Somalia’s food crisis
Somalia is facing significant consequences as a direct result of changing weather patterns. The most serious is the food crisis and severe malnutrition it faces due to droughts, poor crop yields and livestock deaths. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for immediate action as the continuing conflict and rising food and energy costs will require immense humanitarian aid in 2023. The ICRC is tackling Somalia’s food crisis by implementing several programs and methods, including teams on the ground that provide water and food, financial help, nutrition services and health care (mobile health teams).

Somalia’s Food Crisis

Many different factors have led to the food crisis in Somalia. Changing weather patterns and the resulting “worst drought in 40 years” has left more than 7 million people without adequate food, British Red Cross reports. The droughts have prevented access to food and water and led to the death of livestock that Somalians depend on for their livelihood. Another factor that has contributed to Somalia’s food crisis is the conflict.

Conflict throughout Africa and the COVID-19 pandemic have led to the displacement of populations and a rise in food and fuel prices. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which produces a quarter of the world’s wheat and grains, is a significant contributor to the hunger crisis since Somalia relies on its exports for 90% of its wheat and grains, ICRC reports.

The rising food and energy costs are hurting communities steeped in armed conflict and violence. The ICRC has indicated that the price of food staples has risen to more than 30% in Somalia. The consequences of the food crisis in Somalia have left many exhausted as people are displaced and struggle to find necessities such as water and food. Many children are unable to attend school to fulfill their education needs.

Ultimately, as of May 2022, Somalia has seen drought affect 6.1 million people and the displacement of 760,000 people throughout the country without access to sufficient water, food and health care. An update that the ICRC provided in the month of August indicates that the internal displacement throughout Somalia due to the drought continues to rise. About 30,000 people experienced displacement in May 2022, 100,000 people in June 2022 and 83,000 people in July 2022, totaling more than a million people displaced in Somalia in 2022.

Emergency Funding For Families

One of the ways the ICRC is tackling the food crisis is by providing monthly payments of $90 to more than 150,000 families in the south and central parts of Somalia to help them purchase food and other necessities. As of the end of August 2022, the program had provided more than $13 million. The program’s outcome has seen positive results. One of the recipients, Dadir Ahmed Adan was able to use the money to open a small shop for $50 and save the rest of his money to buy food for his children after losing his livestock to the droughts.

The primary objective of this program is to help the most vulnerable people survive and minimize debt. The impact of the droughts has caused families to become displaced as they lost their livelihoods. They end up in desperate situations where they look for help from other family members or aid organizations.

Agricultural Cooperatives

Another way that the ICRC is tackling Somalia’s food crisis is by supporting agricultural cooperatives designed to help bear the brunt of changing weather patterns. The cooperatives involve training, farming tools, drought-resistant seeds and cash that is necessary for the fuel in order to irrigate. The ICRC cash assistance will continue distributing cash assistance to people in conflict-affected areas of Somalia and rehabilitating boreholes and wells. Communities will also benefit from primary health care services and mobile health clinics and support. Through this program, the ICRC has managed to help more than 150,000 families with life-saving assistance to purchase food and other necessities, following severe droughts in Somalia.

Provision Of Clean Water and Sanitation

The ICRC is also tackling Somalia’s food crisis by increasing the production and quality of water to alleviate the impact of droughts. This consists of “electromechanical quick fixes, re-drilling of boreholes, increasing the water storage by constructing elevated water tanks, water catchment systems, animal troughs and generator houses for strategic existing borehole/mechanized hand-dug well locations.”

Since the beginning of 2022, the ICRC has successfully distributed fuel and made quick fixes to 26 electro-mechanical boreholes. They completed the construction of five water reservoirs and half a dozen hand-dug wells and rainwater catchment systems. They have also constructed community water sand filters and animal troughs.

The ICRC’s success in aiding drought-stricken regions comes from their initiative and determination, along with support from local communities. The organization ensures that the most vulnerable people in Somalia have the means and access to clean water and sanitation and that these facilities have proper maintenance and improvement.

Road Ahead

The work that the ICRC conducted in response to the food crisis continues and the challenges for 2023 are ever-present. This is a year where humanitarian support is greatly necessary and the ICRC has appealed for $2.9 billion to fund its work in 2023. The ICRC expects the situation to get worse throughout the year, with children and the elderly being the most affected.

– Arijit Joshi
Photo: Flickr

Global Food Problems
The globalization of agricultural markets has played an important role in virtually every country’s economy. Even though the farming sector has been declining, it still makes up 27% of worldwide employment and about 75% of the world’s poorest people. With how important the agricultural sector is to many of the world’s impoverished, many of these people find their economic prosperity and success stymied by a lack of food security and access to agricultural technologies. Thankfully, there are several technologies and programs working to solve many of these global food problems.

The Importance of Food Security

Global food security today is shaky at best. About 30% of the global population is susceptible to food insecurity due to issues such as COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and pre-existing economic security in many of the world’s poorest countries. These problems contributed to between 720 and 811 million people around the world suffering from chronic hunger in 2020. The numbers are not much better today, with more than 2 billion people still suffering from general malnutrition.

A significant factor causing these global food dilemmas is poverty that exists in the agricultural sector. Estimates suggest 60% more food production is necessary by 2050 to keep pace with the increasing global population, but that is a tall order considering that 700 million agricultural workers live in poverty. This makes it difficult for them to have access to technologies and resources to help them effectively connect with the ever-growing (and ever-digitizing) global agricultural markets. Thankfully, even with these steep hurdles, several technologies and programs are working today to help raise the world’s poorest agricultural workers and solve global food problems.

myAgro

Founded in 2011, myAgro knows that a vital component of boosting the productivity of poor farmers is connecting them to financial resources and platforms that allow them to afford the tools and technologies needed to farm. By developing a mobile layaway platform allowing poor farmers to pay for agricultural items like seeds and fertilizers in advance (and in smaller increments), myAgro has helped over 115,000 farmers grow 78% more food. This has translated into more than a million additional people being fed in 2021. myAgro continues to work in raising the world’s poorest farmers through its innovative financial technology.

TechnoServe

A nonprofit organization based out of Virginia, TechnoServe has been active for more than 50 years in the fight against global poverty. TechnoServe understands that a lack of access to many technologies we take for granted has stunted the economic growth of the world’s poorest farmers. TechnoServe has built digital training courses that help farmers otherwise locked out of global data and agricultural knowledge learn the skills needed to successfully run a farm. For example, it created the Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas (MOCCA) program which uses digital technologies to teach cacao farmers in Central America how to farm efficiently and sustainably. The provision of these digital avenues of agricultural learning has made a positive impact in reducing many global food problems.

Aerobotics

One technology that has made an impact is the drone. One company helping make this technology more accessible to poor farmers is Aerobotics, a South African company that Cape Town native James Patterson created. By developing drones that help farmers gain invaluable data on crop health, Aerobotics has helped boost their farming clients’ yields by as much as 10%. As drone prices continue to drop, they are becoming an ever-more-important tool for poor farmers to boost their agricultural efficiency.

Making Progress

Thanks to innovative programs and technologies from organizations like myAgro, TechnoServe and Aerobotics, great progress has occurred in raising the world’s poorest farmers. As these technologies develop and become more efficient and accessible, progress in solving global food problems will only continue.

– Elijah Beglyakov
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity
Food insecurity is an issue that affects those in poverty at a higher rate. Due to supply chain issues, food prices are at a record high. Lower and middle-income countries are at a higher risk of the impact of increases in food prices because they spend a higher percentage of their income on food.

Food Insecurity

Food security is defined as having access to an adequate amount of food to sustain individual health and well-being. More than 2.3 billion people were food insecure in 2020. This was an increase of about 320 million people from 2019. In addition, there are still an estimated 660 million people who may experience food insecurity by 2030. Food insecurity is a serious threat to the livelihood of those in poverty. Those in middle and lower-income countries are more likely to suffer from hunger due to the inability to access the resources needed to be food secure. There are currently about 800 million people who are malnourished, and about 780 million of them live in low to middle-income countries. Additionally, in areas with chronic poverty, malnutrition is often present. Food insecurity is an economic issue, and when local areas do not have control over their food supply, the economy suffers, along with the health of the individuals that comprise it.

Economics and Food Insecurity

Food insecurity closely relates to economic principles; supply chain issues have caused an increase in food insecurity, especially in countries with weaker economies. In July 2022, the Agriculture Price Index was 19% greater than in January 2021. Moreover, the price of maize was 16% higher and wheat prices rose by 22% from January 2021 to July 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic still plays a huge role in supply chain issues and food insecurity. Around 130 million people could endure chronic hunger because of the pandemic’s damage to the supply chain. Furthermore, the supply chain has been restricted since the start of the war in Ukraine. Additional limitations by more than 15 countries since July 2022 have exacerbated supply chain issues. World events influence the supply chain, but strengthening local economies and producers will likely contribute to increased food security.

Solutions

In order to solve food insecurity, it is essential to make food accessible. One way to do this is through the supply chain. When every branch of the supply chain – from the local farmers to the consumers – is strengthened, local communities can be better served. Up to 80% of food comes from small farms; when these farmers are able to work in their local communities, they can cut down on costs and fight food insecurity. Economically, it is less expensive to buy food locally than to import it. However, farmers need additional support to counteract the supply chain issues and potential loss of income. The average salary of more than 500 million small farmers around the world is just $2 a day. Making the necessary changes to food accessibility, such as subsidizing local farms, will be a boon to food security.

Soy Farming

In the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, the startup, Agrorobótica, is analyzing dry soy fields using NASA technology. This organization takes soil samples and then analyzes their composition. The robots measure the amount of carbon in the soil. When farmers know how much carbon is in their soil, they can find ways to improve their farmland. By implementing sustainable farming practices like cover cropping, conservation tilling and crop rotations, farmers are able to improve soil productivity and, thus, fight food insecurity. Agrorobótica CEO, Fabio Angelis, explained that Brazilian agribusiness could account for 40% of the 70% increase in agricultural productivity over the next ten years. The startup is investing in Brazil’s soil to make food more accessible. The desired goal is for the supply chain to become more sustainable and efficient.

Conclusion

Food insecurity is an issue that predominantly impacts low-income countries. Improving the supply chain can make a huge difference in fighting food accessibility. There are a wide variety of solutions ranging from economic improvements in farming to reforming entire industries.

– Ann Shick
Photo: Unsplash

Food Systems in Sri Lanka
Food systems globally are having to adapt to increasing numbers of challenges; a growing population, supply chain inadequacies and an overwhelming strain on the environment that in itself disrupt harvests and crop growth. Food systems in Sri Lanka are experiencing major shortages in recent years due to government mismanagement and a failed transition to organic agriculture, alongside crippling economic conditions and mounting foreign debt. People’s food security is a growing concern.

The World Food Programme (WFP) reported an estimated 6.3 million people, nearly 30% of the population believed to be experiencing moderate to severe acute food insecurity in September 2022. This follows after successive poor harvests and a limit on imports of food grains as a result of a depreciating currency and rising prices of goods.

Imports account for 22% of the country’s food consumption. Previously self-sustained in the production of rice, meat, fish, eggs and fruit and vegetables, poor harvests have rendered domestic supplies inadequate, forcing Sri Lanka to import $450 million worth of rice, despite the price for the staple crop rising some 50%. Maintaining a nutritious diet has become increasingly difficult for the average household as inflation rises to 57.4% and incomes fall.

How it Happened

One can attribute poor harvests to environmental impacts and government policy. Former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa in April 2021 imposed a national ban on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in an effort to transition Sri Lanka’s agriculture sector to organic production methods. This was carried out without an integration period, effectively ordering 2 million of the countries’ farmers to go organic overnight.

Whilst the notion of organic farming is appealing through the environmental benefits it offers, the use of synthetic fertilizers attains consistency in yield that is difficult to replicate. Consequently, since the imposition of the ban, Sri Lanka’s rice production has substantially declined.

The foreign exchange felt the economic drawbacks of this policy after tea production took a hit and Sri Lanka’s export revenue decreased, weakening a key industry that employs many across rural areas. The significant decline in agricultural output sent many Sri Lankan farmers into poverty.

Intrinsically altering the nature of production and operations of food systems in Sri Lanka in such a way requires education programs to introduce farmers to alternative methods of crop growth. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka did not take such measures.

Following public outcry, in October 2021 the government went back on its synthetic fertilizer ban. Despite this, the global rise in prices has seen farmers struggling to afford imports of fertilizer, resulting in continued shortages of harvest and food.

The need for sustainability in agriculture is irrefutable; for the attainment of various SDGs as well as the health of the consumer. A gradual approach, alongside a holistic framework, reappraising all the involved sectors and stakeholders will be necessary to ensure vulnerable communities are provided with the required subsistence levels.

Solutions

To curb the effects of current shortages, NGOs and foreign governments are actively sending remittance packages targeting vulnerable communities and Sri Lankan food systems.

In September 2022, the United States embassy announced a package worth $40 million supplying Sri Lankan farmers with fertilizer needed to resume crop growth. A crucial step in kickstarting the agricultural sector. The embassy also announced a package worth $20 million addressing immediate humanitarian needs across the country, focusing on the groups that the shortages most affected, including pregnant women and children.

The WFP appealed for $63 million in emergency funds earlier in the year to supply those most affected by the crisis, including vulnerable groups, pregnant women and children. It aims to offer food vouchers to help cover expenses and provide emergency nutrition and school meals until the end of the year.

Australia was the first country to meet the WFP’s appeal, from whom Sri Lanka received a donation of rice worth $15 million in September. The Australian government has scheduled further donations of rice and cooking oil to be shipped to Sri Lanka in the coming months.

Many are hungry and much rely on a successful harvest in the coming season. However, with the measures in place, some pressure on the agricultural sector and food systems in Sri Lanka is being relieved, and the immediate needs of the most vulnerable groups are receiving attention.

– Bojan Ivancic
Photo: Flickr

African Green Revolution Forum
The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) meeting commenced on September 5, 2022, with
nearly 6,500 policymakers, activists, researchers, business leaders and agriculture experts from all over the world in attendance, both in-person and virtual. The forum theme was Grow, Nourish and Reward – Bold Actions for Resilient Food Systems, reflecting a dedication to addressing Africa’s growing food insecurity and a need for food system improvements. 

Africa’s Fragile Food System

Due to the economic impact of the coronavirus, 147 million African people are experiencing severe food insecurity, a jump of 20 million from the previously recorded statistics at the start of 2022. In addition, food prices have also increased by 40% due to the coronavirus, making it increasingly difficult for those living in poverty to maintain healthy diets.

According to leaders at the AGRF summit, African food systems are highly susceptible to global changes, such as the war in Ukraine and climate-related environmental changes, as they heavily rely on imported goods to sustain their people. For that reason, the AGRF focused on ways to improve existing agricultural systems and determined what actions to take to help African agriculture evolve and resist the effects of the changes.

AGRF Leaders Define the Issue

Deputy Secretary-General Amna J. Mohammed shared at the AGRF that “Ending hunger requires us to consider food as a system and recognize the range of intersecting challenges that are undermining progress across the spectrum of the Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Within the summit declaration, leaders at the AGRF determined a list of essential topics to confront. The topics include aiding food systems led by countries, solidifying food system visions, pushing for healthier diets and sharing working models and any new information learned with the public.

There was some discourse during the meeting when determining the best solution. Some leaders wanted to take an investment route, while others preferred to take on the issue starting from the bottom of the chain with small farmers. Overall, the AGRF decided to mobilize to collect $200 billion in investments to improve African food systems.

Making the Switch From External Imports to Internal Production

Experts at the AGRF declared that decreasing reliance on imported goods is vital if Africa wants to create a sustainable and independent food system. The experts determined that implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area may aid in breaking barriers that prevent the trade of food from areas with surplus to those with shortages and establish profitable markets for farmers.

AGRF leaders agreed to invest in internal food transportation and retention as a means to decrease import reliance. Ministers pledges to coordinate improvements in the current tariff systems.

Taking Action

Increasing the number of locally produced, nutritious foods cultivated by local farmers is a priority in Africa. Rwanda’s Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) has worked to enhance African food systems and combat malnutrition.

According to PABRA, beans contribute 32% of daily calories and 65% of protein intake in Rwandan homes. The country’s government has prioritized these nutrient-rich bean crops through the Government Crop Intensification Programme. Beans are high in iron and zinc while also being inexpensive, which makes them a cost-effective crop to incorporate into the African food system.

Another organization, the Zimbabwe Pfumvudza Programme, aims to achieve food security by providing local farmers with maize, sunflower, small grain and soya bean seeds with basal and top fertilizer. Following the Conservation Agriculture Principles, local farmers receive training on adequately caring for the crops and government monitoring.

This program is in the early stages of production as they are working on financing and training staff on new agricultural technologies. However, the expected outcome is 75KG of produce per household, adding up to 1 million MT total.

Some criticism of this kind of intervention has been reported by activists at the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, arguing that providing resources to farmers will create a dependency. Activists also say that having farmers plant monocultures will take away a farmer’s crop variety, impacting already present food deficits.

Looking Ahead

To stay on track to end chronic hunger in Africa by 2030 and meet the Zero Hunger target in 2015, African Green Revolution Forum attendees acknowledged a need to reshape African food systems and agriculture into a more substantial business model to support malnourished households and small farmers.

With the number of households facing poverty, income inequality and rising food costs, nutrient-rich diets and a steady food supply are unattainable for many African people. Leaders at the AGRF shared that Rwanda’s efforts as a host country and an example of potential improvements that have the potential to benefit food systems in other countries inspired the movement.

– Mikada Green
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Agricultural Exports to Cuba
With inflation in Cuba soaring to 70% in 2021 and food imports dropping from $2 billion pre-pandemic to $11.2 million post-pandemic, Cubans are dealing with a devastating economic collapse that has a plethora of bleak consequences. These consequences have led to a low annual income per capita of just 627 Cuban pesos (or $25 USD) and the worst food shortage crisis since the 90s, The Economist reported in July 2021. H.R. 8294 is a piece of legislation that bans the “financing of agricultural sales to Cuba.” A proposed amendment to this legislation, amendment 137, calls for the termination of this prohibition. Supporters of the amendment state that expanding U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba “would create thousands of farm jobs in the United States while providing desperately needed food at lower prices for the Cuban people.” Apart from shortening hours-long queues of people lining up to access food in Cuba, the amendment would also address hunger in the nation and help the country stabilize overall.

Food Shortages in Cuba

In 2021, Cubans had to become accustomed to long wait times for perishables, with some food queue waiting times as long as up to 12 hours. These food queues are a consequence of sanctions on Cuba, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic instability in the country.

Cuba imports nearly 80% of the country’s food, and as a communist nation, the state pays for these shipments. When Cuban officials had less capital to work with during the pandemic, imports fell to levels not visible since 2009. As administrators stretch beyond their capacity, U.S. efforts have become extremely important.

The Cuban government estimates that America’s embargo in its entirety (from 1962 to today) has cost Cuba more than $144 billion. The U.N. estimates this number at closer to $130 billion though. Sanctions and embargoes have stifled economic growth in Cuba, but with a worsening food crisis, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba are of the utmost importance.

In the 17-year period (1975-1992) when the U.S. allowed Cuba to purchase commodities from “subsidiaries of U.S. companies in third countries,” 90% of the sales each year related to supplies of food and medicine.

U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba served as a major source of the country’s nutritional and medical needs in the past and Cuba still can technically buy food from U.S. companies given an embargo exception made in 2000. But, the U.S. offers no credit for the island nation and only accepts upfront cash payments, making the crucial lifeline of sustenance a mere object of the past. Amendment 137 would offer credit to Cuban consumers so as to make these imports more accessible.

The Possibility of Stability

Supporters of this amendment point toward its potential positive societal impacts as an argument for its adoption. Anti-government protesters marched in Cuba on July 11, 2021, in response to “restrictions on rights, food and medicine scarcity and the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Human Rights Watch reported.

July 2021’s demonstrations are the biggest the country experienced since the 1959 revolution. Police detained more than 1,400 demonstrators and more than 700 of these individuals still endured imprisonment as of July 2022.

U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba will not resolve human rights restrictions or the strict rule of the Cuban government, but it would certainly quell a major upset that citizens have, which is rooted in their unmet basic necessities. The possibility of stabilization thanks to a greater U.S. food supply looks even more promising when considering the catalyst for 2021’s uprising, the failure of authorities to keep the economy at bay.

Amendment Specifics

The previously mentioned Cuban credit line would be open for a year and the termination of existing U.S. agricultural export regulations would complement this. Amendments similar to amendment 137 have been proposed in other pieces of legislation, such as the 2017’s government appropriations bill and the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, which had bipartisan support. However, this amendment was not adopted in H.R. 8294’s first House passage but the proposal still remains on the table as the bill is still awaiting a vote from the Senate.

Amendment 137 in relation to H.R. 8294 could address a lot of the dilemmas Cubans face, from the unbearably long food queues to the instability plaguing the streets. Cuba has demonstrated in the past that it can gain a lot from U.S. business, especially when offered credit to engage with it as Cuba stood as the “ninth-largest export market” for U.S. agriculture pre-1960.

If nations like the U.S. can add stimulus, the resulting benefits would be instrumental for people who have faced a rapidly deteriorating situation over the last two years. Measures like H.R. 8294’s 137th amendment would increase U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba by deregulating U.S. farm exports into Cuba and by offering Cubans credit to afford these new imports. Its adoption would offer Cubans more nutritious food options and make existing food options more accessible. The amendment would play a significant role in the resolve that protestors are requesting, ushering in much-needed stability and peace.

– Jacob Lawhern
Photo: Flickr

Nigerian Startup Fights High Food Costs
Pricepally is a food co-op that connects Nigeria’s urban consumers directly with farmers and wholesalers, thus bolstering Nigeria’s urban centers against the impending global food crisis. Luther Lawoyin originally developed Pricepally in 2019 to make food more affordable and accessible for Nigerians. The digital startup uses modern technology to connect urban consumers directly with wholesalers and farmers, bypassing the country’s inefficient food supply infrastructure, which contributes to high food costs. Additionally, the Nigerian startup fights high food costs by enabling customers to pool their resources with other Pricepally users to invest in bulk purchases, providing further savings.

An Instant Hit

Lawoyin came up with the idea for Pricepally after monitoring his new family’s collective grocery expenses. After doing some research, he realized that Nigeria’s outdated supply chain infrastructure resulted in “a lack of integration” between consumers and producers. Intermediaries meant to connect rural producers with urban consumers lacked a sound data structure, meaning that farmers had no way of knowing current market demands. The Nigerian startup fights high food costs caused by an inefficient and inequitable market structure by providing a community-based platform that benefits both consumers and producers.

Following its launch in November 2019, Nigerians quickly recognized Pricepally as a valuable consumer platform amid high inflation. The digital startup’s popularity skyrocketed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, providing consumers with a safe method of obtaining essential resources. The Lagos-based startup met the needs of quarantined populations, quickly obtaining a government license to travel despite pandemic restrictions.

Pricepally began as a modest operation with only seven employees operating solely within the city of Lagos. Within months of its debut, Principally received funding from multiple investors, allowing it to rapidly expand operations to include the Nigerian capital of Abuja, serving more than 5,000 consumers per month.

Benefits Farmers and Consumers Alike

While Pricepally’s creator initially developed the platform with urban customers in mind, its operation has become an incredibly beneficial mechanism by which smallholder farmers can expand their market access. Chronic underinvestment and an outdated supply chain infrastructure have caused Nigeria’s smallholder farmers to become embroiled in poverty. A lack of basic facilities such as transportation routes, energy and water irrigation systems deter investors and leads to inefficiency and significant agricultural losses. In fact, Nigeria’s agricultural industry loses anywhere from 55% to 72% of Nigeria’s fresh produce before it even enters the domestic market.

Pricepally works to overcome these structural pitfalls by acting as a fair and reliable middleman, using its mobile and web-based services to connect farmers with consumers. This reduces the various intermediaries that once clogged the value chain, providing an equitable and transparent procurement process that empowers small-scale farmers to attain fair prices. In the spirit of transparency, Pricepally has begun featuring farmer’s profiles on its website, ensuring people can trust that they are buying high-quality produce. The Nigerian startup fights high food costs by streamlining the supply chain process in a manner that optimizes both transparency and equitability.

Future Goals

Pricepally recently started working with Prosper Africa, a U.S. government operation aimed at expanding bilateral trade and investment between African nations and the United States. This partnership works to secure U.S. investment and further expand Pricepally’s operational capacity.

In early 2022, Pricepally expanded its operations to the Nigerian coastal city of Port Harcourt, meaning the startup now serves consumers in Nigeria’s three largest urban centers. The most recent operational expansion increases Pricepally’s customer base while also connecting more markets and expanding overall supplies.

As investments continue to pour in, Pricepally is focused on improving its warehouse and processing facilities and investing in tech support so that the digital platform can serve more consumers each month. In the long-term, Lawoyin hopes to continue expanding operations to encompass other African nations struggling with similar supply chain and infrastructure issues.

As Pricepally continues to grow, it hopes to expand support for smallholder farmers within Nigeria as well as throughout the rest of Africa. Many of Nigeria’s farmers are simply trying to make ends meet, but Lawoyin hopes to transform farming to make it a viable career choice. He plans to do so by investing in programs aimed at addressing the issues that smallholder farmers face, including a lack of proper education, infrastructure and financing.

Within only three years, Pricepally has transformed the agricultural sector of Nigeria for the better. The Nigerian startup fights high food costs by leveraging shared economy principles that benefit consumers and producers alike, streamlining the procurement process and cutting out unnecessary intermediaries. As the startup continues to expand its operational capacity, it has the potential to transform the food supply chain of countless African nations, thus bolstering the world’s most vulnerable populations against the threat of food insecurity.

– Mollie Lund
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

WFP’s Humanitarian Partnership with Uber
On June 8, 2022, Uber donated a customized version of its “Uber Direct” software app to the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) to help distribute food in Ukraine. Some urban areas in Ukraine are hard to reach with conventional large delivery trucks because the areas are densely populated. Therefore, the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber allows the WFP to use a customized version of the Uber Direct app so the WFP can easily reach food insecure Ukrainians in urban areas. In addition, with the Uber Direct app, the WFP will be able to “coordinate a fleet of vehicles and track deliveries in real time.”

Innovative Approaches to Delivering Aid

The WFP’s partnership with Uber highlights the potential of modern technology to solve modern-day global humanitarian issues. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia makes it difficult for international humanitarian organizations to deliver food and other essential items due to ongoing military operations.

Russia is blockading Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which are important for the transportation of food to developing countries struggling with food insecurity. However, innovative approaches to delivering aid, such as the customized version of the Uber Direct software app, give humanitarian organizations opportunities to efficiently tackle food insecurity in war-torn countries. Thus, WFP’s partnership with Uber in Ukraine illustrates how technology can stand as an important tool in the reduction of global poverty.

The Food Insecurity Situation in Ukraine

As of May 21, 2022, one in three Ukrainian households faced food insecurity due to the war, according to the WFP. Furthermore, these Ukrainians have lost their jobs, which means they have no income to support themselves and many have had to abandon their homes.

Russian forces are destroying farms and croplands in Ukraine. Additionally, the Guardian reported on June 13, 2022, that “Ukraine’s national seed bank has been partly destroyed amid fighting in Kharkiv in the north-east, where almost 2,000 crop samples rest in underground vaults.” The situation further exacerbates food insecurity in Ukraine. Therefore, the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber is necessary in order to easily deliver emergency food to Ukrainians at risk of food insecurity.

How Uber Can Assist in Tackling Food Insecurity in Ukraine

The WFP “is already using the [Uber Direct] app in Dnipro,” but because food insecurity is widespread in Ukraine, the WFP intends to also send deliveries of food aid to Lviv, Vinnytsia, Kyiv and Chernivtsi. The customized Uber Direct app allows the WFP  to “schedule, dispatch, track and manage deliveries by a network of cars and small vans to final distribution points within a 100km radius of WFP warehouses across the country.” Additionally, the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber also includes a $250,000 donation from Uber to the WFP USA “to support the emergency response in Ukraine.”

Private Sector Support

Although the WFP’s humanitarian partnership with Uber is innovative and transformative, Uber is not the only private company providing support to the WFP to help Ukrainians. The John Deere Foundation, the charitable arm of John Deere, announced on May 18, 2022, a donation of $1 million to the WFP U.S.A so it can “combat global food insecurity” and tackle rising hunger in Ukraine. The John Deere Foundation also said that 50% of the donation will go to the WFP’s Innovation Accelerator, which “sources, supports and scales high-impact innovations to achieve zero hunger.” The support from Uber and the John Deere Foundation to the WFP illustrates the commitment of the private sector to humanitarian work, which is instrumental to ending global poverty.

Looking Ahead

International organizations have been documenting the steady decline in global poverty over the past decades before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, some may wonder how global poverty can be declining, given the wars and conflicts ongoing in many countries around the world. To find the answer is to look at how humanitarian organizations are leveraging their relationships with the private sector to discover creative ways to solve poverty and hunger. The WFP’s use of the customized Uber Direct app in Ukraine to deliver food to densely populated areas is a shining and, perhaps, enduring example.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

plant health to reduce poverty
On May 12, 2022, the first International Day of Plant Health, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called on the international community to invest more in plant health to reduce poverty and food insecurity. This includes more usage of pesticides to eliminate diseases that harm 40% of food crops according to FAO. The loss of food crops contributes to food insecurity in countries that have economies that rely on agriculture. Furthermore, the loss of food crops will also impact the income of people who live in rural areas since they mostly rely on agricultural trade to stay above the poverty line.

The Idea of Tackling Plant Health

The idea of tackling plant health internationally may be a new concept for those who live in developed countries, but it is a daily struggle for those who live in developing countries. In fact, the International Day of Plant Health emerged after a U.N. General Assembly resolution advocated for it, which Zambia sponsored. It passed unanimously on March 29, 2022.

On May 12, 2022, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said that investing in plant health is to “transform agri-food systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable,” U.N. News reported. This highlights a hidden key factor that drives poverty and food insecurity in the developing world, especially in rural countries.

Countries Affected

Some countries, specifically ones that have agriculture-centric economies, rely on plant health to reduce poverty and food insecurity. For example, On May 21, 2015, FAO reported that 75% of citizens in Moldova depend on agriculture to make a living and to eat food. However, throughout early 2015, Moldova experienced a pest outbreak that impacted food production in the country, which “caused significant economic hardship” for Moldovans.

Similarly, in 2017, an armyworm outbreak wiped out 200,000 tonnes of maize in Zambia that affected agriculture in southern Africa. Zambians rely on agricultural trade for income as agriculture employs 50% of them.

Local Efforts

The grave threat that the armyworm outbreak posed prompted a swift response by countries whose economies are at risk because of the outbreak. On January 11, 2017, Zambia responded to the pest that eliminated around 200,000 tonnes of its maize by using its military to eradicate it. On the other hand, on January 17, 2017, Zimbabwe investigated the damage that the armyworms caused, which included wiping out 20% of the country’s maize, after spraying pesticides on the crops.

International Efforts

International organizations and agencies were instrumental in helping these countries eliminate the pests so they can protect plant health to reduce poverty and food insecurity. For example, On May 21, 2015, Moldova’s Ministry of Agriculture cooperated with the FAO on a two-year project that introduced an “Integrated Pest Management” program, according to FAO. This program entailed training farmers and implementing “measures to discourage the development of pest populations.”

Moreover, on April 5, 2022, the FAO convened the 16th session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures, which is the governing body of the International Plant Protection Convention that more than 180 countries signed. The goal of that session was to “set new plant health standards” and “preserve food security.”

History has shown that pests have been effective at destroying crops that are key to food security and poverty in the developing world. However, history is also showing that new and sophisticated methods to protect agriculture and food security are being developed every day. International institutions such as the FAO have been adept at helping developing countries such as Moldova stop the spread of pests. The unity of the international community in pursuing plant health shows that although the pest problem is dire, solving it is way easier. This makes global poverty reduction and preservation of food security even easier goals nowadays.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Brazilian National School Feeding Program
The world wastes about 1.3 billion tons of food fit for human consumption, according to a 2020 World Food Programme (WFP) article. Meanwhile, many global citizens, young and old, struggle to secure enough food to sustain themselves on a daily basis. This is a difficult and localized reality prevalent in many communities throughout Brazil. The Brazilian government implements the Brazilian National School Feeding Program to address hunger among schoolchildren.

Food Waste and School Closures

A 2020 article from the WFP USA explains that society perpetuates food waste in one of two ways. Either excess eatables are disposed of at businesses like hotels and restaurants (typical of high-income countries) or farm-grown produce is otherwise ruined in the process of taking it from field to plate (more common in low-income countries). In Brazil, both of these situations are commonplace.

Providing food to children, in particular, is a task that fell by the wayside in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, 15% of Brazilian households endured hunger. School closures due to the pandemic cut off Brazilian children’s access to meals provided by school feeding programs. In 2021, The New York Times reported that “Children, many of whom have been out of school for over a year, beg for food outside supermarkets and restaurants” in Brazil. These circumstances highlight the critical role of school feeding programs in poverty-stricken nations.

The Brazilian National School Feeding Program (PNAE)

For several decades, the Brazilian government and related organizations have strategically worked to improve meals for schoolchildren. While, initially, this entailed offering enough food to keep students coming to school, it now focuses on an equally important facet of diet — nutrition.

In 1954, with the goal of feeding students in Brazil, Brazil established the Brazilian National School Feeding Program (PNAE). The program, which remains active and important to the Brazilian education system to this day, supports 40 million students or more. It supplies meals on a daily basis to these students, now drawing on the expertise of more than 8,000 nutritionists for better dietary protocol.

Including More Vegetables and Using Local Resources

In modern-day Brazil, the law mandates that a minimum of 30% of the eatables in school feeding programs must come from small-scale farmers. It is also preferred that feeding programs acquire such produce from local businesses rather than acquiring produce from more distant sources. The meals within these programs are based on menus designed by nutritionists to ensure necessary developmental nutrition and efficient use of local food sources.

Observances such as these are part of a movement within the program in more recent years attempting to curb health complications in juveniles. In the early 2000s, obesity became one of the main pitfalls associated with Brazil’s Zero Hunger Program, an endeavor that the PNAE became part of in 2003. In 2016, a third of Brazilian children between 5 and 9 fell in the overweight category of body mass.

Since then, the PNAE has adjusted its feeding strategy to address this dilemma. The PNAE now gives precedence to fresh fruit and vegetables, rather than foods high in sugar. Overall, the PNAE places an emphasis on nutrition rather than just the sheer quantity of food offered to schoolchildren.

Digital Engagement for the PNAE Community

In addition to making better nutrition decisions while feeding students in Brazil, the PNAE has also put time and effort into providing a means for digital community engagement. The ePNAE app helps teachers, nutritionists, parents of students and the children themselves to look at menu options throughout the country.

This social app, according to the Government of Brazil, “allows you to monitor the data on the transfer of funds to each school and assess the quality of school meals in your region.” The mainstream application, available through the Play Store and App Store, also offers a number of “healthy eating tips.” In this way, the ePNAE app itself helps educate parents and students on the importance of nutrition.

The PNAE, as one of the largest school feeding programs globally, successfully improved its strategy for feeding students in Brazil. Inspired by the PNAE’s successes, other nations looking to promote similar programs study and implement its modus operandi.

– John Tuttle
Photo: Flickr