ProVeg International
The definition of food insecurity is “the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources” according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. All across the world, food insecurity remains an issue despite being essential for human survival. This violation of basic human rights has justifiably led to many movements, ideas and actions to cultivate better, more accessible food systems for everyone regardless of economic status. Ultimately, increasing food justice means reducing poverty, a mission that lies at the core of ProVeg International, a global “food awareness” organization.

Food Injustice in Africa

Food injustice permeates the continent of Africa as many African countries battle poverty. According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, more than “100 million Africans were facing crisis, emergency, or catastrophic levels of food insecurity in 2020.” The Center highlights a rise of more than 60% in comparison to 2020, with an expectation that food insecurity rates will continue in this direction through 2021 and beyond. The rise in food insecurity rates is alarming and represents a worsening issue in the fight against hunger.

This food insecurity is coupled with Africa’s higher poverty rates. Hunger Notes reports that “according to the World Bank, in 2013, 42.3% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lived on $1.90 or less per day.” This, it also notes, is a major factor in higher levels of food insecurity in African countries. The connection between poverty and hunger in the continent of Africa reveals why there are many efforts to aid and combat both rates of poverty and rising rates of food insecurity. Both anti-poverty initiatives and anti-food insecurity initiatives intersect to fight this pressing issue.

A ProVeg Approach

ProVeg International is a global organization fighting food injustice with increased food awareness and plant-based initiatives. Its branch in South Africa acts as a platform for these initiatives in the African continent. According to its website, ProVeg holds events and participates in political outreach and corporate engagement. All these efforts aim to raise awareness of the importance of accessible, healthy plant-based food. In addition to these activities, ProVeg holds challenges such as Veganuary, which is “a global campaign that encourages people to try plant-based [foods] for the month of January.” This approach of easing people in is important, as is encouraging those who have the means and accessibility to go plant-based to do so.

Using a plant-based approach increases access to affordable and healthy food for those who need it. Additionally, ProVeg encourages those who already have access to fresh grown foods to fully incorporate them into their diets. ProVeg highlights how “achieving food security for everyone means doing more to ensure that everyone has reliable access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food in order to maintain an active and healthy life.” ProVeg International incorporates this message by highlighting how “an inequitable global food distribution system” disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable and impoverished people.

In this way, ProVeg makes it is easy to see the intersections of food insecurity and poverty, showing the importance of ProVeg’s plant-based initiative for achieving food justice. As rates of food insecurity rise across Africa, ProVeg’s plant-based initiative contributes to food justice and seeks to make healthy foods accessible. The role that ProVeg plays presents an important approach in the fight against food injustice.

– Sebastian Fell
Photo: Flickr

Invisible Poverty in JapanThe third-largest economy in the world, Japan has vast influence over global trends in technology and culture. The country has a storied history, first opening its shores to modernization in the mid-19th century with the arrival of American Commodore Matthew Perry. After contact with the West, Japan underwent a process of rapid industrialization, adopting and co-opting colonial practices to become the leading East Asian power. A closer look at the history of the nation tells a story of invisible poverty in Japan.

The History of Japan

During World War II, Japan’s fate changed for the worse. Tokyo sided with the Axis Powers and lost the war to the Allies in a devastating fashion. After the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from American atomic strikes, Japan had to rebuild in the interceding decades. By the 1980s, Japan once again emerged as a major world power and the second-largest economy. Pundits believed Japan was on track to overtake even the United States.

The arrival of the 1990s heralded a second collapse. The Japanese stock market burst and the country plunged into a recession known as the Lost Decade. Growth stagnated and has remained slow for the last 30 years. In 2020, COVID-19 added yet another factor of uncertainty to an already unstable fiscal situation.

Japan still remains a wealthy developed nation. But, its population is aging and a return to global preeminence is therefore unlikely. Meanwhile, poverty is festering, particularly among the young. Addressing these challenges is crucial as much of the global economy remains tied to Japan.

Invisible Poverty in Japan

In Japan, poverty is often invisible but no less severe. In an OECD report analyzing 34 countries, Japan ranked sixth from last in terms of the “share of the population living in poverty.” While these statistics might be shocking to ordinary Japanese citizens who mostly do not have to experience direct encounters with grinding poverty, the statistics are not surprising to researchers. Over the years, experts took notice of an alarming trend. Not only is the Japanese poverty level high (not unlike the United States) but it is also steadily increasing. In 2020, Japan’s poverty rate was almost 16%, defined as “people whose household income is less than half of the median of the entire population.”

Since the 1990s, growth has been almost non-existent. Across multiple governments, none have been able to restart the Japanese economic engine. In 2019, growth was a measly 0.3%. Although U.S. citizens often critique their own economy for being too slow, the U.S. economy is much faster than Japan’s. In 2019, the United States grew 2.2%. Amid COVID-19, the contraction of the economy exacerbated these challenges. A wider global recovery has sparked optimism in Tokyo, but uncertainty lies ahead.

Japan’s Strong Points

  • Japan retains a high standard of living. Despite its economic slowdown from the 1990s, Japan remains one of the most prosperous countries in the world. While Tokyo lags slightly behind the United States and Western Europe in per capita GDP, it has a highly developed free-market system coupled with a dynamic culture of innovation that puts the island nation at the forefront of technological progress.
  • Inequality is relatively low. Compared to countries like the United States, Japan has a lower Gini coefficient, the baseline metric used by experts to measure income inequality. The Japanese government has had a positive influence on this development. Effective taxation and reallocation of funds allow for a significant decrease in Japanese inequality in comparison to the beginning of the 20th century.
  • Of all nations, Japan has the highest life expectancy. During the economic boom of the 1980s, Japan achieved a crowning status as the nation with the longest life expectancy. Although its economy has stagnated since that period, Tokyo’s role at the pinnacle of the world has not diminished. To this day, the average Japanese life expectancy is 84, compared to 79 in the United States.

Second Harvest Alleviates the Impacts of Poverty

Despite high Japanese living standards, the often invisible poverty in Japan has galvanized a growing cross-section of Japanese nationals to build organizational structures to address the fundamental challenges the population faces. Addressing food insecurity in the nation is Second Harvest, “Japan’s first food bank” drawing from farmer and retailer donations across the country to distribute resources to underserved communities. In 2002, its first year of legal corporation, Second Harvest delivered 30 tons of food. Ten years later, the amount had grown to more than 3,000 tons of food. Since 2013, Second Harvest has been delivering food to “320 welfare agencies and organizations in the Kanto area as well as nationally.”

Such organizations lend an optimistic perspective to the future, one that the industrious and innovative people of Japan can capitalize on.

– Zachary Lee
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in AngolaThe catalyzation of food insecurity is causing around 6 million people to fall into hunger in Angola, according to UNICEF. The number of people going hungry in Angola, however, continues to rise due to the most severe drought since 1981 in conjunction with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of droughts, especially in Southern Angola, caused the death of 1 million cattle. This created surges of poor malnutrition and severe illnesses. Despite this, hope exists for those suffering from hunger in Angola.

Drought

The severe drought in Angola has continued spreading for almost three years now, traumatically affecting hunger in Angola. Crop production has decreased by nearly 40%, forcing more families into poverty. The drought has, within only three months in Cunene, Angola, tripled levels of food insecurity. The growing scarcity of food and heightening hunger of Angolans is pushing them to seek refuge in proximate countries such as Namibia.

Pedro Henrique Kassesso, a 112-year-old man, can attest that this three-year-long drought has been the worst he has ever experienced in Angola. The drought has affected almost 500,000 children. Not only has food insecurity heightened, but school dropout rates have risen due to increasing socioeconomic troubles. Hunger in Angola has forced children to put aside their education to support their families in collecting food and water.

Longing for Land

Former Angolan communal farmers are longing to get land back from commercial cattle farmers. According to Amnesty International, the Angolan government gives the land to commercial cattle farmers. Commercial cattle farmers have taken 67% of the land in Gambos, Angola. The battle for land has exasperated the hunger levels of communal Angolan citizens who have been reliant on their land and livestock for survival. The combination of loss of land and drought equates to millions of Angolan citizens ending up in poverty.

Despite the drought and rising food insecurity in Angola, people from neighboring countries are seeking refuge in this nation. As of 2017, 36,000 people have undergone displacement from the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and found refuge in Angola. Because of asylum seekers and refugees fleeing to Angola, the nation’s population is rapidly growing. Angola’s population is growing by 1 million people every year, according to the World Population Review. As a host country to asylum seekers, battles for land, ongoing drought and rapid population growth, more people are succumbing to poverty and hunger in Angola.

Hope on the Horizon

Despite the surging levels of food insecurity in Angola, hope is rising on the horizon. In fact, the government of Japan donated $1 million toward United Nations agencies that serve to uplift Angolan citizens who have succumbed to poverty especially due to the drought and the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy of Angola. The donation from Japan, along with the funds raised to end hunger in Angola by the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Food Programme (WFP) projects to at last tackle the issue of malnutrition and hunger in Angola.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

<span class="imagecredit">On April 12, 2013, the World Bank approved funding for the National Horticulture and Livestock Productivity Project (NHLP) in Afghanistan. Under this governmental program, greenhouses are distributed to families across Afghanistan’s provinces. More than 300 Afghan women in the province of Kapisa alone are able to grow food year-round for their families with some women even becoming the sole breadwinners of their family due to farming made possible through the NHLP’s distributed greenhouses. The United Nations implemented the Community-Based Agriculture and Rural Development project (CBARD) in Afghanistan in 2018, a program that involves similar creations of greenhouses in Afghanistan. CBARD has led to the construction of 70 greenhouses in the Ghormach district alone. As the success of micro and commercial greenhouse distribution through both the World Bank and U.N.-initiated projects has grown, the importance of long-term and community-based anti-poverty solutions has become clear internationally.

Greenhouse Distribution

The NHLP has reached 291 districts across all 34 provinces in Afghanistan, covering more than 500,000 citizens, half of whom are women. Each greenhouse costs 25,000 afghani (or around $320) to build, with recipients selected “based on financial need and access to at least 250 square meters of land.” After distributing these greenhouses, the NHLP also provides classes for participants on how to cultivate vegetables and apply fertilizer made from organic waste.

With the goal of tailoring the CBARD project to Afghanistan’s agriculture, the U.N. aims to benefit an estimated 46,000 households across the nation. As part of this general agricultural program, greenhouses are implemented as “key infrastructure” across the region. The U.N. explains that due to cultural and security concerns throughout many provinces, it has also focused on the implementation of micro greenhouses so that women can grow crops inside their homes. With the CBARD program currently active in the Badghis, Farah and Nangarhar provinces, the program has built hundreds of micro and commercial greenhouses for farmers.

The Need for Year-Round Food

Greenhouses in Afghanistan have provided access to produce during winter months while also providing a general improvement in food quality. This is especially beneficial for children and pregnant women who are vulnerable to malnutrition. Saima Sahar Saeedi, NHLP social affairs officer, explains to the World Bank that these greenhouses aim to reduce childhood malnutrition with children able to “eat the vegetables grown in their own family greenhouses.”

Due to Kapisa province’s especially cold winter climate, many families are unable to grow produce such as wheat, potatoes and vegetables throughout the year without the help of greenhouses and are unable to afford produce at a local bazaar. Some greenhouses in Afghanistan even help families sell crops. One recipient, Roh Afza, tells the World Bank that the money she made from selling her greenhouse produce is used to buy “clothes, school uniforms, notebooks and books for [her] children.”

The U.N.’s CBARD program has focused on the Badghis region specifically, where citizens depend on agriculture as their primary occupation. With an increase of droughts, however, much of the population has turned to poppy cultivation, which requires less water than other crops. Poppy cultivation not only requires an entire family to work but results in minimal profits and reduces the fertility of the soil. The CBARD program aims to reduce the dependence on poppy cultivation in the region by implementing greenhouses for the production of crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.

The Global Success of Greenhouses

The success of both the U.N.’s CBARD program and the World Bank’s NHLP initiative include achievements in combating malnutrition, poverty and food insecurity through both micro and commercial greenhouses. Greenhouses have also furthered agricultural progress and livelihoods in rural Jamaica as well as Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan. The U.N. and World Bank’s greenhouse implementation programs create long-term, community-based solutions in combating food insecurity, poverty and malnutrition.

– Lillian Ellis
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Edible insectsEdible insects may be the solution to alleviating food insecurity. With rising global rates of hunger and a growing population, the world needs affordable, sustainable and accessible food sources. Traditional livestock requires acres of land, not to mention massive quantities of crops for feed and a lot of water too. Overall, livestock does not present a sustainable food source for the future. Edible insects, however, are increasing in popularity as research reveals a myriad of benefits that make edible insects a possible solution to reducing food insecurity across the world.

Poverty and Food Shortages

According to a U.N. report, in 2020, “between 720 and 811 million people in the world” suffered from hunger. Additionally, 2.37 billion people worldwide did not have sufficient access to adequate food. Both of these statistics saw an increase in the millions in comparison to pre-pandemic numbers.

Soaring food prices are making it even more challenging for those with low incomes to afford food. According to “rapid phone surveys done by the World Bank,” 48 nations across the world report “a significant amount of people” experiencing food shortages and resorting to minimizing food consumption due to financial struggles. Food shortages greatly affect the overall health and nutrition of people.

Children are particularly susceptible to the impacts of inadequate nutritious food as malnutrition can lead to detrimental, lifelong consequences for children. Because nutritious food generally costs more, a nutritious meal is out of reach for many impoverished people, especially during COVID-19.

Current Food Industry

By 2050, the expected global population will increase to roughly nine billion people. To keep up with the food demands of a growing population, “global agriculture production” needs to increase by 60-70%. However, the agricultural sectors of the world experience frequent threats from droughts, natural disasters, soil degradation and more.

About 80% of global farmland is used for feeding and raising livestock. A large proportion of arable land used for crops go toward animal feed. Moreover, greater land use for livestock leads to more deforestation. The meat industry is one of the largest industries in the world. Per capita, meat consumption has more than doubled since 1961. Unfortunately, livestock production is an unsustainable practice resulting in water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.

Livestock production contributes to 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the FAO. More than 70 billion animals are slaughtered each year, requiring acres of land and tons of feed. In developing countries especially, many people simply cannot afford the high cost of a nutritious diet, bringing about an increasing need for affordable and sustainable food sources.

The Rise of the Edible Insect Market

Insects are raised in warehouses, utilizing less farmland and feed. Furthermore, insects are low-cost and are easily accessible. Cultures around the world have consumed edible insects for hundreds of years yet many people express distaste in welcoming insects into their diets. But slowly, as people realize the many benefits of edible insects, more people are open to insects as a food source. Insects could be a solution to the issues surrounding poverty, food insecurity and environmental impact. The edible insect market is expected to reach $4.63 billion by 2027, making it a viable business venture as well.

The Specific Benefits of Edible Insects

  • Insects produce significantly fewer gases that pollute the air and water. One study found that crickets release “80% less methane than cows and 8-12 times less ammonia than pigs.”
  • Insects require less land, water and feed than the world’s typical livestock.
  • “Insects are 12-25 more efficient at converting energy into protein than animals.”
  • If the world replaces half of all meat consumption with insects, farmland usage would be cut by roughly 33% or slightly more than 4,000 acres.
  • Insects contain 60% protein, providing more protein than chicken and beef. Insects also contain more vitamins and minerals than beef, including iron, zinc and magnesium. In areas facing famine or food shortages, powdered crickets or mealworms provide nutrition and prevent disease.
  • Insects can help increase food crop production by reducing the need for crops as livestock feed since insects can serve as livestock feed. Insects can also survive on leftover food and agriculture scraps.
  • Insect excrement can be used as fertilizer.

Looking Forward

An important aspect of raising edible insects is finding a species that is suited for the region and is socially acceptable, especially in areas of poverty. The insect must be affordable enough for people of different economic backgrounds to purchase. Edible insects are packed with nutrients and present a potential solution to many environmental and social challenges. Overall, insects hold great value in addressing rising levels of global food insecurity.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: Flickr

Stopping Overfishing: Reducing Poverty and Saving DolphinsOverfishing in developing countries all over the world exacerbates poverty, causes food insecurity and impacts marine life. Overfishing occurs when specific regions are fished continually using special technology. The practice is tied to bycatch, which occurs when unwanted marine life is caught and killed in the nets used to mass fish. Bycatch has depleted marine life, leading to disastrous consequences for the oceans and the people whose livelihoods depend on the oceans.

Overfishing and Poverty

In developing countries, fisheries are essential in providing food and financial security. For example, in Cambodia, the Tonle Sap Lake is essential in providing income and food for the local communities. However, overfishing has hampered the development of that area, driving these communities into poverty.

In addition, overfishing in developing countries is more likely to occur because developed countries take advantage of developing areas by deploying fisheries under subsidies. For example, the West African waters attract European fishers who have the capacity to catch between “two and three times more than the sustainable level,” hence destroying the fish stocks as well as the livelihoods of fishers in Western Africa. In Senegal, in particular, “90% of fisheries are fully fished or facing collapse.”

In interviews collected by Jessica H. Jonsson, a researcher, locals in Senegal have expressed concerns over getting food and fish. In some instances, the huge European ships destroy local fishermen’s fishing nets, creating anger and frustration among the locals.

The lack of income and employment leads to poverty and forced migration. In many circumstances, West Africans end up as “illegal migrants” in European countries due to the lack of employment opportunities in their own countries.

“Poor, desperate migrant workers from these countries take significant risk in hopes of earning good pay to support their families back home, but often are not paid what they are promised, or paid at all,” Andy Shen, Greenpeace USA Senior Oceans Advisor told The Borgen Project. Shen states further that “this contributes to continued poverty at the local and national levels in their countries.”

Overfishing and the Environment

Overfishing has socio-economic ramifications, leading to increased poverty in communities, however, overfishing affects more than just communities. The marine ecosystem depends on a particular balance. For example, as more and more fish stock depletes, dolphins and other large marine animals have a harder time finding the food they need to survive, leading to an ecosystem collapse. Addressing overfishing will not only lead to an increase in the livelihoods of fishing communities but will also save marine life such as dolphins.

The Good News

Although the situation looks bleak, many nonprofit organizations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) are working to reduce overfishing in developing countries and address poverty. One of these organizations is Greenpeace. Greenpeace is an environmental organization fighting to address climate change injustice and other environmental issues. The organization’s Ocean Sector advocates to reduce illegal fishing and overfishing in West Africa and Taiwan.

Through press exposures and campaigning, the organization is able to put international pressure on governments to reduce overfishing. For example, in Taiwan, Greenpeace successfully advocated for putting Taiwan on the U.S. Department of Labor List of Goods Produced by Forced Labor for seafood harvested by Taiwan’s distant water fishing fleet, which has spurred reforms in overfishing.

In the case of West Africa, press releases have been gaining international attention and solidarity. In 2017, Greenpeace exposed about 10 ships for illegal fishing and fishing infractions, helping to stop overfishing in those regions. Overfishing requires the cooperation of local governments as well as NGOs like Greenpeace. Shen says that governments need to focus on “prioritizing the fishing rights of coastal, small-scale fisheries over foreign industrial fleets” to help revitalize impoverished communities.

Looking Ahead

Overfishing in developing countries will continue to damage the livelihoods of fishing communities, driving people into poverty and depleting marine life. However, with small steps and community support, ending overfishing can reduce poverty and safeguard marine life as well.

“At the micro-community level, using more selective fishing gear, such as pole and line, and respecting marine protected areas, will ensure fish populations are not overfished and the marine ecosystem remains healthy,” Shen added.

– Lalitha Shanmugasundaram
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Food Insecurity in ZimbabweEsnath Divasoni is changing the game when it comes to how the world thinks about food and sustainability. The 33-year-old rural Zimbabwean “edible-insect farmer” is promoting the cultivation of crickets and other types of insects as a source of nutrition and sustenance that could help reduce food insecurity in Zimbabwe and across sub-Saharan Africa.

Divasoni’s Education

Divasoni’s journey to becoming an insect farming expert is a long and impressive one. Thanks to CAMFED, a pan-African non-governmental organization that campaigns for marginalized females to receive strong educations, Divasoni was able to attend secondary school. CAMFED also enabled her to later attend EARTH University in Costa Rica.

She was the first person from her village to travel abroad to receive an education. EARTH University served as a jumping-off point for Divasoni, who studied agricultural sciences at the school in San José, Costa Rica. There, she discovered the potential of insects in combating food insecurity in developing nations.

Divasoni grew up collecting insects in plastic bags and picking worms from trees around her family’s farm. Loving the taste of insects herself, she began to research how she could turn bugs into a reliable food source. She has since received funding from The Resolution Project, a nonprofit that funds, mentors and supports young leaders with global, innovative ideas, for her project that she calls Jumping Protein.

Why Crickets?

The practice of harvesting crickets brings with it a plethora of benefits, the primary benefit being nutritional value. More protein-rich than beef or chicken and low in fat, 100-200 grams of crickets can feed and nourish a family of four to five. With Divasoni’s market rate of $1 for a 50-gram pack, Divasoni’s cricket endeavor brings in an income to reduce poverty all while aiding those suffering from food insecurity in Zimbabwe.

Unlike locusts, since crickets are incapable of flight and have many natural predators, increasing the number of crickets in a local ecosystem does not pose any biological risks. Locust plagues can decimate crops, a phenomenon well-known in Africa, but with crickets, the risk level is much lower. Cricket farming is both cost and space-efficient, and in addition, cricket excrement can be used as fertilizer.

Divasoni’s cricket farm is now up and running. She has around 20 plastic washing tubs, which she uses as feeding containers for the insects. The bugs take between five and eight weeks to mature, at which point Divasoni collects their eggs for the next cycle before harvesting around one kilogram of crickets per tub.

The Potential Impact

Food insecurity in Zimbabwe is a pressing issue, especially in the country’s rural areas. In 2019, estimates from the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee calculated that roughly 5.5 million people in Zimbabwe’s rural areas were food insecure during the countries peak “lean season,” which occurs between planting and harvesting periods.

Through insects, Divasoni hopes to alleviate the hardship of food insecurity that afflicts millions who grow up in rural villages. Since the project is in its earlier stages, data is limited on the full impact of the Jumping Protein initiative. There is plenty of room and opportunity for growth across Zimbabwe and beyond. The “global edible insect market” is estimated to reach close to $8 billion by the year 2030.

Divasoni is multiplying her impact through teaching with the help of CAMFED. She is one of the core trainers in the CAMFED Agricultural Guide program, which has led hundreds of training sessions in eight rural districts across Zimbabwe. These sessions specifically focus on women, empowering them with innovative farming techniques like insect farming. All of the resources needed to start a farm like Divasoni’s are available locally for many Zimbabwean farmers.

Looking to the Future

Practices and innovations like cricket farming could revolutionize the entire concept of agriculture in areas with high food insecurity in Zimbabwe. Thanks to various nonprofits that invest in global aid in underserved areas, Divasoni was able to make Jumping Protein a reality. Through the perfect blend of agricultural education, local knowledge and commitment to her community, this project has the potential to feed an entire nation.

– Sam Dils
Photo: Flickr

efforts to mitigate food insecurityAccording to the Council on Foreign Relations, about 135 million people experienced severe food insecurity before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has worsened this crisis with less access to quality food and prices skyrocketing. COVID-19 has already destroyed decades-worth of work made toward reducing global hunger. There are already predictions that millions of children will suffer more from malnutrition, obesity and stunting. Global hunger is an impediment to international development, increasing tensions within developing countries.

How Food Insecurity Worsened During COVID-19

The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) states that millions of citizens across 43 developing countries face an “emergency phase of food insecurity in 2021.” The majority of those experiencing food insecurity in those countries are either refugees or anyone forced to migrate.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that 272 million people are food insecure one year into the pandemic. Many believe that higher food insecurity rates worldwide occurred due to the shortages from panic buying and stockpiling. However, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) determined that agricultural production reached its highest level. In 2020, the world produced 2.7 billion tons of the most commonly grown crops. The reality is that disruptions within the supply chain are the root cause of this worsening issue.

Actions of the World Bank

As part of its efforts to mitigate food insecurity during COVID-19, the World Bank increased funding for more effective agricultural systems in Guatemala to reduce disruptions in the supply chain. Its assistance also aimed to help alleviate the food insecurity caused by economic challenges and droughts. The World Bank helped Liberia by incorporating a Contingency Emergency Response Component that allows the government to respond to the needs of those at a higher risk of food insecurity. The component also helps increase crop production and helps normalize the supply chain there.

How to Overcome Economic Challenges

The pandemic also worsened the economic situation in developing countries. People received fewer remittances preventing them from accessing essential goods. Latin America has been most impacted by reduced remittances. However, food prices in other regions facing conflict became higher than many people’s daily salaries, making the situation difficult to overcome.

Haiti is a country with the highest food insecurity rates and faced severe impacts from the reduced remittances. The pandemic and reduced remittances hurt farmers the most. The World Bank assisted by providing programs with enough funding for farmers to produce enough crops for a two-year time frame. The programs will also help farmers incorporate safety precautions into their practices during the pandemic.

Other Efforts to Mitigate Food Insecurity

The World Bank’s other efforts to mitigate food insecurity included issuing a transfer of funds to families with food insecure infants and toddlers in Tajikistan to alleviate malnutrition. It sent food for 437,000 citizens in Chad facing food insecurity. The organization also provided additional funding that went toward addressing the concerns that the pandemic caused in Rwanda.

Accomplishments Occurring with the World Bank’s Help

The World Bank also provided more certified seeds to local communities in Afghanistan and helped farmers produce more yields than before. The U.S. sent $87.8 million to help provide more equipment for dairy and poultry farmers in Bangladesh. The World Bank’s programs in India resulted in further women’s empowerment with the establishment of women’s self-help groups that work with hygiene, food administration and storage. As of 2021, there are 62 million women that participate in these groups.

The World Bank also reports that farmers in developing countries face food insecurity and works to alleviate their distress. The organization helped Cambodia incorporate new agricultural practices that led to farmers receiving higher incomes with increased productivity. The World Bank also taught farmers in the Kyrgyz Republic the proper practices to grow more crops while conserving water. Eventually, more than 5,000 farmers gained an income that allowed them to buy essential goods.

The World Bank’s efforts to mitigate food insecurity in developing countries are effective so far. These international programs brought more farmers out of poverty and further combat global hunger. Many of these countries made commendable progress with this support, which is a significant step toward future development.

– Cristina Velaz
Photo: Flickr

Food insecurity in Kenya
One of the most devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya has been the significant increase in food insecurity. Food insecurity in Kenya was already a notable problem prior to the pandemic. In February 2020, 1.3 million people were classified as in crisis, emergency or catastrophe, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). A year later, in the midst of the pandemic, that number rose by 15% to an estimated 1.4 million people. Furthermore, 542,000 children aged between six to 59 months are acutely malnourished to the extent that they need treatment.

With the number of people experiencing food insecurity in Kenya continuing to increase, it is more imperative than ever that solutions are implemented. Fortunately, major nonprofit organizations and agencies have enacted policies to significantly reduce food insecurity in Kenya. Here are three innovations that are having a positive impact on the country.

UNICEF Cash Transfers

In coordination with the governments of Finland, Italy, Sweden and the U.K., UNICEF has instituted a cash transfer program for 12,500 families across Kenya. The program grants these families 2,000 shillings bimonthly. This is on top of the 2,000 shillings they receive every month from the national safety net program. The program identified recipient families as the most vulnerable based on existing beneficiary lists for COVID-19 stimulus recovery. The lump-sum transfers have been pivotal in improving food security and child malnourishment. For many families impacted by the pandemic, food security would not be possible without this direct support.

PlantVillage

PlantVillage is a project consisting of a website, mobile app and on-the-ground team helping African farmers diagnose crop diseases, monitor pests and crowdsource answers to crop questions. The project has been instrumental in improving food security in Kenya. It helped manage Kenya’s worst locust swarm in 75 years, which exacerbated the nation’s food insecurity problem that was originally ignited by the COVID-19 pandemic. The main goal of the project is to help farmers by providing them with affordable technology and agricultural knowledge. Additionally, the project encourages citizen reporting of the locust situation and food insecurity in general.

The widespread impact of PlantVillage has been immense. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the project protected the food security of 36.6 million people. The project also helped avoid a $1.56 billion loss in cereal and milk production. Melodine Jeptoo, a field coordinator in Kenya for PlantVillage, stated that the organization’s efforts “saved Kenya in terms of food security.”

Agricultural Technology

Another solution that is instrumental in improving food insecurity in Kenya is the innovative agricultural technology initiatives from major organizations and small startups. The two most significant organizations involved are the U.N. Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) and the World Bank.

CSTD has coordinated with the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development and the CropWatch Program to create an online workshop for Kenyans. The workshop helps farmers understand and utilize an improved crop monitoring system with better agricultural productivity. Meanwhile, the World Bank is in ongoing partnerships with 15 AgTech startups to utilize digital technologies to improve the delivery of inputs, soil testing and crop insurance to enable farmers to overcome restrictions related to COVID-19. In addition, farmers will have better targeted and more effective service delivery, particularly within remote areas.

During the same period of time, two notable startup companies have also been pivotal in mitigating food insecurity in Kenya. The first is Taimba, which is an online platform that has connected rural small-scale farmers to urban retailers. This enables farmers to access markets more easily in the midst of constraints related to COVID-19. The other startup is Solar Freeze, which provides smallholder farmers solar-powered cold storage to store temperature-sensitive fresh agricultural produce in a simpler manner.

Proposed Recommendations for Further Action

The IPC, in cooperation with the European Commission, has proposed numerous recommendations for what could be done to improve food insecurity in Kenya in the long run. In response to acute food insecurity, the IPC has recommended the following:

  • Utilize farm inputs and pest and disease control to ensure long-term post-harvest management.
  • Ensure the extension and maintenance of water structures and systems and promote further rain harvesting.
  • Improve infrastructure in existing schools and expand school meals programs.

By taking these actions, Kenya can hopefully reduce its high levels of food insecurity. Moving forward, it is essential that humanitarian organizations continue to make this issue a priority, coming up with new innovations that have the potential to improve the lives of millions.

– Gabriel Sylvan
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 and Poverty in Kyrgyzstan
Nestled in the mountains of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has long suffered from high poverty rates and underdevelopment, but the past decade saw Kyrgyzstan’s per capita GDP rise by nearly 50%. The COVID-19 pandemic has halted progress, however, with 700,000 people in Kyrgyzstan sliding into poverty from 2019 to 2020. COVID-19 and poverty in Kyrgyzstan are interlinked in several ways.

An Economy Based on Remittances

The World Bank classifies Kyrgyzstan as a lower middle-income country with a per capita GDP of about $1,200. Much of Kyrgyzstan’s national wealth comes from remittances, especially in rural areas, from which migrants move to work in Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkey. In 2019, citizens abroad sent back nearly $2.5 billion, or 30% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP. Official statistics show that without remittances, Kyrgyzstan’s 2019 poverty rate would have increased by more than half.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many migrant workers returned home, cutting off remittance flows that kept rural families alive. Others stayed abroad but sent family home, increasing the burden on Kyrgyzstan’s rural residents. Due to the informality of their work, many migrants lost their jobs during the pandemic and did not qualify for the government aid that other more protected workers qualified for.

Rising Food Prices

In 2019, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that 46% of the Kyrgyz population did not meet their daily calorie needs. From June 2019 to June 2020, food prices rose by 17%, pushing even more vulnerable households into food insecurity and highlighting the correlation between COVID-19 and poverty in Kyrgyzstan. During the same period, the price of flour increased by around 30%.

Kyrgyzstan’s poverty levels have close ties to food prices. According to the World Bank, when food prices rise, Kyrgyzstan’s poverty rate follows closely behind. Rising food prices use up savings of low and middle-class people, pushing them into vulnerability.

While faltering remittances largely affected rural populations, the rising food prices have mainly increased urban poverty in Kyrgyzstan. While those in rural areas have access to farms, urban residents in poverty require assistance to meet their basic food needs. Food imports that fed urban populations fell due to Kyrgyzstan’s weakening currency, hurting low- and middle-income people in cities.

In March 2020, to combat food insecurity, the government instituted price caps, took legal action against companies raising prices and handed out food to vulnerable citizens in urban areas. In April 2020, nearly 95% of households in Bishkek received aid from the government, while in rural areas, 26% received aid. The government’s efforts mitigated the worst of Kyrgyzstan’s increased food insecurity.

Informal Labor

Before the pandemic, informal employment accounted for 71% of all employment in Kyrgyzstan, a large cause of poverty. Informal workers, usually in the construction, trade or industry sectors, usually have no contracts with their employer, increasing their risk of exploitation. During the pandemic, as unemployment rose, informal employees found themselves without the same social protection systems and labor rights as formal employees.

The construction industry, one of the largest sectors of the Kyrgyz economy, employs an especially large amount of informal labor. Due to falling investment and government restrictions, the construction sector has suffered particularly badly, with business owners reporting major drops in employment.

The Government and World Bank Assists

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the World Bank has created three assistance programs totaling $88 million to combat the effects of COVID-19 and poverty in Kyrgyzstan. The programs target both urban and rural poverty, focusing on food insecurity, the environment and low wages.

One of the programs, the Emergency Support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, is providing $25 million in microloans to small and medium-sized businesses suffering from the effects of the pandemic. With a focus on entrepreneurs, this World Bank program aims to help modernize Kyrgyzstan’s economy and workforce.

The World Bank also implemented the Social Protection Emergency Response and Delivery Systems to protect those most at risk of sliding into poverty. This response includes grants for vulnerable families with children and enhanced unemployment insurance for workers across all economic sectors. In the long run, this program will focus on developing income-generating skills in order to make the benefits of relief sustainable after the pandemic has passed.

The World Bank’s third program, the CASA-1000 Community Support Project, will fund small infrastructure projects across Kyrgyzstan. Community members will define and carry out the projects so that each locality has its needs met. The program will support projects in every sub-district, ensuring widespread impact.

The World Bank also supplied emergency funding for Kyrgyzstan’s healthcare system, with $12 million delivered as of March 2021. The funding helped the country acquire 266 hospital beds, 26 ambulances and 342 sets of breathing support equipment, along with funding for medicine, PPE and other supplies necessary for combating the pandemic.

Progress and the Road Ahead

As of July 2021, more than 2,000 Kyrgyz had died of COVID-19 and more than half a million have entered into poverty. The government, in partnership with the World Bank, has taken action to fight both the health and economic effects of the pandemic. New legislation and World Bank programs aim to bring Kyrgyzstan through the pandemic with a stronger economy and a less vulnerable population.

Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr