Tuesday, October 27, 2009

US Goverment Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative

We keep seeing more signs that the Obama administration is prioritizing their food secutity strategy, making sure it incorporates the views of a diversed group of stakeholders. This strong, well-funded global food security strategy seems to be the bargaining chip Obama will bring to the table at UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in early December, given that a comprehensive climate bill is not likely to pass (maybe a water-down version).  Below some info and good resources from USAID's FBCI on the global hunger and food security strategy:
More than one billion people — one sixth of the world's population — suffer from chronic hunger. Without enough food, adults struggle to work and children struggle to learn. Global food supplies must increase by an estimated 50 percent to meet expected demand in the next 20 years. Advancing sustainable agricultural-led growth increases the availability of food, keeps food affordable, and raises the incomes of the poor.
The U.S. is committed to working as part of a collaborative global effort centered around country-led processes to improve food security. We are working with stakeholders to advance action that addresses the needs of small scale farmers and agri-businesses, and harnesses the power of women to drive economic growth. We will increase our investment in agriculture development while maintaining our support for humanitarian food assistance.
Principles for Advancing Global Food Security
1.       Comprehensively address the underlying causes of hunger and under-nutrition
2.       Invest in country-led plans
3.       Strengthen strategic coordination
4.       Leverage the benefits of multilateral institutions
5.       Make sustained and accountable commitments

Key Documents and Websites:
From the NGO Community:

Friday, October 23, 2009

IFPRI Report: Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development

Check out this recent report published by IFPRI on Ag Development: Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development. The timing could be better. Just a couple weeks ago FAO announced that food production will have to increase 70% by 2050.

The report identifies about 20 successes across the developing world, spanning from interventions enhancing productivity to combating diseases and pests, conserving natural resources, expanding market opportunities, improving human nutrition, and improving the policy environment.  A common thread running through many of these successes is the confluence of science, policy, and leadership. Hope those making key decisions get to read it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Washingtonians: IFPRI-Oxfam America Panel Discussion -- "The Other Green Revolution"

For those in the DC area, check out the presentation below:
IFPRI and Oxfam America are pleased to invite you to the following
Panel Discussion, which will be held in IFPRI's fourth floor
conference facility located at 2033 K Street, NW (entrance to building
on 21st street between K & L streets). Please feel free to share this
announcement with your colleagues.  Kindly RSVP to Simone Hill-Lee
(Tel: 202.862.8107; s.hill-lee@cgiar.org).


Farmer-led Change in the Sahel 1980-2010

A successful example of achieving food security while adapting to
climate change, catalyzed by farmers and scaled-up by effective aid.

Panelists: Mr. Yacouba Sawadogo; Dr. Chris Reij; Dr. Edwige Botoni;
Ms. Sakina Mati
Chair: Rajul Pandya-Lorch

Friday, 30 October 2009
11:45-1:30 p.m.
A light lunch will be provided.


After the devastating droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, African farmers
in the Sahel region mobilized to reclaim their land from the
encroaching desert. 30 years later, their work has secured 13 million
acres of farmland, fed three million people, recharged village wells,
and supplied useful and valuable tree products. Despite growing
populations and the threats of climate change, food security has
improved in the Sahel region.

Mr. Yacouba Sawadogo is a lead farmer and natural resource innovator,
in the Yatenga province, Burkina Faso. Dr. Chris Reij is a Natural
Resource Management Specialist, with the Center for International
Cooperation. Dr. Edwige Botoni is a Senior Coordinator, "Sahel Study,"
Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel. Ms. Sakina Mati is the
Director, village agro-forestry committee, in Maradi, Niger.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crop Profile: Maya Nut (Ojoche) Local Solutions to Hunger

Hola reader,
I'm finally back from a short trip to Nicaragua and after catching up with the usual work that piles up while abroad, I wanted to blog about some exciting things happening in agriculture and the food security debate, foreign aid, and my garden.

But first, I wanted to tell you about Ramon, or Ojoche as he likes to be called in Nicaragua. Ojoche is a tropical tree endemic to most areas in Meso America. The nut of this tree was used by the Mayas as a source of food rich in protein, fiber and vitamins. Today, organization such as The Equilibrium Fund are promoting the use of Ojoche -Maya Nut- as a local, sustainable solution to chronic malnutrition so prevalent in the many areas Central American Altiplano and as a economic alternative in underserved rural communities.

Maya nut or Ojoche

Ojoche has many benefits. First, the trees already grow naturally in most Central American countries and its nut is consumed by some individuals. For those areas where there aren't any trees, seedlings can grow fairly quickly. Second, the nut can be grounded and its flour used to make bread, tortillas, cookies, and many more recipes. As mentioned above, Ojoche's nutritional content is quite high, serving as a viable solution to the food needs of families leaving in these communities. Finally, the nut is part of forest, protecting water basins, feeding wildlife, and supporting an endangered biodiversity.

In addition to these benefits, the nut can be sold in the form of flour, generating much needed income in communities left behind in the road to progress. I hope we can start promoting the use of the nut in the areas where Fabretto, the organization i work for, runs its programs. I envision a local women coop that collects and process the nuts and then sells it to the local school for its lunch program. In this model, one addresses some of the immediate food needs and perhaps more importantly, generates local revenue sources. This new income has the potential to fundamentally change the economic structure of these communities by generating revenue for poor families who often time have little money to meet their most basic necessities.

Anyway, i could keep going on about how this is the type of development approach that must complement, if not replace, the effort of those in power calling the foreign aid shots in Washington. By the way, If your are going to be in DC in November, make sure you stop by the World Bank's Development Marketplace awards to see the Equilibrium Fund showcase its support of grassroots organizations promoting the use of Ojoche Nicaragua.

Finally, for those Hispanoparlantes, below you will find a great video about the use of Ojoche in Guatemala

Episodio 45 from Caminos del Asombro on Vimeo.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Some links

Greeting from Nicaragua. trying to find some time to dedicate to the blog but right now, time is a scare commodity. Plus i've been spending my time in Managua, Nicaragua's capital, where there isn't much to talk about relevant to Agdes.
I did, however, wanted to share with you a couple of good articles and links:
stay tunned for more on Nicaragua

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Living in DC looking for a bed in Monticello

In a letter to his dear Maria Cosway, Jefferson complained that 'All is politics in this capital.' 220 year later, that characterization remains more valid than ever.

The political fronts were clearly aligned yesterday at the first symposium of the Global Harvest Initiative. Even though not many people knew about this event, (except those inside ag circles in DC) the online debate is heating up.

The Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) "is dedicated to spurring the development and sharing of agricultural innovations with those that need it most. It is underwritten by funding from the Archer Daniels Midland Company, DuPont, John Deere and Monsanto."

Have you seen Matt Damon latest movie The Informant? you should. In the movie, Damon plays the role of a ag technician promoted to senior management that releases secretive information to the FBI about the sketchy business deals of ADM or Archer Daniels Midland, yeah, one of the sponsors of GHI.

There are tons of documentaries and movies about the 'evil' work of Monsanto and DuPont. The point is that all these brand names, working for those that 'need ag innovation the most' should, at the very least, spark some ekeptisim about the real motives behind this iniciative.

So I wasn't surprise when i read the news release from the ad-hoc US Working Group on the Food Crisis, describing how GHI:
"continues to advocate a failed approach to feeding the world and addressing global hunger. The September 22 Global Harvest Initiative Symposium on “Agriculture at a Crossroads”—featuring Senator Richard Lugar—claimed to have some of the “best thinkers” in agriculture, food security and hunger. However, it relied heavily on panelists who have consistently pushed chemical-intensive production; unproven biotechnologies that have been linked to farmers’ loss of land, suicides and environmental contamination; and “free trade” in agriculture as the solutions to feeding the world."
This criticism has merit, after all, these organizations carry a heavy baggage of past corruption and abuses. However, in an already polarized city, critics fail to recognize that fertilizers and biotechnology must play an central role in feeding our current population and the many more to come. Investing in agroecological sciences and biodiverse farming is essential but it won't guarantee the massive production of staples needed to satisfy the demand of a world moving to cities. So rather than focusing on vilification we could promote constructive dialogue by recognizing the validity of some aspects of GHI and work towards an agenda that promotes ag development, safeguards the environment and protects crop diversity....

I know, I know, i'm starting to sound like a politician, well i happen to live in DC, but i wouldn't think twice about moving to Monticello.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New publication from Action Against Hunger of global food crisis

Check out Action Against Hunger's latest publication: Feeding Hunger & Insecurity: Field Analysis of Volatile Global Commodity Food Prices, Food Security, & Childhood Malnutrition,

According to the press release the report offers an assessment of the global food crisis and its impact on vulnerable communities. It's based on a series of in-depth surveys that ACF carried out in the wake of the global food crisis, targeting households in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Central African Republic. While the inflated food prices did not have an immediate impact on malnutrition rates, the findings suggest a significant, persistent impact on livelihoods and dietary diversity, which are key determinants of malnutrition.

A welcome addition to the recent collection of literature on the global food crises.

PS. Agdes is leaving for Nicaragua tmrw. Not sure how much time it'll have for blogging. stay tunned

The Nation on Africa's Green Revolution; Gates opening slowly

Somewhat different view from the optimistic goals of the Gate's foundation agricultural strategy in Africa. Although The Nation recognizes there is validity on some of Gates' objectives, they criticized the overall approach, in particular the entrenchment of corporate seed makers as an essential component for the so-called 'African green revolution.' According to the Nation, Gates, "actively promotes an agenda that supports some of the most powerful corporations on earth."

In my view, that statement ignores the fact that the foundation, as any other grant-maker, makes its funds available through a competitive bidding process, transparent and open to all sorts of organizations such as NGO's and university.  Just take a quick look to the grants given so far and you'll recognized organization doing excellent work such as WFP, IFPRI, CMMYT, Heifer, Cornell University, GTZ, etc.

One of Gates' recent grantees is CIAT (Centro International de Agricultura Tropical). I had the fortune to visit CIAT earlier this year on my trip to Colombia. Set in the fertile soils of Valle del Cauca, and surrounded by endless hectares of sugar cane, CIAT has produced a massive record of research on neglected crops, hilly agriculture, participatory approaches etc.

Unfortunately, the current staff is only one quarter of what it used to be in their heydays. Walking through their facilities -a university like setting- you could see the financial struggles they are going through: high pastures as funding for overhead is almost non existing and abandon building and research sites. Budget cuts and lack of donor interest in agricultural research, extension, and education, have curtail the availability of CIAT and other CGIAG research center to maintain the level of work they had in the 70s and 80.

We should loudly applaud the recent boost Gates is given to CIAT and other research efforts. Instead of critizining their effort, we Nation should participate on a constructive dialoge on the most effective mechanismins to lift African farmers out of poverty.

McArthur Genious and the work of Esther Duflo

This week, the MacArthur Foundation named the 24 recipients of the Genius Awards -half million dollars no string attached- for each. As i was communing back to my house this evening, I listened to a NPR report on two of the winners, a mathematician from Harvard and a poet from University of Washington. Both have impressive credentials and do innovative work. This post, However, is about another genius: Esther Duflo, an economist at MIT.  

The cacophony of macro-economist debating on the future of their profession has muted many vanguard forces trying to shift the economic paradigm that has remained freshwater-shipwrecked for the past few decades. The work of proffessor Duflo is a prime example of how finally we are starting to see alternative views that challenge neoclassic economic theory. Following the footsteps of great minds like Kenneth Boulding, E. F. Schumacher (yes, buy Small is Beautiful), Howard Odum, and Herman Daly, Duflo, and a new generation of economist, are finding inspiration on psychology, environmental science, design, and philosophy, to move away from economics as a mathematically driven exact science.   

Take for example her work on Fertilizer in Kenya. She tries to understand the underlying motives behind the low use of fertilizer among Keynesian farmers, even when the returns on investment are extremely evident. The culprit? procrastination.  "Behavioral biases limit profitable investments in fertilizer by farmers in developing countries." Or in other words, farmers, just like voters and individuals, not always make rational decisions.

What is remarkable about her work is the use of other social sciences, to explain economic behaviors. Not that other researches aren't doing it, but rather we aren't hearing about them. Their voice and their research remains secluded to small circles behind the wall of coastal universities. We need more Duflo's in the econ departments of our colleges and universities. We need a more comprehensive development economics that values and understand our flaws and virtues and gives real solutions to the millions still undeserved. Tell me, if you know where they are.

Friday, September 18, 2009

African Leafy vegetables -keep them in the pot-

Traveling abroad? visit the three Ms: Markets, Match (soccer preferably) and Mass (or any other religious celebration). This is what i tell my friends when they ask me how to get to know a country in their two-weeks field visits. And this BBC special really brought back some great memories about African Markets and the diversity of greens and vegetables they offered. More importantly, the report emphasizes how these greens have been somewhat neglected by the current ag development strategy, even though they are rich in micro nutrients and resistant to local pest.
Special thanks to Jeremy over at the Agriculture Biodiversity Weblog for bringing this article to our attention.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The case for Investing on Agricultural Development according to Gates

Excellent read to understand the need for increased attention for ag development on foreign aid circles. From Gate's Agricultural Development Strategy
  • What issues affect the most people but receive the least attention and resources?
  • What are the most effective ways to help large numbers of people overcome hunger and poverty?
  • Where can we have impact over time that is scalable and sustainable—environmentally and economically?
Time and again, the answer was agriculture.

Ending hunger and Obama's Administration

Two bullet points about important to curve the amount of hunger in the world. Make sure you check out the report.
  • The Roadmap to End Global Hunger and Promote Food Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2817) has been introduced, which describes the elements of a comprehensive strategy to address global hunger, based on the Roadmap to End Global Hunger report developed and endorsed by  a coalition of more than 40 organizations.
  • President Barack Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton have announced the administration's intention to strengthen and expand U.S. international hunger alleviation efforts

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Norman Borlaug dies at 95

Nobel Prize-winning scientist Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, died today at age 95

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Obama Signs off on Review of Global Development Policy

Another big initiate is taking shape in the White House. We'll see
what town hall goers will have to say this time. r

From FP: http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/08/31/in_new_directive_obama_signs_off_on_development_review

In new directive, Obama signs off on development review

President Barack Obama has signed a Presidential Study Directive
authorizing a U.S. government-wide review of global development
policy, according to sources briefed on the review by the White House.
The review, expected to be completed by January, is being formally
co-led by National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones and chairman of the
National Economic Council Larry Summers.

Development hands say the new PSD is important because it signals the
intent to reach across government agencies to think through a more
coordinated and strategic approach to development policy, to include
(beyond the State Department and USAID) the Defense Department,
Treasury Department -- which handles U.S. assistance to multilateral
assistance organizations, the Overseas Private Investment Corps,
agriculture departments, etc.

The State Department announced in July that it was launching its own
major development strategy review, in the form of a Quadrennial
Diplomacy and Development Review process, co-led by Policy Planning
chief Anne-Marie Slaughter and Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew,
with assistance from acting USAID coordinator Alonzo Fulgham.

The NSC's senior director for development issues, Gayle Smith, who
reports to both Jones and Summers, is supposed to take a key role in
the development review authorized by the new Obama Presidential Study
Directive. Smith has recently been joined at the NSC by Jeremy
Weinstein, who came on earlier this month as the NSC's director for
democracy. Weinstein, previously at Stanford University (along with
the NSC's Senior Director for Russia Michael McFaul and NSC Senior
Director for Europe Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall), assisted Smith in
coordinating the Obama campaign's expert advisory group on development
and democracy issues. The White House didn't immediately respond to a

Friday, August 14, 2009

Clinton appoints Paul Farmer as Haiti deputy

So the rumors that he would not take the job as USAID administrator
turn out true...read below:

Associated Press
2009-08-12 01:37 AM

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who is now the U.N. special envoy
to Haiti, announced the appointment Tuesday of Harvard professor Paul
Farmer, a pioneer in community health treatment for the world's poor,
as his deputy.

Farmer, a medical anthropologist and physician, is a founding director
of Partners In Health, an international nonprofit organization that
provides direct health care services and undertakes research and
advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in
poverty. He began working in Haiti in 1983 while still a student to
bring modern health care to the Western hemisphere's most impoverished

"Paul's selfless commitment to building health systems in the poor
Haitian communities over the last 20 years has given millions of
people hope for a brighter future for Haiti," Clinton said in a
statement. "His credibility both among the people of Haiti and in the
international community will be a tremendous asset to our efforts as
we work with the government and people of Haiti to improve health
care, strengthen education, and create economic opportunity."

Farmer said he was honored to be the U.N. deputy special envoy to
Haiti and looked forward to continuing his work with Clinton and the
Haitian government and people "as they implement their plans for a
better future."

Haitian President Rene Preval called Farmer "a good friend to the
Haitian people for many years."

"I look forward to working with president Clinton, Dr. Farmer, and all
friends of Haiti on our efforts to create new jobs, strengthen
essential services, build infrastructure, and enhance the prosperity
of all Haitian households," Preval said in a statement.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Clinton's appointment in May
to help the impoverished nation achieve some measure of stability
after devastating floods and other crises.

Clinton is working trying to encourage international investment in
Haiti and ensure that the world delivers on a $335 million pledge made
at a donor conference in Washington after four devastating tropical
storms killed some 800 people last fall, causing some $1 billion in

Farmer holds an M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard University where he is a
professor of social medicine, chair of the Department of Global Health
and Social Medicine, and chief of the Division of Global Health Equity
at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Master’s in Development Practice

Finding a master's program in international development that incorporates the different components of the development process is almost impossible. Most programs tend to focus on specific areas such as economics or human rights, while neglecting others equally or more important components such as agriculture and public health.

This is why when we learn about the MacArthur-funded International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice effort to develop a postgraduate curriculum that tackles the multisectoral and interconnectedness nature of development, this blog celebrated big time the effort.

Now the foundation has announced that new universities will be joining Columbia University in offering a Master's in Development Practice (MDP) program.

Keep reading for more info...

Chicago, IL, June 30, 2009 – Supporting rigorous professional training for future leaders in the field of sustainable development, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today grants totaling $7.6 million to nine universities in seven countries to establish new Master's in Development Practice (MDP) programs. 

The Foundation has committed $15 million to seed the creation of such programs at up to 15 universities worldwide over the next three years.  With MacArthur support, Columbia University is creating the first MDP Program, which will launch this fall. 

MDP programs are designed to provide graduate students with training beyond the typical focus on classroom study of economics and management found in most development studies.  The program's core curriculum combines classroom study in a range of disciplines, including agriculture, policy, health, engineering, management, environmental science, education, and nutrition with field training experiences.

"Through our work around the globe, we at MacArthur understand that poverty, population, health, conservation, and human rights are all interconnected, requiring sustained and comprehensive interventions," said Foundation President Jonathan Fanton. "These new programs are a model for training the next generation of these critically needed professionals."

A Global Master's in Development Practice Secretariat, supported by MacArthur and based at Columbia University's Earth Institute, will help manage the MDP network of universities, develop an open-source repository for the MDP curriculum and other teaching materials, and will offer an online, Global Classroom on sustainable development for students worldwide.

The universities that will receive funding to establish the nine MDP programs are:

·         Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia) will emphasize the health and governance-related aspects of sustainable development through its work with partners that include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CARE and the Carter Center.     

·         The Energy Resources Institute University (New Delhi, India) will emphasize energy and climate sciences, building on its contributions to scientific and policy research in energy, environment, and sustainable development. 

·         James Cook University (Cairns and Townsville, Australia) will offer coursework at its two campuses and field training in the Philippines and Indonesia, focusing on the challenges to sustainable development and governance in tropical island nations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. 

·         Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin (Dublin, Ireland) will integrate their teaching in international development and also partner with the National University of Rwanda to offer field training and coursework in conservation and sustainable development. 

·         Tsinghua University (Beijing, China) will build on its English-language degrees and Master's programs in international development and public administration to focus on development models for China. 

·         University of Cheikh Anta Diop (Dakar, Senegal) will focus on current development challenges facing Africa by integrating health, social and natural sciences, engineering, information technology, and management.  It will also serve as a MDP program hub for French-speaking West African nations.

·         University of Botswana (Gaborone, Botswana) will create a modular program designed for working professionals. Rigorous independent study will be complemented by two to three weeks of on campus training each semester.  University of Botswana will partner with University of Florida to offer field training experiences in Botswana.

·         University of Florida (Gainesville, Fla.) will implement a program that includes the core curriculum, building on University of Florida's expertise in conservation and sustainable development, especially in Latin America. The program also incorporates faculty and student exchanges and a field-training program in Botswana, in partnership with University of Botswana. 

·         University of Ibadan (Ibadan, Nigeria) will build on existing graduate programs in health, science, and natural resources with the long-term goal of creating a Centre for Development Studies.  It will also serve as a MDP program hub for English-speaking West African nations.

The universities are expected to produce 250 graduates with a Master's in Development Practice degree by 2012, with a total of 750 students enrolled.  They were selected based on five criteria, including support from top university leadership, excellent infrastructure and academic programs, and the ability to serve as regional hub; geographic representation among students and exceptional faculty across the four core competencies of the natural, health, and social sciences and management; and a timeline and business plan for financial sustainability when funding ends in three years.  In 2010, MacArthur will fund up to five additional universities to create additional MDP programs.

The creation of the Master's in Development Practice Program was a key recommendation of the International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice, whose report was released in October 2008.  Established in 2007, the year-long Commission was co-chaired by John McArthur, Chief Executive Officer of Millennium Promise, and Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and comprised of 20 top thinkers in the field of sustainable development from around the world. 

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.  In addition to the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is changing children and society.  More information is available at www.macfound.org.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Workshop: Mitigating the Nutritional Impacts of the Global Food Price Crisis

Timely workshop for DC residents working on Food Security and Nutrition.

The Institute of Medicine is hosting a public workshop: Mitigating the Nutritional Impacts of the Global Food Price Crisis

July 14-16, 2009
The Kaiser Family Foundation
Barbara Jordan Conference Center
1330 G Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.

The Institute of Medicine will conduct a 3-day workshop to explore the implications of recent global food price increases and the current economic crisis on nutrition.

Confirmed speakers include:
Catherine Bertini & Dan Glickman, Chicago Initiative on Global Agricultural Development
Justin Lin, World Bank
Reynaldo Martorell, Emory University
Representative James McGovern, Roadmap to End Global Hunger
David Nabarro, UN Task Force on Global Food Security Crisis
Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Cornell University
Marie Ruel, IFPRI
Ricardo Uauy, University of Chile; London School of Hygiene &Tropical Medicine
Workshop presenters will describe the pathways to, and nutritional impacts of, rising food prices in conjunction with the economic crisis.

In addition, potential gaps in surveillance, responses to the crises on individual country and global levels, U.S. policies surrounding the crises, and actions to mitigate the current crises as well as prevent future crises will also be considered.

For more information about this project, please contact Gui Liu at gliu@nas.edu.

Ā© 2009 National Academy of Sciences

To view the workshop agenda or to register, please visit:

Monday, June 22, 2009

USAID Knowledge Management Division: 2009 Summer Seminar Series

Date: Wednesdays: July 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29, 2009
Time: 9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Venue: Center for Association Leadership
Location: Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
Attendance is open to all. For more information, please
contact ksc@usaid.gov

The Summer Seminar Series provides a venue for exploring a variety of
development topics pertaining to USAID's business. The selected topics
will bring presenters from within USAID, other US government agencies,
and our partner community. Seminar participants are exposed to
innovative approaches and diverse experiences in the Agency's
day-to-day operations and initiatives through 90 minute seminars which
include presentations and panel discussions. Please share this
announcement with your colleagues.

Highlights of the seminar series include topics and speakers such as:

July 29 - Integrating Gender in Agricultural Programs
Presenters: Invited: Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Senior Research Fellow,
Environment and Production Technology, International Food Policy
Research Institute
Bureau of Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade, Office of Agriculture, USAID

July 1 - What Capitalists and Slumdogs Now Have in Common
Presenter: Hernando De Soto, President, Institute for Liberty and Democracy

July 8 - Asia's Future: Critical Thinking for a Changing Environment
Presenters: Geoffrey D. Dabelko, Director, Environmental Change and
Security Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Mary Melnyk, Senior Advisor, Natural Resources Management, Asia and
Middle East Bureaus, USAID
Jennifer L. Turner, Director, China Environment Forum, Woodrow Wilson
International Center for Scholars

July 15 - The Administrator's Forum Presents: Smart Power and
Development: Civilian-Military Cooperation
Presenters: Reuben Brigety, Director of the Sustainable Security
Program, Center for American Progress
Colonel Gregory A. Hermsmeyer, USAF, Office of the Secretary of
Defense Policy Staff
Linda Poteat, Director, Disaster Response, InterAction

July 22 - China in Africa
Presenters: His Excellency Ombeni Sefue, Ambassador of Tanzania to the
United States of America
Dr. Deborah Brautigam, Associate Professor, International Development
Program, School of International Service, American University
Dr David Dollar, Country Director, China and Mongolia, World Bank

Thank you for your time and we look forward to your attendance at what
will be an exciting knowledge sharing experience.

Rafael I Merchan

Implementing the Millennium Development Goals: What Have we Learned, What Are The Prospects?

For DC residents, see below info about event of the future of MDG

Date: Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Time: 12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Venue: Academy for Educational Development (AED), Greeley Hall
Location: 1875 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

SID-Washington invites you to join us for our June Chapter Event on Wednesday, June 24th at the Academy for Educational Development in Washington, D.C.

With about two thirds of the MDG implementation period behind us, what are the prospects for success in meeting these goals? How is the global economic crisis affecting those prospects, and how is it likely to affect them in the future? What have we learned from the MDG experiment? Has rhetoric been followed by reality on the part of donors? Are MDG goals being achieved at the expense of other critical development, capacity building, or sustainability goals, as some critics have argued? Or, has international focus on the MDGs made other aspects of development assistance better?

Anita Sharma, North American Coordinator, United Nations Millennium Campaign
Raj Desai, Associate Professor of International Development, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Wolfensohn Center for Development, Brookings Institution
Eric V. Swanson, Program Manager, DEC Development Data Group, World Bank

Dennis De Tray, Independent Consultant; SID-Washington Board Member
To RSVP, please click here.

Rafael I Merchan

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Back on the blogsphere

Hello readers
I'm sorry I've been so absent lately. My garden and my job have been demanding a great deal of attention. Also, I've been doing some thinking about the future of Agdes and my career, but more on that later.

Here is a picture i love of an experiment going on in my kitchen. I really wanted to plant sweet potatoes and after some research i found out making potato slips is the way to go.

sweet potatoes Slips

The potatoes are a month old (you can see more pics on my flickr account). After the shoots grow a little bigger, you will have to cut them and keep them in water for a little longer until they develop a good root system. With roots and leaves, the stems are ready to go.

I promise a step by step instructions once i finish doling it myself. Stay tuned. Also, more blogging soon on recent Ag Dev events, worm composting, and urban agriculture.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Harvesting Snow

After a rather unusual warm week, we begin march with eight inches of snow.
see more pictures of my garden here

Monday, January 26, 2009

Colombia 2008/09

Hello everyone,
Sorry I haven't kept this blog up to date, but after a month of vacation in my native Colombia, I had tons of work waiting for me back in DC.

It had been eight years since the last time I was in Colombia. In fact, I hadn't gone back since I my arrival to the U.S. during a cold autumn in 2000. Even though so many years had passed, as I started seeing my friends and family and revisiting the places where I grew up, it felt as if I had been away for only a couple years. The generosity of the people and their warmth with which they opened the doors made it seem as if I was just coming back from a long vacation.

Although little had changed from the Colombia I left behind, I found new places that, while always there, I never ventured to explore them. We grew up in a capsule that sometimes saw these places a threats to our daily routines. Such is the case of the 'Galeria' or open market. I grew up thinking these places are not only dangerous because of the people you can find there, but also putrid with the nastiest odors and scenes. Why would anyone dare to go there having nice supermarkets? i would asked myself.

This time couldn't have been more different. I went to every Galeria I could find. I talked to vendors, customers, homeless, kids, everyone that would answer my endless questions about 'where this comes from' or 'the way one cooks that'. I smelled, observed, touched, and felt the diversity of this beautiful country, pleasures that I had unintentionally neglected for so long. It's in a market where you can see 'live' the foundation of a country, its character, its resilience, its uniqueness. The cornucopia of color, a weak scent of fish and cilantro in the air, and the music of people going about their business was definitely one of my best memories I took back to the US.

Whenever someone asks (and sometime without asking), I tell people that if you really want to see, feel, hear and understand a country you must experience the three MMMs. This is the time when you take out your pen and take note:
  • MARKET (Galleria, marché or where ever people buy and sell their stuff)
  • MATCH(whatever the national sport is)
  • MASS(or whatever religious celebration the country has)
Untainted by the tourist-friendly brush, these places will show you what societies in the developing world are really about. Here you'll see exposed people's routines, their passions, and their devotions. Anyway, next time you travel follow these simple recommendations, I'm sure the experiences will leave you unforgettable memories.

Talk to you later!

PS: see my other pics www.flickr.com/photos/rafamerchan