Venezuela's Failing Economy
People know Venezuela as one of the most diverse environments in the world because of its natural features, landscape and wide range of wildlife. Venezuela has massive oil reserves and ranks in the top list among countries such as Saudia Arabia, Canada and Iran, making it the most urban country in Latin America. However, in only approximately six years, the country has seen a drastic economic decline. Venezuela’s failing economy has placed the country in headlines across the world. This article will highlight a few casualties resulting from Venezuela’s financial crisis, as well as evaluating its causes.

The Impacts of Venezuela’s Economic Crisis

The extended effects of Venezuela’s economic crisis are hitting those who choose to remain in the country the hardest. Venezuela’s failing economy has led to a severe shortage and rationing of resources, including food, water and electricity. Despite the country being oil-rich, many Venezuelan’s are questioning why they are struggling. “It’s so unfair; we are such a rich country. It’s not fair that this is happening,” Jakeline Moncada told the Washington Post.

Many turn to natural water reserves despite safety concerns as these reserves often come from sewage drains leading to the spread of preventable diseases. Meanwhile, frequent power outages have caused water sanitation facilities to cease proper function. Physicians have noticed an increase in illness that commonly results from contaminated water and food, such as amoebiasis.

Estimates determine that more than 60,000 Venezuelans who started treatment for HIV now lack access to antiretroviral medications as a result of Venezuela’s failing economy. Many Venezuelan’s that could afford medical services before, now experience challenges attempting to access medical and health services. As a result, those dependent on medications must make costly trips to neighboring countries or hope to find donated medicines from organizations outside of the government.

As Venezuela’s economy has drastically decreased, a survey that the country’s top universities conducted estimated that more than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line. As the country experiences hyperinflation of 1.7 million percent, many families cannot afford to feed themselves more than one meal a day. Various organizations have ceased publishing the statistics of the country after specific data showed significant negative changes. For example, The Health Ministry stopped reporting data in 2017 after reports indicated a high rise in infant mortality rates. After the inflation rates suddenly rose, Venezuela’s central Bank discontinued publishing its figures in 2016. In this instance, Venezuelan organizations stopped sharing information once the statistics showed unfavorable characteristics.

Accessibility

Venezuela’s failing economy has led to difficulty accessing resources like medicare, and as a result, nearly 10 percent of the Venezuelan population is emigrating to other countries. Although Venezuelans are having a few problems getting out of the country, there has been a more significant challenge getting resources in. The military has restricted many resources from passing through its borders or at least the areas where they have the right to. The Pemón community, which borders along Brazil, has spoken in support of permitting assistance through its territory. This region, known as La Gran Sabana, also contains the only paved crossing between the two countries.

When Nicolás Maduro became president in 2015, many nations did not consider him the country’s leader but rather Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader. As a result, Maduro severed the remaining diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the U.S. as well as ceasing the accessibility of aid into Venezuela. Maduro has resisted outside assistance, describing the efforts as the United States desiring to meddle in Latin American affairs. However, many believe that the sudden decline results from mismanagement of funds and corruption.

Venezuela has several countries willing to provide support as it endures this period of financial difficulty. It will only receive this aid if its government allows, though, as it regulates the resources that pass through its border. Once nations can establish a common interest and agree on how to address the issue, Venezuela’s reconciliation can begin.

Kimberly Debnam
Photo: Flickr

 

Making Nutrition Attainable
There are roughly 15.2 million children under the age of 5 in Bangladesh, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Malnutrition affected about half of this population for years. However, there has been some success in lowering this amount by making nutrition attainable. The WHO records that growth stunting reduced from 41 percent in 2011 to 36 percent in 2014. The percentage of underweight children also dropped from 36 percent to 33 percent between 2011 and 2014.

Although Bangladesh’s economy has progressed and the country has experienced a reduction in poverty, food insecurity remains a concern for about 35 percent of its citizens. The International Food Policy Research Institute recommends that children who consume at least four different food groups a day will be 22 percent less likely to experience stunting. In spite of the food insecurity, each day there are more possibilities for making nutrition attainable for poor countries.

Processed Foods

A very common misconception among big companies and corporations is that poor countries would not be able to purchase their food. Therefore, many companies do not venture to sell to these countries in fear of failure. However, in countries like Bangladesh, India and Nigeria, people purchase over 80 percent of the food rather than relying on home-grown. In Bangladesh, 75 to 90 percent of low-income urban consumers and about 40 percent of low-income rural consumers purchase their food. Fifty to 70 percent of the food people purchase in these countries is processed.

Although there are many unhealthy packaged foods, there is also a market for nutritional processed goods. A study in Nepal found that 80 to 90 percent of the country’s children of 6 to 23 months of age ate commercially-produced packaged foods. In Nigeria, people buy 80 million MAGGI bouillon broth cubes every day. These bouillon cubes carry essential nutritional qualities such as iron and other key micronutrients. There is a need for more similarly packaged and processed foods that provide nutritional density and quality.

Making Nutrition Attainable

In an effort to improve the situation, Groupe Danone and Grameen Bank collaborated to make a fortified yogurt factory in Bangladesh. Danone is the world’s largest yogurt maker with more than $21 billion in annual sales. Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi microfinance pioneer and founder of Grameen Bank, first suggested making baby food, however, a yogurt factory became the ultimate choice.

The company is successfully putting enough vitamin A, iron, zinc and iodine into the 60 and 80-gram cups of yogurt to meet 30 percent of a child’s daily needed diet. Overall, the local children who are often poor and malnourished benefit from the yogurts the factory produces. There is still a lot of work to do. The consumer demand increasing in the U.S. leads many businesses to cut sugar out of their products by at least 20 percent. However, for countries in Africa and Asia, there has yet to be this kind of motion.

The Danone and Grameen Factory Help People

The Danone and Grameen factory’s main goal is not to make large revenue, but rather to provide nutrition and education. Professor Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank hopes to share a lesson in manufacturing, business and humanitarian efforts for the developing world and the West. He believes that in starting this project, “You don’t see the money-making aspect, but how you can help people.” The project has employed the rural community through its links with the farmers which serve the factory. The yogurt company pays the local workers and farmers more than any customer does. Many employees are earning $60 a week, a substantial amount for rural Bangladesh.

Many private sector companies are hesitant to step into this effort because of the misinformation that affordable nutrition cannot be profitable. Professor Yunus hopes to educate these companies by challenging them to begin thinking about running their businesses in a different manner. For Danone, this project provides a clearer understanding of marketing food in South Asia and entering in a more profitable market in India.

The Impact

Danone and organizations like Feed the Future strive to make nutrition attainable in Bangladesh. As of January 2018, the U.S. Government selected Bangladesh as one of the 12 Feed the Future target countries. Feed the Future, under the U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy, is a global hunger and food security initiative. It has established a strategy for making nutrition attainable. Feed the Future aims to intensify production while diversifying agriculture. It uses high-value, multi-nutrient products. Feed the Future’s target beneficiaries include rice farmers, the landless poor who are net purchasers of rice, small and medium-size farmers who can diversify production, agricultural-based enterprises and people employed in the fishing and aquaculture sector. In poor countries, companies such as Danone make nutrition attainable by placing more importance on those in need than on the profit it makes. Government organizations like Feed the Future also help in providing food security to poor countries like Bangladesh.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: USAID

Aquaponics in developing countriesEarth is now home to 7.7 billion people. Of those 7.7 billion people, about 10 percent are currently suffering from chronic undernourishment. With the global population projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, the need for more efficient and effective agriculture practices and systems is critical. Aquaponics, any system that creates a symbiotic relationship between aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water), has the potential to solve this problem.

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is any symbiotic relationship between fish that produce excretions of ammonia, bacteria that convert this ammonia into nitrate, and plants that use this nitrate as fertilizer. Overall, it creates a win-win-win situation for these three organisms, which leads to the maximization of available resources.

History of Aquaponics

Many historians believe that the first aquaponics systems were devised in South China in 5 AD. Farmers would raise ducks, catfish and finfish together in rice paddies. During the Tang Dynasty, records of floating rice rafts on top of fish ponds also began appearing.

Modern aquaponics, on the other hand, emerged in the U.S. Interest in the concept is relatively new, as the majority of the progress made in this field has been achieved within the past 35 years. The first closed-loop system, as well as the first large-scale commercial facility, were both created in the mid-1980s.

Benefits

Aquaponics provides many benefits to its users. In comparison to traditional conventional agriculture methods, aquaponics uses only one-sixth of the water to grow up to eight times more food per acre. Due to it being a closed system and the use of the fish waste as fertilizer, it also avoids the issue of chemical runoff. Because aquaponics produces both a vegetable and fish crop, communities that implement the system would also have access to better nutrition. Protein-calorie malnutrition is often the most common form of nutrient deficiency in developing countries, so providing stable sources of fish protein to such at-risk communities could potentially be revolutionary.

Challenges

Although it is undisputed that aquaponics would be a game-changer for food production in developing countries, the high initial start-up cost of modern aquaponics — about $20,000 for a small commercial system — remains a significant barrier. Furthermore, technical training on the subject would need to be provided to locals prior to the implementation of such systems. These aquaponics systems also require a consistent source of electricity in order to maintain constant water circulation. This issue, however, can likely be solved through alternative sources such as solar or hydropower. Therefore, a more simplified design is required for implementation in developing countries — one that could withstand shortages of raw materials and professionals as well as a strong technical support system.

Implementation in Developing Countries

Currently, aquaponics in developing countries has mostly been brought about through nonprofits. For instance, the Amsha Africa Foundation started an aquaponics campaign in sub-Saharan African countries. After launching its first project in rural Kenya in 2007, the organization has since expanded into five more countries and positively impacted thousands. The project targets sustenance farmers who do not have an adequate supply of food and water and are living on eroded or depleted soils.

Another similar organization is Aquaponics Africa, a project created by engineer Ken Konschel. The organization works with farmers to build and design their own backyard or commercial aquaponics system. It also sells informational handbooks detailing the process of maintaining an aquaponics system in Africa for just R300, or about $20.

Aquaponics in recent decades has proven itself to be quite revolutionary to the agriculture industry. It provides many benefits over conventional farming, as it is both more efficient and effective. But, for it to be easier accessible by communities and individuals in developing countries, greater headway will need to be made in terms of simplifying its design in order to adapt it to different environments.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Wikimedia

korea sharing food
The end of World War II brought the division of North and South Korea. The fragmented region became occupied by the United States in the south and by the Soviet Union in the north. While both nations now hold sovereign status, they are still not on good terms. An area that spans the width of both countries and is roughly two and a half miles long separates the north from the south today. This zone, called the demilitarized zone (DMZ), is rarely crossed to travel from one country to another. That has changed recently, though.

Potential for Change

On Wednesday, the South Korean government announced that they will give North Korea 50,000 tons of rice to offset rising malnutrition rates in the region. South Korea sharing food with its neighbor marks the first humanitarian venture across the DMZ to provide food aid in North Korea.

Historically, North Korea has faced numerous issues providing the proper nourishment to their population. Here are a few quick facts on North Korean malnourishment:

The Bleak Facts

  1. Roughly half of North Korea’s population of 24 million live in extreme poverty. North Korea holds the lowest spot on world personal freedom rankings. Poverty, coupled with a lack of freedom, has led to very poor living conditions for its citizens.
  2. One-third of children in North Korea have stunted growth because of malnourishment.
  3. The Global Hunger Index ranked North Korea tenth from last, stating the hunger levels seen in this country are a serious health threat. One-third of children are thought to have their growth permanently stunted due to malnourishment. The lack of food not only affects children, it has also dropped life expectancies by five years.
  4. North Korea has lost hundreds of thousands of people to malnourishment due to historical famines. The largest, which occurred in the 1990s, had a disputed death toll that varied widely from 800,000 people to 3.5 million. This famine, although it killed several hundred thousand, if not millions, has never been acknowledged by the North Korean government.
  5. Currently, the country is facing the worst drought in a decade, which led to a 1.36 million ton shortage of grain. This shortage forced the North Korean government to reduce rations to only 11 ounces per person daily. If nothing is done to counterbalance the food shortage caused by this drought, up to 40 percent of the population is at risk of needing food aid in the next few months.

A New Precedent

These facts paint a bleak picture of life in North Korea, yet South Korea is trying to offset this growing problem by offering food aid. South Korea sharing food is an act of good faith aimed at improving relations between the two countries. The possibility of South Korea sharing food in the future with its estranged neighbor depends on North Korea ending its nuclear weapons program and improving ties between the two countries.

An act of humanitarian aid between two divided countries gives hope that someday food, not fences, will be shared between the two countries and that the world will see a unified Korea sharing food.

-Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Hunger in South AfricaSouth Africa possesses one of the strongest economies and lowest hunger rates in the continent of Africa. It is a middle-income emerging economy with a profusion of natural resources and well developed legal, communication, energy and transport systems. In recent years, its economic growth has declined to 0.7 percent and records show official unemployment as 27 percent. The cost of food in South Africa has increased and citizens are finding it more difficult to acquire food. South Africa’s economic state is one of the main reasons why millions of South Africans are food insecure, unable to consistently access or afford adequate food. To grasp the volume of the issue, here are 8 facts about hunger in South Africa.

8 Facts about Hunger in South Africa

  1. The Statistics South Africa General Household Survey (GHS) reported that 7.4 million people encountered hunger in 2016 and 1.7 million households had a family member go hungry in the past year. The percentage of South African Households with an insufficient or severely insufficient acquisition of food has been steadily declining since 2002. This may be in relation to the rising price of food and the unemployment rate in South Africa. The inflation rate was 5.3 percent in 2017 and the unemployment rate was 27.5 percent.
  2. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) 2017 report, “Food Loss and Waste: Facts and Figures,” a third of all the food produced “in South Africa is never consumed and simply ends up in a landfill.” Specifically, South Africa loses 210 kg per person per year. The report detailed that this contributes to adding more pressure to South Africa’s overly exerted waste-disposal system. The WWF is currently doing research on how to tackle food loss and working towards advocating for action across government and business sectors. Its “research includes both qualitative studies of attitudes and understanding and more data-driven approaches such as using life-cycle analysis to understand hotspots in food product value chains.”
  3. Reports indicated that households led by whites (96.6 percent) and Indian/Asians (93.2 percent) have adequate access to food. On the other hand, black African headed households had the largest proportion (17.9 percent) of households with inadequate access to food. This relates to the fact that the South African unemployment rate is roughly 27 percent of the workforce, and runs significantly higher among black youth.
  4. The number of children aged five or younger who have experienced hunger in 2017 reached half a million and counting. Data provided by Statistics South Africa shows that households with few to no children have more adequate food. Tables show that “80.8 percent of households with no children reported that their food access was adequate.” The report detailed that more than half of the households containing children that have undergone hunger were in urban areas. The report defines rural areas as traditional areas and farms. South Africans living in rural areas are more likely to have farms and thus attain food through agricultural means. Families living in urban areas have a harder time growing food or farming due to their location and surroundings.
  5. The Statistics South Africa General Household Survey reports that in 2017, 63.4 percent of households located in urban areas claimed they were experiencing hunger. As in the previous point, South Africans living in rural areas are more likely to gain food through farming endeavors, whereas people in cities will be less likely to grow their own food.
  6. The number of those living in extreme poverty in South Africa rose from 11 million in 2011 to 13.8 million in 2015. The price of agricultural products has increased over several years as well, which places many South Africans who are combating poverty in a position of insufficient access to food. South Africa’s GDP for agriculture in 2017 was 2.8 percent. Households most commonly grow crops or keep animals in order to grab hold of an additional food source. However, only 14.8 percent of households took part in manufacturing agriculture and only 11.1 percent of these individuals declared receiving government-issued agricultural support. The support would involve training as well as dipping/livestock vaccination services but it is not very widespread across South Africa. The few provinces that received significant support were KwaZulu-Natal (16 percent), Eastern Cape (21.7 percent) and Northern Cape (21.1 percent).
  7. FoodForward South Africa (SA) is a nonprofit organization that redistributes food throughout South Africa. It has partnered with “retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, farmers and growers” to distribute their overabundance of food to those in need. The organization distributed 4,400 tonnes of food and fed 250,000 people in 2018. It provides food to beneficiary organizations centered around services such as youth development, women’s empowerment and care centres that serve “hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries daily throughout South Africa.”
  8. The last of the 8 facts about hunger in South Africa is that many South Africans are not dying of hunger, but malnutrition because they do not have access to proper amounts of food. Malnutrition is the main cause of death for younger children. Deficiencies of vitamins and minerals can lead to birth/growth defects and increase the risk of getting HIV and AIDS. UNICEF is aiding the Department of Health to restructure the capacity of health workers and execute nutrition aid in under-served communities in South Africa. It has also implemented the single infant feeding strategy that encourages breastfeeding in relation to HIV. Specifically, to ensure that babies reach their full potential, health practitioners encourage mothers with HIV and their babies to take antiretroviral medicines (ARV) to prevent transmission.

This list of 8 facts about hunger in South Africa underscores the hunger issue that a number of people in South Africa face. Groups and organizations like the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), FoodForward SA and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) recognized this problem and are making efforts to improve food conditions in South Africa.

– Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

hunger in Brazil

Every day, 66 million people face hunger in Brazil, yet the country annually wastes 15 million tons of food.

Thirty percent of agricultural products are never consumed. In response, many organizations have mobilized to help Brazil lose its infamous position as the third biggest food-wasting country, and provide relief to the 66 million suffering food insecurity.

Invisible Food Bill in São Paulo

Currently, food products in Brazil have unnecessarily short expiration dates, causing lots of good food to be thrown away. The Invisible Food Bill was proposed by Daniela Leite, Flávia Vendramin and Sergio Ignacio.

The Huffington Post explains the simple goal: “if implemented (the law) would require companies to donate food products that may have lost their commercial value, but are still suitable for consumption.” The trio hope to sell the donated items in a food truck and use the profits to raise awareness about food waste while the rest will go to charities to reduce hunger in Brazil.

U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Network

The FAO was concerned by Brazil’s high food waste, and they have been combating the problem with a network of both public and private organizations. An FAO committee specialist stated that the production chain and infrastructure are to blame. Improved agriculture, shipping and storage practices would lower the 30% agricultural waste. This would save money for producers and lower prices for consumers. Unfortunately, food donation in Brazil is difficult because donors are legally accountable for recipients’ potential illnesses. A “Good Samaritan Law” is currently making its way through the legal system which would protect donors. The U.N. hopes to upgrade the processes to save money for everyone and simplify food donation.

Olympic Leftovers Feeding Hungry People in Rio

Celebrity Chefs David Hertz and Massimo Bottura decided to put the leftovers from Olympic athlete’s meals to good use. The estimated 12 tons of food will be given to people in favelas, or low-income neighborhoods. Both chefs have experience with programs like this; Bottura founded an organization, Food for the Soul, that creates community projects similar to the Olympic program. While Hertz started Gastromotiva, which provides vocational and cooking training to empower low-income people. Volunteers have re-purposed a vacant store into a feeding station that will become a community center with cooking classes after the games. These temporary soup kitchens transformed what would have been waste to 100 hot meals a day.

These organizations are attempting to reroute food from landfills to people. Officials hope the combined effort of the U.N. and other organizations will improve agricultural production and encourage donations with bills like the Good Samaritan Law and Invisible Food Bill.

Jeanette I. Burke

 

World HungerThe plight of world hunger is nothing new. On average, one in eight individuals go hungry every day. Currently, about 795 million people suffer from chronic hunger.

This is especially critical in developing countries. There, food productivity and sustainability are just one amongst a plethora of other issues, including overpopulation, civil conflict and lack of education.

However, while the effects of hunger are not limited by race, religion or country, the answer to ending the world’s food shortage problem lies in many, perhaps unexpected places.

Women’s Empowerment

For instance, one such solution can be found in empowering women. Of the 600 million small farmers, herders and food providers in the world, half are women. However, this large fraction of food providers is hindered from producing adequate quotas due to cultural and gender boundaries.

Typically, women have less access to education, ownership of land or livestock. They also receive less credit than their male counterparts. As a result, half of the world’s food providers are unable or not producing nearly enough to sustain themselves, let alone the world’s population.

If these restrictions on female agriculturists decreased, however, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) the number of hungry people in the world would drop 17%.

Education

Another solution to ending world hunger revolves around education. Countries in Africa and South America have fertile land, but with ignorant farmers, food production remains low. These uneducated agriculturists practice outdated farming techniques and in turn reap poor results.

But programs such as Food for Training projects focus on educating food providers in developing nations. They can dramatically improve food production levels and encourage long term self-sustainability at very little cost.

Moreover, school meal projects also reduce hunger amongst children, who most heavily feel the effects of food shortages. In turn, the free or reduced meals schools provide encourage families to send their children to school, which supports education.

Reducing Food Waste

Lastly, a crucial part of reducing and eventually ending world hunger lies in ending global food waste. If the world were to reduce its food waste, a third of the world’s entire food supply would be saved, which is enough to feed 3 billion people.

Ultimately, this would result in a food surplus that could sustain entire countries. However, food recycling projects and campaigns such as Feedback, which focuses on saving leftover produce and creating nutritious meals from marketable food scraps, help reduce hunger. This provides thousands of people around the world with free, nutritious meals.

World hunger has reduced significantly since the 1990s; however, it has since leveled in 2010. Strategies such as food waste reduction campaigns, education and discouraging gender inequality can make significant dents in the fight to end this battle.

Jenna Salisbury

Photo: Pixabay