FAO in North America

Nutrition must remain a priority! Here are some key facts to keep us focused.

Submitted by Amy McMillen on February 2, 2015

The Second International Conference on Nutrition this past November drew world attention to the global problem of malnutrition and laid the framework for a way forward. The two main outcome documents – the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action – were endorsed by participating governments at the conference, committing world leaders to establishing national policies aimed at eradicating malnutrition and transforming food systems to make nutritious diets available to all

The conference is over, but the work continues. FAO compiled key hunger and nutrition data from 1992 to 2014. This video animation shows both the progress made and the nutritional challenges that remain to be tackled in the 21st century.

Share the video and tweet these messages to keep the attention on nutrition!

To Fight Hunger Invest in Policies, not only Production

Submitted by Lívia Pontes on January 30, 2015

The 2015 Inaugural Food Tank Summit, in partnership with The George Washington University, brought together food thought leaders for two days to discuss some of the most pressing issues in food, agriculture and nutrition. From debates on food waste to addressing workers’ rights in food systems, the sold-out event also featured a panel on agriculture research and policy, where FAO North America’s Senior Liaison Officer, Barbara Ekwall, spoke on the need to fight hunger by “questioning and reviewing the way that society is organized: which means looking at policies and laws, promoting governance and empowerment.”

When the amount of food produced today is enough to feed the global population, yet 805 million still go hungry, part of the problem lies with inadequate or absent policies that provide access to food, markets and land to society’s most vulnerable.

As Jahi Chappell from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy noted, 80% of the reduction in hunger of the last 40 years came as a result of non-production factors, such as an increase in women’s rights and improved access to sanitation and water.

Chappell attributed the success of Brazil’s model initiative that dramatically reduced hunger to its “premise that the problem was access, and not a need for higher production,” something FAO’s Director-General Graziano da Silva has also stated.

If hunger is largely a political problem, Ekwall stressed, we need political action complementing scientific tools to eradicate it: increasing productivity will not do enough to provide access and allow farmers, one of the most food insecure groups, to have a safety net to thrive economically and feed themselves.

Political commitment and investment in research are vital to this process. But as Humanitas Global’s Nabeeha Kazi-Hutchins argued, a focus on research, policies and new technology pays off when it focuses on the receiving communities, and when politicians and researchers address the real needs of people on the ground, including them in the decision-making process to provide the most adequate solutions to their problems.

Click HERE to read interviews with many of the speakers from this panel and to learn more about the Food Tank Summit.

Event Alert: Policy Dialogue “Accelerating Progress to Overcome Malnutrition”

Submitted by Amy McMillen on January 26, 2015

On the occasion of the visit to Washington, DC by Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Director-General and Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at FAO, FAO and IFPRI will host a policy dialogue on January 30, 2015 from 12:15pm to 1:45pm EST, at IFPRI’s conference facilities in Washington, DC.

Malnutrition, in all of its manifestations – undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overnutrition – is placing an intolerable burden on individuals and communities, as well as, on the cultural, social, economic, and health fabric of nations. The statistics underscore this burden: 805 million people suffer chronically from hunger and stunting affects 161 million children under five years of age.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram and distinguished representatives from government, civil society, research institutes, among others, will highlight recent outcomes from the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), convened by the FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) last November. ICN2 did not happen in isolation: the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, the Global Panel on Agriculture and Nutrition, the USAID Global Nutrition Strategy and the release of the first Global Nutrition Report have all helped mobilize world attention on nutrition. We now face the challenge of meeting rapidly rising expectations.

This policy dialogue seeks to accelerate progress on the new nutrition agenda. Participants will identify concrete actions taken so far as leaders mobilize around nutrition as a central aspect of the Zero Hunger Challenge and draw attention to efforts still needed to make safe and nutritious food a reality for all.

Event Details

Accelerating Progress to Overcome Malnutrition

January 30, 2015, 12:15-1:45pm Eastern Standard Time

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

2033 K Street, NW, #400, Washington, DC 20006

For more information visit the event page or contact Barbara Ekwall at barbara.ekwall@fao.org.

Event Alert: Food Tank Summit, Jan 21-22, Live Stream

Submitted by admin on January 20, 2015

Join the FAO office in Washington, DC in following the discussions this week at the first annual Food Tank Summit in Washington, DC.  Barbara Ekwall, Senior Liaison Officer, will contribute to the panel “Pushing for Better Agriculture Research and Policy” on Thursday, Jan. 22 at 10:45am Eastern Standard Time.

Watch the Food Tank Summit via Livestream and join the conversation using the hashtag: #FoodTank. Email questions to Questions@FoodTank.com.

Ms. Ekwall will emphasize that policies matter. There are two ways to eradicate hunger, and they are inextricably linked. One way is to increase food production, in particular in order to be able to feed a population of 9.3 billion by 2020. This can be achieved through increasing efficiency in agricultural production, intensification, irrigation, improved seeds, research, etc. The other one is to look at the way society is organized. Because today, the planet already produces enough food to feed every person with safe, nutritious food. But we need to pay more attention to policies, regulatory frameworks, programs and services. This means to address governance challenges, to insist on human rights and women’s empowerment, and to strengthen capacities for people, especially the most vulnerable, to be agents of their own development.

Her intervention will address three policy areas and recommendations:

1) The role of family farming in alleviating hunger, promoting economic growth, and protecting the environment. The message is that family farmers are efficient producers, and that they definitively belong to the future.

2) Food loss and waste, which is an indicator that food systems are not working as they should. About 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption is thrown away, and so are the resources that were necessary to produce it. The message is that reducing food loss and waste is an efficient and easy way to improve food security and reduce environmental stress. Moreover, it makes sense economically.

3) Soils are often and erroneously taken for granted and have up to now been overlooked in policy-making.  Yet, we largely depend on soils: they are the basis for healthy food production, host one quarter of the world’s biodiversity, store and filter water, and help mitigate and adapt to climate change. Today, about one third of our soils have already been degraded. Soils are not a renewable resource so the preservation of soils is essential for food security and our sustainable future. Soils don’t have a voice: the International Year of Soils 2015 wants to correct that.

Barbara was recently interviewed by Food Tank in advance of the summit. Read the full interview “Five Questions with Barbara Ekwall of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization“.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015, 10:45am EST

Panel: Pushing for Better Agriculture Research and Policy

Keynote: Jerry Glover, United States Agency for International

Development, @jerry_d_glover, @USAID

Moderator: Allison Aubrey, National Public Radio, @AubreyNPRFood, @NPRFood

Food Tank, in partnership with The George Washington (GW) University, is excited to present the 1st Annual Food Tank Summit at the Jack Morton Auditorium (former home of CNN’s Crossfire). This two-day event features more than 75 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policy makers, government officials, and students will come together panels on topics including; food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, farm workers, and more.

Watch the entire Food Tank Summit free here on January 21st and 22nd. The livestream has been graciously donated by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN). Please also join BCFN and Food Tank in taking action in support of the Milan Charter by clickingHERE.

FOOD TANK SUMMIT 2-DAY PROGRAM

Saara Shanti Kumar – from Cornell University to FAO in Gabon

Submitted by Amy McMillen on January 16, 2015

By Saara Shanti Kumar,  Intern, FAO’s Sub-Regional Office for Central Africa in Gabon and student of Cornell University

Three FAO interns (right) interview the President of a banana cooperative in the Remboué region of Gabon. (From left to right) FAO staff member Koumba Mouendou Descartes, cooperative President, cooperative member, Shelby McClelland, Saara Shanti Kumar, and Kevin Sim.

FAO Field Internship Series – Saara Shanti Kumar, from Cornell University to FAO Gabon

On the day of my first field mission I piled into an FAO vehicle with my fellow interns and FAO staff as we headed out to the town of Bifoun. It was a road trip that unequivocally wins as the bumpiest (and most exciting) of my life. For the next week we traveled each day to different banana farms in the Remboué region of Gabon and conducted our interviews.

Our first field mission to the Remboué region was scheduled about three weeks into our stay in Gabon. In preparation for this trip I had created a survey that covered topics such as the time and money spent on each farm task, the ways in which profit was spent or saved, and what factors the cooperative members believed to be detrimental to group cooperation. I quickly found that half of the questions that I had prepared were either irrelevant or unimportant, but some of the questions sparked extremely valuable discussions with the cooperative members and cooperative presidents. I learned a great deal about the priorities and needs of different farmers and found that these varied greatly between the cooperatives. Visiting the Remboué region for that one week is an experience I will never forget. I remember it constantly as I resume my studies again at university. I cannot forget what it felt like to witness the difficulties of agricultural labor in the heat and humidity of the rainforest, nor can I forget the feeling of literally stepping into the footprints of forest elephants as we inspected a banana field that had been destroyed by a herd.

Earlier that year when I was presented with the opportunity to travel and learn under the FAO in Gabon, I knew I could not refuse. I was the youngest of the four interns that were sent from my university and therefore had the least academic experience with agriculture and development. I was assigned to the internship position entitled “Agricultural Policy and Investment.” During my two-month stay I would research the history, formation, and goals of CAADP/PDDAA (Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme) and evaluate how the goals were being met in various countries in the sub-region. Secondly, I would examine the dynamics of the FAO banana cooperatives in the Remboué region through the topics of farmer finances, annual investment in the land, profits, and spending.

About halfway through my stay in Gabon my supervisor informed me that I would be accompanying her to Chad for a conference on the progress of the country through the CAADP processes. I was surprised and thrilled. We arrived in the capital city of N’djamena where I attended the CAADP conference and met with other FAO staff from many nations including Cameroon, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire, Chad, among others. I cannot describe how valuable it was to meet these people and have this experience. They were all trained in different disciplines from economics to engineering, they each spoke multiple languages, and were very kind to me and accommodating of my limited French skills. While I was at FAO’s office in Chad, I had the coincidental pleasure of meeting a Senegalese woman who had received her graduate degree from my university, Cornell.. For a young student such as myself, hearing these people speak about the work that they were doing was inspiring and motivational. In Chad, I was exposed to the type of work that I would like to do in the future.

Once I returned from Chad it was time to configure and present all of the information I had gathered regarding CAADP into my major report as well as compile the results of the mission to the Remboué. I created profiles of each of the eight countries in the Central African sub-region and evaluated how CAADP funds were being allocated to meet each of the nations’ CPF (Country Program Framework) goals. My major report also included a history of CAADP, its implementation process, its varying progress across the continent, its structural critiques, and its future implications.  I also prepared a smaller report based on the first field mission in which I was able to draw out the most poignant results of the interviews I had conducted in the Remboué and pinpoint the differences behind how the various banana cooperatives viewed the viability of receiving bank credit, the pros and cons of chemical fertilizer, and the actual spending or investment of money after the harvest. The office component of the internship culminated in a oral and powerpoint presentation to the FAO staff which summarized  these reports. Despite a language barrier existing between some of us, the office language is French, we were able to conclude with an insightful question and answer period.

I learned a tremendous amount from both of these projects that were so different from each other in scale and goals.  It was very meaningful to me when I was told that these reports would be useful to the ongoing work of the office and would be shared with the Ministry of Agriculture in Gabon.

It is tempting to say that I would have tried to better prepare myself for the difficulties of living and working abroad had I known what life in Libreville was like before I arrived. However, I remember that even in moments of intense worry or doubt, I knew I was learning invaluable lessons. The difficult situations I experienced in Gabon – ranging from not having screens on our windows to keep out mosquitoes to running into some serious mishaps and delays with our flight at the Libreville airport – have provided me with an intense sense of awareness and humility. I found reasons to be thankful for these mishaps in both the short and long run. For example, when all the power in Libreville went out due to an electrical failure (a fairly common occurrence), the other interns and I spent the night sitting outside with the family that we were renting our apartment from and watched the stars emerge after the lights of the city vanished around us. Bats flying between the trees occasionally obstructed our view of the stars. About five seconds after the power had gone out, our landlord had come running from his home to our front door with a huge flashlight for us to borrow. It was an uncomfortable night without electricity to power our fans, but it made for such a pleasant, significant, and connective memory. The inconveniences of life in a country such as Gabon may be difficult for Americans to cope with – but as time passes these difficulties become part of normal life and highlight the true beauty of the country: its people and their willingness to help those they care for.

However, these experiences also highlighted the inequalities that existed in the city. Once when I was visiting an American family who lived on the U.S. Embassy compound the city experienced another power outage. The huge, air conditioned house went completely dark and the two young American children let out a small cry. In moments we heard a generator sputter to life and all the lights in the house came back on. I knew that our small apartment in the heart of Libreville had no generator, nor did any of the homes in our neighborhood. They were all still in darkness. I imagined our landlord running to our door with a flashlight to lend us again, knocking on it repeatedly, and then realizing that we were not home. My position as an American became very clear to me during my time in Gabon. My little blue passport served as a portal between two worlds: my citizenship serving as the key to a door between luxury and “la souffrance,”[1] the word a Gabonese man in a liquor store on a sunny afternoon in Libreville used to describe the lives that the locals led.

From my first night in Libreville to my last, my experience in Gabon was characterized by the warmth of the FAO staff and the local families to which they entrusted us. I am both proud and humbled by the fact that I was able to work alongside my supervisors and their projects. Lastly, intrinsic to any international experience, there were infinite opportunities for personal growth and the formation of inter-continental relationships. I am so grateful to the people who opened their offices, homes, and hearts to me. They will always be welcome in mine.


[1] La souffrance, translated from French as “suffering.”

Shelby McClelland – from Cornell University to FAO in Gabon

Submitted by Amy McMillen on January 14, 2015

By Shelby McClelland, Intern for FAO’s Subregional Office for Central Africa in Gabon and student of Cornell University

Over a nine-week period from May 31, 2014 to August 1, 2014, I served as the rural sociology intern at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Sub-Regional Office for Central Africa (FAOSFC), in Libreville, Gabon. My intern duties required me to complete background research on a variety of topics including, but not limited to: agricultural cooperatives, African agricultural development, women in agriculture, social capital, rural livelihoods, and past FAO reports. This background research enabled me to create, design, and conduct field surveys and interviews for two on-going FAO projects in the Remboué of the Estuaire Province and in Lébamba of the Ngounié Province, located in northeastern and southern Gabon respectively. Upon the completion of two, one-week long field missions, I analyzed the survey results in order to compile a final report evaluating participation, group dynamics, and organizational structure of Gabonese agricultural cooperatives. At the end of my internship, my final results were presented to various members of the FAOSFC office. The majority of my daily interactions, meetings, and interviews were conducted entirely in French.

In general, my primary goals of this internship were met or even exceeded my expectations. First, my goal to gain experience working for a large international development organization was met in many ways. I now feel after my two-month experience that I have a better understanding of the type of work the FAO does not only in its sub-regional offices, but also in the field. I understand more clearly how projects are created and implemented, as well as, the monitoring and work that goes into them. Secondly, my desire to have a work setting where the primary language was French and to have the ability to constantly use my language skills was also met well. I was able to conduct nearly all of my meetings in French with my colleagues, interact with Gabonese interns, conduct most of my own interviews without the aid of a translator, translate for the other American interns, and conduct my entire final presentation in French.

My knowledge of creating and designing surveys, analyzing field data, and implementing FAO projects, among other information, has vastly improved. I now feel that I can confidently design sociological surveys for my own use or courses in the future. My skills at writing field reports, and more specifically analyzing and inputting data for these types of reports, has also increased during my time with the FAOSFC. Furthermore, I appreciate the understanding I now have of how the FAO selects and works with local peoples to improve rural livelihoods. Prior to my experience, it was unclear to me what this process looked like or how these projects were maintained. Now, I have a clearer picture of the FAO’s approach to managing project contacts, working with consultants, and beginning projects in previously unreached areas.

In lieu of all the knowledge gained that I listed above, I plan on diligently and creatively applying this knowledge not only to my future course work, but also to my future career paths and choices. Last summer I had the opportunity to work more in an agriculture industry type position as an intern on a dairy goat farm in France. My experience this summer, however, has helped me to realize that work with development organizations is more in line with my approach to agriculture and where I believe my future calling lies. I am excited to take the research and writing skills with me back to Cornell University, and hopefully into my future graduate work. My work designing and carrying out surveys will also be invaluable when conducting my own research and in securing job opportunities in the future.

Overall, I feel that I experienced a lot of growth during the duration of my internship with the FAO. I feel now that I am a more confident writer, a better French speaker at a working professional level, and that I am more adapted to working in an office type setting under a large international organization.

FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Work: Helping to Restore Livelihoods and Ensuring Food Security

Submitted by Lívia Pontes on January 9, 2015

In 2014, disasters, internal conflict and humanitarian emergencies impacted millions of people, uprooting whole villages and changing lives forever. Emergencies like the Ebola outbreak can interrupt planting seasons and severely damage the sale and production of food in some areas. Conflicts in Syria and South Sudan have caused similar disruptions and displaced millions of people, often along with their livestock. In these situations, food insecurity tends to increase significantly, requiring wide-scale humanitarian efforts. In this interview with Dominique Burgeon, Coordinator of FAO’s resilience work and Director of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, you can learn more about what FAO is doing to help communities restore their livelihoods while delivering much-needed emergency assistance.

What is the mission of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division?

Dominique Burgeon: TCE is responsible for coordinating the development and maintenance of corporate tools and standards so that FAO’s Decentralized Offices can better help our member countries to prepare for, and respond to, food and agriculture threats and crisis. The Division coordinates and disseminates humanitarian policy and knowledge, liaises with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee [i] as well as with humanitarian resource partners, co-leads  the global Food Security Cluster with WFP and is responsible for organizational preparedness, surge capacity and response to large-scale emergencies. TCE supports food security and nutrition assessments and early warning activities related to emergency and humanitarian analysis and responses. The Division also plays a major role in developing and leading the Organization’s efforts to increase the resilience of livelihoods to food and agriculture threats and crisis.

In 2014, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa gained a lot of visibility around the world as other countries were concerned about being affected. How has it impacted food security, availability and crop production?

DB: The Ebola crisis is having an impact on food security and availability because in some of the affected countries it was planting time and people were not able to

Kolahun City - Lofa Co, Liberia. Main market scene with empty stalls after disruption of selling due to fear of gathering. ©FAO

plant. And now at harvest time there are labour shortages. Today, the drop in crop production is 3 percent in Guinea, 8 percent in Liberia and 5 percent in Sierra Leone. This varies by region too – in some areas of Liberia, for instance, we estimate losses of paddy crop of over 20 percent. Even in areas where people are able to harvest, some of the production cannot be marketed because of movement restrictions. And so the price in rural areas is dropping, and there is not enough food available in urban centres, pushing prices up. This has created a problem of access to food. This is a very complex situation and we are currently focusing on assessing the exact impact on food security to devise the most appropriate response. The longer this crisis goes on, the larger the impact on food security.

In terms of the number of people affected, other crises in Syria and South Sudan have affected many more lives. What is FAO doing to help in those cases?

DB: The conflict that started in South Sudan last December has had an enormous impact on food security in the country. By May 2014, 3.5 million people were

FAO also conducted Master Trainer programs in South Sudan. After two months of intensive training the graduates received their certificates. ©FAO/C. Spencer

experiencing severe food insecurity (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Phases 3 ‘Crisis’ and 4 ‘Emergency’). From the onset of the violence, FAO committed to stay and deliver – despite attacks on some offices and displacement of staff in the conflict-hit states (Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile). FAO worked with NGO, UN and government partners to analyse the effects of conflict on food security and revise the IPC map to guide humanitarian response to the people most at risk. In 2014, FAO in close collaboration with WFP and UNICEF has assisted over 2.9 million people in South Sudan through a mixture of livelihood kits that have helped almost half a million families to plant crops and vegetables or start fishing, and animal health support that has involved vaccinating 1.6 million and treating almost 900 000 livestock. This was possible thanks to the generous contributions of a number of donors including the US which provided a total of USD 10 million to FAO’s programme in South Sudan in 2014. Despite considerable logistical challenges, FAO found new ways to get inputs to the people that need them in close coordination with other UN humanitarian organizations. In addition to ongoing support to IPC analysis, FAO continues to co-lead the Food Security Cluster with WFP. Preparations are already underway to protect and enhance food production in 2015. Agricultural inputs, vaccinations and medicines are being pre-positioned, the cold chain system is being strengthened, training sessions are being planned and fuel-efficient stoves are being distributed.

FAO and PLAN worked together reach beneficiaries and distribute livelihood kits. ©FAO/C. Spencer

The most important contribution to agriculture, livelihoods, food security and nutrition in South Sudan – and elsewhere – is, however, peace. The reality is that while conflict continues, so too will hunger, malnutrition and destitution – a reality for which FAO must be prepared.

In Syria, FAO has been supporting vulnerable affected rural and peri-urban families since the very start of the crisis in 2011, helping them to mitigate its effects on their food security and livelihoods. To-date, FAO has assisted more than 480 000 people – contributing to increased household crop production by distributing cereal and vegetable seeds; facilitating access to fresh, nutrient-rich foods through backyard food production; and helping small-scale herders to keep surviving livestock healthy and productive. Working with WFP, FAO has supported the coordination and joint planning of the food and agriculture response in order to ensure effective and timely delivery of aid.

As the 2014/15 winter agricultural campaign progresses, FAO is preparing to assist nearly 217 000 people to plant wheat, barley, vegetable and legume seeds as well as potato tubers. A large animal health care campaign will soon start, targeting the livestock of more than 560 000 people across Syria. With the collapse of veterinary services in Syria, the risk of diseases spreading within and outside the country posing a global threat to health security is very high and mitigation measures are urgently needed.

From the beginning of April until the end of June, 45,000 laying hens and 150 metric tons of poultry feed were distributed to 3,000 families living in more than 100 villages in Rural Damascus. ©FAO/Syria

What are the biggest challenges you find in addressing these complex situations in Syria?

DB: The Syrian crisis is now in its fourth year. While the humanitarian situation deteriorates, the delivery of aid has been severely constrained by ongoing conflict, progressively worsening security and limited access to communities and people in need. Some 9.8 million people are considered food insecure, including 6.8 million who are highly food insecure. The crisis has severely limited food production, marketing and imports. Livelihood loss, deepening poverty, inflation and the depreciation of the Syrian pound have further eroded the capacity of families to meet basic needs and cope with the crisis. Many families have adopted negative coping mechanisms, like reducing the number of meals they eat each day, or buying cheaper and less nutritious foods. While needs are increasing, funding is limited. The agriculture sector in particular has been largely underfunded over the last three years, despite the fact that it can address the growing food unavailability and access constraints.

What can people in the United States and Canada do to help?

DB: The United States has been a generous supporter of FAO’s interventions in Syria. However, with the constantly deteriorating food security, greater efforts are needed to rebuild and strengthen the productive capacities of the population through resilience-focused activities. Local food production must urgently be supported to improve access to and affordability of food, particularly among displaced families and their host communities. This requires not only the provision of agricultural inputs such as seeds, tools and fertilizers, but also the repair of damaged rural infrastructure where security permits, including irrigation canals, water troughs, storage facilities and market roads.

Insufficient support during 2015 would exacerbate the already fragile food security both in Syria and in neighbouring countries. Thousands of people will be left without agricultural livelihoods, crop production will continue declining and dependency on external aid will rise.

To learn more, visit FAO Emergencies.


[i] The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) is a unique inter-agency forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making involving the key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners.


Naomi Taylor – from Mississippi State University to FAO Malawi

Submitted by Amy McMillen on January 8, 2015

By Naomi Taylor, Irrigation Intern, FAO Malawi and Sophomore Environmental Economics and Management Major at Mississippi State University

Nothing could have prepared me for the experience of a lifetime as a nineteen-year-old freshman who had never before set foot outside the comfort of the United States. My internship with FAO Malawi in connection with Mississippi State University has been the most impactful event in my life thus far.

FAO selected me for a three-month internship during the summer of 2014 to fly to Malawi, Africa and collect data about the impacts and challenges of irrigation for small-scale farmers. As an Environmental Economics and Management major, it was a wonderful opportunity to gain experience in the field, and as an International Studies minor, it was an excellent way to broaden my perspective on global issues. My time in Malawi was not only beneficial to me, it was also beneficial to FAO and the people of Malawi.

In 2004, Malawi experienced a severe drought that caused a national food crisis. The Malawi government requested the FAO and Flanders International Cooperation Agency (FICA) devise a plan to assist small-scale farmers, with intentions of the impact stretching beyond the period of the project. Improving Food Security and Nutrition Policy and Program Outreach Project was initiated on April 1, 2008. This project assists Kasungu and Mzimba, two of the districts that were most affected by the drought, through policy advice and interventions concentrated on improving food security, nutrition, and capacity building.

One focus of the Improving Food Security and Nutrition Policy and Program Outreach Project is the introduction of irrigation systems to small-scale farmers. With the reliance on the singular rainy season in congruence with the erratic rainfall due to climate change, introducing irrigation was a necessary step in beginning to solve several problems, including:  low crop yields, low crop diversity, food insecurity, insufficient income, and malnutrition. The objective is to have multiple cropping seasons by creating irrigation schemas to be utilized during the dry season, as well as in cases of extreme drought.

The irrigation internship had several objectives to be completed over the course of the three months. First, I had to document the process of how irrigation was introduced. Then, I had to collect information from the beneficiaries regarding the impacts on food security, change in household income and overall welfare of the farming families from using irrigation. The final objective was to capture the challenges faced with irrigation and give recommendations on solutions. I was to then analyze the results and compose a final report and presentation to be given to the FAO staff at the conclusion of my internship.

My most cultural experiences occurred in the field where I collected the data for my report. To collect this information, I created several questionnaires designed for different groups:  beneficiaries that irrigate, farmers that do not, the FAO District Managers, and the government extension officers. These surveys were designed to gather general statistics regarding each farming community, such as the number of hectares farmed, as well as discover the challenges, constraints, and advantages in using an irrigation system. I then conducted these surveys in multiple project areas, located remotely in Kasungu and Mzimba Districts. The interviews were similar to focus group discussions; I would ask a question that would be translated by a government extension worker, and then I would record all answers given by the farmers in each group.

The final report comprised of an introduction about Malawi and the project, the methodology of the study, the results of the surveys, the impacts of implementing irrigation, the challenges in the program, and the solutions I suggest to these challenges. It was amazing to see the data come together and reveal the positive impact irrigation has on the lives of the Malawian farmers, quantitatively and qualitatively. This report was condensed into a presentation that I gave to FAO. I was so surprised and proud of their praise of my work and acceptance of my ideas to improve the irrigation part of their program.

My summer working with FAO Malawi was one well worth the time and struggle to adjust to life in a third-world country. I not only learned more about myself, my strengths and weaknesses, I also learned about a world entirely different from my own that is still growing and needs the principles of environmental economics to grow further. It was important for me to see the issues not in my immediate surroundings; I have a new perspective on global issues like food insecurity and water unavailability that is essential to my own academic development. I know this experience has expanded my boundaries and opened up new doors to explore for the future of my career. The skills I earned—confidence, communication, patience, questionnaire-making, data collecting, data analysis, just to name a few—will stick with me for the rest of my college days, my career, and my life.

Bailey Martin – from Mississippi State University to FAO Chile

Submitted by Amy McMillen on January 7, 2015

By Bailey Martin, Resource Mobilization and Communications Intern, FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile and Junior at Mississippi State University.

As a college Junior at Mississippi State University (MSU), I just thought my life was interesting. My three-month stay in Santiago, Chile showed me how interesting my life could be. I traveled alone and arrived at Santiago International Airport speaking virtually no Spanish but ready for the adventure.  I have always heard that great things happen when you exit your comfort zone, and my time as an FAO intern in Santiago proved that to be true.

When I received an e-mail from MSU’s Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion with information concerning a three month internship with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), I was excited to learn about the collaboration between Mississippi State University and FAO. I applied for work at the Regional Office of Latin America and the Caribbean and was assigned as the Resource Mobilization and Communications Intern for the International Year of Family Farming in Santiago, Chile. As a nutrition major and promoter of Edible Landscape at MSU, I was very passionate about family farming and its positive impact on communities. At FAO, I worked on a research team researching programs that are working to fight childhood obesity in Chile. Through reading numerous articles, hosting interviews, and meeting with the FAO’s nutritionist, our team obtained valuable information that could be used to increase the success rate of the programs hosted in Chile. Although our research could not be completed in the small time frame, I wrote a comparative paper highlighting some of the strengths and weaknesses of specific programs in Santiago and the United States. The work of interns and their involvement on FAO’s research teams will allow the FAO to further work with the local institutions to help fight childhood obesity in the country.

Another aspect of my job was using my native language of English to help promote FAO and the Year of Family Farming. Although I worked with numerous interns from countries including Mexico, Austria, France, Switzerland, and Denmark, I was the only native English speaker on the team.  I assisted the interns in translating promotional flyers and posters, as well as, posting twitter and social media updates. The intern leader, Dr. Byron Jara, also sent me reports typed in English, and I was responsible for editing them for grammar and readability.

This experience opened my eyes to what I wanted to pursue as my profession. Before this internship, I had planned to go into holistic medicine. I now desire to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) so that I can work closely with other cultures and bring nutritional awareness to more rural areas. Studying abroad ignited my passion to work internationally and bring research-backed, nutritional advice to less advanced communities. Without this important connection between MSU and the FAO, I would not have realized how crucial research is to help advance nutritional knowledge globally.

My experience in Santiago changed who I am and the course of the rest of my life. I now work with MSU’s Office of Studies Abroad informing and encouraging students to work and travel in other countries. The FAO was my first global internship, but I do not plan on it being my last. I will always look at this internship as one of the greatest adventures of my life.

Brendan Brown – from Cornell University to FAO in Gabon

Submitted by Amy McMillen on January 5, 2015

By Brendan Brown, Intern for FAO’s Subregional Office for Central Africa in Gabon and student of Cornell University

I’ve wanted to work with the UN since I was about 6 years old.  When the opportunity came up last spring I put aside all of my other schemes for the summer and made getting a position a priority.  When the application offered posts in Francophone Africa I nearly fell out of my seat.  What a dream come true!  I didn’t know what I’d be doing, where I’d be living, or much of anything at all.  I was caught up in the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream with a large and powerful organization.  I did know that I was going to get to go to a cool place, meet new people, and try new things and that was enough to make me take the leap.

I got the position and spent 2 months from June-August 2014 in Gabon as an intern with the Central African Forestry Branch of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  I conducted research on customary land and hunting rights and the communication between the government and villagers as well as between groups of villagers regarding the subject of land and hunting rights.  The goal of this research was ultimately to have it support a project to legalize the commercial bushmeat trade under the auspices that doing so would increase the capacity to monitor and regulate harvesting.  I spent 6 weeks in Ovan, a village in the northeastern province of Ogooue-Ivindo, which is the largest and most sparsely populated province in the country.  A typical day for me consisted of waking, exercising, swimming in the river, eating breakfast, and then walking through the 4 villages in which I worked interacting with people along the way and seeing who might be available to chat with me for the project.  I conducted individual and group interviews, participated in hunting, gathering, plantation maintenance, and food preparation activities, and discussed informally in order to gather the information I needed to understand the land and hunting rights of the villagers.  This was my first experience conducting ethnographic research and I have to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly and that it has reinforced my desire to focus on human dimensions of natural resource conservation in my career.  This type of work is not without struggle, however.  One must blend professional mindsets that focus on obtaining information and maintaining productivity with one that fosters personal relationships that will enable the gathering of truthful and thorough information.

I’d also like to note that there was an unanticipated social dynamic produced by the utter lack of anonymity in a small village in which everyone knows every baby.  I never could escape from where I was even in a metaphorical sense.  In some ways, I was always “on.”  This became exhausting at times and I longed to chat with in American about something trivial  in a language I understood as we so often do in our free time.  A couple days after getting back to the US, I did not long to chat about trivial things.



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