Voices of the HungryIf you read this blog often, you will have realized that we like to use a lot of stats. Statistics help us to conceptualize an issue; they help us better understand what we are reading about and they are just more interesting. Statistics regarding food security are also extraordinarily important to the professionals that are working to address issues of hunger and food insecurity.

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is working to find a more efficient way to gather reliable information and stats about food security and world hunger. Much of the verified information that is used today is old data from two to five years ago. This data, just like data from the U.S. national census is so rarely collected because of the immense effort required to reach out to the hungry and appropriate officials around the world. Today, the FAO is working on a project titled “Voices of the Hungry” that aims to gather data about food security and hunger much, much faster than traditionally. Voices of the Hungry involves surveying candidates with audio recordings over the phone as well as in person. These interviews will offer more than simple statistics; they will also record the human stories and give greater insight into the problems of each region. FAO is partnering with Gallup to help make the program a success and will be testing the process in Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Niger.

When the Voices of the Hungry program is fully operational, it will only be 3 months between the date of an interview to the final data being analyzed and organized with information from 150 countries. Such a change in the accuracy and quickness with which we can collect information will be very helpful in the quest to fight world hunger.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Voice of America

Sustainable Fishing in Indonesia
The practice of overfishing can have catastrophic effects on both marine biodiversity and local fish populations. In an effort to ameliorate overfishing while simultaneously bolstering local development and entrepreneurship, the Indonesian government has enacted a program that encourages sustainable fishing in Karimunjawa National Park.

For the past 5 years, Indonesian government officials have implemented a plan that effectively hands over management of the 1,100 square kilometer area to the park’s 9,000 residents. By enabling communities to form a co-op, they help encourage the long term goals of maintaining sustainable fishing practices, thus promoting foreign tourism and greater economic opportunity for their residents.

In addition to the environmental benefits that sustainable fishing has had, the empowered local communities have also stepped up to participate in local projects and political meetings, a behavior considered invaluable in long term developmental sustainability. In regards to the development in the National Park, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Marine Program Dr. McClennen remarked that “The current plan’s economic, legal, and participatory incentives have created a self-perpetuating system of exclusive access rights for local communities, who in turn support and enforce the protected area’s policies and regulations.”

Programs such as these, that combine the well-researched policies of the government along with the participation of local communities, consistently lead to positive results and mutually beneficial economic opportunities. Furthermore, by encouraging sustainable fishing through government development, both parties can realize their full potential for responsible environmental stewardship and financial gain.

– Brian Turner

Source: Science Daily
Photo: Antara News

ONE's Initiative to Reduce Poverty in AfricaThe ONE Campaign has launched an initiative in Africa called “You Choose,” aimed at creating representation for poor citizens throughout Africa on how to reduce poverty in their own communities.

This initiative to reduce poverty, which has been endorsed by high-profile African celebrities, aims to give a voice to millions of people throughout Zambia, Malawi, and South Africa by sending their opinions and views on how to tackle poverty through Short Message Service (SMS) in hopes that leaders and policy-makers will be pressured into making changes.

Citizens can use mobile phones to text a designated number that will prompt them to explain “what the government can do to help improve [life for] your family and friends” to which they can reply with their suggestions on critical needs facing their families and communities. A goal of the You Choose campaign is to give those in extreme poverty a voice in deciding how poverty will be dealt with in their countries, which will hopefully lead to the poor having a voiced opinion and participating in the decision-making process.

The initiative will collate the data it receives through SMS responses, and the information will be presented to the UN at the end of March when the High-Level Panel plans to meet in Bali to discuss the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The organizers behind the You Choose initiative highlighted the fact that only 16.5 million people in Africa had mobile phones when the MDGs were first introduced. Today, over 650 million people throughout Africa have access to a mobile device, which has “allowed people to learn firsthand what priorities Africans believed in and what the new developmental agenda should include.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: RNW

A campaign called “Stop the Pity,” launched at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, is sending the message to stop stereotyping Africa as being poor, helpless, and ravaged by famine and poverty. The campaign was founded by a nonprofit called Mama Hope with the mission of re-humanizing Africa, celebrating positive change rather than focusing on inequality.

A series of videos have been released by Mama Hope tearing away the stereotype that depicts Africans as “one-dimensional victims” and in its place, highlights the traits that makes us all human. One video shows African women playing netball, a cross between basketball and ultimate Frisbee. Another shows men joking about how Hollywood tends to portray Africans as the typical villain, firing guns, loving violence and making scary faces. In yet another, a child tells the story of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

Mama Hope works in four countries, managing 32 projects and starting up orphanages, improving sanitation, and reducing poverty. Founder and “chief visionary” of Mama Hope Nyla Rodgers emphasizes the need to empower rather than victimize Africans, using inspiration rather than guilt to get people to help. Reframing the way the rest of the world thinks of Africa, Rodgers hopes people will “stop the pity” and “unlock the potential.”

“We have to have partnership instead of pity,” said Rodgers. “Partnership doesn’t include pity. It includes seeing people as equals and being able to work with them on an equal partnership.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Sources: CNNMama HopeStop The Pity

Arab Spatial Tracks Food SecurityA new web-based tool called Arab Spatial has recently launched and will provide aid workers and researchers access to valuable data relating to food security and malnutrition information throughout the Middle East. Previously, aid workers and activists noticed a lack of data on resources including food and water – data that is typically used in important policy and resource distribution decisions. Even if a country did have relevant information on these issues, the data was not efficiently being shared between countries and regions.

Now, researchers and aid workers can turn to Arab Spatial, an online tool developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) that should house all food security information for the Arab world in one easily-accessible location.

Food security is an enormous issue in the region, where many countries must import many of their basic food staples, and where war and fighting have exacerbated hunger and perpetuated poverty. Abeer Etafa, the representative of the World Food Program, said that “millions of families” throughout the region were having difficulties obtaining food, and with the events surrounding the Arab Spring and other civil unrest and upheaval, have had to face rising instability and lost wages as well.

Although the struggle of millions to obtain the food necessary to survive is known, it has been very difficult for researchers and aid organizations to quantify; IFPRI says that not many countries in the Middle East have poverty figures widely available, and even when they do, it is unclear how accurate said figures are.

To combat this issue, Arab Spatial will aggregate data on food based on national, regional, and local areas, and the data can be used to create maps showing “more than 150 food security and development-related indicators related to poverty, malnutrition, disease, production and prices, public finances, exports and imports.”

IFPRI also asserted that economic development and proper nutrition and food security are vital to each other, and one cannot be successful without the other. It is clear that eradicating the challenges to make food accessible will create sustained economic growth and development throughout the Middle East.

IFPRI hopes that Arab Spatial will be used by government officials, researchers, humanitarian aid workers, and journalists, and most importantly, decision-makers in addressing food security.

Christina Kindlon

Source: IRIN

World Bank Calls for a Geothermal Energy RevolutionNearly 40 countries have met their energy needs by utilizing geothermal energy. The global potential for geothermal energy is very much untapped, with worldwide geothermal electricity capacity at only 11 gigawatts, or .3% of the total global power generation. To change this, the World Bank is implementing a Global Geothermal Development Plan to generate geothermal power for low- and middle-income countries to deliver power to 1.3 billion around the world who are without it.

At the Iceland Geothermal Conference in Reykjavik on March 6, Sri Mulyani, World Bank Managing Director, spoke about the need for donations to support the Plan as well as the importance of geothermal energy for developing countries. “Geothermal energy could be a triple win for developing countries: clean, reliable, locally-produced power,” said Indrawati. “And once it is up and running, it is cheap and virtually endless.” She adds that previously geothermal energy work has been done at the national and regional levels and that what is needed now is “a global push.”

The World Bank’s plan will focus on exploratory test drilling which makes geothermal projects more capital intensive than other renewable sources due to expensive and sometimes fruitless drilling. Significant investment in these projects is needed before a site is deemed viable enough to provide considerable geothermal energy. The cost of testing the potential of a site to produce geothermal energy is US$15 to 25 million, an investment that is lost if the site proves not suitable. However, in countries with more dense populations, geothermal energy, which has the smallest land footprint per kilowatt-hour, is an especially useful resource. The goal is to develop a pipeline of projects that are commercially-viable and ready for private investment.

25% of Iceland’s electrical power is generated by geothermal power plants and 95% of Iceland is heated by volcanic hot water. Currently, Iceland is potentially looking to sell and export the surplus energy the country produces. In collaboration with Iceland, the World Bank is working to assist surface exploration studies and technical assistance for some African countries. The Olkaria Geothermal Plant in Kenya has received long-term support from the World Bank. Only 16% of the Kenyan population has access to electricity. With an abundance of geothermal resources present in East Africa’s Rift Valley, the geothermal potential could provide 150 million households with power. The World Bank’s plan is to double geothermal generation to deliver close to 30% of Kenya’s electricity by 2020. Pierre Audient, Clean Energy Program Team Leader at the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program calls it “a potentially transformative resource,” especially for many developing countries.

Throughout the developing world, there are untapped geothermal resources. Geothermal energy is carbon-free access to electricity, is relatively clean, and delivers constant power. World Bank Group funding for geothermal developments has risen from $73 million in 2007 to $336 million in 2012. With the Global Geothermal Development Plan, the World Bank hopes to increase its support.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: World Bank

Mickey Mouse Has Saved the Rain ForestsFor years, Greenpeace has worked to protect the environment and wildlife, and just recently, it seems that they have made a major breakthrough: with the help of Disney and others, the historic Mickey Mouse has saved the rain forest.

As a strategy for creating consumer awareness about the perils of big-business and their detrimental impact on the environment, Greenpeace will show how big brands are supporting destructive practices through their affiliates and suppliers. For a long time, they were trying to stop Asia Pulp and Paper Company (APP) from destroying the habitats of the orangutans and Sumatran tigers but were getting nowhere. In a change of plan, they hired actors to dress up as Minnie and Mickey Mouse and lock themselves to Walt Disney’s headquarters, flying a banner that read “Disney is destroying Indonesia’s rain forests.”

After immense pressure from its customer base, the combined forces of Mattel and McDonald’s, and eighteen months of negotiations, Disney issued new standards requiring that all paper they, its suppliers, and its licensees use, would now be sustainably sourced. Dozens of major paper-consuming companies followed and APP found itself unable to do business with much of the European and U.S. markets. So, APP then announced in February that it would also “go green.” They promised to no longer use any wood coming from natural forests.

After their announcement, nine of the top 10 US publishers, including Harper Collins, have adopted similar standards. “I think this will stand as one of the biggest market-based campaign successes that we’ve seen in a long time,” says Laurel Sutherlin of the Rainforest Action Network. “We’re still a little bit stunned.”

Mary Purcell

Source: Christian Science Monitor
Photo: Max Papeschi

Luxury Hotels in Thailand for CharitySome mourn through tears, others through memoirs, but there are those people like Mark Weingard who mourn and honor the dead through 6 stars hotels. While vacationing at his beachfront home in Phuket, Thailand, in December 2006, Weingard was awoken by the same sound that silenced hundreds and thousands of voices. Thanks to the structuring of his home, Weingard survived the tsunami and was able to get back to his daily life in London as the CEO of Reset, the inter-bank broking firm he started in 1998.

Two years earlier, Mark’s fiancé was tragically killed in the Bali Bombings while attending a wedding. In her honor, as well as in an effort to bring about a sense of purpose in his own life, Weingard established the Annika Linden Foundation. The foundation’s main purpose was initially to help out children and their families who were victims of the bombing. In little over a decade, his organization, now known as the Inspirasia Foundation, has been able to collect over $10 million in donations from various banking firms. This money is used to fund 16 different programs and projects from rehabilitation to education in Thailand, India, and Indonesia.

Weingard’s newest endeavor is Iniala, a 6 star, 10 room, a luxury hotel built on the land where his destroyed beach house once stood. 10% of the proceeds will be directly used to help fund the work of Inspirasia, an expected $800,000 annually. But Iniala is going to be only one of a handful of luxury hotels that will be part of the Iniala Group, which designs and operates luxury hotels across Asia. The expected annual collection from this giant venture will total $10 million, all going to the foundation.

Weingard’s past was the drive for establishing his foundation as well as the inspiration for his unique philosophy on giving. After his father’s tragic accident when he was 9, and marginally escaping death a few times himself (he was scheduled for a meeting at a World Trade Center office on 9/11), Weingard believes that the human potential is much greater than ourselves. “We are only here once, and we have to make the most of life…not only for ourselves but also for those around us.”

Through what he calls ‘strategic philanthropy’, Weingard brings together multiple disciplines such as finance, marketing, and law to make sound investments in the non-profit world. Only this way will organizations be able to “generate and scale social change as effectively and efficiently as a successful company generates profit and expands its business”.

It is absolutely refreshing to see successful businessmen and women transferring their world-class experience and knowledge into the non-profit world. Mixing ideas from finance, the legal sector, politics, and design in an efficient manner ensures that no time or money is wasted in these massive operations to help those in need. To sustain and even revamp the direction of non-profit organizations, this sort of creative and unique outlook is absolutely required to draw attention, money, and time.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source:Business Week
Photo:Blog A-Cero

Arguing for Foreign AidSenator Rand Paul arguing for foreign aid in his recent filibuster has brought a bit more attention to his input on every part of the budget and sequester discussions. Paul’s impressive 13 hours filibuster regarding the use of military drones against U.S. citizens didn’t only shine the spotlight on the issue of drones, it brought the senator’s opinions themselves to the center of a national discussion. Paul claimed yesterday that foreign aid makes the United States less secure.

Read more about how foreign aid helps national security. First, it is important to remember that foreign aid is still less than 1% of the national budget. Yet when talks about budget cuts come up it seems like foreign aid is always about to get the axe while other expenditures, many related to military involvement, are apparently untouchable. Even military professionals overwhelmingly support foreign aid and non-military aid to developing countries and allies. In fact, 84% of military officers said that strengthening non-military tools, such as diplomacy, foreign aid, and development efforts, should be at least equal to strengthening military efforts.

Building self-sufficient communities and providing job opportunities and growing local economies are all essential to combating the root causes of terrorism. By supplying foreign aid to developing countries around the world we are avoiding future conflict while building stronger, positive relationships with the rest of the world and opening potential markets for American business. In the end, we really shouldn’t be thinking of cutting foreign aid anymore, the distribution of aid allows the United States to further ensure its’ national security, strengthen political ties, and create trading opportunities around the globe.

– Kevin Sullivan

Sources: PolicyMic, Global Poverty and National Security

A New Way of Measuring World HungerThe UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has partnered with the Gallup World Poll to redesign its system of measuring food security and is ready to begin testing. The new system is partially due to accusations of the FAO presenting inaccurate data on world hunger. The previous measurement of food security was based on calorie availability and was often regarded as too narrow a criterion, which resulted in the exclusion of many people who would meet the new, more extensive standards of hunger.

The new system consists of an eight-question survey in the participants’ native language and asks questions on a range of topics; particularly about if a lack of access to resources such as money had, in the past 12 months, “meant they were unable to eat enough food or healthy food, ran out of food, were forced to cut portions or skip meals altogether, or were hungry but did not eat.” Based on the responses, a participant will be placed on a “scale from mild to severe food insecurity.” The survey will be administered to 1,000 to 5,000 people per country, which amounts to over 160,000 participants worldwide.

Now that the FAO will no longer be using the 2011 statistics and will have access to more accurate measurements of food security, the organization will be able to better predict malnutrition before it occurs instead of treating it after onset.

Another way the survey benefits hunger-ridden people is by holding their governments more accountable to U.N. standards. Within the next five years, the FAO will develop standards that all governments must adhere to. The new data will also help the U.N. check on progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

The first countries to test the questionnaire system will be Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, and Angola. With proper funding, the FAO will fully adopt this technique and be better equipped to measure and prevent world hunger.

– Mary Penn

Source: AlertNet