Improved SeedsPosht-e-Bagh Research Farm is one of the most important research farms in northern Afghanistan. Nestled in the Dehdadi district of the Balkhl province, the farm produces breeder seeds. These genetically improved seeds flourish under local growing conditions, enabling farm productivity to increase.

Currently, the 16 employees of Posht-e-Bagh monitor 972 different types of wheat in order to assess their suitability for local growing conditions.

Every seed produced at Posht-e-Bagh passes through five initial stages: introduction (where seeds and the resulting crops are assessed for their suitability), selection, hybridization, mutation and genetic engineering. From there, a breeder seed is selected and then sent out for further processing before reaching farmers in the form of ‘improved’ seeds.

According to Abdul Wahid Wahidi, a researcher with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), the main goal of Posht-e-Bagh is to increase the productivity of farmers in northern Afghanistan. The eventual production and wide scale distribution of improved seeds will help generate a long-term solution to the eradication of poverty among farmers.

Breeder seeds produced by farms like Posht-e-Bagh Research Farm are sent to one of six Improved Seed Enterprises (ISE) scattered across the country with the goal of multiplying the breeder seeds into foundation seeds.

On such farm is Khasa-Paz farm, where there are six varieties of wheat being grown on the 1.9 million square meter farm this year.

ISE farms eventually sell the seeds to one of 102 Private Seed Enterprises (PSEs) across the country. They then use these seeds to produce the certified seeds, or ‘improved’ seeds, which are distributed to local farmers.

Improved Seeds

“Improved seed is a vital input for proper crop production,” said Hesamuddin Rahimi, Afghanistan Agriculture Inputs Project (AAIP) Agronomy Manager in Balkh Province. The AAIP, launched in July 2013, is backed with $74.8 million in support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). It is their aim to strengthen institutional capacity for safety and reliability of agricultural inputs and sustainable production of certified seeds.

“Khasa-Paz farm has managed to help farmers to some extent,” Rahimi said. “As it is one of the farms where tons of registered seeds are being produced and sent to PSEs to produce improved seeds for distribution to the market.”

In fact, last year Khasa-Paz farm produced 87.5 tons of foundation seeds.

“The improved seeds result in good harvest. There is an almost 60 percent increase in yield of improved varieties compared to the local seeds,” Rahimi said. “The good thing about the improved seeds is they are suitable for this climate, a factor that increases both quality and quantity of the crops.” The crops are also resistant against pests and diseases, adds Abdul Fatah, a farmer at Posht-e-Bagh farm.

Many farmers across Afghanistan still use low quality seeds that result in poor harvests, a critical factor in perpetuating poverty among farmers. Those who have used the improved seeds now see the difference in output.

“Luckily now, farmers’ conditions are better because of the improved seeds,” Mohammad Ghani, a farmer who has been working on Khasa-Paz for eight years, said.

Farmer Lal Mohammad, a colleague of Ghani’s, echoes that sentiment: “Now that I see and understand the difference between good and poor quality seeds, I try to share the knowledge that I have gained with other farmers I know.”

Kara Buckley

Sources: ARTF, CIMMYT, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, World Bank 3
Photo: The World Bank, Agchallenge2050

end_global_hungerThe concept of poverty can be difficult to grasp, especially when it is far removed from our everyday lives.

While we may know that families go to bed hungry every night because they cannot afford to put dinner on the table, without tangible reminders that 925 million people around the world suffer from the effects of hunger, that knowledge often gets pushed to the background.

Overpopulation has been the most frequently blamed cause of starvation and global hunger, but there is more than enough food grown each year to feed the seven billion people on the planet. Then how is it that 2.5 million children die of starvation every year?

The answer to that question is complicated and has many contributing factors, but one reason is that a vast majority of the food grown today is fed to animals. The animal agriculture business has grown dramatically in the past 40 years, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

“Global meat production is projected to more than doubt from 229 million [tons] in 2001 to 465 million [tons] in 2050,” the organization states. In order to sustain the increasing demand for animal byproducts, farmers have to grow or purchase more and more feed for their growing stock of animals.

The amount of grain produced today is enough to feed the entire world twice over, but 70 percent of that grain goes towards feeding livestock. Half of the water consumed in the U.S. is used to grow grain for cattle feed.

The water necessary for meat breeding equals about 190 gallons per animal per day, which is ten times more than the average Indian family uses in a day.

Meat in general, but specifically beef, is an incredibly inefficient food source. In order to raise a cow to the necessary size for consumption, 157 million metric tons of grain and vegetable protein is used to produce a mere 28 metric tons of animal protein.

When that is scaled to the industrial scope the cattle industry is currently at, the massive amount of calories that could be consumed by humans but are instead fed to cattle, is tremendous. If these calories were redistributed to feed humans instead of animals, it could help end global hunger.

In 2010, a UN report said, “A global shift towards a vegan diet [one that does not include any animal products] is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change.” The report claims that the western meat and dairy rich diets have become simply unsustainable.

According to the same report, the meat and dairy industry account for 70 percent of global freshwater consumption, 38 percent of total land use and 19 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The vast amount of resources directed towards producing meat and dairy products is creating a food distribution issue. While there is enough food being grown, not enough of it is going directly towards feeding people, especially people in poverty.

Brittney Dimond

Sources: Global Issues, Live58, The Guardian, Gentle World, FAO
Photo: Flickr

fao_social_protection_program
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) updated its social protection plan by adding agricultural and rural development measures.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on reducing poverty have been met by many developing countries; however, there are still high levels of extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Evidence has shown that the three elements of the FAO social protection program: social assistance, social insurance and labor market protection, are very effective in reducing poverty and hunger.

In 2013, the program helped relieve up to 150 million people out of extreme poverty.

The most common form of social protection in developing countries is social assistance, which provides conditional or unconditional cash transfers to households and individuals.

These incentives account for large income losses and lack of savings when farmers are unable to produce enough to survive.

“Most of the world’s poor and hungry continue to live in rural area. According to the World Bank, about 78 percent of the planet’s poor are found in rural areas”, stated FAO Assistant Director-General Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Rural households depend on subsistence agriculture to survive; the cash incentives provided by the FAO have proven to encourage households to invest in the education and health of their children.

These acts help end the generational cycle of poverty and bring FAO closer to achieving the first “Zero-Hunger Generation” goal.

The FAO social protection program has also allowed impoverished rural farmers in developing countries to weather the effects of external shocks such as floods, pests, droughts and price volatility.

José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, stated that “With climate change, the shocks happen year after year; it eats away at the capacity of rural poor to cope with it.

Social protection offers poor families a kind of buffer to protect them from external shocks.”

The most recent edition of The State of Food and Agriculture 2015 explains how the addition of agricultural and rural development measures to the social protection program will sustainably move people out of poverty and hunger.

The report illustrates that agricultural input subsidies, such as fertilizer, have been well received across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

There was an increase in food and fertilizer costs in 2007-2008, so the FAO agricultural incentive was instrumental in providing food security for rural households.

The report also addresses the issue of credit and how little of it is allocated to agricultural needs.

It goes on to emphasize that “leveraging public expenditure on agriculture and social programs” is imperative in strengthening agricultural and rural development.

Agricultural incentives and credit fosters independence amongst rural farmers. They become more financially capable and are able to manage household risks.

Providing credit also allows poor rural farmers to make investments in livestock and machinery, therefore increasing their productivity and income.

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: BBC, FAO
Photo: Google Images

Humanitarian_Innovation
Over the past few years, the UNHCR has experimented with the use of green energy technology in developing countries as a way to create sustainable light, heating and jobs for the poor.

In 2013, the organization funded a solar-light and fuel-efficient stoves project called Light Years Ahead for Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad.

Sudanese refugees and Chadian locals were taught how to construct fuel-efficient stoves and then employed to make them for the community. The stoves do not use firewood, preventing deforestation.

The project successfully used green technology to create a functioning economy for impoverished refugees and locals.

This method of humanitarian aid utilizes skills from locals and refugees to create a functioning local economy.

Last year the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published a paper titled “Humanitarian Innovation” emphasizing the importance of capitalizing on the innovation of impoverished people.

The paper identifies previous approaches to humanitarian aid stressing that historically the UN and other aid organizations use a “top-down” structure.

This structure tends to work in the short-term by depending solely on aid from external actors rather than empowering those in need.

Instead, humanitarian innovation uses a “bottom-up” approach by “recognizing and understanding innovation capacity within communities”, and “putting these communities and local systems at the heart of the innovation process, regardless of where ideas or resources originate.”

This “bottom-up” method has been proven successful, mainly by its high investment value. In 2014, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) announced a $41 million dollar investment in developing countries’ renewable energy projects.

The investments are meant to stimulate local economies by creating markets. The 2015 and 2016 loan qualification criteria for projects in countries is its ability to assist communities by creating jobs, generating income, helping public education and health, improving energy access, innovation, replicability and aligning with government priorities.

Sierra Leone, Samoa, Mali, the Republic of Ecuador, and the Maldives are some of the countries receiving loan investments.

More and more foreign investors are looking at funding renewable energy projects as a financially wise decision. Portfolio diversification allows investors to spread the risk of a project investment failing among less risking investments.

In other words, if a few projects succeed, a few failed projects can still be financially supported. This approach allows investors to safely invest in green energy projects in developing countries without severe risk.

Agricultural project investments, especially, show the potential to revert climate change, supply food for poor communities, and create jobs for locals, creates food security by using farming systems that are more resilient to climate change.

In addition, these investments reduce emissions and increase “agriculture’s potential to capture and sequester atmospheric carbon” which is harmful to the earth’s atmosphere. This agricultural system depends on daily maintenance from locals. Some locals are trained how to farm by green technology programs.

In 2012, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which is part of the UN, and the European Commission invested €5.3 in Malawi, Vietnam and Zambia agricultural sectors to help with the transition into climate-smart agriculture.

Leslie Lipper, Senior Environmental Economist at FAO, says that, “Climate change offers the possibility for large-scale financing that’s directly linked to the agricultural sector to recognize the possibility for this environmental benefit, as well as the traditional agricultural products and markets.”

Michael Hopek

Sources: UNHCR, RSC 1, IRENA 1, IRENA 2, FAO, RSC 2, UN
Photo: bloglet

FAO in Mozambique
In Mozambique, 95 percent of the country’s agricultural production comes from farmers owning small pieces of land. Previously these farms were for subsistence, but the recent U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization initiative has helped to improve post-harvest practices enabling farmers to sell their crops for profits.

Because the vast majority of farms in Mozambique are small-scale subsistence farms, the communities relying on them are more vulnerable to the shocks of events such as conflict and climatic change. In addition, because yields are low, these farms barely cover subsistence needs, let alone enable families to save any income for the future.

One-third of the Mozambique population is chronically food-insecure. Half a million children are reported as being undernourished and 43 percent of children under five are considered malnourished.

Issues contributing to the lack of food security in Mozambique include a lack of diet diversity, poor agricultural yields and high rates of HIV infection impacting worker productivity, thus affecting agricultural efficiency and production.

It should be no surprise then, that with the high levels of food insecurity and HIV infection in Mozambique, poverty is widespread. The country ranks 178 out of 187 on the UNDP Human Development Index. Mozambique is receiving significant amounts of aid from the U.N.; the country is also a U.N.

“Delivering as One” country, meaning that the country is part of a pilot initiative to improve the partnership between the U.N. and the national government.

As part of Mozambique’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, the country along with the U.N. are working to help farmers absorb less of a loss with regards to climatic shocks and protracted natural disasters.

One way to help farmers is to increase the length of time crops are able to be kept, eaten, and sold. The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is teaching farmers how to store crops for maximum post-harvest storage. With the present technology, farmers lose an average of 30 percent of their harvest.

Currently, farmers sell the bulk of their crops immediately after the harvest. This is because farms in Mozambique often lack storage facilities to keep crops for a later sale, during which they could have a later price. By being able to control when crops are sold, farmers have greater potential to earn an income.

The FAO in Mozambique is teaching farmers about various post-harvest techniques; specifically, the FAO is training artisans in the construction of Gorongosa silos, which are durable, prevent crops from pests, and utilize locally developed technology. The Gorongosa silo is made from clay and mud. With proper care, it can last for twenty years.

This silo is a more valuable option than the traditional silos used in Mozambique, which offer little to no protection from pests or the elements. The Gorongosa silo keeps crops viable for ten months post-harvest, which gives more control to the farmers over their sales and reduces the need for chemical treatments.

This FAO initiative began in 2013 and intends to be a five-year project. Since its inception, 260 artisans have been trained in Gorongosa silo making in fifteen districts throughout Mozambique. Ultimately, the project hopes to train 20,000 farmers in the usage of Gorongosa silos and build 10,000 silos.

This initiative, in conjunction with other strategies to reduce HIV/AIDS in the region and promote economic growth, offers much to improve the livelihoods of those in Mozambique. With greater crop volume post-harvest, farmers can earn more of an income and reduce food insecurity for their families.

Priscilla McCelvey

Sources: FAO, U.N., World Food Programme

Photo: Flickr

School Gardens in Developing CountriesRight now, world leaders are faced with a daunting challenge. At the current rate the population is growing, it is predicted that there will not be enough food to feed the world, especially in developing countries. Fortunately, the introduction of school gardens to education gives hope to the end of global poverty.

For many children in developing countries, students must walk to school at an utmost of 4 miles. Some children even walk to school knowing they will not have a lunch because their family could not afford the cost.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 795 million people are undernourished, meaning one in nine people will not receive enough food to lead a normal, healthy and active life.

Students cannot focus or comprehend new information in the classroom without a proper meal. If students do not learn and go to school, the cycle of poverty will most likely continue.

A solution to this problem exists with school gardens that can help overcome the nutritional crisis. Not only will children be guaranteed a meal during lunch, but they can also learn how to eat a healthy and nutritious meal.

For 14-year-old Marita Wyson, a student from Malawi, her school garden is making a lasting impact on her life and helping her gain the proper nutrients for healthy adolescent development.

“I am able to understand what my teachers are telling me,” she said. “My grandmother doesn’t have to worry so much about how she will provide food for me and my sister.”

With governments partnering with organizations around the world, school gardens are becoming increasingly popular and have shown to give students a better understanding about the environment. If children are introduced to agriculture and the environment at an early age, they are more likely to have a better attitude about the subject.

While the deadline for the U.N.’s 2015 Millennium Development Goals has passed this September, two of the most important goals — cutting poverty in half and making primary education universal — have come a long way since the turn of the century.

While poverty has been cut in half since 1980, primary education lags behind in developing countries including sub-Saharan Africa.

The introduction of these school gardens in developing countries may become the turning point in eradicating global poverty. With the world united, school gardens can make not only an immediate difference but ensure the future of children living in developing countries.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: FAO, KCET, The Christian Science Monitor, Vox World, WFP
Photo: Flickr

world_hunger
In 2013, the United Nations reported that eating insects could reduce world hunger and food insecurity.

Eva Muller, a Director of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says, “Insects are not harmful to eat, quite the contrary. They are nutritious, they have a lot of protein and are considered a delicacy in many countries.”

In fact, scientists have discovered over 1,900 edible insects. Some of these include beetles, wasps, caterpillars, grasshoppers, worms and cicadas. Scientists also claim that insects have more protein than beef and other meats.

Insects may also be better for farming than pigs and cows. Not only are insects easier to raise, but they also require less water, feed on waste materials, and produce less greenhouse gasses than cows and pigs. Insect farming could even provide income-generating opportunities for people in rural areas, which ultimately could decrease poverty and end world hunger.

After the report was published, Muller said, “Consumer disgust remains one of the largest barriers to the adoption of insects as viable sources of protein in many Western countries.”

Recently, however, eating insects has gained more popularity.

Daniella Martin, author of the blog Girl Meets Bug, says, “At any angle you look at it, insects have the advantage. They’re ecologically sustainable, use fewer resources and are a high-protein option. It’s also cleaner than livestock.”

Insect recipes are proving to be incredibly trendy, but most importantly, accepted by consumers.

With this in mind, perhaps more researchers can perfect technologies to grow insects in large numbers to feed people all around the world.

Bugs can do more than save the lives of the hungry, but can also conserve our planet.

Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: Armenpress, Business Insider 1, Business Insider 2,
Photo: Google Images

Food Companies Leading in the Fight Against World Hunger - BORGEN
One out of nine people in the world go to bed hungry according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The United Nations World Food Programme is dedicated to reducing global hunger by offering food aid to developing countries in need. WFP has provided food for more than 90 million people. WFP partners with and receives funding from a few well-known food companies.

Yum! brands started the World Hunger Relief campaign as the largest consumer outreach campaign on the hunger issue. It is the world’s largest restaurant company with more than 40,000 restaurants in 125 countries. It is leading in the fight against global hunger through the campaign as well as through the mobilization of the 1.5 million employees as advocates for global hunger relief.

Yum! brands’ World Hunger Relief campaign has raised $100 million for WFP since 2007 with the help of global spokesperson Christina Aguilera. Yum! brands include Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnSf2xj6URs

PepsiCo is another partner of WFP. The company is more well know for its food and beverages than for the philanthropic PepsiCo Foundation. PepsiCo Foundation has donated $3.5 million to WFP to produce a food product made of chickpeas to help treat malnutrition in Ethiopia.

Unilever partners with WFP to make people more aware of global hunger through fundraising and campaigns as well as educational plan. They have targeted their consumer base in 13 countries in their campaigns against global hunger. Unilever has also assisted WFP in identifying what are the nutritional needs of the children to better help them.

Kelloggs, though not a partner with WFP, does important work to fight global hunger. Kelloggs donates over $20 million per year in food products for disaster relief and hunger. The company also has an initiative called “Breakfast for Better Days.” The initiative is focused on alleviating hunger specifically in South Africa, pledging to feed 25,000 children every school day in 2015. The company will dedicate one billion servings of Kelloggs snacks and cereal for global poverty alleviation by 2016 and has donated nearly 8 million breakfasts to FoodBank South Africa already.

An increase in awareness of global hunger has also increased the number of food companies coming on board to bring global hunger relief.

Iona Brannon

Sources: World Food Programme 1, World Food Programme 2, Hunger to Hope, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Kellogg
Photo: Flickr

 

 

The most recent Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Price Index indicates that dairy and oil prices have reached their lowest levels since 2009. This is part of a global, ongoing trend that the FAO predicts will continue for the coming decade.

The FAO Price Index is weighted by trade and looks at international market prices for foods such as cereals, dairy, meat, sugar and oil. The August 6 release of the FAO Price Index pegged the Index at 164.6 points, down 19.4 percent from what it had been in 2014. Dairy prices have dropped 7.2 percent and vegetable oil prices are the lowest they have been since June 2009. Meat prices are at levels similar to what they were last year, while cereal and sugar prices have increased. Cereal price increases are attributed to poor growing conditions in North America and Europe, and sugar prices are increasing due to poor harvesting conditions in Brazil.

The FAO Price Index is supported by other data from Reuters. This data indicated that soybean prices have gone down 13 percent since August 2014, while wheat prices have dropped 14 percent and corn prices have dropped eight percent. Generally, the decrease in prices is attributed to an increase in global supply in conjunction with a decrease in demand, particularly from China, North Africa and the Middle East.

Across western Europe, specifically the United Kingdom, France and Belgium, farmers are demonstrating against the falling price of milk. The 7.2 percent drop in dairy price from August 2014 includes a one percent drop in prices since June. As farmers protest, European governments are considering giving them millions of dollars in support as a result of their livelihood being less profitable. The decrease in demand makes the increase in production a burden rather than a profit for producers.

However, the drop in food prices indicates the increased affordability of foods worldwide, particularly for domestic products. This allows for a greater number of people to afford food, especially in countries whose populations are seeing rising incomes. Consequently, populations have greater access to different foods and can diversify their diets.

Priscilla McCelvey

Sources: CNBC 1, CNBC 2, Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, Reuters, United Nations
Photo: Ingredients Network

indian_meal_programs
India runs one of the largest and oldest government-provided elementary school meal programs in the world. It provides the main meal of the day for about 120 million of the country’s most impoverished children.

In the past ten years, the country’s economy has improved, creating a new middle class and a league of millionaires. Yet according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, India continues to have more than 195 million chronically malnourished people—the world’s highest amount.

The tribal state of Madhya Pradesh is no stranger to high malnutrition rates. Local food activists and public health policy specialists proposed adding eggs to meal programs in order supply children with more adequate nutrition.

In late May 2015, however, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivrai Chouhan, publically announced that eggs were not allowed to be served in Indian meal programs in some tribal states. Instead, he suggested that bananas and milk be served.

Chouhan is an upper-class Hindu and a strict vegetarian. He says, “the body is meant to consume vegetarian food, which has everything the human body requires.”

In a country of 77 million, over 50 percent of children in India are underweight, undernourished and are in desperate need for better nutrition. A meal plan offering bananas and milk is not enough to offset the calories and nutrients lost due to living in poverty.

Health experts and activists are calling this a class issue, one where politics and religion are being fought over at the detriment of starving children. Dipa Sinha is an economists at the Center for Equity Studies in New Dehli. He explains that vegetarianism “is a very upper caste Hindu sentiment” linked to privilege and wealth.

Many lower caste Hindus, like those in tribal states, do not eat vegetarian diets and would eat eggs if they could only afford to. Christians and Muslims living in India also rely on meat. Dalit officials, a part of a lower caste, claim that the ban on eggs is upper caste Hindus trying to push Hindu principles unto lower caste Hindus and minorities.

This would not be the first time. In the past, Jains, a politically powerful group of vegetarian Hindus, successfully blocked eggs from meal programs in states such as Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat. This is despite the fact that caste discrimination has been illegal for centuries.

Jean Dreze, a development economists, says that banning eggs from these programs is a “missed opportunity” to provide much needed nutrition and encourage attendance. It has been shown that when eggs are served in schools in impoverished states, attendance increases as kids scramble for the rare source of protein.

“They are easy to procure locally, and storage and transportation aren’t a problem,” explains food rights activist Sachin Jain. “No…vegetarian food item is that good a source of protein.” A popular alternative, milk, comes with complications. Many times supplies dilute it and it is easy to contaminate. Plus, rural communities in India lack proper refrigeration, storage, and transportation methods for milk.

Jain explains, “I am a vegetarian. I have never touched an egg. But I have other sources of fat and protein…Tribals, Dalits, and other poor people don’t have these options. They can’t afford these things.” Eggs then become the perfect solution.

Lillian Sickler

Sources: NPR, CBS News, WSJ
Photo: GamesRadar