Urban Farming Can Help Reduce Poverty

The United Nations reports that over 2.5 billion people live in urban areas today and the rate of urbanization is only accelerating. By 2025, it is estimated that 3.5 billion people will live in urban areas, nearly half of the world’s population. People’s way of life is changing and the way people access their food also needs to adapt, which is where urban farming comes in. Urban farming can help reduce poverty in addition to an array of other benefits.

Challenges of Urbanization

Historically, moving to a city has been associated with increased opportunity and wealth, driven by more and better jobs and the promise of upward momentum and a better life. Today, the reality of urbanization is much different. Urbanization in low-income countries is growing exponentially and marked by poverty, unemployment and food insecurity. Many people move to the city from rural areas to escape over-population, violence, disease and hunger. As a direct result of this, about one billion people live in urban slums without access to sanitization, clean water or enough food or work. To survive, many people have resorted to growing their own food wherever they can. This is known as urban agriculture or urban farming and in many places, it is becoming the front line of food production.

What is Urban Farming?

Urban farming is a local food system of growing plants and raising livestock in and around cities, as opposed to traditional rural areas. Today, 800 million people around the world rely on urban agriculture for access to fresh, healthy foods. Urban agriculture is versatile, allowing for different crops to be grown. This provides urban communities with direct access and control over nutritious and locally-produced food, which creates jobs and boosts the local economy. Urban farming is also good for the environment and positively impacts household food security. All of these factors result in poverty reduction, which helps quickly developing urban areas.

Financial Incentives

Urban agriculture requires workers to harvest, care for, sell and maintain crops and animals. This has a huge impact on families struggling to find employment by creating jobs and supporting livelihoods. Additionally, it makes fresh food cheaper, allowing people in low-income areas access to affordable produce. Urban farming can help reduce poverty because when more people have jobs and are able to buy, it fuels the economy, creating even more opportunities. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) sees how important urban agriculture is in poverty reduction efforts and has helped over 20 city governments implement multidisciplinary actions to optimize policies, financial incentives and training programs to low-income farmers in order to “improve horticultural production systems.”

Environmental Benefits

Cities, especially highly populated ones, face many environmental challenges. These may include lack of greenspace, heat capture, pollution, lack of biodiversity and poor air quality. Urban farming can reduce the negative effects of these concerns. By decreasing carbon dioxide in the air, providing environments for different species to thrive and decreasing the environmentally costly process of importing food from other places, urban agriculture is environmentally beneficial.

Success Stories

Across the world, urban farming is helping people and seeing success in many communities. RotterZwam, located in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is a “circular system” mushroom farming operation that uses coffee grounds used by local businesses to fertilize the plants. The facility itself is solar-powered and delivers products with electric cars. Another organization based out of London, England, uses the same circular system method. Called GrowUp Urban Farms, the farm grows crops and farms fish simultaneously by utilizing their symbiotic relationship. Both farms are good for the environment and jobs and are also booming local businesses.

Overall, urban farming can help reduce poverty in a number of important ways. It improves local economies by stimulating commerce and creating jobs, helps the environment and provides healthy, affordable food to local communities.

– Noelle Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Hunger InitiativesFood security is a large topic in Africa due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and environmental factors, such as drought. Recently, many South Africans have experienced rapid food shortages. However, various hunger initiatives have taken off during this time.

The Issue

In South Africa alone, four million migrants are at risk of descending into poverty. The number of South Africans currently living in poverty — 40% of the population — is expected to increase within the next five years. Those already in poverty don’t have access to basic medical supplies and other life-saving resources. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated these issues further. Many people grapple with economic fallout as a result.

South African women are disproportionately affected by poverty, especially as heads of the households. Around half of female-headed households are below the poverty line as opposed to 33% of male-run households.

Hunger initiatives have proven essential in helping vulnerable groups like women and children.

Ladles of Love

Many food-based charities have dedicated their efforts to providing meals to those displaced by the coronavirus pandemic. A soup kitchen called Ladles of Love is one such organization. The soup kitchen operates on Seva, the art of selfless service. The soup kitchen volunteers service over 200 meals a week to those in need.

Recently, Ladles of Love was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for their efforts providing healthy meals to the poor and hungry. They broke both the South African and the world record for most sandwiches made in an hour. The previous world record was 57,000, and they eclipsed that by making over 68,000 more sandwiches. They also surpassed the South African record by 18,000. As a result of this, they were able to make over 300,000 sandwiches and raise publicity for their cause.

67 Minutes

Ladles of Love is part of the social media movement 67 minutes. The movement, started in memory of Nelson Mandela, emphasizes the importance of making a difference. The 67 minutes campaign encourages people to prioritize helping others for 67 minutes. The number 67 is significant because Nelson Mandela fought for social justice reform in South Africa for 67 years. As such, the campaign uses that number as a baseline for its work. Through social media, Ladles of Love increased publicity for the movement. More people are aware of the severe issue of hunger in South Africa. This will hopefully generate more funding and education about the topic in other parts of the world.

Actions Against Hunger

Organizations like Actions Against Hunger have this world-reach goal in mind. The global nonprofit strives to end hunger and malnutrition within “our lifetime.” The group focuses on both preventative and reactionary measures to help provide food for those in need, especially children and families. Action Against Hunger works to empower people to help themselves rather than rely on their services. They believe education, empowerment and innovation and crush world hunger.

Conclusion

Since quarantine began, many South Africans have struggled to make ends meet. Most people were furloughed from their jobs and left without stable sources of income. Furthermore, the pandemic has impacted students especially hard. The government suspended their nutrition program, and they can no longer get steady meals. Despite this, the government has attempted to rectify the situation by providing over one million food packages for residents and constituents.

Many South Africans struggle to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, changing weather patterns and rising poverty levels. Ladles of Love, the 67 minutes campaign and Action Against Hunger provide support for them. These organizations and other hunger initiatives work tirelessly to alleviate food insecurity among the poor population.

Xenia Gonikberg
Photo: Flickr

Lentil as AnythingRecently, The Borgen Project spoke with Emilie Elzvik. She is a 21-year-old student at Northeastern University and former volunteer at Lentil as Anything. Elzvik never imagined herself serving gourmet vegan meals to a table filled with backpackers, refugees and homeless people in Newtown, Australia. But Lentil as Anything changed everything for her.

The Company

Lentil as Anything embodies a rare business model. The menu does not have any set prices. Everyone is welcome to “pay as they feel,” either through a financial donation or volunteering their skills. The founder, Shanaka Fernando, was born in Sri Lanka before becoming a restauranteur and world traveler. In 2000, Fernando began the first Lentil as Anything in St. Kilda to provide a space for local communities to come together and share a meal “disregarding any existing economic and social barriers.”

At the time, Fernando’s concept was a wild idea. Twenty years later, and it has become a booming success. The restaurant chain now claims four restaurants around Australia. Additionally, Lentil as Anything provides over 1000 free meals a week to those people most in need.

Elzvik’s Story

Elzvik began working for Lentil as Anything when she was studying abroad for a semester. “It’s like every hippie’s dream cafe, except customers are not just wealthy teenagers. They are from various socio-economic backgrounds. Some live on the street outside. Some are just traveling through.”

Elzvik points out that many of the volunteers were once customers themselves. “When they can’t pay, they offer their time,” said Elzvik. Lentil as Anything provides just as many employment opportunities as they do meals. Elzvik comments, “I think many people come to volunteer because it gives them a sense of purpose.”

According to Elzvik, there is no such thing as a boring day at Lentil as Anything. “It is no gloomy soup kitchen,” she states. Spices like nutmeg and cinnamon waft through the kitchen. Volunteers twist lemons and grate ginger. Servers dance around the floor, jotting orders down on their notepad. It is always noisy inside; laughter bounces across the walls. On some late nights, there is yoga or an open-mic night in the upstairs space.

So how exactly does this seemingly utopian cafe operate?

Sustainable Food Sourcing

Elvzik recalls that the kitchen being full of “bruised apples” and “funky looking eggplants” that would get thrown out by most restaurants or stores. “Lentil as Anything takes them and turns them into something beautiful,” says Elzvik.

The Department of Agriculture in Australia reports that food waste costs the economy around $20 billion each year. That amounts to about 300kg per person or one in five bags of groceries.

To stock their kitchen, Lentil as Anything takes in the unwanted leftovers from nearby stores. The chain stands by it’s all-vegan menu. The diet is both inclusive and nutrient rich. Elzvik mentions that many visitors would not be able to afford something as “dense and hearty” as a Lentil as Anything meal. Fast food is typically the most affordable option and Lentil as Anything aims to change that.

Volunteership

The restaurant relies heavily on volunteer servers and cooks, like Elzvik.  CNBC reports that around 60% of new restaurants fail within the first year. By a restaurant’s fifth year, that rate jumps
to 80%.

Lentil as Anything is not an exception. The restaurant can’t stay afloat on its own. The Daily Telegraph reports that “it costs Lentil as Anything up to $23,000 a week to keep their doors open – and customer contributions do not come close to covering costs.”

Before coming to Lentil as Anything, Elzvik had no prior customer service experience. She says that volunteering at the restaurant requires no experience at all. Volunteers attend an orientation and receive the necessary training. “What you learn at Lentil can be applied to any future job, especially working with people in a busy environment,” states Elzvik.

Location Matters

Restaurants like Lentil as Anything might not work anywhere. “You need the perfect equilibrium,” claims Elzvik. She explains that in order for this business model to work there has to be enough people donating above the requirement to cover those who cannot afford it.

One of Lentil as Anything’s strategic locations is Newton in Sydney. Newtown is a diverse neighborhood, socially and economically. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that 67% of the Newtown population works full time, 24% part-time and only about 10% identify as unemployed for away from work.

Looking forward

Like many businesses, the pandemic hit Lentil as Anything deeply. On September 25, the restaurant reached out to their social media followers and asked for help to keep Lentil alive.

Lentil as Anything is facing its most significant financial challenge to date. The restaurant is working to raise $300,000 by the end of October. If they don’t reach their goal, they may face closing their doors forever. Donations can be made through their GoFundMe campaign.

The restaurant’s motto is that everyone deserves a seat at the table. Hopefully, Lentil as Anything can serve as a successful business model for many restaurants around the world to address food insecurities.

Miska Salemann
Photo: Unsplash

Snack Against Hunger and PovertyPeople can often feel hopeless nowadays when addressing global poverty and hunger on a personal level. One can only donate so many times before it feels pointless. For decades there was a decrease in poverty and hunger all around the world. However, with the pandemic in full force, the numbers are once again increasing.

So what should can each individual consumer do to help those in need and bring these statistics down? They must change daily patterns, so nearly all of their “normal” actions start benefitting someone else. One way is to switch up the food consumers eat. Many brands in a variety of food categories use their profits to fight global poverty and hunger. Switching to one of these brands allows people to effectively snack against hunger and poverty. Below are just a few of the brands aiding in poverty and hunger-reduction.

1. Bobo’s

Bobo’s donates their profits from selling oat-based products to eight organizations. Two of the organizations focus on food security in the U.S. (Community Food Share and Conscious Alliance), and one nonprofit provides housing for low-income families (Habitat for Humanity). Get in a dose of nutritious oats to snack against hunger and poverty.

2. This Saves Lives

This Saves Lives has something for everyone. They have 10 different flavor options, a variety of kid’s options and five types of crispy treats. For each purchase, This Saves Lives provides a calorie-dense packet of paste filled with nutrients to a child in need. So far, over 24 million packets have been sent out!

3. Barnana

Barnana is a company that produces plantain-based chips in normal chip form, tortilla style and flavor bites. All consumers can find a chip that will satisfy whether that’s salty or sweet. The plantains used for the chips are upcycled from those that were deemed not perfect enough for mainstream market standards. By upcycling the produce, Barnana fights food waste and secures extra income for small scale farmers that depend on every sale.

4. Project 7

Project 7 is a healthy candy brand that makes gummies, lollipops and everything in between. They partner with nonprofits to help the seven areas of need: healing, saving, housing, food, drink, teaching and hope. Make chewing a life-giving activity and snack against hunger and poverty.

5. Beanfields

Beanfields is another company that creates chips both sweet and salty, similar to Barnana. The company — centered in a kitchen and not a boardroom — cooks up a variety of bean-based tortilla chips and cracklings. They get creative by producing an environment-conscious snack while also supporting people in need. Beanfields partners with Homeboy Industries, an organization that helps ex-gang members find peace and stability in their new lives. Homeboy Industries partners with many nonprofits fighting hunger and poverty that provide ex-offenders jobs and a sense of community.

Buying snacks and snacking are often mindless activities. Helping people should have that same ease and it does. Yet, it often falls on the back burner and gets forgotten. Buying from companies donating to those in need is one easy solution. People can enjoy their favorite foods in a more effective way. Why just snack when one can snack against hunger and poverty?

Anna Synakh
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Lithuania
Lithuania, located in the Baltic region of Europe, is known for its history of the Crusades, Soviet occupation and interesting dishes — like cold beetroot soup, among others. However, like all countries, Lithuania has to find hunger solutions. Lithuania has a Global Hunger Index score of less than five, but faces increased poverty rates. Additionally, the country’s level of poverty risk was the third highest in the E.U. Yet, the government of Lithuania and organizations like the Red Cross are combating hunger in innovative ways. Below are five facts about hunger in Lithuania.

5 Facts About Hunger in Lithuania

  1. Lithuania is one of 17 countries with a GHI score of less than five, signifying a low hunger level. The Global Hunger Index is a peer-reviewed yearly report intended to measure and record hunger at the global, regional and country levels. GHI scores evaluate progress and impediments in battling hunger. The GHI takes food supply, child mortality and child undernutrition into account.
  2. The depth of the hunger score is encouraging. The calculation, measured in kilocalories per person per day, is based on a malnourished person’s diet and the minimum amount of dietary energy needed to maintain body weight and engage in light activity. The higher the number, the greater the hunger in the country. The depth of hunger reported in Lithuania was 120 in 2008. Among countries in transition, Lithuania has one of the lower scores.
  3. In 2019, Lithuania elected Gitanas Nauseda as President. Before becoming president, Nauseda was an economist and a banker. Nauseda plans to develop Lithuania into a welfare state and hopes to address inequality in healthcare and education. His proposals provide a positive outlook for those in poverty or at risk of being impoverished.
  4. The poverty level in Lithuania has been a complicated measure over the years. It is difficult to differentiate between poverty and inequality and between urban and rural. Eurostat concluded that 22.9% of Lithuanians are at risk of poverty. This means that their disposable income is less than 60% of the national average, after taxes. To explain Eurostat’s measure, Romas Lazutka, an economics professor at Vilnius University, stated that, “There is a controversy in Lithuania. Some say such data is unacceptable, nonsense because the poverty figures did not fall even though people’s incomes grew, wages almost doubled and pensions rose.” Lazutka asserts that the calculation represents the relative poverty threshold, meaning a measure of social participation (not survival).
  5. The European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA) comprises 253 food banks in 21 countries, including Lithuania. The organization’s goal is to reduce food waste and fight hunger. In 2012, Maisto Banks, an organization under FEBA, provided more than 6.6 million meals. Another organization, the Lithuanian Red Cross, also seeks to help those facing poverty. When discussing the Red Cross’s campaign in 2003, Virginia Sereikaite, the Lithuanian Red Cross Youth Director, stated the need to “spread the word on poverty among the population for the first time. Children at schools learned humanitarian ethics with the Red Cross. This year many more of us came out onto the streets and the message was already familiar to people. It provided us with a better foundation for fundraising this year.” The funds went toward food and distribution to schools, social institutions, hospitals and soup kitchens.

Elevating the Quality of Life

Although hunger in Lithuania is a serious issue, the cooperation between the government, organizations and the people has improved people’s access to food. Lithuania’s new outlook on addressing poverty will ensure that more people’s needs are met. The Lithuanian president not only seeks to provide healthcare and education, but a more elevated quality of life.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in NigeriaPoverty in Nigeria is extreme compared to developed nations. For example, 82 million people, or 40% of the country’s total population, earn less than $1.90 per day. Although Nigeria exports more oil and natural gas than any nation in Africa, massive population increases have hampered potential growth. This change has forced the economy and government to prioritize keeping its citizens alive by providing food. However, the unfortunate reality is that this often comes at the expense of health care and other essential infrastructure. To help improve food access, the startup Zenvus brings innovations in poverty eradication in Nigeria.

Improving Agricultural Productivity

Food production systems are inefficient in many parts of the country. For instance, with little availability of irrigation or fertilizer, 66% of the labor force works to produce 90% of Nigeria’s calories. This deficiency in resources is a result of outdated farming methods. The Green Revolution, which applied World War II technology to farming through mechanization and increased crop yields by 200%–300% in the last 50 years, skipped over Nigeria. Likewise, other developing nations missed this innovation as well. Zenvus, an agricultural technology company, aims to fill this gap by providing access to resources that help Nigerians experience the same explosive productivity boost that other countries enjoyed, decades ago. Here are just three of the many services Zenvus offers as innovations in poverty eradication in Nigeria:

  1. Soil Quality Measurements. Because certain crops grow best in specific soil types, understanding soil quality can help farmers plant strategically and maximize profits. Additionally, for a country bordering the Sahara that has already lost 35% of cultivatable land in the past 50 years, carefully extracting resources from certain dirt areas can help prevent desertification.
  2. Disease Warnings. Through a mountable camera and a complex computer algorithm, Zenvus determines plant health so farmers can proactively resolve problems. These individuals can then use pesticides more selectively, reducing costs and the amount of runoff into the surrounding environment. Zenvus has even devised methods of analyzing this data without an internet connection. This is an especially necessary feature, given how far these cameras must be spaced out.
  3. Financial Support. Implementing these technological innovations can be expensive. Especially when considering that Zenvus-supported farms are large enough to start mechanization of multiple processes. For example, tilling, planting and harvesting. Economies of scale or the cost advantage that comes with bigger business, tends to dominate smaller businesses due to their ability to afford the high upfront costs of these machines. These smaller farms create a need for investors and loans to get off the ground. Acknowledging this phenomenon, Zenvus has created multiple products in this sector designed to fill this need. Examples include zCrowdfund, a program where people buy a ‘subscription’ to goods a farm produces; zInsure, or affordable insurance; and zMarkets, which connects consumers to producers both locally and globally.

The Spirit of Innovation and a Positive Future

Companies like Zenvus provide hope for Nigerians through their capacities to create jobs, increase wages and ensure sufficient food access for all Africans. With 239 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone in poverty, the spirit of Zenvus’ innovations in poverty eradication in Nigeria is perhaps more essential (and more promising) than ever.

Michael Straus
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

u.n. eradicates povertyThe United Nations (U.N.) is an international organization designed for countries to work together on human rights issues, maintain peace and resolve conflicts. Currently, the U.N. consists of representatives from 193 countries. In the general assembly, nations have a platform for diplomatic relations. One of major missions of the U.N. is the eradication of global poverty. The U.N. eradicates poverty comprehensively and works to address current poverty levels and their resulting crises. Additionally, it works to prevent the causes of poverty from spreading on a global level.

What Is Poverty?

The U.N. defines poverty as “more than the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods.” The organization asserts that poverty affects people in many ways, including “hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.” Poorer countries that suffer from a lack of basic resources face all of these problems.

Around the world, more than 730 million people live below the poverty line. Many of these people live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. These poor countries also often suffer from internal violence that impacts their ability to address the needs and vulnerabilities of their citizens. As such, poverty and conflict have a reciprocal relationship, both contributing to the other.

The U.N. eradicates poverty through multiple commissions that address specific populations and the issues they face. For example, UNICEF, the U.N. children’s commission, works specifically to address children living in poverty globally. It does so by promoting education access and healthcare, as well mitigating the damaging effects of armed conflict. Through “fundraising, advocacy, and education,” this division of the U.N. eradicates poverty and helps children around the world.

Poverty and Human Rights

The U.N. outlines inalienable international human rights as the following: “the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.” One of the many detrimental effects of global poverty is high death rates. Poverty may cause death through water and food insecurity, as well as a lack of healthcare and medical access. This is why poverty is truly a human rights issue.

For someone to have a guarantee to life and liberty, they cannot be living in abject poverty. Education and the “right to work” are also rights affected by living in poverty. Education is sparse in many of the world’s poorest countries, which often suffer from high unemployment rates. This contributes to household income and citizens’ inability to provide for themselves and their families. Thus, poverty is a complex and multifaceted issue that affects all aspects of people’s lives, from their health and well-being to their futures.

The International Poverty Line

According to the U.N., as of 2015, there were “more than 736 million people liv[ing] below the international poverty line.” The international poverty line (IPL) quantifies people’s standard of living. This helps researchers, aid workers and governments assess people’s situation. It also allows these actors to assess their success in mitigating harm and promoting development. Foreign Policy explains that “The IPL is explicitly designed to reflect a staggeringly low standard of living, well below any reasonable conception of a life with dignity.”

The U.N. eradicates poverty by examining not only measures like the IPL but also the effects of extreme poverty. The number of people below the poverty line is important, but the U.N. focuses on what this means for people living in such poverty. For example, the U.N. notes that “[a]round 10 percent of the world population is living in extreme poverty and struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education.”

The Future of the U.N. and Poverty

The U.N. is likely to remain one of the leading forces in the eradication of poverty and the promotion of human rights. Its unique history, size and diverse commissions make it a powerful organization. In particular, the commissions that work with vulnerable populations will be essential to securing the safety and prosperity of those living in poverty. Importantly, the U.N. eradicates poverty with the support of its 193 member states, as it depends on their sponsorship and help in conflict resolution. Just as poverty has no borders, neither should the solutions we use to solve it.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in new caledonia
New Caledonia is a French territory off the east coast of Australia. Like many Pacific Island nations, its main food staples include fish, fruit and coconut. While food insecurity is not a prevalent issue in the territory as a whole, food deserts are certainly. Rising food prices drive the poorest citizens — most often, those of the Kanak community (New Caledonia’s indigenous Melanesian population) — to scrounge for their needed caloric intake. Cheap food products sacrifice nutrition for convenience and the prevalence of these food deserts in New Caledonia has prevented the entire population from enjoying the sustenance the island has to offer. These are the factors that are contributing to the problem of malnutrition in New Caledonia.

Growth in Both Prosperity and Food Prices?

Growth stunting and hunger levels are generally low in New Caledonia. However, as food prices rise, it becomes difficult for rural and tribal communities (which have been most affected by the country’s spike in poverty rates) to maintain healthy diets. These increases follow the nation’s growth in prosperity — derived from its lucrative nickel industry and payments from mainland France.

Malnutrition in New Caledonia arises from economic and geographical limitations. Despite how the territory seems to flourish, wealth is unequally distributed. This, in turn, leads to a significant portion of the population struggling with rising food prices. When markets lack competition, sellers can raise the price of goods without the risk of a competitor undercutting them. On top of wealth and wage disparities, the poorest populations in the country cannot afford nutritional food.

A Victim of Geography

Like most islands, New Caledonia operates under the constraints of its remoteness, which involves limited space and a smaller, local market. Food prices are about 33% higher in New Caledonia, with inflation having risen in the territory at a faster rate than it did in France. Those above the poverty line in New Caledonia spend only about a quarter of their income on food. Yet, for the 17% living below it — they might spend more than half of their income on food. In New Caledonia, 85% of adults eat fish at least once a week. Of the total amount fished, 92% is used for subsistence, which leaves the remaining 8% for the market.

While New Caledonia has several great agricultural staples, the reliance on agriculture has been decreasing due to a reduction in available land (as well as the increase of non-agricultural jobs). The distribution of available agricultural land parallels the disparity in wealth distribution and food security concerning the Kanak community and the rest of New Caledonia’s population. The predominantly European-settled Southern Province holds about 22% of New Caledonia’s limited farmland. Meanwhile, the native Kanak Northern Province holds only about 14%.

During 2004–2006, the prevalence of undernourishment in the population was at 9.6%. This rate decreased in the next decade, dropping to 8.2% during 2017–2019. For comparison, the rate of undernourishment in the U.S., one of the wealthiest nations in the world, is less than 2.5%.

Closing the Gaps

While hunger is not an issue for all of its citizens, malnutrition in New Caledonia tends to plague those who receive less of the territory’s wealth as compared with others. As food prices rise, many of those who do not receive proper nutrition fall into the lower-income bracket and thus, below the poverty line. Also, this unfortunately tends to include members of the Kanak community. This wealth disparity (and subsequent nutrition disparity) is exacerbated by lower rates of education and job training within the Kanak communities. This of course results in lower rates of employment among the Kanak. By first bridging the education and employment gap, closures on the wealth and nutritional gaps can then follow.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

HGSF Programs
At 310 million, nearly half the world’s schoolchildren in low- and middle-income countries eat a daily meal at school. The benefits of school feeding include increasing enrollment and course completion, as well as promoting a nutritious diet for children. Governments have since evolved this model into Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF), which integrates local smallholder farmers and community members. This added step secures local food systems, encourages economies and delivers fresh, diverse food to schoolchildren. In all, Home-Grown School Feeding is an intertwined, multifaceted approach to the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers

Smallholders produce roughly 80% of the food consumed in low- and middle-income countries. Yet, farmers in these areas still lack the educational opportunities and resources to bring them out of complete poverty. Two major obstacles they face include price volatility and unpredictable markets, both of which Home-Grown School Feeding programs help to alleviate.

HGSF programs provide a stable market demand. This aids farmers with the unpredictability of growing seasons, amounts of food needed and the type of product that is likely to sell. Through careful organization and planning, smallholder farmers can fully understand the needs of each school and thoroughly prepare beforehand. This means less wastage, reduced risk of investments and more opportunity for farmers to expand their capacities. When farmers receive a stable income following their initial investment into Home-Grown School Feeding programs, they can produce quality and more diversified products. In turn, this gives them access to additional markets.

Structured markets resulting from HGSF programs also encourage cooperative associations between smallholder farmers. This has the potential to reduce farmers’ reliance on local traders who may hold bargaining power over them. By creating an organization together, smallholder farmers are able to share knowledge, monitor food for quality and value and get access to credit. Social protection and promotion through established organizations is thus a major benefit of Home-Grown School Feeding.

Local Community Benefits

A strong HGSF program encompasses a whole community and food production process, from growing to preparing and eating food. Replacing school meals with the HGSF model can support a whole group of people along with the students.

Job creation is one particular benefit for local communities, from delivery drivers to cooks. However, there are also chances for rural businesses to provide nutritious products to schools. In addition, more people than farmers profit from the added access to markets, which increases income and prevents economic stress.

With careful planning and implementation, governments can also use HGSF programs to promote gender equality and decrease discrimination against vulnerable groups. This model can support different groups’ participation in farming and cooking and generally promote skill training and self-confidence. At first, compensation for their work might be food or services, but their work will evolve into paid positions.

Kenya’s Successful Use of HGSF Programs

Kenya’s Home-Grown School Feeding model reaches 1.5 million children every school day. The model benefits students, whose hot lunches provide the nutrients needed to focus in school. However, it also benefits the agricultural sector, who benefit from the predictable market demand.

To maintain a transparent, flexible model, Kenya uses a decentralized HGSF approach and incorporates multiple members of the local community. Once the government sends funds to schools, school meal committees carry out a public tender process and procure food from local farmers and traders. The committee, made up of parents, teachers and community members, assure the ministry of health checks the food for quality. Once it is cleared, the committee employs community cooks to prepare the food.

Kenya’s HGSF model has experienced some problems, particularly in arid and semi-arid rural regions. Among other obstacles, lack of infrastructure and water scarcity in rural communities mean that smallholder farmers don’t necessarily have the capacity to meet the demands of schools. This leads school committees to procure food from traders, who may not be local. In this way, rural smallholder farmers aren’t always receiving sufficient benefits from HGSF intended to alleviate poverty and meet the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Nonetheless, necessary adaptions and policy implementation to the HGSF model can be made by the government to include more smallholder farmers. Rural agriculture incentives and rural development policies would provide support for farmers, but these often cost a lot of time and money. Less costly strategies include linking smallholder farmers to schools and informing them of program requirements or preparing in-depth documents for schools, which outline procedures and implementations.

The Potential of HGSF

Home-Grown School Feeding programs have the potential to combine benefits in health, education, agriculture, economic development and social well-being. The model acts as a catch-all solution for preventing poverty. By taking the investment in school meals further by investing in HGSF programs, local economies thrive and food systems become sustainable. Ultimately, HGSF’s intertwined nature becomes a viable strategy to achieve the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Anastasia Clausen
Photo: Flickr

Global Food SecurityThe global population has been growing exponentially in the last few decades as compared to earlier times in human history, given that 42% of the population is under the age of 25. With a rapidly growing population, global food security is threatened and it is expected that without major agricultural enhancement, there will not be enough food for future generations. By 2050, crop production must grow by 60-100% from 2005 levels in order to avoid this fate.

Youth hold the future of the global food system in their hands. There are many young people working to combat the global food security crisis in a way that puts sights on the future, not the present. Through scientific innovations, advocacy and more, these young men and women not only give hope for a world with less hunger but also vehemently encourage others to join them. Some examples of their work follow. 

Kiranjit Kaur: Kisan Mazdoor Khudkushi Peedit Parivar Committee

Kiranjit Kaur of India, a 23-year-old political science postgraduate student from Punjab state, is a pioneer in the fight against farmer suicide. Losing her own father to suicide spurred her to focus on community engagement to address the statistics of over 16,000 farmer suicides in India each year. With 39% of the employed population working in agriculture, success is important for the health and well-being of farming families.

Punjab was an agricultural haven during the Green Revolution, but since the 1990s, with increased land productivity and the cost of agriculture, loans have become a norm and financial stress has increased. Kaur motivates the women in her community to participate in a social campaign that focuses on mental health, mutual support and activism. As for now, she spends most of her time working with the group but plans to do a Ph.D. on farmer suicide in the future.

Craig Piggott: Halter

A New Zealand native, Craig Piggott dedicates his talents to agricultural innovations in herding and tracking cows. His invention involves a GPS-enabled and solar-powered collar for cows, Halter, which enables farmers to herd the animals remotely; using sounds and vibrations to both direct the cows and alert the farmers of any issues. Piggott developed the app through three years of testing, and a few dairy farmers in Waikato are eager to implement the technology within their own herds. With more testing and exposure, he hopes to extend the program nationally to aid New Zealand’s agricultural field.

This innovative app will save time and resources by decreasing the farmer’s workload and using grazing grass more efficiently, thanks to the virtual fences. Piggott’s company was founded in 2016 when he was 22-years-old and has grown to a current team of more than 40 scientists, engineers and other professionals.

Sophie Healy-Thow: Scaling Up Nutrition

Sophie Healy-Thow, a 20-year-old Irish college student, is a prominent European name in the rural development advocacy and global food security spaces. She and her team’s natural bacteria project won the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in 2013, and she was also named one of Time magazine’s Most Influential Teens. Healy-Thow also speaks out about calling leaders to action, and hopes for a time when young people are listened to and engaged instead of just getting a pat on the head.

Today she speaks at the U.N. conventions and TED talks and is part of a team developing a Kenyan project called Agrikua, which focuses on encouraging women’s involvement in agriculture, providing education and other support. After university, she plans to work for a charitable organization that helps women, inspired by her current involvement in ActionAid U.K.

Jefferson Kang’acha: The Eden Horticultural Club

Food security is not a new issue in 19-year-old Jefferson Kang’acha’s life in Kenya, and he works to grow tomatoes in order to protect the staple ingredient of many Kenyan households. Due to declining yields, the price of tomatoes has spiked to high prices that most Kenyan families cannot afford. In response, Kang’acha developed the hydroponic production of tomatoes, which grows the plants with no soil and in a controlled climate.

By founding the Eden Horticultural Club, he is able to provide tomatoes to his community, including schools and hospitals in the area. In the first few months alone, he was able to distribute 2.5 tons of tomatoes to more than 100 households. He hopes to one day use this process to assist global food security throughout Africa and beyond.

The Future of Global Food Security

The future of the agriculture industry is hard to predict, but the U.N. encourages youth participation and innovation to solve the problem. Goal 2 of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) seeks to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” Vast problems require bold solutions, and these four young people are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovators doing their part to protect global food security.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Pixabay