It was quite an active week as I represented the USDA at the 10th annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum. While in Zambia, I had the opportunity to see firsthand a USDA-funded food assistance program in action. This included a Local and Regional Procurement (LRP) Pilot Project that is providing monthly food baskets to households impacted by HIV/AIDS. LRP is designed to use local and regional purchasing to help meet urgent food needs in developing countries and in areas faced with food crises and disasters.
The Zambia Local and Regional Procurement Program (ZLRP) is a yearlong project providing nutritional food to nearly 10,000 rural households that care for orphans and vulnerable children in Zambia’s Chongwe, Chibombo and Mumbwa districts. Land O’Lakes is working with World Vision to implement the project with USDA funding. The food these households receive allows them to leave their crops in the ground until they are fully ready to harvest, and thus are more nutritious. This in turn enables the families more time and energy to pursue other activities to improve their livelihoods and quality of life.
My tour also took me to Kafalulu, Zambia. I went to a commodity distribution site and a hydro-powered hammer mill. I met with several individuals directly benefitting from the project. It was wonderful meeting a young widow whose children are benefitting from the improved quality of food they’re receiving. Thanks to the rations, the young mother has extra time which she is using to prepare a garden.
When I visited the Zambian Agricultural Commodity Exchange (ZAMACE), where the commodities are purchased through competitive tenders, I saw a local market where Land O’Lakes is monitoring food prices to ensure that commodity procurements and distributions do not have a disruptive impact on the local market. I was charmed by the warm reception we received in the communities, and was impressed to see the level of community involvement. Because all of the food distributed is bought from local farmers, millers and processors, the ZLRP project is strengthening Zambian agribusinesses.
In all, Land O’ Lakes and World Vision will distribute 3,600 metric tons of maize meal, 500 metric tons of beans and 200 metric tons of vegetable oil, all from Zambian sources. An estimated 126 metric tons of high-energy protein supplements will also be given to households with children between the ages of six and 24 months. Nearly 60,000 Zambians are expected to receive food aid through this project alone. This is just one of 22 worldwide projects funded through the USDA LRP Project.
As part of this pilot project, an independent evaluation will be conducted to examine the timeliness and efficiency of using LRP as a tool to enhance U.S. Government food assistance programs. The findings of this study will be submitted in a formal report to Congress by June 2012.
The LRP pilot projects are one of the many ways USDA initiatives around the world are feeding those in need, developing agricultural infrastructure and ensuring international food security.