22 Sep 2022 — Mounting global concerns about food shortages – alongside ballooning fertilizer and energy prices and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine – has prompted the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to inject an additional US$178 million into seven international farming and trade development projects on four continents.
Topping the list of the White House’s priorities are the promotion of climate-smart agriculture, facilitating trade and addressing the root causes of migration in Central America, as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced.
“Food for Progress is a cornerstone of USDA’s international capacity-building efforts. This year, as we emerge from a global pandemic and face the challenges of rising hunger and poverty, changing climate and the worldwide fallout of Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine, this work is more important than ever,” he says.
“By partnering with private-sector organizations, local governments, and local producers and businesses, we are helping to build more equitable and resilient food systems, sustainably boost production capacity to combat food insecurity and increase farmers’ incomes while enhancing their ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”
This year’s awards are part of the US$2 billion investment to strengthen global food security.
Spanning global agri-food territories
The funds are being awarded under the Food for Progress Program, through which USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service partners with non-governmental organizations and foreign governments on projects that help developing countries strengthen agricultural systems and boost trade capacity.
Through Food for Progress, agricultural commodities are extended to eligible entities such as private voluntary organizations and foreign governments, which then sell the commodities on the local market and use the proceeds to support agricultural, economic or infrastructure development programs.
This year, USDA will donate 240,000 metric tons of commodities, valued at US$129.6 million, for projects including focusing on sustainable and climate-smart agricultural production, trade facilitation and supply-chain integration.
Funds will also be directed towards improving the livelihoods of 60,000 coffee-producing households in areas of Burundi that have been threatened by ecological change and limited economic growth.
Similarly, there will be funding to raise Jamaica’s spice yields by 50%, while also boosting processing and export capacity, through a systems-based approach and a focus on climate-smart production.
The program aims to address food insecurity in Malawi through a project that will boost production and profitability for 35,000 farms through sustainable and scalable climate-smart agricultural practices.
Cocoa producers in Nigeria are other beneficiaries of the program, which aims to help raise production capacity and decrease their climate footprint while also implementing a traceability process across the cocoa value chain.
Other areas of priority include boosting yields and profits for 12,000 spice farmers in Peru by supporting their resilience through climate-smart production practices, as well as helping facilitate the adoption of climate-smart production practices by 30,000 farmers in Thailand through creation of a “regional knowledge hub.”
The seven new Food for Progress projects funded by USDA in 2022 are in addition to 41 projects currently underway in 38 countries.
Food sector tackles metacrisis
These efforts are considered timely, as top of supply chain issues, sky-high energy prices, the Ukraine war and commodity price speculation, industry is dealing with one of the hottest and driest years on record, which has burned out farmers and decreased agricultural yields across countries.
And concerns are growing that the global food crisis has not yet reached its peak, with predictions that inflation will continue to creep up and by next year, the crisis will become about affordability not availability.
The food-assistance branch of the United Nations, the World Food Programme, has warned that 2023 might be even worse than the crippling events of 2022, underlined by food prices remaining stubbornly high.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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