COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An Ohio State University graduate student from Tanzania informed policy-makers about the tangible benefits of continued U.S. engagement on global food security at a July 25 Capitol Hill panel discussion co-hosted by the Senate Hunger Caucus.
Rita Mirondo, a doctoral student in Ohio State's Department of Food Science and Technology, was invited to be one of three panelists for "Feed the Future: Growing Innovation, Harvesting Results." The purpose of the event was to highlight advances in global food security being made by the U.S. Agency for International Development's Feed the Future initiative.
Mirondo is studying at Ohio State with seven other Tanzanians as part of a Feed-the-Future project, the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative. Another 50 Tanzanian students are studying at partner universities across the U.S. as part of the program, said Mark Erbaugh, director of Ohio State's Office of International Programs in Agriculture, which is leading the initiative. The office is housed in the university's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Mirondo discussed the subsistence-level farm production common throughout Tanzania, and said a transition to commercial agricultural and food-processing practices is sorely needed. A shortage of skilled personnel in agriculture -- the backbone of the Tanzanian economy -- and food processing is one of the major challenges in Tanzania, she said.
"Providing knowledge and training to farmers and the younger generation to better handle agricultural activities would be the best means to deal with this challenge," Mirondo said. "If this is successful, it will give a good promise of a future world without hunger."
She noted that by 2050, Tanzania’s population will double and its urban population will surpass its rural population.
"I see a real need in my country to advance food systems and processing as a way to improve food security and reduce poverty. We have a need to develop improved food processing systems to add value to our agricultural production for entrepreneurs, create improved markets for our farmers, and provide safe and nutritious food for our people," she said.
Upon her return to Tanzania, Mirondo plans to share food processing information she is learning at Ohio State with farmers and small-scale enterprises.
"My goal is to work within the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Cooperatives to link growers with new food processing opportunities," she said.
One day, she hopes to form her own food-processing business, potentially to make mango fruit juice, asking, "Why should we be importing this from other countries?"
Also hosting the panel discussion was USAID and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The event included a keynote address by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. The panel discussion was moderated by former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. Other panelists were Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, and Brady Deaton, chancellor of the University of Missouri and chair of the Board for International Food and Agriculture Development.
Erbaugh believes training the next generation of agricultural scientists is vital to improving food security and creating strong institutions to support the effort. "These institutions will be the key to sustainable national development," he said.