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Archives for Food Security

Receiving the 2010 Presidential Volunteer Service Award

On December 7, 2010, USAID hosted a luncheon to honor 18 Presidential Volunteer Service Award recipients for their volunteer work under the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer program. The program supports Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, by working to improve agricultural productivity, promote market development, facilitate trade expansion, invest in global innovation and research, promote equitable rural economic growth, and address child malnutrition. Over 13,000 volunteers, 9,848 host organizations, and 103 countries have participated in the Farmer-to-Farmer program since 1986.  Below read  the first hand account of  one of the volunteers honored.

This originally appeared on DGES International.

Mark and I are back from Washington, DC where we enjoyed a few days repose and met a host of interesting people. We were invited to DC by the Partners of the Americas Farmer to Farmer program with whom we have been working for 4 years now. The Volunteer Appreciation Event, on Dec 7th was sponsored by USAID to honor Farmer to Farmer volunteers.

The event was part of USAID’s commitment to global food security. USAID is undergoing a restructuring and is launching the Feed the Future Program focusing on agricultural development and economic growth.

It was a real pleasure for me to meet Peggy Carlson and Meghan Olivier, the two Partners staff people responsible for sponsoring and organizing my trips to Haiti. After working together for 4 years in this modern age of emails and cell phones it was nice to sit down face to face and talk. More important to me was to hug them and thank them for having my back this last year with the earthquake and last month’s riots. Even with my propensity to find myself in the center of the mess, they continue to encourage me to work with them and to return to Haiti. Blessed with such a great team of people, in DC and in Haiti, I am sure we will continue to cultivate change for many more years.

I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with other members of the Partners of the Americas group. We came up with lots of ideas for collaboration and exploration. I especially want to thank Steve Vetters, the Director of Partners, for his support and encouragement. It was very motivating.

The awards were given by Gregory Gottlieb, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Food Security at USAID and Dawn Thomas, Senior Agricultural Program Advisor for USAID. The awards come in gold, silver and bronze levels depending on the number of hours volunteered. I received a GOLD!. To some this probably suggests I’m obsessed and over doing my commitment, but in reality it is a small drop compared to the need. I just hope that each drop can send ripples of positive evolutionary growth. It would be nice if I could see this in my lifetime, but that may be asking too much.

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A Thanksgiving Statement from Administrator Shah

Thanksgiving is a poignant time to remember that many, both at home and in the countries in which we work, struggle to secure their next meal. Reflecting on those in need is fundamental to who we are as an Agency. An awareness of our larger world and the inequities it contains demands both our attention and our action.

Among a diverse portfolio of vital development work, ending global hunger is this Agency’s top priority, and I am excited our new Food Security Bureau is in place to embrace this goal. The unveiling of our new Bureau occurs at a pivotal time; we are experiencing a degree of support for development and specifically agricultural development that the world has not witnessed since the earliest days of the Green Revolution.

Through our Feed the Future Initiative, I am confident we will make great strides toward ending global hunger.

That confidence comes from the tremendous dedication and hard work I’ve seen from all our staff. Tomorrow, I will be thankful to lead such a talented Agency toward such a meaningful goal.

Bread for the World Applauds New Bureau of Food Security

USAID’s new Bureau of Food Security is an important step forward in our country’s efforts to combat global hunger and food insecurity, and I am delighted that Administrator Shah chose to announce the establishment of the Bureau on Monday at the launch of Bread for the World Institute’s 2011 Hunger Report, Our Common Interest: Ending Hunger and Malnutrition.

With the new Bureau to support Feed the Future and other agency programming, USAID is building a solid foundation for an effective U.S. response to the challenges of global hunger and malnutrition.

Our Common Interest argues that Feed the Future may be the best opportunity in decades for the United States to contribute to lasting progress against global hunger and malnutrition. The initiative focuses on boosting the incomes of smallholder farmers and improving nutrition for mothers and children – both absolutely essential to ending hunger.

Our Common Interest includes recommendations to strengthen Feed the Future and U.S. foreign assistance more broadly. It argues for a comprehensive approach to fighting hunger and malnutrition that emphasizes increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers, helping them reach markets, taking advantage of the links between agriculture and nutrition, empowering women, strengthening safety nets, and responding quickly to hunger emergencies.

The report also urges Congress to rewrite the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act to make clear that poverty reduction and development are key elements of U.S. foreign policy. In addition, the United States should take the lead in strengthening international institutions that complement U.S. bilateral assistance in fighting hunger and malnutrition.

Feed the Future is a refreshing throwback to a time when agriculture had a much more prominent place in U.S. foreign assistance. The Bureau of Food Security is another expression of the bold and forward-thinking developments at USAID. Congratulations are very much in order.

U.S.-India Collaboration: Unlocking Opportunities in Agribusiness and Improving Lives

After nearly 60 years of U.S. assistance to India, the two nations are taking development cooperation to new levels. This was one of the core messages President Barack Obama took to his first official state visit to India earlier this month, where he was accompanied by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

On November 7, a demonstration of this strategic partnership convened in a momentous occasion for USAID — an Agriculture and Food Security Exposition in Mumbai. Administrator Shah had the honor of escorting President Obama, along with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, through an array of innovative agricultural exhibits on display at St. Xavier’s College.  The event, co-hosted by USAID, USDA, and the Confederation of Indian Industry, provided an exciting opportunity for the notable trio to visit with Indian farmers who shared how new, pioneering tools and technologies are increasing their productivity.

One farmer demonstrated how he receives crop information on his cell phone, while another showed how he obtains information on market rates at village Internet kiosks, enabling him to better negotiate the sale of his produce.

A woman farmer using a small metal tube to strip corn cobs showcased the work of India’s Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering. The Institute has been working to create more compact, lighter versions of common farming tools to increase the productivity of female farmers. A memorable moment was when the President picked up the tool, turned to the reporters, and said in jest, “Look at this. It’s like an infomercial.  I want one of those!” After a brief chuckle, he commented on the importance of the tool in reducing women’s labor time up to 30 percent.

Alongside the expo, Secretary Vilsack and Dr. Shah hosted a roundtable discussion with Indian agriculture experts, where they heard about the most promising agricultural innovations to address the gaps that remain in India’s agriculture sector.  The take-away: strengthened collaboration will unlock new opportunities for U.S. and Indian agribusiness.

The United States and India plan to extend these innovations to other countries to promote global food security. Their partnership is emblematic of one where peer nations work side by side to develop the kinds of innovations and solutions that can help improve the lives of more and more people, not only in India and the United States, but also around the world. USAID will play a key role.

From the Field

In Nicaragua, we will co-sponsor The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ two-day fair from November 11-12th in Managua to continue the celebration of World Food Day. The purpose of this activity is to bring attention to the serious problem of world food security.  As the second poorest country in the hemisphere, the issue of food security is critical for Nicaragua.

In Iraq, we will hold training as part of the Iraq Legislative Strengthening Project (ILSP).  The training will focus on 1) Legislative Drafting Training, 2) Analyzing Law 56 of 1977 “collecting Governmental Debts”, 3) Basic Report Writing and 4) Motivation and Team Building.

In Kyrgyzstan, we will open a Food for Peace food distribution site.  This event will support transparency of food distribution and also support reconciliation and trust among ethnic group beneficiaries.

Picture of the Week: Increased Agricultural Productivity in Haiti

A farmer shows an example of a pepper grown at a farm that is part of a USAID WINNER project in Kenscoff, outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 6. Photo Credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID

A farmer shows an example of a pepper grown at a farm that is part of a USAID WINNER project in Kenscoff, outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources program or WINNER for short, is a five-year, $126 million program funded by USAID to increase productivity in the country’s ailing agricultural sector.  Photo is from Kendra Helmer/USAID.

From the Field

In Ghana, media will cover Phase One of the Integrated Coastal and Fisheries Governance (ICFG) program.  The ICFG Program is a four-year program seeking to pilot strategies and actions to sustainably manage resources in the fishing sector, in relation to food security and the Feed the Future initiative in six coastal districts of the Western Region of Ghana.  The proposed activities include interviews with implementing partners and fishermen in communities in Aboadze/Bosumtwi Sam Harbor, Axim Landing and Assini Landing over a two-day period.

In Washington, DC on October 28th, we will support the Indian Diaspora – People to People Conference at the State Department.  Dr. Shah will be providing keynote remarks and Dr. Rushna Ravji (USAID/Global Health) will be leading a panel discussion on Health.

In Burkina Faso, The U.S. Ambassador and Burkina Faso’s Minister of Commerce and Industry will open a week-long series of seminars on increasing the competitiveness of West African handcrafts producers and exporters. SIAO is the world’s largest African handcrafts fair and connects more than 6,000 artisans from across the continent to professional buyers from around the world. Competing successfully in world markets requires sophisticated business knowledge and know-how, which USAID is providing during these workshops.

Picture of the Week: Women Increasing Incomes in Guatemala

Women preparing vegetables at San Judas, Guatemala.Women preparing vegetables at San Judas packing plant to sell to grocery stores in Guatemala. The San Judas company is participating in a USAID Global Development Alliance program with partners Wal-Mart, Mercy Corps, and Fundación AGIL. Photo is from Eduardo Smith/ PrensaLibre 2008.

Focus on Nutrition: Creating Inclusive Partnerships and Deepening our Knowledge

This originally appeared on DipNote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week at USAID – October 11, 2010

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

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

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