USAID predicts that emergency food assistance needs will increase by 25% in 2020 to address crisis levels of hunger. Dr. Robert Bertram, Chief Scientist in USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, discusses the impact of the public health crisis on global food insecurity, how the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative is responding, and how USAID is partnering with top U.S. universities on research and innovation to reduce global hunger, poverty and malnutrition.
Dr. Hale Ann Tufan, Associate Director of the Feed the Future Crop Improvement Innovation Lab at Cornell University, discusses new global crop improvement research aimed at increasing crop yields and enhancing nutrition. Feed the Future Innovation Labs lead research efforts to develop safe and effective technologies to address some of the world’s greatest challenges in agriculture and food security. The Innovation Lab at Cornell University was established in 2019 with a $25 million grant from USAID.
How is USAID responding in Nepal during the pandemic? Read the transcript here :
KISHOR PANTHI : How is USAID responding in Nepal during the pandemic? There is a kind of starvation because of the pandemic.
DR. ROBERT BERTRAM, CHIEF SCIENTIST IN USAID’S BUREAU FOR RESILIENCE AND FOOD SECURITY :
In Nepal we have traditionally had a very strong emphasis on nutrition as integral in Feed the Future. So we’ve had some major programs in the country, particularly in the Terai region but also in the mid-hills. In the Terai a lot of it is around system-level productivity and climate resilience and integration of nutritious crops like mung bean into the rotation where formerly there would be a hot season fallow.
So with all of these things have been – we’ve been trying to improve the productivity and resilience. In the mid-hills it’s been more around horticulture and market opportunities linked to that.
And then very importantly, we’ve had a major program called ‘Sahara’, which is an acronym for Nepali language. I can always try to get the exact – from the Nepali language, but it is basically about the nutrition piece of this. And we have been studying closely how to make agriculture more friendly to nutrition, how to engage communities in ways, particularly through women, that result in improved nutrition, improved availability of fruits, vegetables, poultry, and eggs, and nutrition education.
So we’ve had a robust effort there in partnership with the Nepali Government. I think right now, as is – as everywhere, just as in Zimbabwe, we are looking and working closely with the Government of Nepal to see how our programs can what we call “flex.”
We – some of them are in positions where they could make specific changes that would allow them to address some of the constraints that COVID is posing. So in a sense we are trying to – we’re giving license to our partners to try to be more flexible and responsive in ways that could speak to some of the needs that you talk about, Kishor. So – and again, I’m happy to find out more, Jen, and provide more background to Kishor if that were something that would be helpful.
DR. HALE ANN TUFAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, FEED THE FUTURE CROP IMPROVEMENT INNOVATION LAB, CORNELL UNIVERSITY : Can I just add to that too? And I think I want to make this point that – maybe this is a little naive but I think it’s true – that often when we have collaborations between scientists that transcends crises and politics – so for example, our work in Nepal right now, and looking at bio-fortification of lentils and kind of using some of the methods to have higher protein content in lentils.
And through everything, I think those links scientist-to-scientist, we often weather these shocks just to work together and continue our work together however that looks. I just want to make that point that that’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to have the local scientists paired with the scientists internationally, because we try to continue our work whatever happens and that resilience is really important.