Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Washington Foreign Press Center Briefing on "How USAID is Responding to Global Food Insecurity"

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MODERATOR: Good morning. My name is Jen McAndrew, andI ama Media Relations Officer with

theWashington Foreign Press Centerand the moderator for todayson-the-record

briefingon “How USAID isResponding to Global Food Insecurity.”

Our first briefer isDr. Robert Bertram, Chief Scientistin USAIDs Bureau for Resilience

and Food Security, who will discuss the impact of thecurrentpublic health crisis on

global food insecurity, how theFeed 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.

Our second briefer, Dr. Hale AnnTufan, is Associate Director of the Feed the FutureCrop

Improvement Innovation Lab at Cornell University. She will discuss new global crop improvement

research aimed at increasing crop yields and enhancing nutrition. The Innovation Lab at

Cornell was established in 2019 with a $25 million grant from USAID.

We greatly appreciateboth Dr. Bertram and Dr. Tufanfor givingtheirtime today

for this briefing.

And now for the ground rules:  This briefing is on the record, and the contents of todays

briefing are embargoed until 12:00 noon Eastern Time, today, September 17th.  We will post

the transcript of this briefinglater todayon our website,  If you publish

a story as a result of this briefing, please share your story with us by sending an e-mail


Dr. Bertramand Dr. Tufanwill give opening remarks, and then we will open it

up for questions.  If you have a question, pleaseopentheparticipantboxand virtually raise your hand. At that time, we

will unmute you and turn on your video so that you can ask your question.  If you

have not already done so, please take the time now to rename your Zoom profile with

your full name and the name of your media outlet.

And with that, I will pass it over toDr. Bertram.

MR BERTRAM: Thanks so much, Jen, and good morning, good afternoon, good evening I think

for some of you. And its a pleasure to be here, and I appreciate very much your joining

us today. My name is Rob Bertram and I am the chief scientist for Resilience and Food

Security at USAID. And this week we are celebrating 10 years of an initiative called Feed the

Future. Feed the Future was born 10 years ago as a response to the global food crisis

that took the world by surprise in 2008, 2007.

And what we found was that for a long time there had been complacency about investing

in agriculture, and yet demand for food was growing, but faster than production was growing,

and this caused price spikes, and because of trade linkages we saw prices increase tremendously.

We saw riots take place around the world. After years of benign neglect, agriculture

and food security was back front and center on the global stage.

So under President Bush, an emergency package wasof $900 million was announced, and

then subsequently when President Obama came into office he worked with international partners

asand the U.S. made a commitment for a billion dollars a year to fund Feed the

Future. And that was in partnership and complemented by similar kinds of investments from Germany

and the UK and other partner countries. It was really a global effort to respond.

Sobut what we found out, of course, in that crisis situation is that most of the

people that were most seriously affected actually depended on agriculture for their livelihoods.

The people in the rural areas were suffering the most from food price spikes because many

even small farmers are net consumers.

So the path forward when we talk about feeding the future really starts with feeding the

present, and we set about it in a couple ofwith a couple of new innovations. First

of all, we put nutrition front and center, because what we found is where we looked at

where hunger wasand thats also where extreme poverty iswe also saw rates of

child stunting, sometimes 40 and 50 percent. Child stuntingin other words, notweight

height-for-age, excuse meis a marker for chronic food insecurity, lack of access

to food exacerbated byto a quality diet, exacerbated by poor sanitation, a lack of

health care, a number of things. Its a complex outcome. But we made that target of

reducing stunting front and center, which put a human face on our work in agriculture.

The other thing we had as our big goal was reducing extreme poverty, and those two things

go together.

So what else was new about this? We took what we call a country-led approach. In other words,

we partnered with countries where child stunting, extreme poverty, and agricultural potential

all went together. And ironicallyyou wouldnt think thisbut ironically,

hunger and extreme poverty and child stunting concentrate in the major agro ecologies across

the worldthe savannahs of Africa, the Ethiopian highlands, South Asia. These are

also bread baskets and rice bowls of the world, but still hunger and poverty persisted.

We alsoand very importantly, in linking to our subject today, is that science and

technology was seen as a key opportunity to really address the needs of small older farmers

in developing countries around the world and bring them the benefits of science that farmers

in Europe or North America or Australia or Japan take for granted.

So thats a lot of what were going to be focusing on today. USAID set out to lead

Feed the Future with other agencies, and I want to particularly call out USDA the U.S.

Department of Agriculture and the State Department, who was theleveraging our domestic capacities

and our diplomatic engagements around the world to work with our partner countries.

We also put gender front and center in our work. We had gender as awe saw women

as key to economic action in agriculture. Many farmers and farm families are led by

women, but also absolutely critical for the nutritional outcome. So empowering women is

part and parcel of the approach because women make key decisions that affect the outcome

of family and child nutrition. So the combination of both the economic and the household realities

of gender isplays significantly in our work.

So in leading this research program that is part of Feed the Future, much of our work

was in the individual partner countries through development programs, generally about linking

farmers to markets and improving policies and making agriculture more efficient, productive

in ways that increased incomes but also lowered the prices and made food more affordable for

especially low-income consumers, whether they were in cities or in towns. And Im pleased

to share with you that last year the World Bank put out a report calledHarvesting

Prosperitythat shows that agricultural-led growth in an economy is up to four times more

effective at reducing extreme poverty, and thats both in urban areas and rural areas

because of those linkages that I talked about.

So we know that a key way to enhance both the incomes of people but also their access

to food is through growth in the agricultural sector. And of course, our focus has been

on the smallholder farm families. There are hundreds of millions of them across the world,

and they produce a huge amount of the food that feeds much of the world, especially in

places like sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, parts of Latin America.

So we work with sets of partners in carrying out the science piece, and thats what Im

going to talk about now.

We work with our U.S. university community. The United States, by virtue of our size and

the number of climates, the types of agriculture we have, were a country that can both contribute

a lot to collaborative research with our partners in developing countries, and we also stand

to gain sometimes. Sometimes we can work on a disease in Africa or Asia before it gets

to the United States. And we also work with the international agricultural research centers,

the CGIAR centers. Theyre funded by many countries across the world, and they work

all through the developing world on agriculture and related natural resources issues.

We work with our national research partners in partner countries. Thats the critical

third leg of our stool. And maybe if I add a fourth leg, we work with the private sector

as partners in research and development here in the United States but also in our partner

countries. So for example, in the private sector, there are key capacities in terms

of product development in ways that can accelerate the speed with which we can generate new technologies,

and weve generated more than a thousand that have been taken up by farmers all over

the world. So this isits a very gratifying sense of impact that weve achieved, and

I want to just state a couple facts for you.

We have measured that 24 million peoplefewer people are in extreme poverty because of this

work. We have measured that there are more than 3.5 million fewer stunted children because

of this work. And weve measured that 5 million families have escaped hunger. Soand

this is an ongoing effort, and many of you have heard that the world has committed to

trying to end hunger in this decade, and we are contributing to that and doing it with

the whole range of partners that Ive mentioned.

Finally, I want to come toand the last point on the science partners. And the U.S.

has also been a leader in working in a demand-driven way with our partner countries to access all

the science thats available. So thats biological sciences, social sciences, digital

information sciences. All of these are coming together to generate solutions in our partner


Finally, we cant think about food security right now without mentioning COVID, as Jen

mentioned. And COVID isits a key threat to some of the most nutritious, important

foods that people and families depend on: the fruits and vegetables, the fish, the dairy,

the poultry. These are value chains and production systems that have lots of human involvement

and interaction, and thats good because it generates jobs and opportunities, and even

and for women and youth as well, both on farm and off. But these are the ones that

are most vulnerable.

So were working with our partners in our USAID missions in the private sector and our

the governments in our partner countries to see how we can try to keep those safe markets

operating for fresh foods, for fruits and vegetables and meat and fish and dairy, and

make sure that those continue to operate safely. And of course, we are looking at food safety

more broadly, and thatand building it in to our work in ways that help us build

back stronger as the world collectively meets this challenge.

So I thinkJen, I think my time is up. Ill stop there. But later on, when we come

to the questions or if theres anything Ive missed, Im really happy to say a

few more words. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Dr. Bertram. And now over to Dr. Tufan, please.

MS TUFAN: Thank you, Jen, and good morning, good afternoon, good evening, as Rob said.

Im really happy to be here and thank you for the opportunity. My name is Hale Ann Tufan.

Im the associate director for the Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement (ILCI) led by Cornell


So as Rob pointed out, we have multiple crises that are coming to the fore threatening global

food security: economic crises, conflict, pandemic right now, climate change. So while

we see social, public health, and economic healing will bring back stability to these

food systems, we really think scientific research will play a really important role toabout

bringingbuilding back stronger. For example, virologists will help discover a COVID vaccine,

but agricultural researchers such as plant breeders will also help a reliable influx

of crop varieties that really serve the backbone of food security in vulnerable countries.

So we think this is an all-important function of crop improvement as an example of the science

that Feed the Future supports globally.

So our Innovation Lab is a five-year initiative and its a 25 million grant from the U.S.

Government Feed the Future Initiative. And if I have to think and describe ILCI in a

word, I would say it would be space, and Ill explain why that word. So our whole premise

in ILCI is to serve as the support structure to National Agricultural Research Institutes

(NARI). Ill refer to those as NARIs going forward.

So we really see that as NARIs define their own goals and drive advancement to breed resilient

crop varieties to stand up to pests and disease and climate change, were a support structure

to that advancement. So our ideas are if researchers and NARIs are given the space to set their

own priorities for crop improvement, what would those look like? And if theyre really

given the space toif were given a space to co-create solutions to crop improvement

challenges that NARIs face in their own countries, what would those look like?

So NARIs really play a central role in food security strategies, but they often lack the

freedom to design and implement their own homegrown solutions. Theres a lot of donor

priorities, a lot of influx of different projects that sometimes keep busy work going, and we

really see to create the space for co-designing these contextualized solutions is really important.

And as weve said, we believe that if these NARIs play a central role in designing their

own innovations to target their own needs, these solutions would be more sustainable.

And we really think that this dovetails with USAIDs framework for the journey to self-reliance,

so we see ourselves in kind of enabling that through these grants.

We have a global mandate. We have East and West Africa regions, Latin American, Caribbean,

and South Asia. So its quite a wide mandate. We havewere working on crops that

are really critical to food security in these regionsroots, tubers and bananas, sorghums

and millets, and legumes except peanut and soybeans. So these are really important crops

for food security.

Our core team is a multidisciplinary team across Cornell University, Clemson University,

and Kansas State University, but also we have partners for cross-cutting issues, cultural

practice, RTI International for MLE, and Makerere University in Uganda for gender training for


So really looking at our own experience at Cornell and thinking why this is exciting

for us, we really host some of the most original and cutting-edge thinkers in crop improvement.

Theres a lot of new innovation and new ideas that come out of Cornell. Yet we dont

really stop to think how these thoughts and innovations apply to NARIs. What does this

mean? So through ILCI, we see a lot of our faculty getting excited about experimenting

with how their innovations play out in national settings and really create space for consultation,

feedback, and co-creation for these ideas to be adapted to effectively support NARIs.

So this is what really excites a lot of our team.

And I want to give an example to really concretize that idea. So one intervention we focus on

is really tools, technologies, and methods for crop improvement. What does that mean?

For example, we have a team of faculty from Cornell, Kansas State, and Clemson together

supporting what were calling phenomics. Now, phenotype is a plant or what you observe

what is an overt, observable characteristics of a plant, which is a combination of its

genes that it carries but also the environment in which its grown. So its really what

you see, whats manifested visually for the plant.

Historically, plant breeders observe plants visually. So they say how tall is it; whats

the color of its grains, fruits, and tubers; is it resistance to pests. So its a visual

observation. But inover the last decade, theres been a lot of work done into really

supporting that with science and technology to saywhat happens if you use tablets

or cameras to take pictures and use those measurements to be more precise? What happens

if you collect data with those tablets, analyze them? What if you have specialized devices

that measure biochemical compounds that may be associated with what youre seeing for

quality of that crop, for example, or the nutritional content?

So our faculty are really bringing these expertise and that knowledge and offering them as options

to our NARI partners to say do any of these work for you; how can we tweak these so that

these would work for your crop improvement systems. So, for example, can the tablets

be used to capture data from field tries of sorghum in Uganda? Can the tools to measure

protein content for lentils help breeders in Nepal? Are these useful tools? So right

now, were developing, testing, adapting, and refining these many different approaches,

and we hope to do this directly with NARIs.

I think lastlyand Rob touched on this; its really importantwe realized that

crop improvement does not happen in a vacuum. So oftentimes science gets disconnected from

social issues in the countries that we work in, and to counter this, we really put a heavy

emphasis on crosscutting issues. These are gender, nutrition, resilience, and involvement

of youth. So we really believe that fostering gender and market-responsive innovationswhat

that means is any technology or any variety thats developed is developed with women,

children, and market dynamics in mindthat these go hand in hand with relieving world

hunger. We cant do one separate from the other.

We also believe that the future of food lies in getting youth involved, and we believe

that nutrition and food safety are at the heart of growing food. So if plants and people

can stand up to economic and environmental crises, we have a better chance of breaking

the cycle of poverty. So we really see food security deeply entangled with issues of poverty,

malnutrition, and gender equality, and we really by prioritizing those issues up and

front and center with our NARI partners as well will be supporting more transformative


So I just want to point out to those listening that we have just begun our journey. We just

started. We havent completed our first year yet, so we have many opportunities for

funding that will come up in the next four years in the Feed the Future target countries.

This will be around crop improvement, as I mentionedaround the mandate crops that

I mentionedand we really encourage researchers to keep in touch to learn of further opportunities.


So Im going to end with kind of outlining our current major partners and their planned

activities. So well be announcing todaythats what the embargo is forour

four new centers of innovation, as we call them. Each of these centers will receive $1

million over three years to invest in crop improvement priorities that they have established,

that we will be supporting them to see through.

So the first is called the East Africa Center of Innovation for Finger Millet and Sorghum.

This is centered in Uganda as the prime country with collaborating countries Kenya and Tanzania,

and the lead institution is the National Semi Arid Resources Research Institute, or NaSARRI,

and the PI is Scovia Adikini. Theyll be working on sorghum and finger millets, and

theytheir tagline for their project isharnessing sorghum and finger millet genetic

resources for increased productivity and utilization in arid and semi-arid regions of East Africa.”

The second project is the Central American and Caribbean Crop Improvement Alliance. This

is centered equally between Costa Rica and Haiti and the PIs are Jose Camacho (ph) and

Gael Pressoir. The crops are common bean, sorghum, and sweet potato, and they describe

themselves asa hub for plant cultivar development and breeding innovation in Central

America and the Caribbean.”

The third center is Center for Innovation of Crop Improvement for East and Southern

Africa, centralized in Malawi with Mozambique and Tanzania as partner countries, and the

lead institute is LUANAR, or Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The

PI is Dr. Michael Chipeta, and they are focusing on cowpea. So theyre really focused on

cowpea improvement for yield, disease resistance, adaptation, and nutrition security in East


And last but not least, we have Crop Improvement in West Africa Center. This is centralized

in Senegal with collaborating countries Burkina Faso and Niger. The lead institution isits

in French, sorryInstitut Senegalais de Recherches Agricoles, or ISRA, and the PI

is Dr. Jedo Kan (ph) and theyre focusing on sorghum, pearl millet, and cowpea for a

regionally coordinated approach to the development and dissemination of innovations in West Africa.

We also have, very quickly, five short-term research projects which will be one year long

in Haiti with Gael Pressoir, in Nepal with Dr. Faishandar Durai (ph); in Uganda two different

projects with Stanley Nkalubo and Benard Yadof, both with NaCRRI.

So Ill take any questions. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Before we go to questionsthank you very much, Dr. TufanDr. Bertram,

did you have any other remarks to make before we go to Q&A?

MR BERTRAM: Thanks, Jen. Yes. I want to build on the great news that Hale has just shared,

and I think Hale, youve done a great job of showing how we approach collaborative research

to improve food and agriculture by partnering with national institutions, following their

priorities, helping them achieve the things they want to achieve. So its really an

example of that country-led approach and also building capacity for our partner countries

to solve their own problems, to identify and solve their own problems in ways that will

help sustain their own journey to self-reliance, which is the theme that has guided us for

a number of years in all our work.

But Jen, I want to just say that in addition to the great news about the Cornell lab and

its new partnerships, we also have the animala new Feed the Future Innovation Lab for

Animal Health, and thats going to be led by Washington State University at Pullman

in Washington. Weve awarded them $16 million over five years to work on a tremendously

important disease that affects livestock in much of Africa called East Coast fever, costing

the continent $300 million per year. Sometimes people talk about a cow dying every second

from this disease. Its a terrible scourge of animal agriculture across much of Africa.

So were very excited about that.

Weve also made a special grant to our Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab, which is

led by the University of Illinois, to launch an Innovation to Impact platform thats

going to help make technologies more accessible to farmers in ways that advance global food

security. And again, this will be working with local partners, national, and also private

sector partners in commercializing these technologies. This is awere very proud of this lab.

It really exemplifies building partnerships. It works in Ghana, Zambia, Mali, Mozambique,

and Malawi, and again is really responding to Africas interests in developing soy

in ways that will help make things like chicken and eggs more affordable, and fishfish

feeds, make aquaculture-based fisheries more affordable and available for Africas farmers.

Finally, Jen, we have reauthorized and refunded our Livestock Systems Innovation Lab. This

is led by the University of Florida but involves many U.S. universities and many, many researchers

in partner countries. Thats going to continue to address the opportunities in animal agriculture,

in large livestock, small ruminants, and poultry, and also very importantly focusing on how

these foods in the diets of the poor are so important in providing nutrition in ways that

reduces child stunting as well as gives people an opportunity for a better life ahead.

So were really happy this week to be able to share this news about our continuing partnership

with U.S. universities and importantly partners, scientific partners, in developing countries

all around the world. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Dr. Bertram. On a logistical note for the participants, all of these details

are in a press release to be issued later today. We will share that with all the participants,

and the contents are embargoed until 12:00 noon Eastern.

I will now move to the Q&A portion of this briefing. I see we already have a hand raised

from one of our participants, so I will call on Simon Ateba from Today News Africa for

the first question. We will now unmute you.

QUESTION: Thanks. Can you hear me?


QUESTION: So thank you for taking my question. This is Simon Ateba from Today News Africa

in Washington, D.C. I dont know if you can talk a little bit more about food insecurity

in West Africa. I was born there, and I see a lot of land, but we seem to haveas

you mentioned, in Kenya and in other places where we have a lot of arable land, why is

it sowhy do we still have that problem of food insecurity in Africa, especially in

West Africa? And if you can talk a little bit more about the East Coast fever that costs

the continent billions of dollars every year. Thank you.

MR BERTRAM: Shall I go ahead, or? Jen, or

MODERATOR: Yes, please do.

MR BERTRAM: Oh, okay. I didntso thank you, Simon, for that question. We doWest

Africa is a major area of focus for us. We have partner countries, as Hale said, in Senegal,

Nigeria, Niger, Mali, and we have programsimportant programs in Burkina Faso. And

as you say, West Africa faces many challenges despite the fact that they arethey do

have a lot of good land and sometimes rain. I think rain and drought and climate change

are major challenges in the region, and we are working with partners to develop crops

that are more resistant to climate change.

So Halle mentioned the sorghum and millet with Senegal. Weve worked on that across

the region, but also cowpea, another crop. And some of these cropsthis is one of

the exciting things about Hales lab at Cornell, the Crop Improvement Innovation Lab,

is that theyre bringing the benefit of these scientific tools to the crops that have

been under-researched. Rice, wheat, maize have gotten a lot of attention.

Now, having said that, rice and wheat and maize are very important in West Africa, and

we do work on those. You might have heard about fall armyworm. This was a pest that

went from the Americas to Africa about four years ago and has since spread all the way

to Australia and is causing major losses to the maize crop and sometimes sorghum across

West Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, and parts of Asia. And we have mobilized with

partners across the world to address that.

Butso West Africa, I think the other big thing to talk about there, besides managing

water resources better through drip irrigation but also through better land management techniques,

would be the soil fertility challenges. Theyre very large, and we work with national partners

and regional partners around things like fertilizer policy to try to make fertilizer markets more

efficient, such that African farmers can access mineral fertilizers but also adopt practices

that increase the soil healthrotations of legumes, integration of perennials and

trees. Theres a number of things we can dointegration of livestock in a mixed

system so you get the manure produced.

So we take what is called the systems approach, in addition to coming in with these specific

technologies around improved crops, maybe improved access to weather information that

helps farmers make better decisions about when to fertilize, and also just accessing

better information about pests and diseases and how to best manage them.

Sobut I think we are making progress. I really do. Northern Ghana is an area that

we worked a lot in, and we do see improvements there. Its slow, but its coming, and

it continues. There are some special challenges that are not related to agriculture directly

that also affect and challenge our work in that part of the world. But we know that theres

strong commitment from our partner governments and organizations and institutions in those

countries to make progress.

And then on East Coast fever, just briefly, this is anot a new disease. It is endemic

in the area. Its spread by ticks, and East Coast fever, the technical name is theileriosis,

and the International Livestock CenterInternational Livestock Research Institute (, ILRI), in

located in Kenya, is a main researcher in this area, as are now with the new U.S.

institution at Washington State University also bringing to bear our science on this

problem. But it is widespread and people live with it, and animals live with it, but many

of them dont thrive. And of course, the families, if they lose a cow, this is a tremendous

loss for their livelihoods and for their nutrition, the ability to have milk available for the

family or for the market.

MODERATOR: Thank you for that. Our next question is from Cara Anna, the Associated Press South

Africa. We will now unmute you.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for the briefing. My question is what seed shortages have you

noticed in Africa caused by the pandemic and its wider effects, and what does that mean

for food security in the seasons ahead? Thanks.

MR BERTRAM: Well, I guess Ill take that one again, unless Hale, you want to speak

to it, Im okay.

MS TUFAN: No, please go ahead.

MR BERTRAM: So seed systems in Africa are a key area of usfor us. I just mentioned

the input markets for fertilizer, but the other main one where we work at both the technical

level and the business level and the policy level is on crop seeds. The most vulnerable

seed systemsthe most vulnerable commodities that I mentioned toin this crisis have

been the fruits and vegetables. And the vegetable seed industry is fairly advanced relative

to the seed industries for things like cowpeas or potatoes or other crops, sorghum and millet.

So I tend to think that in the short term we are probably less vulnerable with respect

to seed access. Its more the markets thatin terms of moving the product, the degree

of human involvement in transport, processing, marketing, and retailing that is ourprobably

our larger challenge at the moment. But Im really glad you asked the question, Cara,

because its a huge problem. Much of Africa, farmers are still growing seeds that arevarieties

that are 20 or 25 years old. This means theres been decades of times for pests and diseases

to evolve in ways that they can attack them. This means theyre not adapted maybe to

some changes in weather that have occurred or climate that have occurred in those intervening


So a lot of what our workand exemplified by Hales work, but also very much at the

end of the seed systems end of the spectrumis about getting these innovations, these

improved crop varieties into the hands of farmers. So in that regard we have a partnership

called Seeds to Be, and its to work in ways that help bridge the gap between the

innovation and the breeding with reaching the farmers and the seed systems. The best

place we see this happeningin fact, the most functional part is with respect to hybrid

maize, because theres a strong private sector incentive there.

And so for example, in the 2016 El Nino drought there were more than a hundred African companies

a hundred kind of companies in Africa, many of them small and medium sized, locally

ownedthat were providing drought-tolerant maize seeds to 3-and-a-half million farmers.

So this is a tremendouswe can see what can happen in ways that help reduce the losses

of maize. Farmers who grew that drought-tolerant maize that had been bred for years and years,

they benefitted tremendously. But in the crops like cowpea and sweet potato and finger millet

and many of the others that weve mentioned this morningsorghum and milletthe

seed systems are not as well developed.

So thats really where a lot of our effort is going. And frankly, we look to learn from

countries like South Africa that have managed to manage their seed systems in ways that

reach communities that are very similar to the same kinds of communities were working

to reach in other countries.

MS TUFAN: Can I just add to that quickly, Rob? I think a lot of what weve heard recently

is how COVID disproportionately affects the most vulnerable. So thats kind of a trend

that were seeing. And I think thats true also for the seed system and women, because

women often engage in informal seed systems, which is kind of off the record. Theres

no formal supply chain, its person-to-person, its local growers and multipliers, so theres

no kind of business around it thats formalized. And if those seed systems are impacted more

than the formal seed systems, women may bear the brunt of that change. So I think I just

want to highlight that in all aspects, COVID will probably impact women more than it does

men, and in seed systems thats particularly true. And some of the crops that women are

more engaged in are the ones who have informal seed systems. So its kind of this knock-on

effect, and then thats why we think its really important to make womens involvement

front and center, visible, and give them more voice in the choices that were offering.

MODERATOR: Thank you. I will now go to a question from the chat box, which is from Pearl Matibe

with Open Parliament, Zimbabwe. The question is: “On the massive food insecurity that

Zimbabwe is facing this year into 2021, can you comment and share data that show to what

extent this issue is so largei.e., how big is the problem?”

MR BERTRAM: Wow. Thats a challenging question. We know that things are getting worse and

that COVID is affecting situations across the continent and elsewhere in the world,

of course. Zimbabwe has, as you know, had particular challenges associated with its

currency, with internal markets, and Ithe agriculture sector, like other sectors, has


We do see the benefit of regional trade in these situations. Zimbabwe is significantly

linked with its neighboring countriesZambia, for example, and othersin ways that help

cushion, perhaps, the shocks that have occurred in-country. But the thing about the COVID

shock thats unusual is that its at the same time a supply shock for the reasons we

mentioned, but also a demand shock because people are losing their employment, the tourism

industry has collapsed, other industries have scaled way back. In Africa, many people in

urban areas are involved in goods and services for people, all kinds of services, and when

people dont have money they cut back on those. So this isits a real serious

issue, and were trying hard to work with our global partners and our partners in the

partner countries to really understand in real time the extent to which we need a range

of responses, from emergency assistance in some cases to better guidelines to policies

that help foster liquidity and make loans more readily available to small and medium

sized enterprises.

But it is a very complex and dynamic situation. This is one that Id be happy, Jen, to circle

back on it, if youd like to get more specific information with respect to Zimbabwe. But

we are there and we are watching and engaging in that situation very actively.

MODERATOR: Thank you. I do want to go back to Simon Ateba, who had a follow-up to his

earlier question. Simon, coming back to unmute you.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity again. I wasyou said

that the Feed the Future Initiative started under President Bush and President Obama expanded

it. And we know that President Trump has cut funding to many initiatives, from the UNUnited

Nations, WHOWorld Health Organization, and everywhere else. I was wondering if youve

been affected by those cuts by theby President Trump.

MR BERTRAM: So thanks, Simon. Let me clarify one thing. President Bush began an emergency

response to the food crisis, but Feed the Future was initiated under President Obama.

The crisis came right as one was leaving the White House and one was coming. So I want

to be clear that the Feed the Future started under President Obama, and then it became

the law of the land in 2016. It went from being a presidential initiative and our Congress

passed the Global Food Security Act which President Obama signed in July of 2016.

Now, interestingly President Trump has re-authorized that for five years in 2018, so the actual

re-authorization for Feed the Future and our work in global food security and resilience

ishas actually continued under this administration with the law being extended until 2022. And

then the other thing I would say is that weve had tremendously strong bipartisan backing

and our budget ishas remained $1 billion a year roughly.

The other thing, I thinkjust one other point on West Africa that I maybe should have

made earlier is I think you know, Simon, how interdependent West African economies are.

The livestock is produced in the drier regions to the north, and it moves south to meet the

demands of urban markets and coastal cities and the cities in between. And so the whole

area of trade policy and trying to improve the efficiency of markets is another thing

that I think I would mention as a key objective we have in West Africa. And too often we see

real costs and productivity losses relating to many kind of checkpoints and stops where

trucks sit and wait, and that costs money and it takes time. So were also working

with countries in the region to really help them improve theirboth their trade but

also their internal market efficiency. Just wanted to add that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We do have two more hands raised and I have a question in the

chat box, so I will start with the question in the chat box, which came in first. And

that is from Kishor Panthi from ABC TV Nepal: “How is USAID responding in Nepal during

the pandemic? There is a kind of starvation because of the pandemic. Could you please


MR BERTRAM: Thanks, Jen. I think that that one is for me again. So in Nepal we have traditionally

had a very strong emphasis on nutrition as integral in Feed the Future. So weve 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 beenweve been trying to improve

the productivity and resilience. In the mid-hills its been more around horticulture and market

opportunities linked to that.

And then very importantly, weve had a major program called SUAAHARA, which is an acronym

for Nepali language. I can always try to get the exactfrom 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 weve had a robust effort there in partnership with the Nepali Government. I think right

now, as isas everywhere, just as in Zimbabwe, we are looking and working closely with the

Government of Nepal to see how our programs can what we callflex.” Wesome 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

were 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. Soand again,

Im happy to find out more, Jen, and provide more background to Kishor if that were something

that would be helpful.

MS TUFAN: Can I just add to that too? And I think I want to make this point thatmaybe

this is a little naive but I think its truethat often when we have collaborations

between scientists that transcends crises and politicsso 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 thats one

of the reasons why its 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.

MODERATOR: Thank you. I will now call on Kemi Osukoya from Africa Bazaar magazine Ethiopia.

QUESTION: Hello, can you hear me?

MODERATOR: Yes we can. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, all right. Thank you for doing this call. As you mentioned earlier on, this

is not the first time that the U.S. is addressing food insecurity in Africa and in the developing

world. I was wondering if you could share some of lessons that youve learned over

the years and what youre doing differently this time. The other part of my question is

you also mentioned women involvement. Women especially in Africa are primarily the farmers,

more of the farmers. Soand land ownership is key to food security. So what are you doing

in this aspect to enable and empower women regarding land ownership?

MR BERTRAM: Great. Thank you for that question, Kemi. So I guess some of the lessons I would

mention that weve learnedI mentioned country-led, right, when I was talking earlier,

and I said that we follow the lead of our countries. I think we learned that if our

partner country doesnt prioritize something we probably shouldnt either, because it

wont be sustainable. In other words, its notthis is not about us imposing some

agenda that we have, whether it be in science or policy or development activities, but rather

really following the lead of our partner countries with them as the key investors.

This iscountries like Ethiopia have tremendous investments going on now in both research

extension, the fertilizer system, and the country has seen tremendous progress. People

dont know enough about how much Ethiopia has grown its agricultural sector in ways

that have reduced poverty tremendously. In the past 20 years, extreme poverty rates in

Ethiopia have gone from about over 70 percent down to under 20. I mean, its a tremendous

story thatswe often think of the Green Revolution about Asia but theres been a

Green Revolution going on in Ethiopia as well. So thats a case in point.

Other issues that I would say: the fact that the private sector is where the action is.

I mean, public investments are really criticalroads, education, some types of extension

but increasingly in this world we see the private sectorlocal private sector

especially, but also international partnersengaging in ways that help meet the needs

of farm families.

I think the digital revolution is changing things as we speak, making better weather

forecasts, better market information. Imagine how much more powerful a woman farmer in rural

Ethiopia is if she knows the price of chickpeas in Addis, and when shes selling to a vendor,

an aggregator, a transporter, a middleman as we sometimes call them. So we see that

information as being a really powerful aspect of what we do inand with respect to everything

managing soil and water, the crops we grow, the livestockanimal health measures

we take, the livestock breeds, everything, and then right through the market system to

the consumer.

And then finally, regarding women, we have a womenswe developed with IFPRI and

it was cofounded with the Gates Foundationthe Womens Empowerment and Agriculture

Index. Its called the *WEIA, W-E-I-A Womens Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI)*,

and you could search for it on the web with IFPRI, the International Food Policy Research

Institute. And that iswashas been a tool that has guided us to help us understand

what is the ability of a woman to control resources, to have opportunities in business,

to be involved in the seed systems. Weve done some really interesting work around informal

seed systems in Rwanda just recently that shows how critical the role of women are in

those informal seed systems. And very importantly, using what we call DNA fingerprinting, we

see that those informal systems in some cases are picking up the latest varieties and moving

them to farmers.

But we also see that the playing field isnt always level. The males tend to have larger

volumes. The women may have more customers because theyre at a smaller scale. So we

tryunderstanding these things and these disparities is the first step towards addressing

them. But the idea of womens empowermentand I think both Hale and I have really

tried to emphasize that this morningis part and parcel, and not only because we think

its the right thing to do. Its also the smart thing to do because women are incredibly

important economic actors in food and agriculture.

MS TUFAN: If I can just add to that, I think in land ownership its a very tricky subject,

and a lot of people who work in gender and ag are focused on this, and to understand

that there are customary laws and formal laws to land ownership. And sometimes those are

in contradiction; sometimes theyre not. But I think whats important were seeing

more and more in this space is transformative community change, so engaging communities,

especially men and boys, to empower women. So that kind of community-wide transformation

often is the most sustainable way to empower women, so I think a lot of the interventions

are seeing more of that instead of focusing onjust on women bringing the whole community

along. So were seeingI think thats really important.

And also USAID does a lot of gender and value chains work, because what we see is if you

cant always solve the problem of land access, you can create more opportunities for women

along other nodes of the value chain, whether that be employment, whether that be kind of

engaging in the sales or processing of the crops. Thats a form of empowerment. If

you cant change the land tenure, then at least you can create opportunities in other

nodes through especially cooperative and collaborative arrangements. So there are worries around

the land issue that I think people are getting more creative with.

MODERATOR: I have a question from Alex Raufoglu, Turan News Agency, Azerbaijan. Alex, we will

unmute you.

QUESTION: Great. Thank you so much, and its good to see you, Jen, today. I thank you all

for being here to inform us today. I understand Feed the Future Initiative doesnt cover

the South Caucasus, particularly Azerbaijan, but given your experience in working in oil-rich

countries, I wonder if you have any recommendations regarding how to avoid food insecurity caused

by the pandemic, particularly given the report that the era of oil demand growth is about

to die. In other words, what do you hope people in my part of the world take away from your


And separately, if I may, I do want to ask about the technology, as you mentioned at

the beginning. It is alwayshas always been a key drivernew development, weapons

right? But is there anythinganything different about technology today when it comes

to addressing food insecurity than it has been historically? Thanks so much.

MR BERTRAM: Right. I appreciate your bringing up this issue that some countries are suffering

a real double whammy because theyre suffering from COVID but also a collapse in oil prices

and oil demand and sometimes other natural resource exports. So these countries have

been hit hard.

Our analysis shows that, generally speaking, some Asian countries arecanand Im

not talking about Azerbaijan here; its a producer. But some of the consuming countries

in Asia can benefit to some degree from lower oil prices in ways that help sustain their

industries. In Africa, we dont see that happening, in part because the urban environments

are heavily goods and services oriented and less industrialized and hence the impacts

there have been somewhat larger in the urban areas.

In an oil-producing country like Azerbaijan I thinkand Im going beyond my expertise

here, but I think the opportunity for the government, its a more developed economy,

there are more means for countriesa country like that to undertake stimulus, albeit with

the challenge you just mentioned, Alex, around the reduced oil revenue, so I understand the

squeeze there.

But many of the poorest countries dont have ready ways to support their economy broadly.

They dont have as many stimulus opportunities. So Im sure that the economists in Azerbaijan

and its international partnersfor example, like IFPRI or some of our U.S. universities

are, Im sure, partnering with institutions in your country and othersare thinking

about what opportunities are there.

I think agriculture isopens up diversification opportunities, and Azerbaijan has a very diverse

and rich agriculture. Is possible that in this period where certain aspects of its

economic landscape are changing, maybe some of the investments in agriculture will be

of high interest, especially the thingsthe horticulture, the fruits and vegetables. And

of course, these are the same ones that often offer opportunities for women, for people

youth, for people without land. So itsthat is not a comprehensive answer to

your question by any means.

That last point you made about technologyyes, thatsthis istechnology

has changed a lot, and its helping the world address challenges like growing population,

like scarcity of good land in some areas. Were using most of the farmland that we

can in many parts of Asia, for example. Water use efficiency, resource climate change. I

mean, we can look at things like heat tolerance and drought tolerance, and I mentioned some

of that earlier.

Now, I think the challenges come up there because you get into science policy discussions,

correct? I mean, some parts of the worldmany countries have embraced biotechnology in agriculture

as a means for reducing the use of pesticides, reducing the use of water, or increasingactually,

in our country, increasing soil fertility and soil conservation, reducing soil erosion.

So you see that, but you also see countries that have said no, we dont want that. And

of course, I think now, for example, with a situation like fall armyworm in Africa,

some countriesor a country like South Africa is not having a problem with fall armyworm

because they have biotech maize there, whereas some of their neighboring countries are really

suffering. And so countries are saying, well, do we want to try to control this with pesticides,

which are expensive and toxic, or do we want to try to use this technology thats used

all over the world at this point?

So we also engage with our partner countries in the science policy where we try to, I think,

work with them in ways that increase the ability to do food safety and bio safety, environmental

safety assessments of technologies, new technologies. Gene editing is another one thats on everybodys

Hale should say more about that because she knows way more than I do. But absolutely

tryingagain, notits not just about technologies. Its about how you manage

and regulate them. And we work with our partner governments around the world to enhance their

capacity there.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Dr. Bertram. I think weve come to the end of our time. There

are still a few questions in the chat box, which I will forward to our briefers for response

later today. As a reminder, the contents are embargoed until 12:00. We will send the details

about the announcements mentioned in the briefing to all the participants via email.

I want to thank both of our briefers for giving their time today on this very timely and important

topic, and I will wish everybody a good day. Thank you all.

MR BERTRAM: Thank you, Jen. Thanks to all who joined.

MS TUFAN: (Inaudible.) Yeah, thank you.

MR BERTRAM: Im really grateful that we have a global interest in this, what is truly

a global issue.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Good afternoon.

The Description of Washington Foreign Press Center Briefing on "How USAID is Responding to Global Food Insecurity"