United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Director of Southern African Affairs, Bradley Bessire, is in Zimbabwe on a week-long visit to evaluate the scope and severity of the current lean season and El Niño’s impact on food security in Zimbabwe. Mr. Bessire leads a working group in Washington that is coordinating USAID’s response to the effects of El Niño.
Mr. Bessire arrived in Zimbabwe on January 6th and his visit has so far covered Harare, Bulawayo and Matabeleland provinces. He is meeting with representatives of government, business, and other funding partners to discuss the food security situation in the country. The tour will allow him to observe the impact of the drought and USAID’s activities to address it as well as coordinate the United States government’s response to El Niño.
Speaking after visiting two USAID-funded food security initiatives in Gwanda and Mzingwane, Mr. Besire reiterated U.S. government commitment to assisting the people of Zimbabwe to improve the food security situation.
“I am impressed and inspired by the resilience of the Zimbabwean people,” said Mr. Bessire. “The United States will stand by the people of Zimbabwe during this drought, meeting their immediate needs while also reducing their vulnerability to shocks and building long-term food security.”
In Gwanda, Mr. Bessire visited USAID’s Amalima activity. Amalima aims to sustainably improve household nutrition and food security and strengthen communities’ resilience to shock by increasing productivity, improving drought mitigation and adaptation, and enhancing nutrition and hygiene practices. Mr. Bessire visited a dip tank that a local community rehabilitated last year with support from Amalima. This important community asset has now been restored and serves to protect cattle from tick-borne diseases in this area where animal husbandry is an important livelihood. Mr. Bessire also visited the site of a newly constructed dam, completed by the community in November 2015 with support from Amalima. The dam will provide a critical water source for 3,000 livestock belonging to over 400 households. Additionally, Mr. Bessire met with one of the thousands of village savings and lending (VS&L) groups that have been trained by Amalima to pool their financial resources and invest in impact-generating activities. This VS&L group is engaged in poultry production and has saved over $2,000.
In Umzingwane, Mr. Bessire visited the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development Program, which seeks to reduce rural poverty and increase incomes and food security for beef and dairy farmers, improve their hygiene and nutrition practices, and build the capacity of local organizations to implement agricultural development activities. Mr. Bessire met with smallholder beef and dairy farmers to learn more about how they are increasing their production and linking to formal markets. Mr. Bessire learned about how the drought has impacted the livelihoods of these farmers and how they are coping with and mitigating its effects. He observed first-hand how both Amalima and the Feed the Future activities are directly helping communities to make sustainable improvements in their livelihoods, which will increase their resilience to future shocks.
Bradley Bessire is the Director of the Office of Southern African Affairs in the Africa Bureau at USAID. In addition, he leads a working group that is coordinating the Bureau’s response to the effects of El Nino. Before joining the Southern Africa Office in August of 2015, he was the Director of the Office of South and Central Asian Affairs. Mr. Bessire has served overseas in West Bank/Gaza, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.