Washington — The chickpea might be the key to greater agricultural production and improved food security in Ethiopia. A plan to increase chickpea production is being developed to that end by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the PepsiCo Foundation.
Enterprise EthioPEA debuted at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City, an event organized by former President Bill Clinton to apply new energies and ideas to development problems.
The plan will support the Ethiopian government's effort to develop agriculture in three respects:
• Boost Ethiopian chickpea production by putting advanced agricultural and irrigation practices in the hands of 10,000 Ethiopian farmers.
• Develop and distribute chickpeas as a protein-rich supplementary food, reaching 40,000 Ethiopian children less than 2 years old.
• Improve the supply chain to increase availability of chickpeas for both Ethiopian and international consumers.
Ethiopia is already Africa's largest producer of chickpeas, but the partnership announcement says great potential exists to increase yields and improve quality. The high protein food is a good meat alternative, sustainably produced, so consuming chickpeas may reduce an individuals' risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes.
Chickpeas, widely cultivated in central Asia and the Mediterranean nations, are also known as garbanzo beans.
"This unique partnership illustrates how we can develop market-based solutions and leverage resources to make a sustainable impact in reducing hunger and poverty, which is particularly critical in light of the crisis in the Horn of Africa," said Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID's administrator. "In addressing both immediate hunger needs and supporting opportunities for smallholder farmers to boost their earning potential through increased productivity, it will advance the objectives of Feed the Future, the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative."
The Obama administration's Feed the Future campaign provides long-term development assistance to populations living in places frequently stricken with challenging ecological or atmospheric circumstances. The plan aspires to increase the accessibility of staple foods, improve trade and transport routes and harness science and technology to assist populations in surviving difficult events and reducing the probability that adverse events will plunge entire populations into calamity.
PepsiCo's investment in Enterprise EthioPEA is part of a global strategy to make the company a leader in sustainable agriculture.
"We are pleased to be combining powerful local networks, proven experience in development assistance and strong industry expertise to help create new domestic and export food markets," said Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo. "This initiative will positively impact the livelihood of local farmers, address the critical issue of famine in the Horn of Africa and create sustainable business opportunities for PepsiCo."
Three American companies will be sending life-saving therapeutic food to thousands of undernourished children in the Horn of Africa after having landed contracts to do so from USAID. The peanut-based paste is a specially developed food product used to treat children with severe malnutrition in a six-week treatment regimen.
The amount of "ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF)" set for shipment to Africa will provide enough of this high-nutrient foodstuff to bring almost 130,000 children back from the brink of starvation, according to USAID.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture was involved in the deal, identifying the companies that could produce the special RUTFs, containing milk, oil, sugar, vitamins and minerals to rehabilitate children on the brink of starvation.
"Thanks to America's peanut producers and the American people, this purchase is helping to support U.S. jobs and getting a highly nutritious food product to severely malnourished children in the Horn of Africa," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Our efforts to support food security are critically important to contributing to a more stable world. USDA remains committed to addressing the root causes of food insecurity through sustainable agriculture production and improved agricultural research, and working with our public and private sector partners to provide emergency food assistance when needed."
In 2007, the U.S. peanut industry launched Peanut Butter for the Hungry, a humanitarian initiative to support the development of nutrient-rich and therapeutic foods for severely malnourished children around the world.
"Knowing that the U.S. peanut industry has made this commitment to the children and families in regions in need is deeply satisfying," said George Birdsong, chairman of the American Peanut Council's committee on hunger. "We are honored to have even a small role in helping to save lives."
The United States has committed more than $600 million to address humanitarian problems in the Horn of Africa and is the largest single donor contributing to the international effort to provide relief.