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Archives for Food Security

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

Subsistence to Surplus: How Gifty Went from Barely Making Ends Meet to Meeting President Obama


Gifty Jemal Hussein met President Obama this week during his visit to Ethiopia. Read on to find out how she transformed her life from a subsistence existence to extraordinary success that’s benefiting her entire community—with a little help from the United States.

Gifty Jemal Hussein was a typical smallholder farmer in Ethiopia. She grew Ethiopian banana, corn and a few coffee plants in her backyard to feed her family and earn a meager income to make ends meet.

Harvests were low and unpredictable. Land was limited. This was life.

But 2013 was different.

In 2013, Gifty planted her small patch of land with new corn seeds, using techniques she’d learned from a development program in her community. She used just the right amount of fertilizer and checked on the corn stalks as they grew. When it came time to harvest them, she exclaimed to herself: Thank God! Her crops had yielded three times as much corn in a single season as before.

It seemed almost too good to be true. She touched every ear of corn she’d harvested. The results were real.

Gifty was so surprised, happy and proud of her harvest that she laid the ears of corn out in front of her house for all to see. She went door-to-door telling others and inviting them to see it with their own eyes. She took a quarter of the harvest to her four adult children in the capital city.

Her neighbors, impressed and happy for her, wanted to know how she’d managed to turn a sparse backyard garden into an abundant farm.

Gifty Jemal Hussein, a smallholder farmer in Ethiopia, spoke with President Obama today. Through a USAID-DuPont partnership, she began using high-yield corn that allowed her to increase her household income. / Daniella Maor, USAID

Gifty Jemal Hussein, a smallholder farmer in Ethiopia, spoke with President Obama today. Through a USAID-DuPont partnership, she began using high-yield corn that allowed her to increase her household income. / Daniella Maor, USAID

Unlocking Agriculture’s Potential

Gifty had been a leader in her community before 2012, but it took on new meaning now. People were paying more attention. She had newfound confidence that life could change—and she would be the one to make it happen.

Gifty went to the local government and asked to lease one hectare of land – for free – for her women’s group to farm. She rented a tractor with her own money to plow the land. She gathered other women in her community to help her sow the corn seeds that had given her a bumper harvest last season and then apply fertilizer, which she bought on her own.

As the corn grew, she brought the 20 women in her group to show them how tall the plants were getting. Then she asked each to invest in this farming venture – to become stakeholders in their shared success. Each woman paid a portion to compensate her for the cost of the tractor and fertilizer. The following season, they also helped buy the seeds.

“It isn’t reasonable to invest in something that doesn’t give you a return,” Gifty said. “So I don’t invest in the [old seed], instead I invest in the new hybrid seed.”

Gifty and her group opened a savings account for the income they were earning from better corn harvests. With it, they’re making investment plans for the future and have a safety net for tough times.

Women representatives visited from other districts to see the group’s bountiful corn crop. They were so impressed that they gifted Gifty a set of farm tools to honor her for her initiative and entrepreneurship.

Taller plants and larger ears of corn translated into more income for Gifty. She’s invested the returns into her farming enterprise, buying a cow, which she’s leveraged into an additional revenue stream by selling the milk and calves. With this money, she’s purchased extra seeds to grow more nutritious and lucrative crops like teff, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. She’s expanded the number of coffee plants she grows too.

Gifty is also using her income to improve her family’s standard of living. She built a new home—her proudest undertaking. She’s paid for her husband’s medical treatment for a disability he has and for her son’s final years of high school. She even had enough to contribute to one of her daughters’ weddings.

From Individual Success to Global Impact  

Fortunately, Gifty’s story is less and less unique these days. Rural communities across countries like Ethiopia are establishing a new normal: One with less poverty and hunger and with more prosperity and opportunity.

Smallholder farmers, with help from the United States, are moving from barely surviving off their farms to running profitable farming businesses—ones that give them enough income to pay for things like school, health care and new homes.

In Ethiopia last year, the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative helped more than 218,000 producers like Gifty use new technologies and management practices to increase their yields. And through nutrition programs, the U.S. Government reached more than 1.3 million young children in Ethiopia with help—including training more than 20,000 adults in child health and nutrition.

Results like these add up to impact, in the lives of individual farmers like Gifty and – increasingly – nationwide. Between 2011 and 2014, stunting – a measure of malnutrition often associated with undernourishment – among young children dropped in Ethiopia by 9 percent. This impact reflects the leadership and efforts of the Government of Ethiopia as well as U.S. Government.

The United States has led the world in taking hold of the tremendous opportunity to unlock the transformative potential of agriculture to connect more people to the global economy and pave a path out of poverty through initiatives like Feed the Future and partnerships like the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

In fact, as President Obama was meeting with Gifty today, we announced that the program that helped Gifty jumpstart her success with new seeds – a public-private partnership between Ethiopia, the United States and DuPont Pioneer – is expanding to reach 100,000 more farmers and help them flourish, much like Gifty has.

The work is far from finished, but the results and impact are promising. The future looks bright for rural families like Gifty’s.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tjada McKenna is the Assistant to the Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Food Security. She also serves as the Deputy Coordinator for Development for the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative.

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

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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

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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

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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

Feed the Future: Progress in the Goal of Ending Hunger

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Department of State DipNote blog.

Emiliano Dominguez Gonzalez displays his recently harvested strawberries in Honduras. Feed the Future helped nearly 7 million farmers like Emiliano last year boost harvests by using new and improved technologies and agricultural practices.  / USAID-ACCESO/Fintrac Inc.

Emiliano Dominguez Gonzalez displays his recently harvested strawberries in Honduras. Feed the Future helped nearly 7 million farmers like Emiliano last year boost harvests by using new and improved technologies and agricultural practices. / USAID-ACCESO/Fintrac Inc.

For generations, the United States has been a leader in providing development assistance across the globe to alleviate suffering. But global food price spikes and resulting instability in 2007 and 2008 were a wake-up call: More needed to be done to break the vicious cycle of hunger and poverty.

The answer: Unlock the potential of agriculture as the key to reducing hunger, extreme poverty and malnutrition through an initiative that became Feed the Future.

Ram Kumari Tharu displays her harvest in Nepal and smiles after collecting payment from a local trader. She’s tripled her annual income in just two years after extensive training on improved agriculture practices. / USAID NEAT

Ram Kumari Tharu displays her harvest in Nepal and smiles after collecting payment from a local trader. She’s tripled her annual income in just two years after extensive training on improved agriculture practices. / USAID NEAT

In just a few short years, Feed the Future is already changing the face of hunger and poverty for some of the world’s poorest families.  In May 2014, Feed the Future released its Progress Report on FY 2013 results , revealing that the initiative reached nearly 7 million smallholder farmers globally with new technologies and, together with the United States’ Global Health Initiative, reached 12.5 million children with effective nutrition services.

In 2014, the U.S. Government and its partners continued to build on Feed the Future’s early success to drive real change on a large scale.  Here are several examples:

Building on its 2013 commitments to scale up improvements in international agriculture, the U.S. Government launched eight new projects in 2014 supporting improved seed enterprises and other technology providers to accelerate adoption and uptake by smallholder farmers of the most promising agricultural technologies. This $60 million investment will impact Feed the Future focus countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

In May, the U.S. Agency for International Development launched its first Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy , laying out a roadmap to reduce chronic malnutrition by 20 percent through the Feed the Future and Global Health initiatives, the Office of Food for Peace development programs, resilience efforts and other nutrition investments. This strategy precedes a forthcoming, government-wide Global Nutrition Coordination Plan. During October and November, the Department of State led a U.S. Government delegation that successfully negotiated the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action, which were adopted by global consensus at the Second International Conference on Nutrition, co-convened by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization. Food security and nutrition will continue to be at the forefront of U.S. diplomatic efforts and ongoing negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals in the Post-2015 framework, which build on the Millennium Development Goals.

In September, as global leaders gathered in New York City for the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack helped launch the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture during the United Nations Climate Summit, which called on government, finance, business and civil society leaders to take action on climate change. The Alliance advances a global, evidence-based approach to food security and represents an ambitious step in U.S. efforts to integrate a holistic approach to climate change in every area of our work.

Sulton Tukhtaev, a smallholder farmer in Tajikistan, holds his grandchild. Feed the Future has helped his family grow fruits and vegetables in their kitchen garden for income and nutrition. Last year, Feed the Future helped reach more than 12 million children with nutrition interventions. / USAID

Sulton Tukhtaev, a smallholder farmer in Tajikistan, holds his grandchild. Feed the Future has helped his family grow fruits and vegetables in their kitchen garden for income and nutrition. Last year, Feed the Future helped reach more than 12 million children with nutrition interventions. / USAID

In September 2014, members of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives introduced authorizing legislation to codify and strengthen Feed the Future’s comprehensive approach to cultivating the transformative potential of agriculture sector-led growth. HR 5656 — the Feed the Future Global Food Security Act of 2014 — passed by a voice vote in the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support in December.

Housed at some of the top U.S. universities, Feed the Future Innovation Labs are on the cutting edge of efforts to research, develop and scale up safe and effective agricultural technologies that can help feed a growing population.

Housed at some of the top U.S. universities, Feed the Future Innovation Labs are on the cutting edge of efforts to research, develop and scale up safe and effective agricultural technologies that can help feed a growing population.

Each of these examples is helping to create momentum for efforts this year, as we pursue a long-term vision of a world where the scourge of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition no longer threaten global peace and prosperity.

As we start 2015, please take a moment to learn about global hunger and consider what you can do to help end it.  You can start by reading Feed the Future’s “Year in Review” to learn more about our efforts and find out ways you can be involved.  You can also follow @FeedtheFuture for the latest information.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Stetson serves as U.S. Special Representative for Global Food Security at the U.S. Department of State, and Tjada D’Oyen McKenna is the Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, as well as the Assistant to the Administrator in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Bureau for Food Security.

South Sudan: The Threat of Worsening Hunger

Residents of Bor County receive sorghum, oil, and lentils in exchange for road construction work they completed as part of the Catholic Relief Services led Jonglei Food Security Program, in Jonglei, South Sudan.  / CRS

Residents of Bor County receive sorghum, oil, and lentils in exchange for road construction work they completed as part of the Catholic Relief Services led Jonglei Food Security Program, in Jonglei, South Sudan. / CRS

A few weeks ago, my office instructed a vessel carrying 21,000 tons of American-grown sorghum destined to serve hungry people in South Sudan to divert from its Djibouti destination and discharge its cargo in Port Sudan instead. That vessel arrived and offloaded last week.

While the food was originally destined to travel for weeks by road from Djibouti to Gambella, Ethiopia, and then be airlifted or air-dropped into remote areas of South Sudan, a recent agreement between Sudan and South Sudan brings the possibility of a more hopeful scenario.

After almost a year of negotiation, the U.N. World Food Program secured agreement from both governments, as well as opposition groups in South Sudan, to facilitate safe passage of this grain to hungry people in South Sudan.  Saving both time and expense, it will be trucked or shipped by barge across the border from Sudan to South Sudan to meet immediate food needs and be pre-positioned in remote areas for use in the coming months.  If the two governments follow through on their commitments, the opening of this corridor will help to stave off hunger in a new country, whose hopes for growth and prosperity were dashed by ruinous fighting between the government and armed opposition groups one year ago.

Mary Ngok, 31, a farmer in Bor County receives sorghum, oil, and lentils in exchange for road construction work they completed as part of the Catholic Relief Services led Jonglei Food Security Program, JFSP, in Jonglei, South Sudan. / Sara A. Fajardo/Catholic Relief Services

Mary Ngok, 31, a farmer in Bor County receives sorghum, oil, and lentils in exchange for road construction work they completed as part of the Catholic Relief Services led Jonglei Food Security Program, JFSP, in Jonglei, South Sudan. / Sara A. Fajardo/Catholic Relief Services

South Sudan is the most food-insecure place in the world. Six months ago, after visiting, I laid out five key actions that USAID was taking to avert hunger and famine in South Sudan. One of them was to draw on the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT), a seldom-used fund that USAID taps when unanticipated global needs outstrip food aid budgets, to procure additional food for South Sudan. Thanks to this trust, 50,000 tons of U.S. food – including the 21,000 tons recently offloaded in Port Sudan, are being used to respond to the hunger crisis in South Sudan.

The scale-up has enabled emergency care for more than 76,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and humanitarian workers have reached roughly 3.5 million vulnerable and displaced people with aid since January. Throughout 2014, conflict and bad weather forced the international community to rely on expensive airlift operations to move food and other supplies into remote areas of the country – operations that are roughly 8 times more costly than serving people by road. While extraordinarily costly in terms of expense, lifesaving aid has helped avert famine – for now.

The question is, what happens next?

Will the United States’ BEHT food make it safely to its intended destination, as planned? Will people already worn down by a year of war be reached with lifesaving aid and recovery support? Or will renewed fighting move South Sudan into a deeper downward spiral?

Sadly, the dry season, which typically lasts from December to April, is not only a time for recovery but has in past years also been a time for renewed conflict. Already we have reports that fighting has begun anew, adding to the suffering experienced by the nearly 1.9 million displaced people.

The international community is already overstretched due to the scale and gravity of the crisis and other humanitarian emergencies worldwide. The United States has provided more than $720 million in response to the crisis, including more than $339 million for food and nutrition assistance alone.

The future of South Sudan is in the hands of the combatants. This humanitarian crisis is man-made, as will be its resolution. The best way to avert a future famine is for the combatants to stop fighting, so that ordinary South Sudanese people can plant crops, markets can reopen and communities can begin to recover.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dina Esposito is the Director of USAID’s Office of Food for Peace

Assistance Supports Dignity for Syrian Refugees, Markets for Jordan

This post originally appeared on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State Official Blog, on October 31, 2014.


A refugee living in the community pays for groceries with his pre-loaded credit card

A refugee living in the community pays for groceries with his pre-loaded credit card

Jordan, a relatively small country of 6.5 million people, has welcomed more than 620,000 Syrian refugees since 2011 (Jordan also hosts Palestinian and Iraqi refugees).  This statistic only includes registered refugees, although many thousands more are believed to have entered Jordan without registering.  This is equivalent to 27 million people entering the United States, more than the population of Texas.  All of these people need housing, water, and food.  Health and education systems have stretched to accommodate the new arrivals.  Despite a strong desire to help, Jordanians are understandably concerned about the resources required to support their needs.

Last week, I met with refugees and the humanitarian workers running their assistance programs to learn more about how the United States and international community are responding.  I visited the Za’atri Refugee Camp which, which houses 78,000 residents. I also had the opportunity to speak with Syrians living with family and friends in the neighboring community.  Because non-citizens cannot legally work within Jordan, all are dependent on international aid for their survival.

Ambassador Lane observes the process of registering refugees to enable them to receive food vouchers

Ambassador Lane observes the process of registering refugees to enable them to receive food vouchers

As expected, the first concern for all the refugees, whether in a camp or not, is adequate food for their families.  The World Food Programme (WFP), with extensive support from USAID’s Food for Peace program, helps meet this need.  But feeding such a large population is neither easy nor cheap.  In fact, it costs $23 million per month.  One reason I went to Jordan was to observe how these funds are being spent, and the impact this support is having both on the refugees and on Jordan.  What I saw was encouraging.

Recent reforms to U.S. food assistance regulations have provided flexibility for USAID to choose between in-kind food assistance or the use of cash and vouchers to allow refugees to purchase their own food.  This flexibility is important in Jordan.  As a stable and relatively prosperous country, Jordan has well-developed markets.  However, as trade routes into Syria and Iraq have been cut, the economy has contracted, leaving farmers less able to export the food they produce.  By giving Syrian refugees the ability to purchase the food they need through the local markets, WFP is supporting the existing market system, contributing to the Jordanian economy, and helping to dispel concerns that refugees will drain Jordanian resources. Vouchers also give Syrian refugees access to a more diverse diet which can better meet their nutritional needs.

WFP and USAID elected to provide their support through vouchers and pre-paid credit cards, enabling Syrian refugees to purchase food in nearby stores.  While this seems like a small matter within the bigger picture of having to flee war in one’s homeland, the difference in how assistance is delivered has a large impact on how well people survive such difficult times.  One refugee described the dignity and sense of normalcy she feels when she walks into a store, chooses the food she wants to buy, and pays for it with a credit card.  While the efforts of WFP, USAID, and other donors are essential to helping Syrian refugees cope in very difficult times, the programs also help support the Jordanian economy by compensating farmers and entrepreneurs for their efforts, helping keep markets stable, and promoting economic activity that benefits Jordan and the people who call it home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ambassador David Lane serves as the United States Representative to the United Nations Agencies in Rome.

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