For more than 50 years, Peace Corps volunteers around the world have taken an active role in addressing critical food security issues, working with one farmer, one family, and one community at a time.
President Obama and other G8 Leaders met last week to address food security and nutrition in Africa. The President also announced a new alliance with the G-8, African leaders and private sector partners to drive investment in sustainable African agricultural development and lift 50 million people out of poverty. This landmark meeting underscored the importance of the President’s Feed the Future initiative, and last summer, the Peace Corps and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) pledged to provide enhanced food security training to more than 1,000 Peace Corps volunteers.
On May 23, at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., Peace Corps reaffirmed our commitment to food security and discussed our joint efforts to make sustainable change. I was joined by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, USAID Assistant to the Administrator of the Bureau of Food Security Paul Weisenfeld, and Peace Corps volunteers and staff to discuss our work to train volunteers and the people they work with on this important topic.
Through this partnership, Peace Corps volunteers are already making sustainable changes to the ways in which local people cultivate their food, address water shortages and feed their families.
One such example is Danielle Stoermer, a Peace Corps agriculture volunteer working with women and children in Senegal to improve food security. Since she arrived in the West African country in 2009, Danielle has been teaching children how to grow vegetables in school gardens, helping female farmers to increase their crop yields and quality, and educating new volunteers on successful food security practices.
And in other parts of Africa, Peace Corps volunteers use community gardening to share information about nutritional food groups; the seasonal calendar; improved seeds and seed saving techniques; and natural fertilizers. The goal is for villagers to be able grow enough food for their families and to sell their produce in the nearby markets.
As somebody who began my career as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic and then worked in international development for more than 30 years, I know what we can accomplish when we dedicate our time and ‘American Spirit’ to an initiative such as Feed the Future.
Just as the President said last week, “We can do this. We’re already doing it. We just need to bring it all together. We can unleash the change that reduces hunger and malnutrition. We can spark the kind of economic growth that lifts people and nations out of poverty.”
In a world where a child dies from hunger every six seconds, and a growing population requires more agriculture production than ever before, I am confident that the Peace Corps’ Feed the Future volunteers will be extraordinary ambassadors, working shoulder-to-shoulder with local people to ensure that children are fed for many years to come.