It’s been Christmas in February this week for thousands of smallholder farmers in western Kenya. Seeds and fertilizer for the imminent planting season arrived.
They were carried in the backs of 400 10-ton trucks, the bags stacked neatly and handled with care. It is the most precious cargo for the smallholder farmers of Africa, who rarely have had such timely access to hybrid seeds and fertilizer.
But these aren’t gifts. They are part of a package of technology and advice provided by the One Acre Fund under a payback plan. It also includes micro-insurance, to protect the farmers and their investment against crop loss due to bad weather. The One Acre Fund, founded by American social entrepreneurs five years ago, serves small African farmers who have been woefully underserved in past decades even though they make up the majority of Africa’s population.
As the budget battles intensify, a reality check is in order: Slashing foreign aid targeted for boosting development in poor countries will hardly make a dent in the deficit. The savings will be negligible, but the consequences would be huge.
A perception exists, even among those who should know better, that foreign aid consumes a huge chunk of the U.S. budget. In a Chicago Council survey in 2008, respondents were asked: Just based on what you know, please tell me your hunch about what percentage of the federal budget goes to foreign aid.
The mean percentage was 24.35%. The median was 20%.
In a survey conducted late last year by the Program for Public Consultation, affiliated with the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, a similar question was asked. The mean percentage was 21%, the median was 15%.
Hardly. The reality is that foreign assistance for international development is about 1% of the budget.
This week he set out from the steps of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. on The Hunger 500, a determined, rather fast-paced run to bring attention to global hunger. His destination is the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, where the Universities Fighting World Hunger network, an alliance of more than 130 schools around the globe, will gather on Feb. 25 for its annual summit. He figures he will run about 33 miles a day, which is like running a marathon-plus-seven-miles for 17 straight days. (The distance he’ll cover is a bit more than 500 miles, but The Hunger 500 has a sharper, Indy-sounding ring to it than the Hunger 528, or whatever the total will end up being.)
It’s not a straight line he will be running through the cold and snow of February; he will be detouring to take his message to more than a dozen colleges along the way. “I want to light a fire on campuses,” he says. “I want universities to be the epicenter of the hunger fight. I hope to inspire students to be a champion for a cause that isn’t on the radar of many Americans.”
This clamor-raiser is no ordinary Joe. A tall, lanky, 27-year-old athlete (basketball, long-distance running), he recently received his masters in public health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has worked abroad with several humanitarian organizations, doing development work in Kenya and Guatemala and pitching in to help after the earthquake in Haiti. Last year, he attended the Universities Fighting World Hunger summit at Auburn University with about 200 students from some two dozen schools.
“I had seen hunger on my travels, but I had never really seen people here in this country so aggressively working to put hunger on the map,” Joe recalls. “The people at Auburn were all doing something, they weren’t letting the enormity of the problem hold them back.”
The 112th Congress: Implications for Global Agriculture and Feed the Future
by Connie Veillette
February 7, 2011 - With the convening of the 112th Congress, many observers are contemplating the implications for particular issues and agendas. How the new Congress handles issues relating to global food security will depend on a number of factors, some not directly related to the Congress itself.
The global food price crisis that occurred in 2007 and lasted well into 2009 provoked a response from the Bush White House at the end of his administration and the Obama White House early in his. The Bush Administration called for an increase in foreign assistance devoted to agriculture and food aid. President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative is a comprehensive approach to promoting global food security. Neither Administration actively engaged with the Congress outside of seeking higher appropriated levels for food security related programs.
In the 112th Congress, the legislative agenda and relations between Congress and the White House will depend to a great extent on the styles of leadership of the House and Senate, the current political and economic environment, and the most certain effects of the looming elections of 2012.
The writing on the wall, foretelling the turmoil that has roiled North Africa and the Middle East in recent weeks, appeared during the food crisis of 2008. It was then that staple food shortages and soaring prices sent protesters into the streets in dozens of countries in the developing world.
This was the news from Egypt on April 7, 2008, reported by the Associated Press:
“Egyptian riot police beat a protester with batons during anti-government protests….Police fired tear gas and beat protesters, and demonstrators angry over rising prices and low wages tore down a billboard of Egypt’s president in a second day of violence…”
Didn’t last night’s news carry similar images?
The New York Times reported this on April 18, 2008:
“In Cairo, the military is being put to work baking bread as rising food prices threaten to become the spark that ignites wider anger at a repressive government.” Later in the story, a food vendor is quoted as saying, “We can’t even find food.” He raised his hands heavenward and said, “May God take the guy I have in mind.” The guy, the Times pointed out, “was President Hosni Mubarak.”
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