One of the harder things many PCVs have to get used to is hunger among people in their host communities – hunger not just as a theory but as a regular reality. That’s why Peace Corps is a proud member of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative that leverages the strengths and resources of 10 federal departments and agencies.
Food security means that all people at all times have access to enough safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy life. There are three main aspects of food security: availability, access and appropriate use. Peace Corps Volunteers around the world are feeding the future by teaching improved agricultural practices, food processing and agroforestry. In 2012, more than 900 Peace Corps volunteers in 23 countries around the world worked to reduce hunger.
Volunteers are immersed in their communities for two years and therefore play a unique role in Feed the Future by taking important food security messages and practices to the grassroots in culturally appropriate ways. Feed the Future recently released its 2013 Progress Report.
Peace Corps Volunteer Laura Sofen has been working with community members in the mountains of Panama to improve their agricultural practices. Farmers here have traditionally relied on slash-and-burn agriculture for production of crops, and environmental pressures have led to a dependence on chemical fertilizer and, ultimately, to lower yields. To add nutrients to the soil in a cheaper and more natural way, Laura began teaching local farmers how to make compost. One farmer, Niko, worked with Laura to make his own compost pile using cow manure, rice husks, wood ash and other organic materials. He then used the compost on his corn crop and experienced higher yields.
Part of the success of the compost has come from using local materials. Laura and Niko used native trees’ leaves that decompose into nutrient-rich soil. The project’s success compelled his family to begin composting, and now Niko is working with other community members to teach them composting methods.
Lisa Bauer is part of the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to be placed in Nepal since 2004. She lives in a small hillside village where recently she and her counterparts trained female farmers groups in techniques for creating garden nursery beds (pictured at the top of the post). Using seeds provided by the Nepalese Government, Lisa taught the women how to maximize their germination success rates, saving them both time and money. The seedlings have since germinated, and many were transplanted into the women’s gardens, while some were sold to community members. The resulting crops will improve their families’ nutrition and incomes.
Volunteer Seth Kammer has been working with community members in Ethiopia to encourage the planting of moringa (Moringa oleifera) trees, along with other fast-growing, multi-purpose trees for the benefit of households and the land. Moringa is a highly nutritious tree: The leaves are rich in protein, vitamin A, vitamin B and vitamin C. Peace Corps Volunteers in many countries are working with agriculture extension offices, NGOs, individual farmers and households to spread information about moringa and teach people how they can incorporate moringa leaves in their diet.
Seth promotes agroforestry – combining trees, crops and livestock into an integrated agricultural system. Examples include planting fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing trees with crops to improve soil quality; using trees or shrubs as natural barriers, and for land restoration and soil improvement.