Posts Tagged ‘USAID’

Dec06

“We Plant a Seed, We Grow Our Future:” Larry Laverentz on Refugee Farmers in the United States

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In November 2012, Nourishing the Planet’s Victoria Russo spoke with Larry Laverentz, a program manager with the Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program (RAPP), about his efforts to educate and support refugee farmers in the United States.

Larry has been involved in agriculture for most of his life, from growing up on a cattle farm to working as an agriculture volunteer in Vietnam for International Voluntary Services. His experiences, including earning a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh, have enabled him to run programs for the U.S. Agency for International Development and prepared him for his current position at RAPP.

RAPP helps refugee farmers bring familiar and nutritious foods home to their families. (Photo credit: RAPP)

How was the Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program created?

In 2003, the director of the U.S. government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement began to track the trend of agrarian backgrounds of refugees, and decided to create a project that would enable refugees to get in touch with their agrarian roots. The project officially started in San Diego and Phoenix, and soon spread into a national program through support from the Institute for Social and Economic Development. The program is currently in its third round of three-year grants, totaling 24 projects nationwide.

What sorts of challenges do refugees face when they come to the United States and try to make a living through agriculture?

Many refugees come to this country wanting to get involved with agriculture. While they may be well-versed in farming practices, marketing their products and making a livelihood from farming in this country are complicated processes. Those who have lived in refugee camps for many years typically have limited education and few English and literacy skills, making it difficult to communicate. This creates barriers, for example, in finding land to rent or getting loans for farm equipment. If refugees have no credit history or practice balancing a budget or repaying loans, they are susceptible to falling into debt. Most refugee farmers must also find an off-farm income to supplement what they make through agriculture.

What strategies does RAPP use to break down these barriers and help refugees?

RAPP aims to educate and assist refugees in areas where they did not have previous experience. Each project uses grant funding to hire a garden coordinator, recruit volunteers, access land and supplies, and assess projects. In the first year, the team will typically build an incubator training farm, focused on intensive production tied to marketing. Perhaps after the first year the project will grow, and refugees will be able to expand or even start their own small farms. In conjunction with the farms, we teach classes on record-keeping and financial literacy, invite guests such as master gardeners to come speak, or coordinate ESL courses structured toward agricultural vocabulary. We try to give them the tools they need to grow their businesses.

Are most of the program participants experienced farmers, or are they new to agriculture?

Most of them are experienced in agriculture but were subsistence farmers in their countries of origin. This means that if they farmed, they were not typically involved in marketing, and they are not used to selling excess crops. Refugee camps do not usually allow farming due to limited space, and technology has advanced from what they knew before—so even if they are experienced farmers, there is still a learning curve. The question that we are trying to answer is “How do you create independence for refugees?” Dr. Hugh Joseph of Tufts University created the nation’s first refugee farming project in 1998, which focused on teaching them how to transition from being gardeners, to market gardeners, to independent farmers. We hope that our program allows them to eventually take their own produce to market, operate their own stand, and know what to plant each season.

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Jun05

Wasted Food Aid: Why U.S. Aid Dollars Aren’t Going as Far as They Could

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By Eleanor Fausold

An article recently published in The Atlantic suggests that U.S. food aid money is not always being spent in the most efficient way possible. U.S. food aid programs can be extremely beneficial to struggling families in Africa, but aid dollars could go even further if they were better dedicated to supporting local supply chains in the regions they serve.  

U.S. food aid programs help small farmers in times of drought. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The article tells the story of 60-year-old Abdoulai Mohamed, a small businessman in Turkana, Kenya who, instead of working on a farm, chose to take out a loan and opened a store selling food staples such as corn and flour.  When drought struck the region in 2011, Mohamed allowed customers to purchase food on credit so they would have enough to eat.  But Mohamed’s business suffered when the drought worsened and many customers were unable to repay their debts, forcing Abdoulai to find a way to keep his shop running without bringing in revenue from customers.

But a program funded, in part, by USAID  helped save Mohamed’s business. The program, which focuses on assisting local businesses and keeping food supply chains intact, helped repay many of the customers’ outstanding balances, allowing families to buy the food they needed. So far, this program has helped 5,500 drought-stricken families and has helped the local economy by preserving supply chains that source food from local farmers, through local businesses, and into needy households.

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May22

USAID to Use Permaculture to Assist Orphaned and Vulnerable Children

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By Stephanie Buglione

Nearly one quarter of children in the developing world are underweight, and one third are experiencing stunted growth, according to a UNICEF report. In addition, many of these children have a family member, or are themselves, afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

Jacob, a student in Malawi, explaining permaculture to other boys. (Photo credit: NeverEndingFood.org)

According to the Joint U.N Programme on HIV/AIDS, worldwide, 16.6 million children aged 0 to 17 have lost parents due to HIV. Families afflicted with HIV have less help harvesting and planting crops or selling them at the market. Additionally, when a parent dies prematurely, their children are denied their generational agricultural knowledge and skills. But this missing information, and other lessons on ethics, patience, and responsibility, can be taught in schools through the use of permaculture.

A new USAID project, Permaculture Design for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, is focused on providing long-term food security solutions to orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) that are coping with the challenges of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Permaculture is their means to achieving this food security.

Kristof Nordin is one of the co-authors of this initiative. He and his wife, Stacia, a registered dietician and previous School Health and Nutrition Advisor for the Malawi Ministry of Education, live in a home outside of Lilongwe, Malawi. On their land, they have been demonstrating permaculture practices for several years to help educate the community about indigenous vegetables and to reduce the cultural fixation on monocropping.

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Apr26

Chicago Council Evaluates U.S. Support of Agriculture Abroad

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By Laura Reynolds

The Chicago Council on Global AffairsGlobal Agricultural Development Initiative launched its 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development in Washington, D.C. today.

The report assesses how successfully the United States has been in sustaining support for global agricultural development. (Image credit: The Chicago Council on Global Affairs)

The report assesses how successfully the United States has been in reinvigorating and sustaining international support for global agricultural development and food security. It details changes in funding and activity on agricultural development by U.S. departments and agencies, by the U.S. Congress, and in three focus countries—Ghana, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh—between 2009 and 2012.

Both the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development receive an “outstanding” evaluation in the report, for their leadership in advancing agricultural issues amid challenging budget restrictions. The report specifically commends Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her development and support of the Feed the Future initiative, which has pledged US$3.5 billion to address the root causes of hunger and food insecurity.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture receive “good” evaluations. The report gives the Peace Corps a “satisfactory” evaluation, noting that its agriculture and environment volunteers still make up only 7 percent of the total number of volunteers in the field.

Stating that “problems of rural hunger and poverty cannot be overcome quickly,” the report urges that “the challenge in the years to come will be to maintain this strong leadership, and sustain the bipartisan support for food security and agricultural development initiatives.”

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Mar07

For International Women’s Day: An Innovative Agricultural Empowerment Index

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By Stephanie Buglione

Rural women represent, on average, more than 40 percent of the agricultural workforce in the developing world, but they own only 1 percent of the land, and face constant barriers to equality and success.

The Index's brochure. (Photo credit: Feed the Future Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index)

The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) measures empowerment, agency, and inclusion of women in this sector to identify areas for improvement. The index uses the Alkire Foster Method, which measures multidimensional poverty, well-being, and inequality against multiple criteria at both the individual and household level.

Developed by the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the project informs Obama’s Feed the Future program, a global hunger and poverty initiative.

Within five different domains, including control of income, decisions about agricultural production, and time use, the WEAI measures the leadership roles and extent of empowerment and involvement of women in the agriculture sector of the developing world.

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Mar01

Achieving Agricultural Development through Capacity Building for African Higher Education

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By Peter McPherson and Daniel Bornstein

Peter McPherson is the President of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and former USAID administrator. Daniel Bornstein is a sophomore at Dartmouth College majoring in Anthropology.

USAID administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah emphasized the pivotal role of U.S. universities in confronting global food insecurity during a speech in November before the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. There is no better way to integrate capacity building with agricultural development than by bringing African higher education to the forefront. For years, African universities have fed agriculture graduates into urban-based bureaucracies, detaching them from the urgent rural development issues facing their countries. African leaders now need to transform these universities so that they produce the knowledge and the human capacity needed to directly confront the issues of food security.

The U.S.-Africa Higher Education Initiative's efforts have resulted in USAID awarding partnerships linking U.S. and African universities . (Image credit: Higher Education for Development)

The need for action is urgent: there are nearly one billion hungry people in the world today, disproportionately in sub-Saharan Africa. Food production will have to grow by 70 percent, even in the face of the challenges of climate change, if the planet is to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050. Yet development assistance for African higher education has dropped dramatically since the 1980s.

Rekindling U.S. government support for African higher education meshes perfectly with the Feed the Future initiative, the Obama administration’s comprehensive plan for fighting global hunger. Feed the Future provides an opportunity for African universities to emerge as national bastions of research and training, well-geared to local economic and social circumstances. The coordination of research, training, and extension—which in the U.S. has been achieved over the past 150 years through land-grant universities—will be crucial to this effort.

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Nov09

Nourishing the Planet TV: Locally Produced Crops for Locally Consumed Products

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In this week’s episode, research intern Isaac Hopkins discusses a collaboration between farmers in Zambia and a local brewery that uses the sorghum they grow to make affordable lager.

Video: http://youtu.be/eWqvdjJKo7o

To read more about sorghum farmers in Zambia, see: Innovation of the Week: Locally Produced Crops for Locally Consumed Products

Sep01

Innovation of the Week: TXT for AID

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By Joseph Zaleski

In her address before the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to alleviate starvation in the Horn of Africa and build a more secure food supply for the future. Governmental organizations and NGOs are not the only ones supplying innovations and assistance – Secretary Clinton also noted several partnerships with private companies.

Mobile messaging services bring the power of information to previously isolated rural populations. (Photo Credit: Martin Godwin/ The Guardian)

One of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) partners is Souktel, a mobile phone service based in the Middle East. Information and communication lines are valuable commodities in a world that is growing more connected every year. The founders recognized the potential for burgeoning mobile phone networks, and began their JobMatch service in 2006. Souktel creates databases, message surveys, and instant alerts that can be sent out and received via mobile phone. The platform tries to better-connect job seekers with employers through basic Short Message Service (SMS) texting.

More recently, Souktel has applied this system to international development work. By expanding their service into northern and eastern Africa, messaging services are being used to connect mobile phone users in previously impenetrable locations with aid and relief workers. This AidLink program allows development workers to create text message surveys with real-time feedback from those most in need. It can be used, for example, to send the location of new emergency relief centers or to make sure that hungry rural populations are actually being served.

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Jul18

A Greener Revolution

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By Jesse Chang

In July, the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) held a seminar addressing the challenges of sustaining agricultural productivity for a growing global population, without harming the environment. Entitled “A Greener Revolution: Improving Productivity and Increasing Food Security by Enhancing Ecosystem Services,” the seminar featured a panel of agriculture, biology and economic experts.

A Greener Revolution: Improving Productivity and Increasing Food Security by Enhancing Ecosystem Services is a part of USAID’s 2011 Summer Seminar Series. (Image Credit: USAID)

The speakers, moderated by Chris Kosnik, leader of USAID’s Land Resources Management Team, included Ecoagriculture Partners President­–and contributing author to State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet Sara Scherr, USAID Senior Livestock Advisor Joyce Turk, and The World Bank’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Advisor James L. Anderson.

The seminar focused on local farmers and the impact they can have on transforming landscapes. According to Scherr, farmers and livestock-raising pastoralists manage the land directly, and to this end, are key stewards of ecosystems and biodiversity.“Landscape management is a local process,” said Scherr. She noted that “separating production and ecosystem has worked in only a few settings.” The efforts of local producers could be supported by harmonizing policy agendas, including agriculture, food security, climate, ecosystems, biodiversity. This benefits farmers by increasing their profits, protecting their right to operate, and enhancing their quality of life. Their success is essential for producing agricultural products sustainably and for conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services.

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Jul11

New Nation, New Start

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By Jesse Chang

As the excitement from Saturday’s Independence Day celebration for South Sudan winds down, the new nation faces many challenges. Poverty and hunger – the majority of South Sudanese people live on less than a dollar a day – along with a lack of education, security and infrastructure have stunted the region’s development. A civil war between the North and South dating back to 1955 has taken its toll on the Sudanese. Nearly 40 percent of the population requires food aid to survive, and only a quarter of the adults are literate. According to the New York Times, a 15-year-old girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than she does of finishing primary school and more than 10 percent of children do not make it to their fifth birthday.

A Sudanese farmer uses a tractor to prepare his land for agriculture at the banks of River Nile in Khartoum. (Photo Credit: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

But there is some good news. South Sudan has immense agricultural potential, of which the vast majority remains untapped. A whopping 80 percent of its total land is arable, in comparison to about 45% for the rest Sub-Saharan Africa. This is in thanks to high rainfalls and the tributaries of the Nile River promoting the growth of trees, shrubs and grasses that keep the soil fertile. Based on a recent satellite land cover survey, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculates that only 4.5 percent of the available land is currently under cultivation.

“South Sudan is enormously rich in terms of natural resources, and with 95 percent of the population dependent on them for survival, it has huge potential for sustainable growth through agriculture” says George Okech, head of the South Sudan FAO office.

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