Food security, having a reliable source of safe and nutritious food, is a cornerstone of good human health. In many poor countries around the world, achieving and maintaining food security is a challenge, but it’s a challenge that USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) can help countries meet through its Center for International Programs (CIP).
Patty Fulton, NIFA national program leader for international programs, traveled to Dondon, Haiti, where she served as a mentor to Haitian administrators and teachers at a newly opened vocational agricultural school. The project, managed by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in collaboration with the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture, is implemented by a team of agricultural educators from the University of California – Davis (UC Davis). The UC-Davis team created a curriculum and trained school administrators and teachers at the vocational agriculture school in Dondon.
“The expertise that the UC-Davis team provided has been invaluable,” Fulton said. “Classes began last month in Dondon, with four instructors teaching 37 students. A second school is scheduled to open in October.”
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded the project through an agreement with USDA to improve the well-being of the people in Haiti where, in some parts of the country, up to 30 percent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition. According to Fulton, “One of the goals of the project is to help support community-based development projects serving local food security needs.”
Around that same time, a larger effort was underway in another country where ensuring food security and good nutrition was perhaps even more challenging than in Haiti. From 2011-2014, NIFA collaborated with a consortium of U.S. land-grant universities (UC Davis, Purdue University, Washington State University, University of Maryland, and Texas A&M University), FAS, and USAID to help develop a more effective extension system in war-torn Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Agricultural Extension Project (AAEP) developed 10 provincial model teaching farms, 185 farmer field schools, and hundreds of on-farm demonstrations in greenhouse production, grain storage, and water resource management. AAEP trained 350 Afghan extension personnel who went on to train more than 5,000 farmers. A key component of the project was its focus on women in agriculture – 290 women were trained in such areas as nutrition, food preservation, and food safety. AAEP began in four provinces, but ended up working in 19 provinces.
“The project’s success is due to the expertise and commitment of NIFA’s land-grant partners, as well as the thousands of dedicated Afghans willing to adopt new practices,” said Mike McGirr, the CIP national program leader who provided leadership throughout the project.
By bringing the experience and expertise of NIFA and the land-grant institutions to other parts of the world, USDA is helping to improve the production of nutritious and safe food and, because of that, hopefully, the health of people in those parts of the world.
NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.