FAO in North America

Measuring women’s empowerment

Submitted by Teresa Buerkle on February 29, 2012

USAID launched its Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index during the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York yesterday. The Index, developed under the US Government’s Feed the Future initiative, will help capture women’s empowerment and inclusion levels in the agricultural sector by looking at such areas as time burdens, community leadership, and control over income and resources. It also measures women’s empowerment relative to the men within their households.

By looking beyond indicators like income and education, the Index aims to present a more precise picture that can help national governments and development partners better monitor the effectiveness of their efforts towards empowering women in the global fight against hunger and poverty.

At the launch in New York, FAO Deputy Director-General Ann Tutwiler welcomed the initiative as an “important contribution”:

“We all agree on the need to have better metrics to both measure our progress, but more importantly, to identify where the needs are.

“As development professionals, we want to do everything, and we want to do everything everywhere. Being able to identify where the biggest intervention points are is important for governments, donors and development agencies.”

Developed in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative of Oxford University, the Index has been piloted in Bangladesh, Guatemala and Uganda.

Read more on the USAID Impact blog.

Buffet, Gates awarded for contributions to hunger fight

Submitted by Teresa Buerkle on October 25, 2011

World Food Program USA awarded its George McGovern Leadership Award to philanthropists Howard Buffett and Bill Gates for their contributions to the global hunger fight. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented the awards, saying that “ending hunger is not only possible, but it is both a moral and strategic imperative.”  

Secretary Clinton then joined Buffet, Gates and WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran for a conversation on efforts to address global hunger and create economic opportunity by helping small scale farmers through initiatives like WFP’s Purchase for Progress program. (View the webcast.)

In his keynote address, Vice President Joe Biden recounted a story that his wife, Jill, heard during a recent trip to the Horn of Africa from a Somali woman who was forced to leave one of her two children behind because she could no longer carry them both.

“No human being should ever have to make a choice like that,” Biden said. “A tragedy like that is a stain on the conscience of the world.”

The event also featured a panel discussion highlighting private sector efforts to address global hunger. Participants included former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Cargill Greg Page, and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. (View the webcast.)

Leveling the ploughing field for women

Submitted by Teresa Buerkle on September 19, 2011

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today that the US government will allocate $5 million this year to fund innovative approaches to promoting gender equality in agriculture.

Speaking in New York during a panel discussion on women and agriculture convened on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, Secretary Clinton said the funds would be used “to expand our knowledge base.”

“We know that women farmers represent a major untapped resource, but we don’t know nearly enough about which approaches will change that. We need concentrated research about the obstacles facing women farmers worldwide so that we know how to remove them so women can contribute even more.”

“If all farmers, men and women, had access to the same resources we could increase agricultural output by 20-30 percent,” Clinton said, echoing the conclusions of FAO’s latest State of Food and Agriculture report, which found that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, women could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent. “That would feed an additional 150 million people every year.”

Calling for research proposals and programs to support women farmers, Clinton said:

“When we liberate the economic potential of women we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations and the world.”

The panel, which was moderated by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, included FAO Director-General elect Jose Graziano da Silva, who shared his experiences with Brazil’s “Zero Hunger” programme, which he coordinated as Brazilian Extraordinary Minister of Food Security and the Fight Against Hunger.

Graziano cited the important role of women not only in food production, but also with regard to food access and distribution. “Mothers ensure that ‘food first’ is not a slogan,” he said.

“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to do good things,” Graziano added, saying that the cash transfers implemented in Brazil as part of Zero Hunger were modeled on the U.S. food stamp programme.

Other panelists included President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania; Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever; Kathy Spahn, President and CEO of Helen Keller International; and Reema Nanavaty, Director of the Economic and Rural Development for the Self-employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India.

View the full panel discussion below or read the complete transcript on the U.S. State Department website.

Secretary Clinton on famine and feeding the future

Submitted by Rachel Friedman on August 12, 2011

On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the International Food Policy Research Institute on the famine in the Horn of Africa, stressing the need for both urgent short-term emergency relief and long-term support to agricultural self-sufficiency and food security.

“While we hurry to deliver life-saving assistance, we must also maintain our focus on the future by continuing to invest in long-term food security in countries that are susceptible to drought and food shortages.”

Clinton announced an additional $17 million in U.S. emergency assistance, with $12 million earmarked for Somalia, bringing total U.S. humanitarian assistance to the region to more than $580 million this year.

“Though food shortages may be triggered by drought, they are not caused by drought, but rather by weak or nonexistent agricultural systems that fail to produce enough food or market opportunities in good times and break down completely in the bad times.

“In other words, a hunger crisis is not solely an act of God. It is a complex problem of infrastructure, governance, markets, education. These are things we can shape and strengthen. So that means this is a problem that we can solve.”

Watch the video of the event here or read the complete transcript of Secretary Clinton’s remarks here.

A week to contemplate food security

Submitted by Rachel Friedman on June 30, 2011

US Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator, Raj Shah, recently provided some insight for NPR listeners on tackling food crisis. This interview aired during USAID’s Food Security Week in Washington, DC.  The week focused attention and energy on multiple dimensions of food security, from technical to high-level policy, and was composed of three events – the World Food Prize announcement, Feed the Future research forum, and the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) meeting. Supporting materials, including press releases and blog posts, can be accessed via the USAID website.

Clinton launches Feed the Future in Tanzania

Submitted by admin on June 15, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, currently visiting Africa, spent the weekend in Tanzania, visiting projects funded by USAID. On a stop at a cooperative of female farmers, Clinton announced $70 million in funding for food security in Tanzania over the next two years, subject to congressional approval, as part of the US government’s Feed the Future initiative.

Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, spoke to NPR about the initiative. Mills touches on the potential link between food insecurity and political instability. She also responds to critics who believe that, due to budget constraints, resources are not going into Feed the Future fast enough. Listen to the interview on NPR.

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