ARUSHA, TANZANIA – For the last two weeks, USA Rice members and staff traveled here and throughout Kenya in a food aid “learning journey” along with participants representing U.S. Wheat Associates and the U.S. Grains Council. The group consulted with local governments, farmers, and private voluntary organizations (PVOs) which allowed the agriculture trade association representatives to gain firsthand knowledge of the implementation of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food assistance programs.
After a high-level food assistance program overview from USAID and USDA headquarters in Washington, DC, the trip began in Nairobi, Kenya where the USDA’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program successfully provided school lunches for more than 1 million children using U.S.-grown commodities, including rice grown and packaged by USA Rice members.
The United Nations’ Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kakuma, Kenya houses more than 200,000 refugees from countries across sub-Saharan Africa. The group met there with the camp’s food distribution council, run by the camp’s elders, who were preparing American food for the refugees. Both the council and the World Food Programme (WFP) staff emphasized that the food they receive from the U.S. is essential and well-liked by the refugees and they always welcome more donations.
Louisiana rice farmer Jeffrey Sylvester, a member of the USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee on the trip, said, “Witnessing the refugee camp was a once in a lifetime experience. We saw firsthand that there is a great demand for rice and the U.S. has an opportunity to step up to make the additional donations that the refugees need.”
In Tanzania, the team learned about USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative and visited active USDA Food for Progress Program projects that target countries with U.S. commodities that are then monetized (sold) locally to generate funds for development projects, such as building wells that help provide safe drinking water or irrigation water for farming.
Participants were able to get a full circle view of the USDA and USAID programs from their briefings beginning in Washington to meeting refugees, and seeing development work funded through the sale of U.S. commodities. Meetings with the PVOs and the U.S. government staff revealed just how beneficial the in-kind donations and U.S. food aid programs are for the long-term viability of these communities.
“The demand for rice was extremely high within food aid programs and commercial markets,” said Texas rice farmer Timothy Gertson, who also participated in the trip. “I believe with the projected population and economic growth within east Africa, the U.S. rice industry has a unique opportunity to make a humanitarian impact as well as develop future commercial markets.”
Photos from the November 2019 USA Rice Food Aid trip to Africa.