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August 20, 09

NEWS / Clinton Focus on Food Security in Africa Extends Worldwide

By Jim Fisher-Thompson
Staff Writer

Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s focus on food security and development on her recent trip to Africa extends to other parts of the world, such as Latin America and Asia, where the U.S. government continues to provide billions of dollars’ worth of assistance.

Even before making her seven-nation visit to sub-Saharan Africa August 4–14, Clinton spoke of the need to tackle hunger while improving agriculture in the developing world.

At a meeting of international donors in Madrid in January, Clinton set out the Obama administration’s position, saying, “The president and I intend to focus new attention on food security so that developing nations can invest in food production, affordability, accessibility, education and technology.”

The United States continues to be the largest international food donor, providing more than half of all such aid to the developing world, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the office responsible for administering most U.S. food aid programs. From 2008 to 2009, U.S. food donations committed to quell hunger in the world’s poorest nations amounted to $5.5 billion.

In recent years, USAID has provided emergency food relief to nations throughout Africa, as well as to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Syria, Yemen, Colombia and Ecuador. In some cases, USAID bought and transported local food in nations without the means to distribute the food to their impoverished people, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Nepal and Tajikistan.

In addition to critical food aid, USAID and other U.S. agencies such as the Peace Corps are working to improve agriculture and enhance rural livelihoods in developing nations.

In 2008, USAID responded to the devastation in Haiti caused by Hurricane Gustav with an ambitious five-year program aimed at improving farmers’ lives and raising their incomes through technological improvements, better health and nutrition and establishment of a natural disaster early warning system.

In Afghanistan, where agricultural infrastructure was damaged by decades of warfare, farmers are learning new ways to grow grapes with the help of a USAID program that worked with a local provincial reconstruction team. The farmers receive training in low-cost technologies, vine care, methods to increase production, and post-harvest storage and transport.


The Peace Corps, the U.S. volunteer agency established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, has 2,800 volunteers working in 25 countries in Africa as language teachers, health care workers and rural development experts.

But 40 percent of its 7,000 volunteers, serving in 74 countries, are also involved in programs that support food security. The issue is of such importance that in 2008 the agency formed a worldwide food security task force whose goal is to gather information and resources to combat hunger.

Peace Corps volunteers are also part of business development programs in many countries, where they teach skills to young people, farmers, artisans, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), credit institutions and information technology enterprises.

In Ukraine, where the Peace Corps has operated development programs for more than 13 years, volunteers live and work in more than 217 towns and villages, and focus on community economic development projects. They teach free-market business skills while consulting with business associations, individual entrepreneurs, NGOs, schools and local governments.

Volunteers also organize training sessions on marketing, business infrastructure, sales techniques, and advertising and public relations for entrepreneurs and business students.

Private sector partnerships are another top U.S. development priority. In South America, USAID is part of an innovative program with the Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST), which consists of U.S.-based alternative lenders, importers and processors.

One partnership that began in 2003 with FAST partners — EcoLogic Finance and the Calvert Foundation, alternative investment funds — provided short-term trade credit to coffee producers in Mexico and Costa Rica. The initiative later expanded to coffee farmers in East Africa.

Altogether in Latin America, the USAID/FAST program has extended $5.7 million in trade credit to 18 different coffee-farmer organizations and helped more than 4,000 small farmers improve their livelihoods.

In Armenia, USAID is working with private sector partners on a business advisory services program for farmers and the rural poor to help them set up small and medium-sized businesses. The three-year, $1.6 million project teaches modern management practices and provides technical assistance and business consultancy to small enterprises in less-developed regions of the country.


Tags: secretary of state,


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