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Research in Energy Security Helps Lead to Food Security in West Africa

Research shows the majority of people in Africa depend on biomass to meet their energy needs, with approximately 80 percent relying on wood energy. Such high dependency makes families vulnerable to unexpected and sudden changes, including extreme weather and socio-political events. Researching and developing ways to diversify energy sources is crucial for a more sustainable, food secure future.

A project funded through the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Cochran Fellowship Program on “Biofuels for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods,” hosted by the University of Missouri (MU) College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources International Programs, set out to address this very issue. The research and training program was organized for West African Cochran Fellows to learn how different uses of biofuels can help support sustainable livelihoods in their communities. The two-week-long program consisted of workshops, field visits and interactive discussions in cooperation with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, the MU Center for Agroforestry, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and Envest Microfinance.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Keyna Diop

Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. This month, we hear from Keyna Cisse Diop, the founder of Quali'Volaille, a poultry business in Senegal, West Africa. Passionate about engaging young women in agriculture, Keyna was selected for the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). After six weeks of courses at Purdue University, she is currently interning with USDA Rural Development in Columbia, South Carolina.

1. When did you become interested in the poultry business of Senegal?

My father has been raising poultry for more than twenty years and is very passionate about livestock production. With my degree in Business Administration, my desire to start my own business in Agriculture and his knowledge of poultry, I came up with the brand Quali'Volaille and we agreed to start producing on a larger scale.

Refugee Farmers Set Down Roots, Honor Traditions in Vermont

Rwanda native Janine Ndagijimana, her husband Faustine and their children moved to Burlington, Vermont in 2007 after living in a refugee camp in Tanzania for 13 years. Now a U.S. citizen, she works closely with Ben Waterman, the New American Farmer Program coordinator at the University of Vermont Extension Service (UVM) Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He manages the Land Access and Assessment Program that helps Vermont's resettled refugee and immigrant farmers obtain access to the resources they need to pursue their goals as farmers and to link common threads between their new home in America the culture of their homelands.

Janine was one of several farmers who recently attended a meeting of the Association of Africans Living in Vermont to learn about USDA programs and services. Farmers from Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo learned about land acquisition, insurance programs, loans to support farming, and technical and financial assistance for implementing conservation farming practices.

Improving Forest Practices One Beehive at a Time in Ghana

All over the world, deforestation and forest degradation are under the microscope because together they comprise the second greatest driver of climate change. If you focus on the country of Ghana, you’ll find one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa.

In fact, the country has lost nearly 90 percent of its original forests. The losses are due to a variety of factors including wood extraction and agricultural expansion. The remaining forests are home to forest elephants, Diana monkeys and many types of rare, endemic amphibians—and many rural communities that often struggle to support their families.

Building the Bench for Agriculture in 2015 and Beyond

No matter where you're from, no matter what you look like, no matter your background, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is here for you. It has been an exciting year at USDA, filled with growth and opportunity.  This year, I have traveled the country and the world to meet with farmers, ranchers and agriculture leaders who love the land and want to help the next generation succeed.

As 2015 comes to a close, I would like to share the top five things USDA has done this year to build a more diverse future for agriculture:

FSA Partnership Helps New Farmer Connect to the Land

Growing up in Tanzania, East Africa, Sangiwa Eliamani became a skilled farmer producing rice, millet and cotton throughout the year, using typical hand tools. He had no concerns about seasonal timing or finding markets for his crops, until he moved to the United States and attempted to farm in Massachusetts.

“Over there [in Tanzania] it’s very different,” he said. “We don’t have this limited time to grow.  We have easier access to land and markets to sell our products.”

Working Together to Address Global Food Insecurity

As a daughter of farmers, and as someone who has spent her career working on behalf of farmers, one of the things I care most deeply about is the future of agriculture –  both in the United States and around the world. That is why one of my highest priorities at USDA has been to help develop the next generation of farmers, ensuring that women, young people, and others have access to the programs and support they need to farm successfully. 

As Deputy Secretary, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Africa, Central and South America. I’ve met many inspirational farmers from around the world, and while the languages we speak, the crops we grow, and the production methods we use may differ, one thing rings true in every conversation: we share the same passions and the same challenges in feeding a growing world population.

Smart Phones: The Latest Tool for Sustainable Farming

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Seems like there’s an “app” (application) for everything these days—perhaps because mobile phone use is becoming increasingly global. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Jeff Herrick and colleagues have jumped on that trend in their efforts to promote sustainable land-use practices and world food security.

This past April, they released the first two of a suite of mobile phone apps that, once all are issued, will connect agricultural producers around the world and provide them with shared knowledge on ways to maximize their land’s productivity while protecting its resources for future generations.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Ann Veneman

As part of our Women’s Week blog series, Ann Veneman shares her perspective as the first and only woman who has held the title of Secretary of Agriculture. A lawyer by training, Ann grew up in a small rural community in California and has dedicated her career to domestic and international food and agriculture issues. During her tenure as Secretary, American agriculture saw record farm income, record agricultural exports and the creation of stronger pest and disease protection systems for the country.

Ann has held various positions at USDA and in state government, including Deputy Secretary, Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs, Associate Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service, and Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. She served as the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) from 2005-2010 and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, The Trilateral Commission, the National 4-H Council Board of Trustees and serves as an advisor to the Bipartisan Policy Center. In 2009, Ann was named to Forbes Magazine’s List of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.

USDA-NASA's Global View of Earth's Soil Holds Many Benefits

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

When we think about space missions, we tend to look toward the stars to planets like Mars where robotic rovers roam, gathering data and sending it back to Earth. Rarely do we think about missions closer to home. But a view of Earth from 426 miles above is helping us monitor droughts, predict floods, improve weather forecasts and assist with crop productivity.

This year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a new satellite called SMAP (Soil Moisture Active-Passive) with the help of a team that included U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hydrologist Susan Moran at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Southwest Watershed Research Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona, and physical scientist Wade Crow and hydrologist Thomas Jackson at ARS’s Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.