A Discussion at the 2010 Global Philanthropists Circle Annual Meeting, May 6, 2010
The Rockefeller University, New York City
Sam Dryden, Agricultural Development, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Julie Howard, Executive Director, Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa
Moderated by Peggy Dulany, GPC Member and Synergos Founder & Chair
PEGGY DULANY: Hello everybody. Could I ask you to take your seats so we can start the next session please? Thank you.
Thank you for being so orderly so fast, and to those of you who came in since I said the initial welcome what seems like hours and several sessions ago, welcome. This particular session is on the issue of food security and agriculture. And in my interrelated mind, everything seems relevant to everything else. So, it’s not that we’re trying to break things down into component parts, and I think perhaps you’ll see what the relatedness is of this to even disaster preparedness and all the subjects that we’ll be talking about today.
Feel free to either ask specific questions when we get to the question part around the subject, or to ask questions that related to other themes because both of our speakers are highly integrated thinkers.
Let me put a Synergos frame around the subject first, and then we’re going to go into some questions of Julie and Sam by the way, whose bios are in your packets, so I hope you’ll take a look at those. We’ve been working with two quite different initiatives, neither of which has the title food security or agriculture, but just to give you a sense of the relationship. In India, for a number of years we’ve been working on a child nutrition program which in the state of Maharaja which happens to have 100 million people. And India has a malnutrition rate of 42 percent which is quite staggering.
In the course of figuring out what the issues were of making the right kind of food available to people, many in remote or tribal villages, a number of different things came up, some of which seemed completely unrelated to food security of agriculture. But, I’ll give you to examples of issues that the national government has now selected from this initiative to take to the entire country. One is—what is the food prepared in local villages for children, and is it sufficiently nutritional? So, these are both private sector examples, very interesting.
The chefs of the Taj Hotels agreed to get together with government officials and people from local villages to figure out a very inexpensive, highly nutritional program that could then be disseminated in recipes so that local people could fix those recipes for children to improve the nutrition, and that’s now going national. And the second one, again, seemingly potentially unrelated is that it was determined that a lot of the reason why food wasn’t reaching children was because the supply chain management that the government of Maharaja, presumably the other states as well, was so inefficient that in some cases only 10 percent of what was supposed to be getting to villages was actually arriving.
And so, Hindustan Unilever which is one of the initiators of this program that we were working in collaboratively trained some of the government officials in this area in Maharaja. Within weeks, the percentage went from 10 percent to 40 percent and was well on its way to 80 or 90 percent of deliver, simply those very simple, seemingly very technical solutions. But obviously the problem is one that’s much more complex.
The second example is from Namibia where thank goodness, the Prime Minister is a very holistic integrated thinking person. Although we began working with the Health Ministry of Namibia to help them become a better team and therefore, be able to provide results for beneficiaries, that is to say, people in communities. He very quickly felt that the maternal health issue that we began focusing on was only a piece of the problem. And so, he’s encouraging us and the Namibian government to work in an integrated way including agriculture, which is of course, the production of food, nutrition of children, education and, of course, the health issue.
So, these problems are all interrelated, but for today’s session we’re going to be focusing on the issue of food security and agriculture. And so, just to say this is taken from the Gates Foundation overview on agricultural development, approximately one billion people live in chronic hunger and more than a billion live in extreme poverty. Many are small farmers in the developing world. Their success or failure determines whether they have enough to eat, are able to send their children to school and can earn any money to save. It’s kind of the backbone of a succession of other problems that relate to alleviation of poverty which, as you all know, is one of Synergos’ principle concerns. So just a one sentence introduction of both Sam and Julie—Sam recently left the private sector to join the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to head its Agricultural Development—say again the name of the program?
SAM DRYDEN: The Agricultural Development Program.
DULANY: The Agricultural Development Program. And he is overseeing the effort to help millions and millions of the world’s poor come into greater productivity both through ensuring that they have the right kind of inputs, but also access to markets. Julie is the Executive Director of the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, which is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the level and effectiveness of US assistance and private investment in Africa through research, dialogue and advocacy. So what I’d like maybe us to begin with is in your own terms, and just one after the other, to define what you mean by food and security, and what you see as the key was of addressing it? Julie, you want to start?
JULIE HOWARD: Sure. Well, actually I’d like to turn it around and say what food security is. I think we understand food security to be the situation where all people at all times have both physical and economic access, the ability to procure food that makes their lives productive at all times. And I would say there are so many causes of food insecurity. I mean, a good example, the disaster—we were just discussing in the last session.
But I think, from our perspective, the leading cause of food insecurity is really poverty. You know, you look at folks who don’t have very much money. Anyway, poor people who are earning less than a dollar a day are generally spending about half of their incomes on food. So already, very much stretched to the limit, so any small disaster even, you know, a mini crop failure or, you know, an illness in the family really pushes them to the brink of intolerance pretty quickly. So poverty is the main cause.
DULANY: And Sam?
DRYDEN: So, just a word about the Foundation’s programs and how they integrate. The Global Development Program of which I’m part is about 25 percent of the Foundation’s efforts. And the other 25 percent is the U.S. programs which have to do with education in the libraries. But, half of the Foundation’s programs have to do with global health. There’s actually just a very tight interconnection between global health and global development, and in particular, in agriculture.
As we look at food security, we focus on the rural sector because about 70 percent of the world’s poor are in the rural sector. And so, as Julie says, they are dependent upon agriculture for their well being. It’s one where we have a number of programs, but the primary way that we work is through governments that they have their programs that they want to support. But, we very much work with the civil society organizations and the NGOs in trying to get to the world’s neediest.
DULANY: And am I right in saying that it’s both creating access to markets, but also insuring that those small farmers have the right inputs?
DRYDEN: It is both. I mean, it’s ensuring the right inputs, it’s ensuring the right infrastructure, the right capacity to be able to use the inputs. And then working to make sure that they can get not only the food for themselves, but if they can create a surplus that they can get it to markets.
DULANY: So I’m just going to follow this up a little bit and then turn to Julie, but Sam, you’ve been on the job all of what, three months?
DRYDEN: All of three months, that’s right.
DULANY: We’re going to cut him a little slack. But, what I’m interested in knowing is how the Gates Foundation strategy has dealt with the fact that often dealing with government infrastructure and capacity is quite far away from dealing at the very grassroots. And what are you doing to try to create less of a gap between those two?
DRYDEN: Well, and again, working with the governments is essential, so the fact that these are country led programs is very important to us. We work at a global level, but we also work very much at the local level. Working with the governments is working with their programs, but again, the way that we think that you really reach the people that we’re trying to reach, the smallholder farmers is through civil society and NGO organizations that actually can get to them because they’re the best suited for reaching them.
DULANY: So you would work through international NGOs as well as local NGOs in the countries?
DRYDEN: Well, it’s a real challenge because our portfolio, we have 170 grants totaling about a billion and a half dollars. And so, to get that much money mobilized, we have to work through international organizations. But, what we would really like to do and what we try to work with the international groups to do is to build the capacity within the local NGOs and the local civil society organizations because they in the end are the ones that have to work with the people most closely.
DRYDEN: So we try to make sure that the grants reach sub grantees.
DULANY: Right, I see. And Julie, I know that a lot of what your organization does is through advocacy, is that right?
HOWARD: Mhm hm.
DULANY: Can you say both why you think that’s an important strategy in how you work?
HOWARD: Yes, well let me start with why the Partnership was formed back in 2000 -gosh 2000, 2001, almost a decade ago. I mean, looking at the pattern, the U.S. during the 70’s and 80’s of course, you know, with the Rockefeller Foundation and others, the U.S. was very active in the green revolution of the 1970s and 80s, getting agriculture moving in Latin America, the fine work of Dr. Norman Borlaug and the formation of the Consultative Group Centers. And then, we kind of led a retreat from agriculture beginning really in the late 80’s. I mean, if I had my Power Point which I don’t have today, and that’s okay, if you looked at the graph, I mean, it’s really quite stunning.
We were spending globally about 12 to 14 percent of ODA—Official Development Assistance—on agriculture right up through the end of the 80’s. And then, it really took a very steep turn. By about 2006, 2007 we went to about two percent. And the U.S., which had been such a leader during the green revolution, really led the retreat and the World Bank and European donors also retreated. The U.S. actually got—I mean, we tend now to address things in a more humanitarian way which, as we noted during the last session, very, very important. But then it doesn’t really get to kind of the roots of how you get to sustained food security that’s owned by the people and building indigenous capacity and all of that.
So, in 2000, 2001, former USAID administrator Peter McPherson who was then President of Michigan State University, and the former President of Mali, President Konare, with others in the U.S., Lee Hamilton, David Beckman from Bread for the World and several other African Presidents sort of said, “Well, you know, what can we do to build back U.S. leadership in this area, to build back U.S. investments?” So, they decided that what was needed was kind of a big table group which the partnership has become, where private sector and NGO and public sector can really sit together and figure out how to increase U.S. support in this area and how to make it better. One very important thing, I think, from the start of the partnership, we’ve been about amplifying the African voice.
The conversation in the last session really resonated with me. I mean, how you build local CSO capacity, how you foster leadership, indigenous leadership. So, the Presidents remained active in the formation of the partnership. We worked very closely with the diplomatic core in Washington and with bringing civil society, private sector representatives to Washington. It’s quite amazing. I think, you know, we’re a very tiny organization, but people know us because it’s so rare to see often in meetings African representatives, presidents, Congress and Parliament representatives, CSOs, private sector, actually talking themselves about their own programs and their ideas for priorities rather than having that sort of interpreted third or fourth hand through a U.S. official or a development expert. I think we’re known for that and that’s been quite important to development.
Now we’re facing a stage where since President Obama took office, since the global food price crisis 2008, we’re seeing renewed interest in agriculture and food security including nutrition security. President Obama has committed and already started to deliver on commitment to double, more than double U.S. spending in this area. And very important from our standpoint is also the principle of, “We’re not just going to commit to driving more money into these economies, we’re going to invest against country determined priorities.” That’s having a really amazing, sometimes scary catalytic effect in our government today, you know, as we try and figure out with this sort of creaky archaic foreign assistance structure, which is very bureaucratic, very stove piped, how is it that we suddenly sort of turn around and are investing in country priorities?
And not only that, how are we making sure that these are not just seed programs, agricultural production, but are also looking at health issues, also looking at nutrition issues? So it’s quite an exciting and challenging time for us. We’re very excited about it. We think that if we’re successful in agricultural assistance reform, this really could set a pattern for a broader foreign assistance reform in the U.S.
DULANY: Oh, that’s great. My next question was going to be about what the good news is, but you’ve just given us that. And Sam, I’d love to hear from you a little bit, reflections on what Julie just said, and particularly in the context that I know that Raj Shah who’s now Head of USAID was formally at the Gates Foundation. I’m assuming there’s some kind of interaction among yourselves. How do you see this shift and how it might affect the effectiveness of what Gates is trying to do in this area?
DRYDEN: Well, I think Julie’s right, that there has been an important shift. I mean, the period that she talks about during the 80s and 90s when ODA assistance dropped from the 12 to 14 percent down to the two to four percent level. It was a really harsh time. And, since President Obama’s been in office, it has been very encouraging that at the G8 level there’s been a very significant commitment and Julie and I were just a part of that, I think it was last week, of an announcement that there’s a new global agricultural and food security trust program that’s been put in place where a number of the governments have pledged something like a billion dollars. I think $22 billion was the number that they originally had targeted.
So I think that there is this renewed interest. I think from the United States’ perspective there’s an encouraging sign also because the announcement for the food security trust program didn’t come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and it didn’t come from the State Department, it actually came from the Treasury Department and Secretary Geithner was actually the one that did the announcement. And having sat at the table with World Bank and having participated in the Consultative Group system for a long time, I think that that’s a really important and momentous event because for too long it’s been either that the development programs like USAID or the Department of Agriculture’s foreign assistance programs have been the ones trying to promote these agendas.
But, now when you get it actually residing in the Treasury Department you have them sitting in front of the finance committees and so forth advocating these assistance budgets. And, I think that someone like Raj Shah working with Lael Brainard and with the people in the agriculture, I think that makes for a very powerful combination assuming that the bureaucracy doesn’t get in the way of itself. But, I’m hopeful that with some other people sitting on the steering committee and at the table we can keep that from happening.
DULANY: That’s great.
DULANY: And can we get concrete for a minute? I know you’re very committed to the issue of how do small farmers get their produce to market. Can you talk a little bit about what strategies for that might be and who the partners might be that you’d have to convene to make that happen?
DRYDEN: Sure. I think from our perspective it’s important to try to understand the demographics of the small farmer and the small holders and try to understand what it is that’s the issue that’s preventing them from getting—first of all—the issue is preventing them from creating a surplus. So first of all, they have to be able to be food secure themselves and then they can create a surplus. And then, to figure out what it is that’s preventing them from getting that to market.
Lots of times since they are small holders it’s just the fact that they’re remote and that they are fairly isolated as individuals. We have some important programs that I like a lot which are looking more at collectives, at looking at how to give the collection of small farmers more of a voice and to give them more power of being able to deal with the markets and to get to the markets. The trust fund is not just dealing with productivity or with market access, but we’d like to think that they’re dealing with some of the other issues like infrastructure and capacity building as well. So it’s understanding who the small farmers are and what their individual and collective needs are for getting to the market.
DULANY: And Julie, some of the issues that Irwin and Kerry were talking about in the last session, how, you know, you can have a very good specific program, and then some international, whether trade or political program comes in and interferes with it, how do you try to address that?
HOWARD: Well, I actually hadn’t gotten to what I considered the good news part.
DULANY: Oh good.
HOWARD: So, I mean, the U.S. reinvestment in agriculture food security is good news, but I actually think even better news is that we’re starting to see political will emerge from Africa to tackle these long term agriculture food security problems. You know, and I often think of, you know, how Dr. Borlaug, as an agronomist would talk about how he worked so hard with Indira Gandhi to get her to allow him to test his varieties. I’m sure you remember that story.
And, you know, yes, it was his persuasive powers, but it was also the time when President Johnson was basically just pushing Indira Gandhi to the wall. Essentially, her agreement to allow the testing of those varieties was, you know, “We are not taking any more food aid from the U.S. The cost is too high. We’re going to do this ourselves.” We haven’t seen that kind of energy up to now in Africa, but beginning again 2001, 2002, it started to emerge in Africa, so you have the heads of state committing to 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture and food security.
You’ve had over the past five, six, seven years, the development of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program which is an Africa grown overseen by NEPAD—the New Partnership for Africa’s Development in the African Union. But, this sounds like a lot of bureaucracy and process, but what it’s actually done is created a framework for individual countries in sub regions from East Africa, Southern Africa, to convene a process, a dialogue and their own countries among civil servants, policy makers, civil society private sector and decide for themselves what their priorities are.
And because the lead donors in the World Bank have very much accompanied that process as has the Gates Foundation, it’s provided a means to get away from this thousand different projects, a thousand different donors doing, you know, tiny things. Instead it’s saying, “We have decided that these are our four areas, and who’s going to come to the table and invest against that?” And we’re still in the very elementary stage of this, Rwanda is the first country. What did they say? They’re the first penguin to be pushed off the ice flow to see how many seals or sharks are below. But, they’ve developed a very solid agriculture implementation plan and they put it out to donors. It’s gotten fairly good reviews. You know, as the Minister of Agriculture who’s very articulate said, “You know, this is not just the government’s plan, it’s also the NGOs plan. So we want all of you NGOs out there to come up on our budget so we can be much more strategic, so we can be focused, so we can solve a few of the most important problems instead of doing sort of the dab here, dab there that doesn’t really meet our key constraints.
I mean, that really relates to what we were saying. I mean, how do you empower not only the government, but the civil society in private sector, you know, to step up and have a real voice in that process. Then, of course, the next step is, how do you monitor, right? How do you monitor the commitments? How do you monitor that your own government, if you’re an African, how do we monitor from the U.S. that our government is contributing what it says it will? In fact, I think this is one of the things—Rockefeller actually gave us our first grant, the Partnership.
And one of the things that we pulled together was a report on how much assistance the U.S. was giving to African agriculture. And it seems like such a simple thing now, but it was unbelievably difficult in the early 2000s to really figure that out because you’ve got not only the 150 account, you’ve got little bits here that are going to the World Bank and the UN agencies and through 100 different spigots, so we actually had no idea. Now we do and it’s become sort of a powerful rallying point. Every year we put out that figure and people comment on it. Well, our partners in developing countries also need the capacity to do that, to hold both their governments as well as international and civil society accountable.
DULANY: So we’ve been talking quite a bit about the role of government in this. Obviously the private sector both as a lobby and as producers play an important role potentially and sometimes negatively, but also potentially and perhaps sometimes positively. I wonder whether each of you could comment on that both in the U.S. where obviously the agriculture lobby is extremely powerful, but also in let’s say, Africa, what is the current state and what are the possibilities?
DRYDEN: Let me actually pick up on something you talked about earlier because as you know in my private sector past, Hindustan Lever was a joint venture partner of mine, so I know them very well. And, I think that they represent both the power and the positive side of the private sector as well as part of the issue that we have and the challenge, because on the one hand they very well understand the issues of distribution, of supply chains, of value chains, of being able to get to the customer, of understanding how to develop markets.
They taught us a lot about understanding the demographics in Maharaja, for instance. And, they also taught us the important aspect of understanding the role of women in agriculture because they understand and they market towards women because they understand that a lot of the purchasing power and a lot of the farming is actually done by women. So, I think that as you’ve seen, they can play a very, very powerful role in a positive way.
I think the challenge that large corporations like Hindustan Lever, Unilever, General Mills, General Foods, Kellogg, ADM—the challenge that they have is that they have is that what they need is raw materials to meet the consumer’s demands. Actually, is then what the farmers grow to meet the raw material supply needs. And that oftentimes leads to producing a very narrow band of germplasm of monocropping. As we look at development in sub-Saharan Africa and we look at India, it’s important that we learn the lessons from that and try to deal with issues about diversity and diversity of cropping and agriculture. That we work with the private sector to deal with those types of issues because they’re not simple to solve, and they’re ones that have to be addressed.
DULANY: When you say work with them I’m assuming you’re not meaning hit them upside the head?
DRYDEN: No, no, they understand the issues as well. Many of them, you know, are coming to the table to try to deal with this. I mean, it’s a lesson—Kellogg happened to also be a joint venture partner of mine and we would take a lot of interesting new ideas to them, but they would say, “Well, we need this many train carloads of raw materials each day. We need this for our processing. We need this for our marketing and so forth.” The real challenge is, how do you deal with sort of the mass demand of the consumer and what they need to meet in that way, and at the same time, be able to deal with some of the issues that we’re facing in biodiversity? So they understand the issues.
DULANY: And Julie, is that part of your role, dealing with the corporations also?
HOWARD: Well, let me step back a bit and talk about how we see the role in the private sector—both multinational investments, but also the development of indigenous private sector. It’s hard to underestimate, I think, again, you know, kind of a sweeping change in Africa not in all countries, but in many countries, the view of the private sector. I remember when I first started working in East Africa in the late 80’s, I mean, really in many countries, the private sector was a bogey man, right? And, private sector folks were out to rip off whoever—urban consumers—and they were to be closely regulated, monitored, watched at all times. As a result, I think you had very, very little incentive, for private sector investment. You saw, I mean, foreign direct investment, especially in agriculture in Africa is still very low. It’s starting to grow, but just the volume of paperwork you would have to fill out and sort of the hostility. That’s really changed in many countries.
I think in places like Mozambique, in Tanzania especially that had sort of a history of a little bit of socialistic governments. They really have done 180 degree turn. The reason that they’ve done that is they realize the power of private sector investment at all level to motivate jobs, right; jobs, employment, income to help substitute for some of the systems that are lacking. Some of the most exciting projects, you know, Gates and other foundations and other funders are involved in are these partnerships, for example, between farmer association providers, so like, ACDI/VOCA, and [INCLUSA?]. We have several of these organizations in the U.S. who are just gifted at helping farmers, men and women learn to work together to market a crop.
So they provide a nice interface at many different levels to receive finance, to receive inputs, to market their commodity. In Mozambique, a case I know pretty well, the cotton sector. I mean, the cotton company’s—Mozambique has very high grade cotton. They had a very active cotton sector during the Portuguese occupation that sort of was bubbling along a little bit. And then, really has been revitalized since the end of the Civil War in the 1990s.
And the next generation is kind of how you use those cotton companies to deliver other kinds of inputs, not just for cotton, but how do you also make them and interface with the farmer associations to provide health advice, to provide extension advice on non-commodity? It is kind of interesting, you know, that together with the private sector, I mean, they’re working together essentially on the same side, and 20 years ago they would’ve been seen as the enemy, to bring jobs, to bring access to better health systems, to bring access to better education systems. So we really see them as a force for innovation. They do need regulation, but I think it’s quite a number of very exciting opportunities right now.
DULANY: So for private sector, philanthropists who aren’t the Gates Foundation, is there a role? And, where do each of you see the most sort of high leverage opportunities for someone who wants to invest, let’s say, in a particular country in the general area of food security?
HOWARD: You know, I go back again to the conversation before. People talked a lot about the capacity building. As thrilled as I am by the U.S. government’s renewed interest in this area, unfortunately the government has almost by default, a limited attention span. You know, Congress is already asking, “Well, USAID, what did you do with the money we gave you last year?” Well, you all know that capacity building is a long term venture, and especially if you’re thinking about something that’s more than short courses, that’s more than, just bringing people over for training.
I think, this kind of capacity building—my friends at TechnoServe remind me when I talk about capacity, they always raise their hands and say, “You are assuming that the private sector, you know, has everything it needs.” They need accountants, you know, they need the same extension skills. They have really very few places to get those in the country. So when you go to countries that seem to be perking along pretty well like Rwanda, you talk to the extension agents—well, they come from Kenya, right? You go to Mozambique, you know, I was at a meeting and one of my collaborators wanted to go and make a film about Mozambique and entrepreneurs and well, they’re all South Africans.
We’re really missing several layers of capacity building institutions. Now, you know, Rockefeller and the other institutions were terrific in building the research institutions. We need, I think, a similar level of effort in rebuilding agricultural capacity at country and regional levels. I mean, Gates and AGRA started getting involved in that. But, it requires a really concerted effort—not only tertiary education, but, sort of thinking about—if farmer associations are such an important interface, we’re actually delivering skills to them in a very expensive way, right? If you do it ACDI/VOCA project by ACDI/VOCA project—
DULANY: By what?
HOWARD: ACDI by project by project.
DULANY: Which ACDI?
HOWARD: The cooperative development.
DULANY: I see.
HOWARD: Right, sorry. Here, we have community colleges that are quite adept at revising their curricula, figuring out what the local needs are. You know, is something like that appropriate? I mean, we don’t hear that talked about very much in either government circles or, I haven’t heard it talked about much in foundations.
DULANY: So I just want to give Sam a chance to come in on this and then open to the floor.
DRYDEN: I want to join Julie in talking a little bit about the opportunity for capacity building because I think that one of the greatest opportunities and one of the greatest challenges and needs that we see is in this area of capacity building, and it’s with the long term horizon. It’s with the horizon of a decade or two decades with the idea of looking at education, looking at building the capacity within the country so that they have the building themselves to absorb and take on the technology.
I had the opportunity to participate in the Rockefeller Foundation’s Rice Biotechnology Program for Asia. That was one where they went to the board and they said, “Look, this is going to be a 12 to 15 year program, and if you’re not prepared to actually support this for 12 or 15 years, then we shouldn’t start it.” And, I had the opportunity recently with the Gates Foundation to go to China and to visit with some of the leaders in the agricultural sector there and they were the same ones that we had originally supported 20 years ago that now were the ones whose students’ students were presenting to us. It was very rewarding. So I think that for individuals to focus on those types of opportunities both for education and for building civil society organizations in particular countries is a top priority.
DULANY: Thank you.
DULANY: I wanted to open the floor and you can say no Kathy, if you don’t want to comment on it, but I just wanted to give Kathy a chance if she would like to first because Kathy’s family owns supermarkets through southern Africa and is very concerned with the issue of local production and access to markets. And I just wonder if you’d like to comment or ask a question.
KATHY ACKERMAN-ROBINS: Okay, hi. Kathy Ackerman-Robins from Cape Town. My family have been involved with agriculture, with the supermarkets, getting the food from the farmers to market. We’ve been working on this for the last about 15 years. And, we’ve worked with exactly what you were talking about—from small farmers. And I think there’s a lot of the issues around the cooperatives.
I’ve personally been working with a group up in KwaZulu-Natal where there isn’t transport. I was up there last year. One group was being charged such outrageous amounts that they actually came out with nothing, so the issues around transporting. Water is the biggest issue as well. There are just numerous things which you’ve all touched on, but for me, I think when you were talking about working with local capacity building, going into the communities, a lot of people also see this, over the years now, have seen that farming isn’t their first choice. They would rather sometimes be in the city. I’m sure you’ve also found that. So, you’ve got to make it like something that is appealing. And there’s some amazing perks. We can have a chat afterwards. So anyway, I don’t know if anybody—that’s okay? Thanks. Yes, sorry. My husband wants to say something.
DAVID ROBINS: Hi, I’m Kathy’s husband. I’m here as a spouse—David Robins. Can I just say this—that one of the benefits in hooking in with a supermarket company, in hooking up with a supply chain is that you can develop the capacity to supply and you also have the marketplace all at the same time. So you complete the circle. The difficulty is to find enough capital actually to partner with to get more projects on the go.
We have, because of our political history in South Africa, we have almost a requirement. I’m not talking about a government requirement, a requirement to be part of the development process. There are a lot of areas in which we, as a company, need to be invested in. There are a lot of areas where we feel more responsible to build capacity. The issue is that it’s very difficult for us to go into government. It’s very difficult for us to go outside of our own resources to help accelerate that growth.
DULANY: Yes? Danielle? Right there. Oh, sorry. Sorry Kathy, right.
JUDIDTHE REGISTRE: Hello, my name is Judidthe Registre. I am with the Women for Women International. I actually want to give a couple of comments and share some experiences with you particularly in response to some of the issues that were raised around capacity building and I’ll give you a couple of examples of two countries in Sudan and Rwanda where we’re doing successful projects in partnership with the government to address the issues of food security and provide economic opportunities for women.
One of the first things I want to raise, comments on is the issue of poverty. One of the things we’ve found around this issue of poverty around agriculture development has been key around land rights and access to land. It’s been fundamental issues about, you know, whether we’re talking about women of the local communities, they’re ability to actually have access to land, or have permission even if they are dormant, that they cannot actually get access to it.
Sudan, for example, the women had to actually struggle. In partnership we had to do advocacy work with them for close to a year and a half, two years until they could get 100 hectare of land from the government to actually produce. We did a market assessment where we were working in southern Sudan. The food they were consuming was coming from neighboring Kenya and Uganda and not in Sudan. And, the opportunities for production was huge, but no one wanted to invest in that.
When we first went in the country, people just thought we were crazy with our vision to actually do that kind of work. It’s interesting now looking back to sort of see that in southern Sudan where it’s estimated the national GDPs about $92, that the women can make that income on a monthly basis. And during the dry season, they can double that. In some instances where the women are actually quite productive they can make up to $300 a month which is significant in the context of southern Sudan where the women have actually earned nothing.
Now, our strategy was to actually address food security by commercial production because we know there would always be surplus and the surplus could always be used for consumption, and providing the women with access to markets with training around business development so that they would sell to the local hotels. It was quite amazing, the motivation because initially like Kathy was saying earlier about South Africa, no one was saying, “You want to take us backward? That’s what we used to do in the old days.” Until they start earning money and they start sending their kids to school, the motivation became incredible. It was quite phenomenal to sort of see that.
Another example is Rwanda. And I think in Rwanda what’s been fascinating for us around the government’s initiative obviously is quite, you know, it’s high. They really wanted to do that and we worked strategically within the government policy, and they provided the land. We gave the women the training. What’s been fascinating for us was that the training for the women that were participating in the program to actually produce for expert—we had buyers from the private sector who actually made the purchase prior to the actual production so the women could produce, which was quite phenomenal.
What was fascinating for us was the fact that the women were using the skills to teach other women in the community to do kitchen gardening. So, they were actually taking their skills to another level to help other women in the communities to actually learn a skill around agriculture that they didn’t have before because they know this woman. If only she could get that extra skill she could actually send her children to school. What we also ended up doing to wrap up quickly, was around the cooperative issues around small farmers helping them to actually gain market to work together as a group.
And because the government have good policies, farmers, they weren’t aware of the policies and the education that exists. As we talk about private sector and the various elements—how do we actually give people knowledge so that they actually understand the law that protects them and the opportunity that exists? Very often, they don’t have that access to knowledge. So I wanted to share those three examples.
DULANY: Those are great examples, thank you for sharing them. And I want to just make sure that Katherine gets to make her point and then give the two of you a chance to wrap up, because I think we’re headed toward lunchtime.
KATHERINE LORENZ: And it’s very nice to hear a lot of the hopeful reinvestment into this area. Sure, sorry. I’m Katherine Lorenz. I’m a GPC member and I’ve been involved in some nutrition and agriculture work in Mexico for a while. And, it seems to me that nutrition and agriculture are often very separate. A lot of the programs that nutrition is really focused on supplementation, fortification, and then the agriculture piece is about increasing yields. So, you’re getting malnourished kids who might be able to go to the health center and get a supplement and their parents are increasing yields of Cassava which is helping with hunger, but not the malnutrition issue.
I’m wondering if in this kind of new reinvestment in this area if you’ll see more investment in more nutritious crops, or kind of more locally appropriate, , kitchen gardens for example. I mean, why is that so absent and what would it take to increase investment in that area?
HOWARD: Well, thanks for such a diverse and good array of comments. I wanted to comment on the supermarkets. I mean, I think supermarkets as I’ve seen them develop in southern and eastern Africa have been a really interesting innovation and again, shows the power of the private sector. I mean, what it does, you provide an opportunity and it sort of focuses the mind. Okay, so what are the priority capacity building? You know, what kind of extension is needed? What kind of regulation is needed to make sure that local produce as well as South African produce gets into the supermarkets beyond? So that’s quite interesting.
You know, I heard from several people, you know, farming is not something that the youth of Africa want to do. I heard something very interesting from the President of Kilimo Trust. I don’t know if you know that one. It’s an East African Foundation. But he said to me one time, he goes, “You know, I have started to think about these kids on street corners who are selling roasted ground nuts. They don’t realize that they are actually part of the value chain for ground nuts.” And our responsibility is, I mean, to see farming as more than just what happens on the ground, but help people see that it’s actually a whole value chain that you can be involved in any part of it just like we see here in the U.S. and in South Africa. What does it take to make that roasted ground nut dealer dream about his ground nut processing facility and exporting ground nuts to wherever? So I think that’s a challenge for all of us.
On the women’s issue—again, very, very exciting. I agree entirely about the focus on land issues for women. We’re seeing that as a focus in the U.S. strategy and the focus on not just—I think in the new U.S. strategy and the new advocacy, a new emphasis on gender, not just as gender as a box that you need to tick off, but how women are really integrated into a commercial activity just as you are describing is very powerful. I mean, you’re seeing this in Rwanda, I think also in the coffee sector. So, quite exciting, and I think again, a lot of opportunities in investment are coming into them.
On just to finish up on the nutrition question, you know, there have been a couple of versions of the U.S. strategy for food security. The first one was introduced in September and then went out for comment to the NGOs. The biggest comment back on it was, “It’s too much about markets. It’s too much about private sector. That’s important, where is nutrition? You know, and how does this relate to health sector?” So now I’ve just seen a pirated copy of the consultation document that’s going to be released in a couple of weeks. And nutrition is actually just about at a par with ag markets in trade.
So this will be, nutrition, I think as you know, has been sort of the poor stepchild of assistance. It’s kind of been health, but the health folks don’t really, haven’t really acknowledged it. So I think it’s now got really quite a lot of political support for integration. Now the harder thing will be figuring out how you actually do that on the ground. Sam and I were talking before about the CIP—the International Center of the Potato. I think one of the world leaders on integrating agriculture and nutrition is the CIP leader in East Africa, Jan Low who I think for almost 15, 20 years has been working with the Helen Keller Foundation and others on orange fleshed sweet potato which high concentrations of now, let’s see, beta carotene for—anyway, all kinds of nutrition and eyesight, et cetera.
I remember when she told us, you know, we’re a group of aggies and she says, “You know, I’ve got money and I’m going to do this kind of unusual experiment. In about six villages in Mozambique I’m going to do it with my Mozambican counterparts, and we’re going to trial different varieties of sweet potato. We’re going to find a different type that yields more. We’re also going to do nutritional assessments all the way through and we’re combining this with classes for the women and we’re going to see how this turns out. And I think, in retrospect, Gates I think has just funded it a couple of years ago, began up scaling that to a number of countries. That’s kind of the leading edge of how we have to do that, how we all have to think differently.
DULANY: Thank you Julie. Sam?
DRYDEN: Well, I personally think that it’s inconceivable that you can separate agriculture and nutrition. And, from our perspective we’re trying to increasingly integrate that. I think that the supermarkets, interestingly, play a very important role in that because if you think of supermarkets—the head of Whole Foods actually said to me one time that they view themselves as consumer purchasing agents. What they’re doing is they’re actually sourcing the product that consumers want, but they’re also helping educate the consumer as to what is available. To the extent that it is possible to increase the supply chain to where you can source more locally more nutritionally, that’s something that I think we should all work towards as well.
And I think that the way to do that is working more through these collective and farmer organizations that can make it easier for you all to actually have a reliable supply of the produce and the products you need. Just a final comment on that is, I think that particularly in the United States, the younger generation thinks that food actually comes from supermarkets, from Safe Way or from wherever. One of the things that’s been interesting about the biotechnology controversy is that it’s actually caused people to go all the way upstream to think about where their food is being grown and what’s being grown. And irrespective of where you come out on that side of the biotechnology debate, it’s at least causing people to think about where they’re sourcing their food and that supermarkets actually play a role in that, but that’s not where it’s grown.
DULANY: I think we have time for one more question. Is there anyone—yes, Irwin?
IRWIN REDLENER: I just wanted to say that I didn’t really heard much about children and the special issues that apply to the nutritional needs of children in particular. And I’m especially interested in the focus or lack thereof of children in utero, so from the beginning of pregnancy through the first five years where critical brain development is happening. I’m just curious about whether you think we’re placing enough emphasis internationally on making sure that that critical period is as food secure as we could possibly make it? Because, the failure to deal with that in that window is not reversible later on.
So I mean, the adults get hungry and all that, and I appreciate that, but as a pediatrician, again, I just wanted to—
HOWARD: Thanks for that comment. Actually, the Lancet studies that came out four, five, six years ago that really pointed to the problem that needs to be addressed in utero, and then I think—I’m not a pediatrician—up to six months of really critical development time. I think that actually was a focus for the NGO groups that really rose up and said, “You know, why is this all about agriculture and not about nutrition?” And then when you think about nutrition, it’s not just about school lunch programs. We really do need to focus much more on maternal child health and on children at a much younger age. Again, this is brought out in the U.S. government strategy. So again, this research has had a big impact and deservedly so.
DRYDEN: Thank you for raising that because from the Gates Foundation perspective, that is exactly the point of intersection between global health and the agricultural program and that’s where we are focusing.
DULANY: So I hope you’ll all join me in thanking Julie and Sam for this.