Media CenterCRS Named Inaugural Champion of U.S. State Department’s Global Agriculture Initiative

Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/CRS

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Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(978) 884-0003

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, Dec. 4, 2023 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the global humanitarian and development organization of the United States Catholic Church, has been named an inaugural champion of the U.S. State Department’s Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) initiative. The State Department made the announcement at COP28 in Dubai.

“We are thrilled to be a VACS champion and appreciate that the program includes a focus on healthy soils, which are an essential part of the solution to the global food crisis, the climate crisis and the fertilizer crisis,” said Olaf Westermann, CRS' senior technical advisor on climate change and land restoration. “To be sure, the VACS initiative marks a positive step forward in our journey toward a more resilient and prosperous agricultural future.”

The State Department launched VACS earlier this year in partnership with the African Union and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to foster more resilient food systems, strengthen food security and improve nutrition. VACS is part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. In July 2023, Sec. of State Antony Blinken announced a $100 million commitment to VACS to fund its initial crop and soil improvement activities in Africa.

CRS’ 10-year strategy on land restoration shares VACS’ critical emphasis on restoring agricultural soils. CRS’ work harnesses robust partnerships to restore agricultural lands so that farmers can yield greater harvests, increase their incomes, revitalize water supplies, and better adapt to climate risks. By 2030, CRS aims to revitalize 4 million acres of agricultural and pastureland; increase agricultural yields by at least 40%; and enable a million farmers to earn a better living via the land.

“In the era of climate change, healthy soils increase crop yields and help farmers weather drought and flooding,” Westermann said. “Soil health, as well as proper land management, contribute to protecting and revitalizing water sources. In this sense, VACS is a win-win for farmers and the environment.”

CRS’ COP28 Media Resources: 

  • For more information about CRS’ COP28 presence, including bios of CRS’ COP28 attendees and photos, visit our COP28 media page.
  • To read CRS’ COP28 policy brief in full, click here.
  • To read the Caritas Internationalis report on noneconomic losses and damages, click here.   


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Nikki Gamer

Senior Public Affairs Manager

Nikki Gamer
December 4, 2023

Based in Baltimore, MD

Nikki is the Senior Public Affairs Manager for CRS and connects journalists to regional stories and sources related to the agency’s life-saving development work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Communications Officer for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. She has covered CRS’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the mass displacement...More