Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


AGNES TUNIGA: Hello and welcome to a special edition of our program, which is a special program and in the studio, I'm joined by my guest, the Deputy Administrator for Policy and Programming responsible for USAID, Ambassador Isobel Coleman, and my good name is Agnes Tuniga. And thank you very much for joining us, whereas our main focus is the summit that is taking place here in the country. That is the Africa Food System Forum. For me, the host Agnes Tuniga please follow me on this discussion. My guest please welcome and how do you find your stay here in Tanzania?

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR ISOBEL COLEMAN: Well it’s an absolutely beautiful country, I'm so pleased to be here and the Forum has been terrific. I've been able to meet so many interesting people, hear about all sorts of new projects that are underway, meet with ministers from all across the continent of Africa, and really get excited about the enormous potential that exists on the continent of Africa to significantly increase food production. We've been talking about Africa's potential for many years, but we're really finally beginning to realize it. And seeing countries make the necessary investments to be able to increase food production, export more food. You see Tanzania itself becoming a food exporter, and it is creating jobs for young people, for women, for men all across the continent. So it's a very important moment right now, for food systems in Africa.

TUNIGA: Thank you very much for that well detailed information. Now talking about USAID. What are the pillars of USAID? And of course, what does it stand for? For the benefit of our viewers, of course, it has been implementing its operations within the country for some time now, but definitely this is the platform for them to understand, mainly from you.

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: So USAID is the U.S. Agency for International Development. We work in about 100 countries around the world. And the focus of our work is to create a more peaceful and prosperous world. We – USAID – invest in agriculture, food security around the world, in health and nutrition. Here in Tanzania, we have invested over 20 years – the U.S. government has invested around seven and a half billion dollars in Tanzania and USAID has been a big part of that. We manage a big portion of the health work that we do here. PEPFAR, which provides drugs for HIV-positive people. We have invested over $70 million in education just in the last five years, really trying to improve quality outcomes and education. So it’s health, it’s education, it’s economic growth, it’s agriculture. It’s so many different aspects, energy, we really work across the board on so many different elements of what's important to the Tanzanian people, including environmental conservation, so all of these different areas.

TUNIGA: What is USAID’s governance strategy, especially working with countries like Tanzania?

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Well, we really promote and encourage good governance and democracy. So we have different programs and projects that we implement to build up civil society, to train journalists, to make sure that they understand how to really report – do investigative reporting, report the facts. We teach children in schools about civics, human rights. So there are many different aspects to the good governance work that we do.

TUNIGA: To be precise, what were the first activities implemented in Tanzania by USAID ever since it started its services within the country?

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Well, the U.S. government's partnership with Tanzania goes back 60 years. And in the beginning, of course, the work that USAID did was very heavily focused on health and education – also poverty alleviation. You know, but the work has changed as the country has changed and as the needs of the people of Tanzania have changed, and we really work in partnership with the government of Tanzania, with the people of Tanzania. Today, we're helping the Tanzanian people, as I've mentioned, on improving agricultural productivity, improving energy security, ensuring conservation of the beautiful land that exists here, which has been such an important element of tourism and foreign exchange. So, there are many different components that we have worked on. But it has changed and evolved over the years – the type of work that we do here.

TUNIGA: Now, focusing on AGRF, that is the Africa Food Systems Forum, that is taking place here in the country. What is the significance of this Forum? And how do you think it's going to impact African countries, in improving on, especially on food productivity and agriculture as a whole?

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Well, this is such an important Forum because it does bring people together from all across the continent. I understand this is the biggest forum that's ever been held. It's over 3,000 people who are here. And I think that they capped the number of people who could attend – it was so oversubscribed. But you have people from the private sector, you have government representatives, you have civil society representatives – everybody coming together, all with the same goal with the same aim, which is to make agriculture more productive, more impactful here.

I mean, we're living through another global food crisis, right at this moment, that has a number of different causes. But again, it’s impacting prices around the world, people are really feeling it in terms of rising food prices, inflation, fertilizer prices have increased, it's been hard for farmers to keep up. So this is a particularly important Forum. And it's, I think, very notable that it's being held here in Tanzania, which has become a leader in many ways on making the important reforms that are necessary to increase food productivity. And as I noted earlier, it's already become a food exporter itself. Tanzania has diversified its agricultural production, you've seen, actually with USAID assistance, a couple of years ago it got into producing avocados. And now that's a big cash crop export, along with tea and coffee, and cashews and many other things.

But yesterday, at the Forum, I announced $15 million of new projects that USAID is doing. One of them is focused on making sure that there's access to more nutritious foods here in Tanzania for local people. So often you see the focus on cash crops. And that doesn't necessarily help local people have nutritious foods. And so this, in partnership with the Global Alliance for Increasing Nutrition, GAIN, we will be working to help farmers grow fruits and vegetables that local people can access. So that's one of the things that I announced yesterday. I also announced $4 million for an activity that's focused on a digital marketplace for women farmers in particular, who will be able to access clients and customers financing all of the things that they need to increase and grow their businesses – women often are left behind when it comes to access to financing and you see women farmers have lower productivity as a result. So these are some of the things that I announced yesterday, and I have a couple of announcements to make today too.

TUNIGA: Okay. Now talking about still with the Africa Food Systems Forum. The issue of agriculture or food productivity is in line with the issue of climate change. So how do you think that the Forum also has addressed that issue and make sure that it's finding or charting ways to combat the challenge?

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: There's almost no conversation that's happened at the Forum that has not focused in one way or another on climate change. We know that with climate change, we see flooding, we see droughts, and these things are existential for farmers. And a lot of the conversation is around adaptation and making farmers more resilient to some of these changes.

USAID has introduced drought resistant seeds, for example, and helped farmers be more capable of withstanding some of the climate changes that we're seeing. So these are the types of things everybody's focused on it. It's absolutely central to what's happening today and in agriculture. And you can't have any conversation on agriculture without bringing climate into it.

I'm so pleased to announce an additional $10 million that we're investing here, in Tanzania, on climate focused activities. $8 million of it will go towards helping women farmers, again, gain access to their land titles, which gives them more security, it increases their productivity, and enhances food security. So that's one thing. And then $2 million will go to really protecting important fisheries along the coast and coral reefs which are so important also for food security. And for the fishermen and fisherwomen, who have spent much of their lives on those waters and really protecting them for them and for the next generation.

TUNIGA: Ambassador Isobel Coleman, I thank you very much for your time, sharing your thoughts with us, your comments and reports.


TUNIGA: Karibu Sana.


MS. TUNIGA: Well, dear viewers, thank you very much for being with us on this program, which is a special edition and of course, my guest in the studio was the Deputy Administrator for Policy and Programming responsible for USAID, Ambassador Isabol Coleman, for me, your host Agnes Tuniga. I thank you very much for being with us. Til next time, it's goodbye.

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