for All Africa, Chef Elijah donates bags of recovered rice to beneficiaries.

Founder of Food for All Africa, Chef Elijah donates bags of recovered rice to beneficiaries. / Paul Osafo Buabeng

Elijah was touched by the encounter and from then on, he vowed that no more food from the restaurant would go to waste. He started recovering surplus food from the kitchen to feed the vulnerable and mentally challenged in his community, but he envisioned something bigger.

Initially, it was difficult for Elijah to communicate his vision, as he had little knowledge of the problem of food waste and hunger in Ghana. He started an advocacy group to research these issues and create a social intervention program.  

Elijah came to learn that building a sustainable food system is a priority for the Ghanaian government and stakeholders within the food supply chain. About 95 percent of vulnerable communities across Ghana are not getting enough nutrition. One in five babies born in Ghana are stunted, which has been calculated to cost the economy $2.6 billion a year, about 6.4 percent of the country’s GDP.

Around this time, Elijah learned about the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), launched by the U.S. Government to invest in the next generation of African leaders. He applied to the West Africa Regional Leadership Center in Accra, but his restaurant supervisor was not supportive of taking time off to attend the training. In the end, Elijah decided to quit his job so he could fully immerse himself in the program.

The leadership and business skills he learned in the 2014 training helped him launch Food for All Africa.

 Food recovery and redistribution van of Food for All Africa. / Paul Osafo Buabeng

Food recovery and redistribution van of Food for All Africa. / Paul Osafo Buabeng


Elijah and his team operate the first community food bank in Ghana. The center creates efficient and sustainable nutrition streams for low income and vulnerable communities by redistributing surplus food from restaurants, working with rural smallholder farmers to connect their produce to urban hospitality companies.

The organizations also hold a forum for stakeholders to address the inefficiencies within our food supply chain and collaborate in building a more efficient and sustainable food supply chain across Africa.

Elijah said leaving his restaurant job enabled him to fulfill his passion for entrepreneurship and risk taking.

Elijah feels confident he made the right decision. Today, Food for All Africa recovers up to $5,700 worth of food each month from businesses within the food supply chain — including manufacturers, importers, farmers and hotels.

The organization aims to reach 1 million low-income people by 2020. To do so, Food for All Africa works with orphanages, schools and vulnerable communities.

 Food recovery and redistribution van of Food for All Africa. / Paul Osafo Buabeng

Food recovery and redistribution van of Food for All Africa. / Paul Osafo Buabeng


The most defining moment of Elijah’s career was in October 2015. “I envisioned feeding 5,000 beneficiaries on UN World Food Day and drawing global attention by attempting a Guinness World Record for the longest table on the day,” he said. “It was difficult work but we pulled it off even though we couldn’t break the record. To crown it up, it dawned on me when in July 2017 I did receive a Queen’s Young Leader award from Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace.”

Elijah hopes to scale his services to other parts of Africa in the next five years while building stronger partnerships with businesses.

“Every generation needs to sacrifice and build a better place for its children and future generations,” he said. “And Africa today falls on our shoulders to work in raising the aspirations of children and changing the African story. Africa needs you and me.”

RELATED LINKS:

Fridah Wanjiku is a Digital Communications Specialist based in Nairobi, Kenya. She serves as a Virtual Student Foreign Service intern with USAID on the Young African Leaders Initiative team.

If Fighting Hunger Were an Olympic Event

Emmanuel Ngulube visits programs in the field. /USAID

Emmanuel Ngulube visits programs in the field. /USAID

It’s been a bad two-year stretch in Malawi: The southeast African nation has suffered back-to-back devastating natural disasters. In 2015, record-breaking flooding left tens of thousands stranded in southern Malawi, and this year El Niño brought historic drought and widespread crop failures, pushing 6.5 million people into dangerous levels of food insecurity.

One of USAID’s best weapons for fighting hunger in Malawi is Emmanuel Ngulube, an officer with the Agency’s Office of Food for Peace who has dedicated his entire career to fighting hunger across Africa.

Emmanuel grew up in Zambia and remembers the effects of drought in the 1980s. “We were lucky,” he said, “My father worked for the mines and he could afford to buy food imported by the government, but others relied on emergency food assistance.”

Before beginning his career with USAID 10 years ago, Emmanuel was already heavily involved in food security issues as a planner in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture in Zambia, as well as a manager in Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency.

As a program specialist for Food for Peace in the USAID mission in Zambia, Emmanuel spent four years deepening his passion for helping rural communities find long-term solutions to hunger. That fervor traveled with him when he relocated to Malawi to help communities recover from crises and develop lasting food security.

On the banks of Shire River in Nsanje district, Malawi /Emmanuel Ngulube

On the banks of Shire River in Nsanje district, Malawi /Emmanuel Ngulube

Reflecting on his career, Emmanuel said, “The more years I work in food security, the deeper my roots grow and I become more passionate about it.”

Emmanuel’s favorite part of his job is getting out into the rural communities to meet with people, work together and see the fruits of his work flourish. He says he’s always impressed at how many ideas the communities contribute to become more resilient and break the chronic cycle of hunger and poverty.

One woman’s innovative idea in particular stands out to Emmanuel: Ezelyn Kazamira participated in a USAID-funded Village Savings and Loan group and used her dividend to purchase and rent out a motorized pump to farmers in her village to assist with irrigation.

According to Emmanuel, “Not letting development gains be eroded by recurrent floods and drought or climate change is the biggest challenge [to USAID’s efforts to improve food security].”

He’s referring to disasters such as the historic floods in 2015, during which Emmanuel helped USAID and the U.N. World Food Program successfully preposition stocks of food in order to reach the communities hit hardest. Or regional disasters like the Ebola outbreak—Emmanuel’s most memorable and biggest emergency to date. He, alongside others in USAID’s disaster assistance response team, made sure families could still access food, despite closed borders, limited movement and depleted markets.


In the midst of the Ebola crisis, another less visible crisis arose–a food crisis. / USAID

Despite these food security challenges, food insecure families are in good hands with Emmanuel on the ground. For the last 10 years, he has been championing both emergency and development food assistance efforts. And if food assistance were an Olympic event, Emmanuel Ngulube would win a gold medal.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emma Fredieu is an information officer for USAID’s Office of Food For Peace. Follow FFP’s tweets @USAIDFFP.

Responding to Madagascar’s ‘Silent’ Emergency

With support from Catholic Relief Services, Sisters of Charity provide hot meals to the elderly and children in Tshiombe./Christopher LaFargue, USAID

With support from Catholic Relief Services, Sisters of Charity provide hot meals to the elderly and children in Tshiombe. / Christopher LaFargue, USAID

Because of its slow onset, Southern Africa’s drought may not be headline news. But its impacts are being felt by millions. At least 12.8 million people in Southern Africa will face crisis levels of food insecurity by the end of this year.

Madagascar has been especially hard hit. About 80 percent of the population in the country’s seven southern districts—665,000 people—are in need of emergency food assistance.

I recently traveled to Madagascar with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture David Lane. There we met with communities struggling to find enough to eat after three years of consecutive drought made worse by El Niño.

20160519 Tshiombe CRS Community Canteen 1

Soeur Josiane from Sisters of Charity speaks to Dina Esposito about the soup kitchen in Tshiombe. / Christopher LaFargue, USAID

During our trip, we saw visibly malnourished children and adults, including many elderly. In Tshiombe, we spoke with Soeur Immaculata, a nun from Sisters of Charity, who opened up an emergency soup kitchen to provide regular hot meals to children and the elderly. She told us she had not seen so much suffering since the severe droughts of 1992 and 2006.

We also visited Ankilimafaitsy Primary School in Ambovombe, where the U.N. World Food Program is providing children with lunch as part of a school lunch program that feeds almost 300,000 Malagasy children daily. For most of these children, this school lunch is the only food assistance they receive; it has become a vital lifeline in these communities as parents struggle to put food on the table.

Here are three steps we—and other donors—must take to help the people of Madagascar during this “silent,” but devastating emergency:

20160518 Ambovombe WFP School Canteen 3 (1)

Children receive hot meals from the Sisters of Charity soup kitchen supported by Catholic Relief Services in Tshiombe. / Christopher LaFargue, USAID

1. Coordinate support

During my trip, we announced an additional $8 million in food assistance to the Malagasy people, bringing the United States’ total El Niño response in Madagascar to $17 million. But we must work with the government and the donor community to coordinate our assistance. We encourage Madagascar’s national and local officials to assess immediate needs, more proactively mobilize their own response, and more effectively draw global attention to the crisis, mobilize contributions, and facilitate donor planning.

Ready-to-use supplementary food provide children with much needed protein, vitamins and minerals to fight malnutrition./Christopher LaFargue, USAID

Ready-to-use supplementary food provide children with much needed protein, vitamins and minerals to fight malnutrition. / Christopher LaFargue, USAID

2. Plan early for a scaled up emergency and recovery response 

As in the ongoing Ethiopia drought response, early warning is the key to early response. Forecasts indicate that Madagascar’s lean season could begin as early as August rather than October. Children under 5 in this area have unusually high rates of malnutrition. It is urgent that we complement expanded food assistance for families in these southern districts with specialized foods to prevent and treat malnutrition.  

I was particularly impressed by Madagascar’s National Office of Nutrition and its efforts to screen and treat cases of moderate acute malnutrition. We met with well-trained volunteers who were educating young mothers about nutrition. With USAID support, children are being provided with ready-to-use supplementary food. Sustained assistance will be critical in the months ahead to prevent children from sliding into the more serious condition of severe acute malnutrition.

Equally important will be ensuring that families can grow their own food in the next cropping season. A seed distribution plan must get seeds in the hands of farmers by September.

Women farmers in Amboasary tend to a cleared communal vegetable field through a World Food Programme food for assets activity. / Christopher LaFargue, USAID

Women farmers in Amboasary tend to a cleared communal vegetable field through a World Food Programme food for assets activity. / Christopher LaFargue, USAID

3. Continue to invest in resilience

Although the current drought is outpacing the ability of many Malagasy farmers to cope, some farmers have remained self-reliant with our investments. Some of our disaster mitigation efforts include working with farmers to grow more drought-resistant crops like sweet potato and cassava. We are also helping farmers to build assets, access more land near water sources, and improve nearby water points for humans and cattle. Voucher programs help fishermen buy tools and other resources during this drought.

Under a creative arrangement, local farmers are growing corn on large-scale plantations, between rows of sisal (a plant used to make rope and rugs), in exchange for keeping the fields cleared and tended. The farmers keep one-third of what they grow to sell or eat, they reserve a third for seeds for the next season, and another third is sold to the World Food Program for its school lunch program.

The program has especially benefitted women farmers, one of whom told me, “We used to have to take our children out of school when they turned 15. Now they can stay on into high school. Our girls no longer have to ask men for money to buy soap [a local euphemism for prostitution].”

These efforts are making a clear difference as communities cope with drought. We must continue to scale up these investments—and help expand opportunities for populations to make a living during both good and bad times.

The people of Madagascar will inevitably face future climate shocks in addition to the current drought. We can help them to mobilize, plan and build resilience to those shocks to promote security and avert emergencies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dina Esposito is USAID’s Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance. @DEsposito_FFP


RELATED LINKS

When The Sweet Potato Goes Viral: A New Approach to Nutrition Programming in Northern Ghana

Women prepare a highly nutritious meal from the orange-fleshed sweet potato, a vitamin A-rich crop introduced in Northern Ghana. / USAID/Ghana

Women prepare a highly nutritious meal from the orange-fleshed sweet potato, a vitamin A-rich crop introduced in Northern Ghana. / USAID/Ghana

Before last year’s harvest, most people living in the northern region of Ghana had never seen an orange-fleshed sweet potato. Now, this brightly colored vegetable may be on its way to becoming the region’s most popular crop.

This variety of potato was recently introduced to communities in Northern Ghana through a USAID project to counter Vitamin A deficiency — a condition that compromises the immune system and can lead to blindness. Last year, 439 women in 17 districts learned how to cultivate orange-fleshed sweet potatoes for the first time.

The villagers lovingly call the new crop Alafie Wuljo,” which means “healthy potato” in the local language of Dagbani. At one community’s first harvest celebration, the head of the project Philippe LeMay recalls how government officials and community leaders came to learn how to use the new crop in the kitchen.

Project beneficiaries, like the couple above, have benefited from a multi-sectoral approach that includes providing agricultural and nutritional training, providing animals for farm use, improving WASH infrastructure, introducing farmers to markets, and more. / USAID/Ghana

Project beneficiaries, like the couple above, have benefited from a multi-sectoral approach that includes providing agricultural and nutritional training, providing animals for farm use, improving WASH infrastructure, introducing farmers to markets, and more. / USAID/Ghana

There were several cooking demonstrations, but the sweet potato fries were a hit among schoolchildren. “Now everyone wants to grow orange-fleshed sweet potatoes,” said LeMay.

But encouraging farmers to plant nutritious crops is just one of several strategies employed by this project to address malnutrition in northern Ghana. Besides agriculture, we are also working on improving livelihoods; governance; nutrition; and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). These sectors are interrelated and help to achieve common goals.

The project introduces new and more nutritious crops to farmers and helps them boost yields through improved farming techniques. It also links farmers to markets, helps community members create village savings and loans associations, works to improve water and sanitation infrastructure, and promotes better hygiene.

Ghana is one of the first countries to put USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy into action. The fresh approach, which will guide our work through 2025, cuts across several development areas, resulting in programs that are more cost-effective and deliver greater impact around the world.

The strength of USAID programs in more than 100 countries provides a large delivery platform for scaling up nutrition services. Just scaling up nutrition-specific interventions to 90 percent coverage will generate a ratio in which every dollar invested yields a $16 rate of return.

At a regional Global Learning and Evidence Exchange workshop in Accra, Ghana last month, project representatives shared their experiences, explaining how they overcame the challenges of coordinating across different development sectors. In some countries, technical offices such as agriculture, nutrition and WASH aren’t used to working together. LeMay thinks the transition went smoothly in Ghana in part because the various technical offices are housed within the same government structure.

The northern region of Ghana has developed at a much slower pace than the rest of the country because of its remote location, limited resources, sparse population and inhospitable climate. More than a third of children under 5 in these districts suffer from stunted growth, a result of poor nutrition.

With this project — implemented by the Government of Ghana with technical support from Global Communities — we aim to reach about 300,000 people by targeting the region’s most vulnerable population — women of reproductive age with at least one child under 5 in households identified by their communities as the poorest of the poor. The project is supporting Feed the Future’s goals of decreasing child stunting by 20 percent and doubling the incomes of vulnerable households in the north.

A woman grows leafy green vegetables for consumption with resource-conserving and yield-boosting techniques introduced by a USAID project. /USAID/Ghana

A woman grows leafy green vegetables for consumption with resource-conserving and yield-boosting techniques introduced by a USAID project. /USAID/Ghana

Through an innovative government-to-government approach, USAID and local government officials from the Northern Regional Coordinating Council are working together to plan how best to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable households.

To build the capacity of local governments to implement these plans, the project provides training, technical assistance and tools. Notably, this is one of only a handful of USAID efforts that engage governments at the sub-regional levels to support local solutions.

The result has been more capable and responsive local governments. “We have been proud to see how the Government of Ghana has demonstrated leadership and initiative in taking additional steps to promote this work for the long term,” said USAID/Ghana Mission Director Andrew Karas.

District Assemblies participating in the USAID project have organized trainings to communities, teaching them the importance of  building latrines to their health. The latrines keep water clean, preventing diseases like diarrhea that lead to undernutrition.

“My children and I used to defecate outside because we did not have a toilet in our home,” said 31-year-old Ama Nuzaara, who lives in West Gonja District. After several latrines were built by community members, people started to connect the dots.

“I now understand the links between poor sanitation, diarrheal diseases and nutrition,” says Nuzaara. “I also make sure that my children wash their hands with soap and water after they use the toilet. I do this for my family’s health and well being.”

Karas said that this multi-sectoral collaboration is already paying dividends. “We have repaired dozens of boreholes [holes through which people can access uncontaminated water] and established community water and sanitation committees. We are training farmers to grow new, more nutritious vegetables and helping women access markets and boost their incomes.”

Each of the project’s integrated activities increases the resilience of vulnerable people to the inevitable shocks inherent to living in northern Ghana. “The multi-sectoral approach amplifies the effectiveness of [the project’s] activities,” says Yunus Abdulai, another project official.

By strengthening local capacity, the project is working to build sustainability across all sectors of development.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lindsey Spanner is the communications point of contact for the USAID Nutrition Team at the Global Health Bureau in Washington, DC. Celia Zeilberger is the Senior Development Outreach and Communications Specialist at the USAID Mission in Ghana.

A Time of Unparalleled Need

A young boy smiles as he walks out of his local bakery, arms full of freshly baked bread. Families such as this boy’s family rely on local bakeries to get their daily bread.

A young boy smiles as he walks out of his local bakery, arms full of freshly baked bread. Families such as this boy’s family rely on local bakeries to get their daily bread.

It’s hard to believe that what began as a simple cry for opportunity and human rights has become the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time.

Five years ago, at the height of the Arab Spring, the Syrian people took to the streets to peacefully protest for fundamental freedoms from an increasingly authoritarian leader. The response from the Syrian regime was unequivocal force and brutality that has left half of all Syrians dead or displaced, and spawned a breeding ground for extremists like the so-called Islamic State or Daesh.

If you want to know how this crisis feels, talk to some of the more than 17 million Syrians directly impacted by the violence—their homes bombed, their schools destroyed, their relatives and friends killed. That’s like upending the lives of everyone living in the New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. And lives have certainly been shattered.

Ayyush is 80 years old. She recently lost her son in the conflict in Syria. She now only wishes for more years ahead to raise her grandchildren. Ayyush and her family live in the Islahiye refugee camp in Turkey where they receive monthly food assistance through an e-food card program.

Ayyush is 80 years old. She recently lost her son in the conflict in Syria. She now only wishes for more years ahead to raise her grandchildren. Ayyush and her family live in the Islahiye refugee camp in Turkey where they receive monthly food assistance through an e-food card program.

Today, 4 million Syrian refugees are living in neighboring countries—Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt—in donated apartments, relatives’ spare rooms and tents. Another 6.5 million are displaced internally, trapped in a living hell that includes daily indiscriminate barrel bombing by the Assad regime on the one hand and Daesh’s murderous reign of terror on the other.

Behind the figures are children and the parents who would do anything and risk everything to keep them safe. For families inside Syria, the choice is agonizing: Stay and risk your child being killed on the way to school, or risk their safety on a treacherous journey across borders.

What are these Syrians facing every day?

Hunger for one. Since this crisis began nearly five years ago, USAID has provided $1.55 billion in food assistance, more than all other donors combined. Since 2013, we have given bakeries still operating inside the country 122,000 metric tons of flour and yeast, which comes out to more than 300 million daily bread rations. USAID has also helped distribute food vouchers—essentially preloaded debit cards—so refugees can shop for the familiar foods they yearn for and, at the same time, boost the local economies of Syria’s neighbors.

These two Syrian sisters now live as refugees in Mafraq, Jordan. / Peter Bussian for USAID

These two Syrian sisters now live as refugees in Mafraq, Jordan. / Peter Bussian for USAID

Nearly 2 million children in Syria and another 700,000 Syrian refugees are out of school because of the conflict. As Secretary of State John Kerry said recently: “The burden of the conflict falls most heavily on the smallest shoulders.” Without that daily stability in their lives, children are at risk of being exploited as laborers and young girls in particular may face the pressures of early marriage.

Our teams on the ground are helping refurbish and modernize public school buildings in Lebanon and Jordan so they can accommodate the extra load of new learners. Some of the schools have doubled or tripled shifts to ensure everyone gets a chance to learn and thrive.

USAID is also providing health care to people in need across 14 governorates in Syria—2.4 million this year alone—as well as clean water to 1.3 million.

We are also supporting women to be change agents for peace inside Syria, and assisting moderate civilian actors inside Syria to keep schools open, repair public services and literally keep the lights on for communities under siege.

We are proud to say that we reach 5 million people every month in spite of the often dangerous conditions to make those connections happen.

Our assistance inside Syria and the region is not only keeping people alive, but keeping their aspirations alive, too. A future Middle East needs peace and opportunity, not spirals of retribution.

“Our dreams are very simple,” said Mohamad, a former bus driver in Syria who is now a refugee living in a cramped apartment in Jordan with what is left of his family. He lost three sons in the conflict.

Bags of wheat flour inside a storage room at a Syrian bakery wait to be turned into bread. Bakeries such as this one are vital to providing food to Syrians in need.

Bags of wheat flour inside a storage room at a Syrian bakery wait to be turned into bread. Bakeries such as this one are vital to providing food to Syrians in need.

What he wants now is what any person would want: “To have a decent living so that we can be self-sufficient and not put out a hand to beg. We want people to look at us as humans because we are just like them.”

Though the United States has been generous—$4.5 billion in humanitarian assistance over nearly five years in addition to other aid—our funding that supports the heroic organizations working with Syrians on the ground throughout the region is simply not enough. Additional support is sorely needed.

The United Nations’ appeals for humanitarian aid to address the crisis in Syria are still only 48 percent funded for this year. This is a shortfall of over $4.4 billion in life-saving services.

We must support those suffering inside Syria as well as those fleeing across the border.

As President Barack Obama reminded the world at the G20 Summit in Turkey, Syrian refugees are leaving their country to escape violence and terrorism. “Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” he said. “Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”

This conflict has spiraled out of control for too long. And while we are undertaking herculean efforts to help the Syrian people and Syria’s neighbors, we cannot alleviate this crisis without more help. If we do not continue to work with our partners to address the Syrian crisis and its impacts now, the problem will only get worse.

That is why we are asking you to stand in solidarity with USAID, our partners and, most critically, the people of Syria. Visit Humanity Acts to learn more about the humanitarian crisis that directly impacts the majority of Syrian people and how you can join us in supporting them.

We’re on social media using the hashtag #HumanityActs and we invite you to use it as well. Together we can help put an end to the biggest humanitarian emergency of our time. It starts here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Staal is the senior deputy assistant administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. Follow that office at @USAID_DCHA

Healing Plants to Feed a Nation

The following is an abridged version of a blog post by Miriam Otipa, a research scientist and leader in Kenya supported by the United States through a fellowship program. Read her full story on the Feed the Future blog.


High res photo Miriam Otipa

Miriam Otipa pursued a degree in science out of a desire to develop solutions for farmers to combat crop losses and help ease their suffering. Today, she does just that as a research scientist and leader at the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization. / Miriam Otipa

Growing up in a small village in Western Kenya, I often accompanied my mother and other village women on customary weeding expeditions. Whenever we came across sick plants in the fields—which was all too often—my mother would instruct me to pull them out and cast them aside. I did as she asked, but wondered to myself: Why do we simply throw out the plants instead of doing something to make them better?

At times, my mother lost nearly 80 percent of her tomatoes to plant disease. The loss was so bad that she eventually stopped growing tomatoes all together. Yet when one of our cows got sick, my mother would call a veterinarian to come and treat the cow. I wondered: Were there no doctors who could also cure our plants?

I turned this curiosity into a career in science and became the first child in my family to attend university as well as the first woman in my village to earn a science degree. Seeking answers to my childhood questions, I studied botany and zoology as an undergraduate to better understand the diversity of crop and animal pests and diseases afflicting farmers like my mother in Kenya and her peers across Africa.

I wanted nothing more than to find a practical solution. So, I became a plant doctor.

Solutions Through Science

Eager to learn and improve my skills, I applied to the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development Fellowship and was selected as a 2008 fellow. Thanks to this training program, I was on my way to becoming an agent of change in my community by learning how to treat plant pests and diseases.

I was exhilarated to finally have the skills and knowledge to discover and develop solutions using science. With my new grant writing skills, I secured USAID funding to develop environmentally friendly crop protection technologies. Working with partners in the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management was an eye-opener. I used new equipment and learned from the experts around me. During this time, I also had an opportunity to attend Ohio State University as a visiting scholar, where I honed my diagnostics skills and developed Kenya’s first-ever methodology for screening passion fruit for disease at nurseries — to help stop disease before it made its way to farms.

Farmers spread a “mosquito net for plants” over crops to protect them from pests. A Feed the Future Innovation Lab is helping test the effectiveness of this eco-friendly technology and share it with smallholder farmers. / B. Dawson

Farmers spread a “mosquito net for plants” over crops to protect them from pests. A Feed the Future Innovation Lab is helping test the effectiveness of this eco-friendly technology and share it with smallholder farmers. / B. Dawson

Success Spreads Across Kenya

Today, I help farmers properly diagnose plant disease and heal their sick plants. I’m training others to be plant doctors, too. Through the PlantWise program, supported by an international non-profit called CABI, I’ve helped train more than 140 agricultural extension staff to operate 89 “plant clinics” in 13 counties across Kenya. I’ve also jointly trained 45 farmers as “plant nurses,” who regularly visit farms, assist with plant examinations, and encourage farmers to use nearby plant clinics. Farmers can take their diseased plants to these clinics and receive guidance from plant doctors on how to best tackle their plant pest and disease problems.

It is incredibly fulfilling for me to see such progress. Instead of throwing out sick plants, farmers can fight crop losses and adopt new farming practices to boost their harvests and incomes.

I am proud to say that my dream of becoming a “doctor of plants” has come true. I only wish that there were more like me in Kenya. As one of the few female plant doctors in my country, I’m passionate about training the next generation of plant doctors to narrow this deficit.

I am doing my bit to help feed my village and my nation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Miriam Otipa is a principal research scientist and head of the Plant Pathology Department at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization. She is also a former fellow and mentor with the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development program.

Here’s What Happens When Global Hunger Meets American Ingenuity

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Feed the Future blog.


Apple pie. Baseball. Agriculture.

There are few things more American than these. Surprised to see agriculture on the list?

Agriculture has and continues to be integral to the American experience.

It was the primary driver of the economy when our nation was first born. It informed the perspectives and politics of our nation’s leaders. It shaped our uniquely American form of representative democracy.

Our history with agriculture is long, storied, and we’ve learned a lot from years of trial, error and success.

Consider George Washington, the first president of the United States. One of his primary aspirations was to be a successful farmer. In pursuit of greater efficiency, he applied the scientific method to farming and experimented with techniques and tools, many of which are still used today. He kept copious notes, sought advice, and shared what he learned with others.

This spirit of curiosity, inventiveness and generosity is part of America’s DNA. We’ve changed the world with innovations like the light bulb, cotton gin and Internet.

The Feed the Future initiative is bringing this U.S. ingenuity and expertise to bear to fight hunger. As we lead with focus and purpose and leverage our strengths, we are achieving transformational change at a large scale in a short amount of time. In fact, Feed the Future has evolved beyond just the U.S. Government into a broad movement that is tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges and developing solutions to emerging problems.

And while we work with American companies, universities and nonprofits to share America’s agricultural expertise and entrepreneurial legacy with the world, that work has benefits back home, too. It strengthens the United States’ role as the world leader in improving lives and accelerating economic growth and opportunity.

Progress today makes us safer, more prosperous, and better prepared to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

Join us this spring as we tour through the various ways U.S. companies, universities, nonprofits and other organizations are making a difference, in large and small ways, to end global hunger.

By working with partners like these to improve agriculture, Feed the Future is delivering results that are growing momentum toward a future free of hunger.

What better way for America to lead?

While the work to get us there is complex, the answer, as they say, is as easy as apple pie.


Browse the maps below to find out which organizations in your state are contributing to this global movement to end hunger.

Research & Universities

122214_StakeholderMap_University_FinalA

Did you know that research conducted under Feed the Future tackles challenges common to U.S. and developing country farmers, such as drought, plant diseases, pests, food safety and food waste?

Feed the Future is connecting the best and brightest minds from America with those across the globe through its 24 Feed the Future Innovation Labs to develop solutions and take them from labs to the marketplace so farmers anywhere can access them.

Businesses

122214_StakeholderMap_Business_FinalA

Did you know that Feed the Future partners with U.S. companies – large and small – where there are opportunities abroad to address development issues alongside business ones?

By leveraging business interest, expertise and resources to build mutually beneficial projects, we’re creating lasting change that will live on (and multiply!).

Nonprofits & Non-Governmental Organizations

122214_StakeholderMap_NGO_FinalA

Did you know that nonprofits and NGOs helped make Feed the Future reality and continue to ensure progress made today lasts long into the future?

Organizations like these do more than just implement projects on the ground; they hold us accountable and help us improve our work.

Feeling inspired? Find out how you can join this global movement by visiting the “Partner With Us” section on the Feed the Future website.

Olive Oil of Hope

Olive oil connoisseurs, take note.  I recently tasted organic olive oil that would satisfy the most discerning palates, and it has the added element of peace-building, too.

Near East Foundation staff present USAID Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander with the final product: organic olive oil produced with support from the Olive Oil Without Borders project. / Lubna Rifi, USAID

Near East Foundation staff present USAID Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander with the final product: organic olive oil produced with support from the Olive Oil Without Borders project. / Lubna Rifi, USAID

While traveling in  the West Bank for the first time as USAID’s Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for the Middle East last month, I noticed the landscape was dotted with olive trees. To Palestinian farmers, olive trees represent economic opportunities and hold cultural significance. A hundred thousand Palestinian families in the West Bank depend on the olive oil industry, an important part of the Palestinian economy.

USAID Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for the Middle East plants an olive tree with olive farmers participating in the Olive Oil Without Borders project. / Lubna Rifi, USAID

USAID Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for the Middle East plants an olive tree with olive farmers participating in the Olive Oil Without Borders project. / Lubna Rifi, USAID

Olive oil also represents an important opportunity for peace-building in a region marked with strife

Enter: USAID’s Olive Oil Without Borders. Implemented by the U.S.-based Near East Foundation, the project builds trust, mutual understanding and collaboration through economic cooperation in olive oil. It has allowed 1,500 Palestinian and Israeli olive farmers, mill operators and olive oil distributors to meet, share farming methods in workshops, improve their skills and increase olive oil production and profit through global exports.

All of this is consistent with USAID’s mission to promote resilient, democratic societies.

In the past, olive oil prices in the West Bank fell because the market was limited and exports were minimal. One of the most striking achievements of  Olive Oil Without Borders was an agreement reached in February 2013 by Palestinian and Israeli officials that allowed Israeli citizens to purchase Palestinian olive oil for the first time in 10 years. As a result, in less than two years, 3,600 metric tons of Palestinian olive oil were sold to Israeli companies. Palestinian farmers increased revenues by $20 million.

During my visit, I met Muhammed Shouly at his organic olive farm in Asira Shamaliya, in the northern West Bank. Shouly has been actively involved in Olive Oil Without Borders since its launch in 2011.

Muhammad Shouly is an olive farmer who tripled his harvest  after learning about supplementary irrigation techniques through the Olive Oil Without Borders project. / Lubna Rifi, USAID
Muhammad Shouly is an olive farmer who tripled his harvest after learning about supplementary irrigation techniques through the Olive Oil Without Borders project. / Lubna Rifi, USAID

For centuries, Palestinian farmers relied solely on rainwater for their olive trees. During cross-border meetings that brought Shouly and other Palestinian farmers together with their Israeli counterparts, he learned about supplementary irrigation, a technique to provide olive trees with additional water. Shouly applied this method on his olive orchard during the summer months and it tripled his harvest.

I also talked to Miyassar Yassin, another farmer from Asira Shamaliya participating in Olive Oil Without Borders. She took part in an olive oil quality tasting seminar with Palestinian and Israeli farmers, learning to quickly identify virgin and extra virgin olive oil

Miyassar Yassin just concluded an olive oil quality tasting seminar through the Olive Oil Without Borders project.  Here she is with her two daughters. / Lubna Rifi, USAID
Miyassar Yassin just concluded an olive oil quality tasting seminar through the Olive Oil Without Borders project. Here she is with her two daughters. / Lubna Rifi, USAID

The project has upgraded 18 olive mills in the West Bank and Israel, representing one-fifth of the olive mills in the area. The renovation of Qussay Hamadneh’s mill—which included the replacement of steel tanks for storing olive oil—vastly improved sanitary conditions and boosted the quality of the olive oil produced.

Qussay Hamadneh improved the quality of the olive oil he produces with support from the Olive Oil Without Borders project. / Lubna Rifi, USAID

Qussay Hamadneh improved the quality of the olive oil he produces with support from the Olive Oil Without Borders project. / Lubna Rifi, USAID

Olive Oil Without Borders is just one of dozens of programs that we support throughout the West Bank and Israel. Its success lies in bringing together individuals from different backgrounds to work on issues of common concern. The visit gave me great hope because participants are not only learning how to increase production, they are also learning about each other

Before leaving, I planted an olive tree. I know the farmers I met will nurture it, and I look forward to coming back to see how it has grown and pick its olives.

The USAID-supported Olive Oil Without Borders project brings together Palestinian and Israeli farmers to increase the quality and quantity of olive oil. / Lubna Rifi, USAID

The USAID-supported Olive Oil Without Borders project brings together Palestinian and Israeli farmers to increase the quality and quantity of olive oil. / Lubna Rifi, USAID

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paige Alexander is USAID Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for the Middle East
Page 1 of 22:1 2 3 4 »Last »