May 22nd, 2013 10:49 AM UTC
By Roger Thurow
We can make food aid more sustainable not by giving away Western food, but by working with local farmers and creating a market for their crops in the region. ONE Agriculture Fellow Roger Thurow reports.
Ten years after the Ethiopian famine of 2003, when international food aid rushed in to feed 14 million people, another World Food Program (WFP) tent has been erected on an open field. But this isn’t a scene of food distribution. It is a scene of food purchase.
The action happens on the grounds of the Sidama Elto Farmers’ Cooperative Union in Awassa, Ethiopia. Sidama Elto is one of 16 cooperative unions in Ethiopia that have signed forward contracts with the World Food Programme for the purchase of more than 28,000 metric tons of maize grown by their smallholder farmer members. The maize, which is part of 112,000 tons of food the World Food Programme purchased in Ethiopia last year, will be used for relief distributions in the country. Ten years ago, many of those farmers and their families were receiving food aid from the World Food Programme.
One of the major lessons in agricultural development over the past decade is this: markets matter. The 2003 famine tragically, and incomprehensibly, followed two years of bumper harvests in Ethiopia. The surplus production overwhelmed the country’s weak and inefficient markets. There were no export channels; the domestic market’s ability to absorb the harvests was crippled by woeful infrastructure. The food piled up on farms and prices collapsed, upwards of 80% in some areas. Farmers lost incentive to plant the next year. Then the drought hit, and feast turned to famine. The markets had failed before the weather did.
That gobsmacking turnaround triggered a reversal of the neglect of agricultural development that had set in since the 1980s, as I noted in my TedxChange talk last month. In the past decade, science and research geared toward improving the work of smallholder farmers (who produce the majority of the food grown in the developing world) have been reinvigorated; so too have trade and business efforts accelerated to provide greater market incentives and opportunities for the farmers. Prior to 2003, boosting agricultural production – growing more food — was the primary focus and developing markets was considered to be a “second-generation problem.” Now, markets share top billing with production, as it should; markets provide incentive to produce more.
In Ethiopia, it started with the creation of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange in the wake of the famine. Now, the mantra spreads, in radio dramas, government pronouncements, business negotiations: If you grow it, someone will buy it.
The World Food Programme’s partnership with Sidama Elto is part of its Purchase for Progress (P4P) programme, which uses the World Food Programme’s purchasing power to create markets for smallholder farmers. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and implemented in collaboration with the government of Ethiopia through the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), P4P works with the farmers to improve the quality of their crops and the post-harvest handling.
Simiret Simeno, deputy manager of Sidama Elto, says that for the first time its 13,000 farmer members see that better quality can bring better prices. And they can also see their contribution to healthier communities, as one of the markets is an expanding network of school feeding programs supplied by locally grown crops rather than food being shipped in from abroad.
The ultimate goal of the World Food Programme purchases is to demonstrate to commercial buyers that smallholder farmers can reliably produce high-quality food worthy of their business. Sustainable success here could also bear witness to the potential impact of President Obama’s proposed food aid reform, which would allow for nearly half of the US food aid budget to be used to buy food nearer to the hunger crises – providing markets for smallholder farmers — rather than shipping it all the way from American farms (as has been the US policy for decades).
These public-private ventures bring both maturity and modernisation to markets that hadn’t changed much for centuries. Working with local banks and donor governments, P4P has introduced forward contracts to participating cooperatives and smallholder farmers. The ATA has also been crafting links between farmers and commercial buyers of several crops, like teff, barley, sesame and chickpeas.
Above all, says Khalid Bomba, the chief executive officer of ATA, “Smallholder farmers need confidence that there will be buyers for what they grow.”
And confidence that the misery of 2003 – the misery of failed markets — won’t happen again.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, marking the occasion of its annual Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, D.C., which will be held on May 21st. For more information on the symposium, click here. Follow @GlobalAgDev and use #globalag on Twitter to join the conversation on May 21.
Want to do more? Tell world leaders to make measurable commitments to reduce chronic child malnutrition for 25 million children. Sign the petition here.
May 14th, 2013 11:38 AM UTC
By Ben Leo
This post was originally published on CNN World.
Global Public Square recently published a thoughtful piece on how global poverty rates are falling fast. It argued that one country in particular is almost solely responsible for this dramatic trend: China. Meanwhile, it said progress in the rest of the world “has been much, much slower – if there’s been progress at all.”
Here’s the problem. There are 62 other countries across the globe that are also slashing extreme poverty rates at a remarkable pace. And many of them are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. So, the more important question is – how do we accelerate the progress being made in places like Ethiopia and Uganda while simultaneously jumpstarting it in places that are lagging behind, like Nigeria and the Congo?
It’s true that China’s case is remarkable – both in terms of its sheer scale and speed. It has lifted 680 million people out of poverty in a single generation. That’s amazing. It’s every poverty fighter’s dream. But the global story isn’t just about China. It is also about countries like Ethiopia, Uganda, Cameroon, Ghana, and Senegal that are also witnessing dramatic declines in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.25 a day.
According to a forthcoming ONE Campaign report, 63 nations are on track to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015 (compared to 1990 levels) – including 16 in Sub-Saharan Africa. And their progress has further sped up over the last decade – particularly as African countries have turned the corner on HIV/AIDS, cleared unsustainable debt loads and made strategic investments in their social and physical infrastructure. The difficult and traumatic decade of the 1990s is receding in the rear-view mirror.
Bono mentioned 10 of these African trailblazers during his recent TED talk. Let’s look at two of them:
– In absolute terms, Ethiopia lifted an estimated 10 million people out of extreme poverty in just over a decade (from 2000 to 2011). During that time, the Ethiopian government focused nearly half of its total budget on poverty fighting sectors like health, agriculture, and education. And donors like the U.S. and Europe provided significant support alongside it. If the current trend holds, extreme poverty can be virtually eliminated by 2030.
– Uganda lifted nearly 3 million people out of poverty in four short years (between 2006 and 2009). Overall, the percentage of Ugandans living on less than $1.25 a day has fallen by nearly half since the early 1990s. It, too, could virtually eliminate it by 2030.
These dramatic results have inspired many world leaders – like President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and Malawian President Joyce Banda – to declare that the world can virtually eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. Not to mention the World Bank president and a certain Irish rock star to boot.
To get there, several things will have to happen. There is risk in this story, just as there is promise. First, developing economies will not only need to keep growing at a healthy clip, but that growth will need to reach and benefit their poorest citizens. On that, I couldn’t agree more with the Global Public Square article. Conversely, a global growth shock that deals a direct blow to poor nations would be catastrophic in the fight against extreme poverty. Second, governments need to implement targeted policies that address growing rates of inequality. Fortunately, countries like Brazil have shown that this is possible. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
Third, and perhaps most challenging, is the tough nut of states that have been governed poorly must be cracked. In Africa, this means places like Nigeria, Sudan, and the Congo. These are the populous nations that are holding down regional progress. They largely explain why Africa’s overall growth rates aren’t even more compelling than they are. One country like Nigeria can overshadow five like Uganda or two like Ethiopia simply because of its size.
Truth be told, nobody has a magic elixir that will transform these places into the next China or Ethiopia. Long running domestic instability, or even conflict, takes time to address. Then again, people said the same thing about China in the 1970s and Ethiopia in the 1980s. Or even Uganda in the 1990s. They were hopeless cases then. But look at them today.
So, going forward, let’s expand the global poverty discussion beyond a singular focus on China. While this tendency may be natural given China’s absolute numbers, it does an injustice to smaller nations that are surging alongside it. These success stories demonstrate that the elimination of extreme poverty is possible well within our lifetime, perhaps only a decade and a half away.
Look out for our 2013 DATA Report, released on 29 May, which looks at how donor and African government spending is linked to progress.
May 10th, 2013 11:24 AM UTC
By Dr Sipho Moyo
In a few weeks, the UK government will host a major international event in London called Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science. Happening just days before the 2013 G8 Summit in Lough Erne, it will bring together governments, businesses, scientists and civil society to examine strategies that could improve the quality and quantity of food available to the world’s poorest people.
Back in March I attended a highly energised meeting of African civil society organisations in Ethiopia, who had gathered for Africa’s biggest annual forum on agriculture and where we launched our report A Growing Opportunity. We all agreed an urgent message needed to be sent to the international community before the June summit in the UK.
As a result, ONE together with 36 other African organisations have written to UK Prime Minister Cameron asking his government to ensure that African-led agriculture is at the heart of the Nutrition for Growth event, and specifically the existing CAADP plans.
CAADP stands for the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program. It has already created momentum to reform agriculture in 40 out of 53 African countries and many more are joining. This makes it the single best existing framework that would support the G8 to deliver excellent results from their food security and nutrition investments on the continent.
CAADP will also become the central organising vehicle for the African Union year of Agriculture in 2014. African states have committed themselves become more accountable to their people on accelerated progress in fighting hunger and helping small-holder farmers access better investment, technology and markets to sell their produce.
African leadership, political will and investment is critical to realising the poverty reducing potential of African agriculture. The private sector and international community also has a very important supporting role to play in investing in African-led agriculture.
Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, has said, “Africa has potential, but it cannot eat potential. More coordinated action is needed”.
Rather than re-invent the wheel, the G8 must build on the momentum growing across Africa and fund the agriculture plans already in place.
Oct 26th, 2012 2:58 PM UTC
By Isabelle De Lichtervelde
For decades, farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa have been struggling to produce enough food from the land they have. But in Eastern Kenya, more than 50,000 farmers are now using a clever new technique that prevents pests and weeds from destroying crops. The results are pretty amazing. The system, called ‘Push-Pull’, is now being redeveloped to tackle the additional pressures on food security brought about by climate change.
The ‘Push-Pull’ system, originally developed over 20 years ago by the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) works by mixing plants that ‘push’ pests and weeds away from the crop and others that ‘pull’ pests to border areas to lay their eggs where they cause less harm.
It’s a simple but revolutionary idea that can almost double the amount of food farmers can produce from their available land. What’s more it’s cheap enough and doesn’t require complex technology that would put it out of reach of smallholder farmers. The system uses locally-available plants and fits well with traditional African mixed cropping systems.
“I have experienced tremendous improvement,” boasts Emai Ikapolok David, a farmer from the North Teso District in Kenya. “Before, I used to get 50 kg from a 0.4-acre plot, but now with push-pull I get 540 kg of maize from the same plot. My soil fertility level has also improved and there is a clear decrease in striga (a type of weed) and stemborer (a pest) in the garden.”
The community has also benefitted from a feeling of greater security. “Theft cases have reduced because everybody has enough to feed on,” says Eric Odhiambo, Sub-chief of Ginga Sub- Location in Siaya District.
But farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, and around the world are facing a new threat from global climate change. The rising uncertainties in the region’s rain-fed agriculture have created more demand for ‘push-pull’, and its further development to help crops withstand the increasingly adverse and changeable weather conditions.
In March 2011, ICIPE launched a project called ADOPT (Adaptation and Dissemination of the Push-Pull Technology to Climate Change). The €2.9 million, EU-funded project aims to create a drought-tolerant form of Push-Pull. The aim is to reach one million farming households by 2020.
“Thanks to the funding we have received from the EU, we have been able to do further research and to reach more farmers and more countries,” Zeyaur Khan, ICIPE project coordinator of ADOPT says. “Through our research, we found [push-pull] plants that are better than previous used plants,” says Khan. “They can survive a very long period of drought.”
The ADOPT project will directly benefit 50,000 smallholder cereal and livestock farmers. It will also improve food availability for half a million people living in areas that are dry and vulnerable to climate change in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
The results are impressive. “The deployment and adoption of a drought-adapted Push-Pull has increased yields by three times,” Khan says. “In the long term it will also improve the soil fertility. Farmers won’t have to use fertilizers anymore.”
Without EU funding, Khan says ICIPE wouldn’t have been able to adapt the Push-Pull technique to climate change. “Other donors are funding only the standard push pull,” he says, “so this funding is very very important for us, for the countries we are working in, and for smallholder famers facing long drought and who cannot produce enough food for themselves.”
The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) is an international scientific research institute headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. ICIPE’s mission is to help alleviate poverty, ensure food security and improve the overall health status of peoples in the tropics by developing and extending management tools and strategies for harmful and useful arthropods, while preserving the natural resource base through research and capacity building.
For more information about ICIPE, visit: http://www.icipe.org
For more information about push-pull technology, visit: http://www.push-pull.net
Aug 23rd, 2012 10:56 AM UTC
By Wangui Muchiri
Here in Africa, death is often unexpected even when it is expected. Many of us unrelentingly cling to hope, even when the writing is on the wall. The continent may not be that surprised by the loss of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, but, the continent certainly is shocked and feels the loss.
Africa feels the loss for a man who graced world stages and was often perceived as the ‘Voice of Africa’. He was the face for the African renaissance, at forums such as the G8, G20 and the World Economic Forum.
This is a double loss for Ethiopia, who also lost the head and patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos, last week. Some cultures in Africa may even link the two demises as belief that such a figure as the patriarch can never leave for the eternal journey alone.
Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister who also has the Foreign Affairs minister portfolio, Hailemariam Desalegn, will be holding fort in Meles’ place until Parliament, which consists of 99.6% Ethiopia’s People Revolutionary Democratic Front party members, choose a successor.
Ethiopia’s transition looks peaceful so far. A snap shot analysis of African head of governments or presidential elections held in 2012, is quite interesting. I am quickly reminded of three other African countries which have lost heads of state in office this year. With the exception of Guinea Bissau, both Malawi and Ghana, had peaceful transitions of presidential power. In all fairness, most heads of government elections held in Africa this year have been peaceful. This is not to say they lacked intrigue, rather to highlight that they were not awash with bloodshed. Some countries have even seen peaceful regime changes. These include, Lesotho and Senegal. Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali’s elections were not as smooth.
Back to the tragic situation in Ethiopia. In the midst of this mourning period, already, many feel that Meles’ shoes will be hard to fill. Here is a man who is credited with turning Ethiopia’s economy around, from a paltry GDP growth rate of 3.8% when he took over in 1991, to a staggering 10.1% in 2010, according to World Bank figures.
Meles was sometimes referred to as the regional policeman in turbulent Eastern African times. He made no apologies sending his troops to maintain peace around the region’s borders such as Somalia, Eritrea, Burundi , and was key in Sudan and South Sudan negotiations. It’s therefore not surprising that the U.S. became an ally in it’s anti terrorism efforts. On the other hand, Meles received criticism from human rights organizations who criticized government’s strict control over civil and political rights.
A paradigm shift beckons Ethiopia, at the close of one era, turns the leaf for the beginning of a new one. We hope the new era will spell further progress.
Photo by Monika Flueckiger, World Economic Forum
Jul 24th, 2012 9:41 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Guest blog post from sporting legend Haile Gebrselassie.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of working with ONE at the African Union Summit here in Addis Ababa. I was both honoured and humbled to be asked to join them in delivering your petition signed by almost 35,000 African citizens to the African Union Chair His Excellency President Yayi Boni of Benin.
The petition asks for African leaders to invest in agriculture and nutrition to lift 31 million Africans out of poverty and prevent 12 million children from stunted growth. I can gladly say we succeeded in doing this, and what a momentous occasion it was.
Before we delivered the petition, I met with some amazing ONE members from Addis Ababa, who were there to represent the thousands of ONE members who had signed the petition. It was exciting to hear from them about ONE and our Thrive campaign. Their spirit certainly carried through to the petition delivery.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Haile Gebrselassie with other ONE members at the 2012 African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
President Boni had planned to join us on Friday, but unfortunately through a number of complications, his arrival in Addis Ababa was delayed. Luckily enough, His Excellency had his Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Nassirou Arifari-Bako, stepped in and received the petition on his behalf.
Haile Gebrselassie presents ONE’s petition.
The following press conference was a great success, especially when the Honorable Minister announced during his speech that 2013 must be the year of agriculture across Africa. I am particularly excited about this commitment from the AU as a citizen of this beautiful and rich continent.
Thank you to all the ONE members for supporting this campaign. We now have our work cut out for us to ensure this becomes a reality!
Haile Gebrselassie, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who has held at least 27 world records in various distances.
Nov 2nd, 2011 2:49 PM UTC
By Nora Coghlan
For those of us that grew up in the 1980s, the word “famine” is almost synonymous with Ethiopia. In 1984-85, images of crowded feeding centres and emaciated babies from Ethiopia’s Tigray province were burned into the public memory.
Many of these images were the work of Mohammed Amin, the legendary Kenyan photojournalist who was one of the first outsiders to travel to Tigray in 1984. Amin’s photos outraged the world. What followed was Live Aid, Band Aid, and an international response that ultimately saved millions of lives.
Salim Amin meets a family in Tigray. Photo © Chip Duncan
A few weeks ago, I went back to Tigray with Mohammed Amin’s son, Salim. Thanks to more than two decades of investments in agriculture, the Tigray we see today is one that Salim’s father would barely recognize. Nearly 20% of the land in the region is now irrigated (compared to 6% nationally), meaning many farmers are no longer at the mercy of erratic rains. 1.4 million families are participating in the Productive Safety Net Program, which gives food or cash transfers to vulnerable families in exchange for work on community projects. What’s more, new technology and support for farmers growing tef (a nutritious type of grain), harvesting honey and raising livestock are helping people increase their incomes to one day graduate from the safety net.
During the visit we talked to dozens of people who are benefiting from these programs. People like Berimu Gebre-Micheal, who can grow vegetables now that his fields are irrigated, providing additional income and more nutritious food for his two children. And there’s Kelelom, a tef farmer who lost her father in 1984. She increased her yields thanks to better seeds, methods for planting and better access to markets.
Today, Berimu and Kelelom’s stories are just as critical as Mohammed Amin’s photos were in 1984. Because 27 years after world said never again, another famine is ravaging Somalia. Experts warn that this one could kill 750,000 people in the coming months. ONE’s campaign, Hungry No More, is calling on world leaders to put an end to famine for good by investing in the long-term solution: African agriculture.
Tigray is a model for what happens when governments invest in long-term solutions to drought and food insecurity. You can check out Salim’s video and sign our petition.
Sep 2nd, 2011 12:59 PM UTC
By Nora Coghlan
Nefisa used to struggle to feed her family in July and August, two of the driest months in the highlands of Ethiopia’s Oramia region. They were usually able to borrow from neighbours, but Nefisa says her five children were often sick. Their farmland dry, she and her husband would travel from town to town looking for day labour.
July and August are still difficult for Nefisa and her family, but thanks to Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program (known as the PSNP) they have now have a reliable supply of food during the months that used to be known as the “food gap.” Ethiopia launched the PSNP in 2005 to help “chronically food insecure” people build resilience to the country’s recurring drought. Each month for six months, families like Nefisa’s now receive either food transfers (15kg of wheat per person) or cash. This extra support means that those families don’t have to sell assets like livestock to make it through the dry months.
Ethiopia’s PSNP is now sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest safety net program, covering roughly ten percent of the country’s population (nearly 7.5 million people). In a year like this one, when the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in 60 years has left 12.4 million people in need emergency food relief, the impact of this program is huge.
The food provided through the safety net isn’t a handout. In exchange for their monthly transfers, Nefisa and her husband work on community projects that range from school and hospital maintenance to building irrigation systems. The benefits of these projects extend beyond safety net participants to reach entire communities. For example, terracing in the highest areas of Nefisa’s village has protected local farms against flooding and soil degradation, enabling some farmers to triple their incomes through increased production.
Higher incomes mean that families can now save and plan for the future. Nefisa is a committee member on her Savings and Internal Lending Community (SILC). The SILC’s 20 members (all of whom are women) have increased their weekly contributions from 2 to 5 Ethiopian birr. Collectively, they’ve saved 3,000 Ethiopian birr over the past year (roughly $176), money that can be lent to members to start small businesses or pay for education or health care.
Although the PSNP helps Nefisa “bridge the gap” during her family’s hardest months, she doesn’t have access to the capital and training she’ll need to graduate from the safety net. These are issues that the government and its partners are now tackling through programs like PSNPlus and PSNP Grad. Though challenges lie ahead, one thing is certain: alongside the tales of suffering and hardship coming out of the Horn right now, Nefisa’s story – one of remarkable resilience thanks to innovation and investment – deserves to be making headlines too.
Jul 19th, 2011 5:22 PM UTC
By Stuart McWilliam
You may have seen the pictures of starving people in the Horn of Africa on your TV screens. We are all asking: how can this be happening again? Parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are facing one of the worst droughts for 60 years, and around 10 million people are desperately in need of food, clean water and basic sanitation. But something can be done. You can add your voice to help make a difference.
Despite the urgency of the situation, most world leaders are responding too slowly. Immediate aid is essential. Yet at the same time we must not let them drop the ball on long term solutions as has too often happened in the past.
Dear World Leaders,
Please urgently provide the full funding that the UN has identified as necessary to help people in the Horn of Africa, and please keep your promises to deliver the long term solutions which could prevent crises like this happening again.
Some people look back to previous droughts and question whether things will ever change. But because of the smart aid that is supporting African leadership, progress really is being made. For example, 87% of people in the world today have enough food to eat and lead healthy lives – up from just 76% in 1970. And in Ethiopia the number of people malnourished has fallen from 71% in 1992 to 46% now.
But we know how to change things even more: we can help stop starvation now – and stop the causes of starvation. Firstly, we need to make sure funding is provided to pay for urgent help that will prevent people from dying. Secondly, the promises that world leaders made to invest in long term solutions must be kept, so that the people of this region can feed themselves and will not need food aid in the future.
Thanks for helping us to pressure our governments to save millions of lives – today and tomorrow.
Jun 22nd, 2010 10:25 AM UTC
By Brie O'Keefe
When model Liya Kebede recently returned to her home country Ethiopia, she was shocked by the statistics on maternal health: 94% of women still give birth at home without a trained attendant, with more than 300,000 women dying each year around the world in pregnancy and childbirth.
Liya was kind enough to share this video diary of her trip with ONE:
ONE is running a petition ahead of the G8 meeting in Canada this week asking for a commitment of 3.5 million new health workers for countries who need them, like Ethiopia. It shouldn’t be a woman’s lucky day to survive childbirth.
To learn more about Liya’s work at The Liya Kebede Foundation, visit www.theliyakebedefoundation.org
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
The content of each post and each comment represents the views of that author and does not necessarily reflect the views of ONE. ONE does not support or oppose any candidate for elected office, and any post expressing support or opposition for a candidate is not endorsed by ONE.