Congressman and Ms. Garamendi Talk Stability in Africa with the MRR Innovation Lab

Michael Carter with Congressman and Ms. Garamendi
MRR Innovation Lab director Michael Carter (center) with Congressman John Garamendi and Patricia Garamendi

Congressman John Garamendi and Patricia Garamendi met with the MRR Innovation Lab to discuss the new research program and how a technology to manage risk could stabilize communities across Africa’s drought-prone Sahel.

At the meeting, which took place at UC Davis in August, MRR Innovation Lab director Michael Carter presented his work on a project in northern Kenya that helps women pastoralists to maintain economic viability and resilience to drought. Garamendi said that supporting families and communities particularly in the Sahel, a region spanning Africa between the Sahara desert and the tropical areas further south, could be a critical tool to promote security in the region.

“We are intensely interested in ways to stabilize populations in this part of the world,” said Garamendi. “Replication of this kind of program across the Sahel could have profound implications for families and for efforts to reduce violence and civil disturbance on the continent.”

The research Carter presented is being conducted in partnership with The BOMA Project with funding from USAID. The study connects women pastoralists to The BOMA Project’s poverty graduation program, which provides training and seed money to start a small business. This program is paired with Index-based Livestock Insurance, a type of insurance scaled by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) that triggers payments in the event of severe drought.

“Programs like The BOMA Project create a ladder up, particularly for women,” said Carter, “but in areas at a high risk of drought those hard-won gains are vulnerable to collapse. Insurance can be a powerful tool that secures those gains so families can keep moving forward.”

Patricia Garamendi brought a deep knowledge and expertise on the challenges of development to the meeting. She and John served together in the Peace Corps in 1966 in western Ethiopia, where families today face many of the same challenges as families in northern Kenya. Since then, she has held a leadership role in the Peace Corps and has served in the Foreign Agricultural Service’s International Cooperation and Development (FAS/ICD), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and as the U.S. Government’s National Food Security Coordinator.

“We know support for women can make a huge difference for their families and their communities,” said Ms. Garamendi.