Congressional Staffers Visit Ethiopia with CARE to Learn How U.S. Support is Improving Food and Nutrition Security

Congressional Staffers Visit Ethiopia with CARE to Learn How U.S. Support Is Improving Food and Nutrition Security

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WASHINGTON (Jan. 23, 2014) — Congressional chiefs of staff from seven states and a group of journalists traveled to Ethiopia with the global poverty-fighting organization CARE to see how U.S. investments in food and nutrition security are enhancing the resilience and self-sufficiency of smallholder farmers.

The chiefs of staff constituted a bipartisan delegation from Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, Ohio and Oregon. Kojo Nnamdi, longtime host of WAMU-FM’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show and The Politics Hour in Washington, D.C., also joined the trip with his staff.

During the four-day CARE Learning Tour, the delegation saw several U.S.-supported programs that are feeding millions of people throughout the country and helping people to feed themselves. Around the world there are more than 850 million people who do not have enough to eat. Most of them are women and girls. In Ethiopia, the inability to access food and proper nutrition remains a reality in many communities.

The delegation began its trip by visiting emergency food distribution centers in Dire Dawa that provide food to chronically food insecure families. The delegation then spent time households in Awassa that have learned how to improve their agricultural output with training and support from CARE. The group also met with national leaders of the Ethiopian government.

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing how the U.S. government and its operational partners such as CARE are empowering smallholder farmers and helping them make lasting connections to markets through USAID’s Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development (GRAD) program. GRAD is a program, managed by CARE, which works in partnership with government extension services and micro-finance institutions to help 375,000 Ethiopians in poor households by linking them to microfinance services and functioning markets. USAID works closely with women in the community to strengthen their participation and skills. Participants in the program learn new farming and natural resources management techniques as well as how to improve nutrition in their households.

Ethiopia has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The foundation of its economic growth is agriculture, which employs 80 percent of the population. The CARE delegation saw an example of how agriculture is stimulating economic development during a visit to a commodity exchange center for coffee, which has become a major export for Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia’s ability to produce food and nourish its population is largely determined by unpredictable rainfall patterns, as well as land degradation, climate change, population density, low levels of rural investment and the global market. To address food insecurity, the government of Ethiopia is taking a strong leadership role. The government is making significant investments and strides, particularly through Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). PSNP is one of the largest safety net programs in the world and the initiative’s objective is to prevent the depletion of household assets in times of shortage and stimulate markets and improve access to services. 

During the trip the delegation also learned about policy reforms designed to improve the U.S. food aid system. Since the 1950s, the U.S. has sent food overseas to people who are hungry or in crisis. This food aid system worked well for years, but today the enormous U.S. grain surpluses that formed the foundation of this system are gone. The cost of shipping grain internationally has increased so much that today more than half of every dollar spent on food aid can go to transportation and operation costs. In addition, trans-oceanic shipping of food to crisis zones can take up to four months, making it difficult to reach those in need in a timely manner.

Research by CARE, the U.S. government and other think tanks has determined that a more flexible food aid system that invests in local and regional purchase programs and eliminates food-aid monetization could, at no additional cost to taxpayers, feed up to four million more hungry people around the world.

Proposed food aid reforms can also further build people’s capacity to feed themselves. Learning Tour delegates saw firsthand what happens to local communities where flexible food aid systems are already in place. The group met with a farming cooperative that is part of World Food Program’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative. Purchase for Progress obtains food from suppliers near the communities that need food. The program feeds hungry people quickly and at low cost while supporting the development of sustainable, local food systems.

“The current approach means that small farmers in some of the world's poorest regions are forced to compete with imported U.S. grain, cutting the legs out from under the very people who hold the long-term solution to hunger and economic growth,” said David Ray, CARE’s head of advocacy and host of the trip. “Imagine what can happen if, rather than undermine these important partners, we make U.S. food aid more flexible and build their capacity to feed the world's hungry people and earn a living.”

Participants in CARE’s January 2014 Learning Tour to Ethiopia included:

  • Rob Lehman – Chief of staff for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio
  • Steve Voeller – Chief of staff for Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
  • Amy Porter – Chief of staff for Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif.
  • Brian MacDonald – Chief of staff for Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.
  • Alexis Covey-Brandt – Chief of staff for Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
  • Josh Rogin – Chief of staff for Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.
  • Brian Rell – Chief of staff for Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala.
  • Kojo Nnamdi – Host, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU-FM
  • Michael Martinez – Producer, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU-FM
  • Tayla Burney – Producer, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU-FM
  • Beth Tritter – Managing Director, The Glover Park Group
  • Katy Button -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

For more information on CARE's Learning Tours, visit The CARE Learning Tours program is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty.

Our six decades of experience show that when you empower a girl or woman, she becomes a catalyst, creating ripples of positive change that lift up everyone around her. That’s why girls and women are at the heart of CARE’s community-based efforts to improve education, health and economic opportunity for everyone. We also work with girls and women to promote social justice, respond to emergencies and confront hunger and climate change. Last year CARE worked in 84 countries and reached more than 83 million people around the world. To learn more, visit

Media Contacts

Washington, D.C.: Stephanie Chen, CARE,, +1-202-595-2824

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