Visiting USAID

Last week I visited the headquarters of The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a federal branch of the US government that works to facilitate humanitarian aid and development efforts worldwide. Since its inception in 1961, USAID has funded numerous initiatives that help provide disaster relief, medical aid, and healthcare to impoverished communities. More recently, as the lens of development shifts away from aid and towards the generation of community wealth, USAID has slowly increased their focus on livestock initiatives and begun work on an initiative called “Feed the Future,” which focuses on food security in 12 focus countries. I found the following overview quite thought provoking as I poked around online to learn more about this effort.

  • There are nearly 800 million hungry people in the world today. By 2050, there will be more than 9 billion mouths to feed. This is a huge challenge and opportunity.
  • By 2050, a quarter of the world’s entire population will be in Africa. Strategic investments on the continent have the potential to contribute an additional $12 trillion to global growth.
  • 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States. Our economic growth depends on maintaining and increasing access to markets abroad. Helping people rise out of poverty can also help increase demand for U.S. goods.
  • Our work ensures that America can influence rapidly transforming regions and emerging markets. Feed the Future supports policies that help U.S. businesses compete with others and expand into new markets, reduce corruption, open trade in the agriculture sector, and increase foreign demand for American products. U.S. agricultural exports to Feed the Future partner countries have already increased by $1 billion since 2009.

When I visited the USAID headquarters I met with Dr. Tyrell Kahan, a current AAAS fellow working with USAID. He described an important role of veterinarians in the ongoing and future efforts of organizations like USAID, specifically as gatekeepers that bridge the knowledge gap between the world of science and international development and the world of business and foreign investment. As a profession that traditionally attracts and employs more entrepreneurial health professionals than others, veterinary medicine has an important role to play in facilitating conversations between all the stakeholders relevant to these areas.

In addition to USAID, Dr. Kahan mentioned a few other organizations that often seek veterinary expertise when dealing with issues of development and food security. Heifer International, Vets Without Borders, and The USDA Foreign Service Offices are all places that we as soon-to-be veterinary professionals can look into as we think about the possibility of non-traditional veterinary careers.