With budgetary cuts hitting home and no perceived end to our imposed austerity measures, Irish aid agencies set an example by reaching out to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
A new troika was in Dublin last week, not the usual IMF, EC and ECB crowd but a team comprising of Concern Worldwide, the Kerry Group and Irish Aid.
They were announcing a ‘pioneering initiative’ aimed at improving undernutrition and mortality rates in children under two years of age in the developing world.
Formally announcing the partnership and funding commitments between Concern and the Kerry Group, Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food Simon Coveney said “This is exactly what we want to see happening, the private sector using knowledge, influence and money to help impact positively on the developing world, but to work with established and consistently reliable NGO’s like concern.”
“This is a combination of a research project and a nutritional education project … I think it is fantastic to see Kerry Group committing a significant sum of money,” said Minister Coveney who added that he thinks it is important that his department should be part of the development of Aid discussion, “that is something that we want to pursue,” stated the Minister.
“Even giving a shrinking expenditure ceiling I think there is a huge amount of capacity and knowledge in our department that can assist in the work that organisations and NGO’s like Concern are doing but also to support the ongoing corporate responsibility agenda within groups like Kerry Group,” concluded Minister Coveney.
Speaking on the initiative at the launch,Concern CEO Mr Tom Arnold said “We are doing this in order to learn, this project has to be a source of real learning and the purpose in wanting to learn is to change policy.”
Commenting on the collaboration with Kerry Group, Mr Arnold said that it was more than about the financial contribution. “We would really look forward to seeing how the other many skills of Kerry [Kerry Group] as a world class global food company can be leveraged to help this project. I think therein lies huge potential, this project could be a real model of collaboration … it’s a great day.”
Mr Brendan Rogers, director general of Irish Aid spoke to The Epoch Times about Irish Aid’s involvement in the initiative. “We have been particularly privileged to be working closely with Concern and the Kerry Group in this incredible triangular relationship of the private sector, government and the NGO sector … it’s been working now for three or four years and this is a real opportunity to scale this up and make a real difference in terms of nutritional outcomes right across Africa, so we are proud to be doing this,” said Mr Rogers.
On what Irish Aid goals are from the project Mr Rogers said “Essentially what we want to see is the nutritional status of people, firstly in Western Zambia, increased, then in Zambia as a whole. Part of our own global objective is to reduce hunger and poverty within a generation, we have now decided to expend 20 per cent of the entire Aid programme on hunger or hunger related activities projects.”
In closing, Mr Rogers said that with Kerry Group involved he believes that it is a real opportunity for the private sector to become involved in the fight against hunger.
“This is good for us, it’s good for the people of Zambia and it’s good for Ireland, because in the end we have a reputation out there … this is win win for everyone, it’s part of our recovery and part of our core objective of reducing poverty,” said Mr Rogers.
“The RAIN project is a pioneering initiative and Kerry Group is delighted to partner with Ireland’s largest international humanitarian agency, Concern Worldwide, in trying to find sustainable, scalable and replicable solutions for the prevention of undernutrition stunting and child deaths. It will combine agriculture with early nutrition interventions to tackle this massive humanitarian issue. It’s not going away and simply can not be ignored,” said Kerry Group CEO, Stan McCarthy.
The Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) project will see Kerry Group contribute 1.25 million euro of the overall 3.7 million euro budget to the five year initiative, which will be conducted in Zambia. A third party, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), will join the two organisations in an impact, assessment and evaluation capacity.
RAIN is positioned to be among the few projects worldwide that will fill the evidence gap that currently exists around integrated agriculture and nutrition projects.
The specific objective of the five-year project is to reduce the prevalence of chronic malnutrition among pregnant mothers and young children and to improve the nutritional status of vulnerable populations in the region of Mumbwa District, Western Zambia.