Hunger in Russia
Although coverage on Russia often dominates the American news cycle, people give little attention to the prevalence of poverty in the country. Many Russians live in unacceptably impoverished conditions and face food insecurity. Hunger in Russia is on a downward trend and both NGOs and the government are undergoing concerted efforts to address both poverty and food insecurity in the country.

10 Facts About Hunger in Russia

  1. Poverty Rate: Although the rate of extreme poverty in Russia—those living under the international poverty line of $1.90 a day—is at zero percent, 13.2 percent or 19 million Russians live in poverty under the national definition of $12.80 a day. This is a contested figure, however, as some claim that the poverty rate is as high as 14.3 percent.

  2. Poverty and Hunger: Poverty is the primary factor behind hunger in Russia. Other than those living in dire poverty, most of the population consumes over 2,100 calories daily—well above the 1,900 calories a day guideline that the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) set. Those with higher incomes in Russia ingest over 3,000 calories a day, similar to those living in developed nations.

  3. Food Insecurity: People with disabilities, older people with little sources of income and families with children are some of the populations who face the most food insecurity in Russia. Another population that often faces food insecurity is people with HIV and those who inject drugs (PWIJ) and these make up an estimated 2.3 percent of the population. The irregular schedule and often low socioeconomic status of PWIJ means they often face hunger and malnutrition.

  4. Rising Food Costs: In 2016, the average Russian consumer spent 50.1 percent of their income on food—the highest percentage in almost a decade. This was due to the Russian government introducing embargos on many food exports from Western countries as retaliation for sanctions in 2014. Consequently, food costs spiked for consumers. Since 2014, the price of frozen fish has increased by 68 percent and the prices of butter and white cabbage have respectively risen by 79 percent and 62 percent.

  5. Global Hunger Index Rate: Despite these increases, in 2019, the Global Hunger Index gave Russia a score of 5.8, which qualifies as a low level of hunger. This number is representative of statistics which reveal that less than 2.5 percent of the overall population suffers from undernourishment. This is a dramatic decrease from 2000 when the nation had a GHI score of 10.3 or a moderate level of hunger: 5.1 percent of the population lacked nourishment. This level of undernourishment was the result of a struggling economy still reeling from the demise of the Soviet Union. In fact, from 1999-2000, more global food aid went to Russia than Africa. Since then, however, the macroeconomic conditions in Russia have largely improved resulting in higher incomes that allow consumers to afford food. This trend is also evident in the statistics for wasting and stunting in children under 5: in 2000, those percentages were 4.6 and 16.1 percent respectively, whereas in 2019 they are 3.9 and 10.7 percent.

  6. Growing Food: While the skyrocketing high food costs do pose a risk to Russia’s future GHI index score, both urban and rural Russian families are turning to their own backyards to produce their food. In 2016, approximately 25 percent of Russians relied on fruits and vegetables harvested in their own backyards. This is a continuation of a tradition dating back to the mid-20th century where Russians would combat food shortages under a communist regime by quietly supplying their own food.

  7. Obesity: While the rates of hunger in Russia decreased over the past two decades, the percentage of obese people increased. In 2015, almost 60 percent of the adult population was overweight and 26.5 percent obese. These numbers strongly correlate with socioeconomic status and education levels. Studies suggest that this is the result of a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in dairy, meat, sugar and alcohol. Experts suggest that just decreasing food prices for healthier foods—such as fruits and vegetables—will not be enough to combat obesity. Instead, there must also be a robust public health program.

  8. Declaration to Halve Poverty: However, there is also good news. As previously mentioned, poverty is the primary cause of hunger in Russia and, on May 7, 2018, a Decree of the President declared an initiative to halve poverty by 2024. Russia plans on achieving this goal through a stimulus plan worth $400 billion that builds new infrastructure and invests in research. While some are pessimistic about Russia’s ability to meet this target, economists at the Brookings Institute believe that even with an annual GDP growth rate of 1.5 percent—a conservative target—through increasing the efficiency of existing social assistance programs and dedicating slightly more funds towards poverty reduction, this ambitious goal is possible.

  9. Investing in Agriculture: Furthermore, over the past decade, the Russian government has also heavily invested in promoting nationwide agricultural self-sufficiency. The Russian government is committing itself to eventually self-supplying 80 to 90 percent of most foods. In order to achieve this target, the country is now subsidizing large farms. The agricultural sector grew by 5 percent in 2016 and 2.4 percent in 2017. People will eventually see the long term impact of these policies on hunger in Russia and whether this investment can lower the costs of food for everyday people and lower the rates of hunger in Russia.

  10. SOS Children’s Village: There are also a variety of organizations working towards preventing hunger in Russia. One such organization is the SOS Children’s Village which specifically helps children whose families can no longer support them. The organization, which started working in Russia in the late 1980s,  also engages in advocacy work with the government to ensure the utmost protection of these children and their nutritional needs.

In conclusion, while hunger in Russia remains a serious problem, there is a reason for cautious optimism. As displayed by the remarkable decrease in rates of undernourishment in the population over the past 20 years, the government, the global community and NGOs are working to end hunger in Russia.

– Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan’s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Famine in North Korea

North Korea is known as one of the world’s most economically isolated countries. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, North Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was only $40 billion in 2015. North Korea also has an extremely negative track record of famine. The 1990s famine in North Korea is estimated to have killed between up to 1 million people from 1995 to 2000.

How Did North Korea Get to This Point?

After the conclusion of World War II, Korea was split between the Soviet Union and the United States along parallel 38. In 1950, the Korean War began after communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea. The war went on until 1953 and ended in a stalemate. Ever since the Korean War, North and South Korea have been divided at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and the two countries have still not signed an official peace agreement to date.

North Korea’s communist regime has committed numerous human rights violations and threatened the United States, Japan and South Korea with a war on a frequent basis. As a result, the United Nations and the United States have placed significant sanctions on North Korea that have seriously reduced economic growth in the country. In fact, North Korea’s economic situation is so poor that many experts believe that, without China as North Korea’s major ally and trading partner, the country would not be able to sustain itself.

There have been past attempts to negotiate with North Korea, particularly regarding their nuclear weapons program. In June 2018, President Trump became the first United States President to meet with North Korea’s tyrannical regime, headed by Kim Jong Un. While President Trump is attempting to negotiate with North Korea, there has not been any significant progress made so far regarding diplomacy. However, President Trump temporarily succeeded in stopping Kim Jung Un from testing ballistic missiles (as many as 12 tests were conducted in 2019) and was also able to negotiate bringing home the remains of 55 American soldiers who died during the Korean War.

Why Does North Korea Have Problems With Famine?

Since North Korea’s annual GDP is low, monetary resources are tight. Unfortunately, the Regime uses nearly 25 percent of its GDP towards military funding. It does not invest as much in basic services such as healthcare, clean water, roads and food. On top of that, North Korea is a rather small country with nearly 24 million people. Its land area is estimated to be the size of Mississippi. Most of the northern areas are mountainous, which makes agriculture very difficult.

The devastating 1990s famine in North Korea was caused by a variety of factors. Besides the major problems discussed above, an excess of floods brought on by El Nino in 1995 and 1996 caused devastation in North Korea. This devastated crops and destroyed already limited farmland. As grain resources decreased, the government reduced the supply to its people in order to preserve food resources for itself and the military.

Are Conditions in North Korea Improving?

Conditions in North Korea are very difficult to gauge because the country is extremely selective regarding who is allowed in and out of the country. Therefore, data is limited. However, most experts agree that famine in North Korea has not improved very much. While North Korea’s GDP is slowly growing at approximately 4 percent, there were still 1,137 defectors in 2018. Twenty percent of North Korea’s children are thought to be stunted, and 40 percent of North Korean residents are malnourished. All of these factors are signs that conditions are still poor throughout the country.

On a positive note, domestic agriculture has improved greatly. Grain production has almost doubled from the 1990s to about 5 million tons per year. Humanitarian aid to North Korea is now supplying nearly 30 percent of the country’s food supply. In 2016, the United Nations spent at least $8 million in foreign aid to help reduce malnutrition. In the meantime, North Korea’s upper class, which largely consists of government officials and military generals, has plentiful access to food. This is largely because they all live in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. Unfortunately, smuggled photos out of North Korea show small villages with residents starving, and in extreme cases, eating grass.

Nearly half of North Korea’s population still lives in poverty. Human rights violations are common, and the military is considered a priority over infrastructure and agricultural production. Until North Korea develops normalized relations with the rest of the world and commits more resources to its people, it is highly doubtful that any major breakthrough against famine or poverty will be possible.

Kyle Arendas
Photo: Pixabay

Progress in Mali
With a poverty rate of 42.7 percent, Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its arid climate also makes Mali one of the hottest countries and armed conflict, famine, weak infrastructure and food insecurity are widespread. Mercy Corps, a non-governmental organization (NGO), has provided humanitarian aid in Mali since 2012. Their efforts have reduced food insecurity, built resilience to armed conflict and natural disasters and assisted in infrastructure development.

Goals of Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps believes conflict prevention and long-term food security programs are important to the livelihoods of Malians. Supporting agriculture, pastoralism and other professions leads to reduced conflict over sparse water and land. Since 2012, more than 250,000 women, children and men have benefited from approximately 20 programs created by Mercy Corps.

According to the U.N., more than 3.2 million Malians need humanitarian assistance, 70 percent of whom live in the Mopti and Segou regions. About 2.7 million are food insecure and malnutrition affects more than 600,000 children. Mercy Corps’ goals are wide-reaching, yet its focus is on long-term stability. The conflict over land and water and overpopulation are two major issues that Mercy Corps and other NGOs are combating by providing humanitarian aid in Mali.

Progress in Mali

Since 2012, Mercy Corps has assisted 98,000 Malians affected by food insecurity. Agricultural support, entrepreneurship and apprentice programs and business development support are three major focus areas. In 2018 alone, the NGO helped 41,000 people through agricultural programs. More than 80 percent of Malians are farmers and fishers, which is one reason Mercy Corps prioritizes agricultural productivity. Seed distribution, technical training and infrastructure rehabilitation were all emphasized during 2018. Improving agricultural productivity and resilience to droughts is essential to helping those affected by food shortages.

Mercy Corps also made progress in Mali by assisting more than 1,112 pastoralists in 2018 with the provision of livestock feed, distribution of goats and animal care from local veterinarians. Livestock and agriculture comprise 80 percent of Mali’s exports, and the assistance from Mercy Corps and other NGOs helps to not only increase food security but also increase income. Mercy Corps provided financial assistance to 25,600 people for basic needs and in support of economic recovery.

Individual Success Stories

Mercy Corps is a major supporter of youth entrepreneurship in Mali, as 60 percent of Malians are less than 25 years old. The NGO assists young entrepreneurs by providing financial assistance and teaching better business practices.

Bibata is a 25-year-old Malian who sells paddy rice and grilled potatoes from her home. Most of her income comes from her business. With her grant money, she was able to buy more paddy rice, spices and vegetables, doubling her profit within months. She stated that the grant money helped her expand and she hopes to grow further into raising cattle.

Hassan is another Malian that benefitted from Mercy Corps’ support. He barely made enough money to care for his nine children, but after a Mercy Corps’ professional training course he understood how to get reimbursed by clients and access services from microfinance institutions. He received a grant, opened up his own shop and now earns twice the income he had earned before.

The Future of Mali

In response to violence in Mali, the United Nations launched a Humanitarian Response Plan in 2019 to assist with food, shelter, nutrition, protection, education and hygiene. Alongside continued efforts by the United Nations, United States government and NGOs, Mercy Corps is set to advance its mission of providing humanitarian aid in Mali. Conflict and high population growth are ongoing in 2019, yet progress is currently being made.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: USAID

Food Insecurity in Sierra Leone

More than 40 percent of Sierra Leoneans experience food insecurity. This largely stems from the nation’s high poverty rate—53 percent of the population lives below the income poverty line—and the fact that 60 percent of the population performs low-paying subsistence agriculture work.

Efforts to address food insecurity in Sierra Leone, including those by the World Food Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and Action Against Hunger, concentrate on combating these root causes and providing food to those in need.

Even though the food insecurity rate in Sierra Leone is still high, it has improved over the last several years, declining from 49.8 percent in 2015 and 43.7 percent in 2018. The percentage of households that are severely food insecure also decreased significantly, falling from 8.6 percent to 2.4 percent between 2015 and 2018. Still, approximately 3.2 million Sierra Leoneans continue to be food insecure and 170,000 are severely food insecure.

Furthermore, malnutrition in Sierra Leone is a persistent problem because of food insecurity. A 2018 survey found that 24 percent of households reported consuming food from less than three food groups in a week. This diet can have a dangerous impact, especially on children as malnutrition affects their physical health and making educational attainment more difficult.  Of note, 31.3 percent of children in Sierra Leone suffer from stunted growth due to chronic malnutrition.

3 Organizations Combating Food Insecurity in Sierra Leone

  1. The World Food Programme
    The World Food Programme (WFP), active in Sierra Leone since 1968, works to provide aid to those experiencing food insecurity and malnutrition, as well as addressing some of the causes of persistent food insecurity in Sierra Leone. Some of the organization’s main goals are ensuring access to food for all, achieving lower malnutrition rates and helping smallholder farmers become more financially prosperous. To accomplish these goals, the WFP provides food assistance to those affected by disasters and emergencies, provides cash assistance to the chronically food-insecure and trains smallholder farmers to strengthen their market access and profits.One of the WFP’s most impactful programs is its school feeding program, which was launched in 2018 in Pujehun and Kamiba, two districts experiencing some of the worst food insecurity in the nation. A significant side effect of food insecurity in Sierra Leone is low schooling rates, especially for girls. To reduce the number of children a family needs to feed, parents sometimes arrange child marriages for their daughters. This effectively ends their education because girls who are married are rarely able to continue going to school.

    Providing meals at school helps encourage families to continue sending their children to school and helps reduce the associated cost for the family. It also ensures vital nutrition and can help reduce malnutrition and its effects, including stunting of growth. The Pujehun District has a stunting rate of 38 percent, one of the highest in the country, which reflects a significant need for a program like this.

    The school meals are not meant to be a substitute for home-cooked food, but they help ensure that children do not go hungry during the day and provide a consistent source of essential nutrients. The school feeding program reached more than 29,000 children, including 14,000 girls, in its first year.

  2. Action Against Hunger 
    Action Against Hunger has been active in Sierra Leone since 1991. Their programming is focused on improving sanitation, hygiene and water access, as well as food security. To decrease food insecurity in Sierra Leone, Action Against Hunger grows leguminous plants and vegetables to help diversify food and income for farmers. They also develop savings and credit groups to increase financial opportunities for smallholder farmers.In 2018, Action Against Hunger helped a total of 215,433 people, 8,000 of which benefited from food security and livelihood programs. They also strengthened 32 health facilities and helped improve nutrition for mothers and children under 5.
  3. The International Fund for Agricultural Development
    In March 2019, the government of Sierra Leone and the U.N. reached a $72.6 million deal to improve food security and rural income in the nation. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is providing a $5.9 million loan, a $5.9 million grant and allocating an additional $40.8 million to use for the deal between 2019 and 2021. The additional funds are being provided by the government of Sierra Leone and the private sector. This project seeks to tackle poverty and food insecurity in Sierra Leone by strengthening agricultural systems and empowering farmers.  Women and youth are hoped to make up at least 40 percent of the project in an effort to promote gender equality and provide opportunities for young people.IFAD will invest in agricultural mechanization, water management and irrigation, as well as create field schools for farmers and provide them with opportunities for greater financial security. The goal is to increase production and expand markets to raise smallholder farmers’ incomes, thereby tackling one of the root causes of food insecurity in the nation.

Sara Olk
Photo: Wikipedia

10 facts about hunger in Jordan
Jordan is located in Southwest Asia with a population of 9.5 million. Although there have been improvements, the country still suffers from high rates of food insecurity. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Jordan.

10 Facts About Hunger in Jordan

  1. Food Security: According to the Global Hunger Index, Jordan is a food secure country where the levels of hunger are moderate. However, the arrival of Syrian refugees is putting pressure on food and water supplies in Jordan. Nonetheless, The World Food Programme (WFP) supports refugees in Jordan by offering them cash and food-restricted vouchers. In 2014, the organization, started its school meal program, which aimed to reach more than 320,000 schoolchildren through 2016, concentrating on the most food-insecure areas in Jordan. In addition, the program provided locally produced date bars three times a week as well as high energy biscuits and fresh fruit during the last two days of the school week.
  2. E-cards: In an effort to fight hunger, WFP created an innovative electronic voucher program known as e-cards. The e-cards are a multi-year collaboration with MasterCard that will help refugees buy their own food. Every month, the e-cards load with $27 for each family member to buy food based on their own specific needs, such as fresh produce. In addition, WFP has provided about $192 million to local economies in Jordan along with refugees in Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Aiding Syrians is WFP’s biggest and most complex emergency operation.
  3. Population: In Jordan, population increase is a major challenge that affects food and water security. In 2014, the population stood at 7,930,491 and continues to grow by 3.86 percent each year. The rise in numbers causes a strain on supplies for survival.
  4. Unemployment: According to the Department of Statistics, unemployment rose to 19 percent in the first quarter of 2019, a 0.6 percent increase compared to the first quarter of 2018. The rate of unemployment among men was at 16.4 percent in comparison to 28.9 percent among women. Due to the global economic crisis of 2008, the Arab Spring, a large number of refugees and the closing of borders with Iraq and Syria all contributed to Jordan’s economic issues. The average income of Jordan decreased, making household food hard to attain and families had to opt for cheaper, less healthy food.
  5. Save the Children: Jordan’s government is struggling to provide for vulnerable refugees and Jordanians. Nonetheless, the Save the Children organization has provided aid, education and protection to children in need. Save the Children is a nonprofit that dedicates itself to helping children around the world. It has been in Jordan since 1985. The organization has protected 38,097 children from harm, supported 129,003 children in times of crisis and given 22,363 children vital nourishment.
  6. Stunting: According to UNICEF, stunting declined from 12 percent in 2002 to 8 percent in 2012, but numbers have not changed much since because of a lack of access to quality food, information on care practices and proper hygiene.
  7. Alliance Against Hunger: Jordan’s poorest people living in rural areas are the most susceptible to food and water insecurity because they own small pieces of agricultural property with low production. However, the Ministry of Agriculture has collaborated with an NGO called Alliance Against Hunger, an organization that helps strengthen agricultural production, assists in local market activity, supports micro-enterprise initiatives and helps vulnerable communities gain access to food and income. In 2018, the organization helped a total of 52,805 people. It helped 52,569 people through food security and livelihood programs and aided 165 people through water, sanitation and hygiene programs.
  8. Diet: In Jordan, the average diet is based on wheat and rice. Due to economic issues, Jordanians are transitioning into an unhealthy lifestyle of consuming a lot of sugar and carbohydrates. Consequently, this causes people, specifically women, to become obese and anemic.
  9. Food Insecurity: According to a study in the United Nations Development Program, 34 to 46 percent of households are food insecure and cannot afford to have three meals a day.
  10. CARE: Due to the influx of refugees from Iraq and Syria, food and water insecurity have been on the rise. The population will most likely double in the next two decades and water resources will become a huge problem for farmers. CARE is an NGO working around the world to end poverty. CARE has worked in Jordan since 1948 to help Palestinian refugees and continues to support Syrian refugees as well.

These 10 facts about hunger in Jordan present areas of focus and improvement to better the country and reduce food insecurity. Despite these challenges, there are several organizations that work towards helping fight food insecurity in Jordan. With the attention and support of political leaders, these issues can come to a stop.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Satellites and Food Security
Nearly 800 million people in the world do not have enough food to eat. It is no secret that more efficient farming and agricultural practices can help yield more crops to feed more people as well as bring in more income to poor farmers. In conjunction with traditional ground-based data collection of farmland, satellite imaging and sensing can help farmers monitor their crops and land condition in real time. Satellite-based technology can map cropland area and crop type, estimate area planted, estimate product yield and even detect early signs of droughts and floods. With this kind of technology, farmers may be better equipped to make informed choices about their land to protect their products. With more informed farmers, better use of resources and ultimately more crops, satellites may be an important part of ensuring global food security.

A New Wave of Tech

Precision farming is the use of technologies to inform farmers about their products. This method is not new, however, the systems in place are changing. Traditional, ground-based tests, such as soil sampling, have long been used to test the arity, salinity, and other conditions of land. These tests help instruct farmers about the optimal mix of fertilizer, pesticide and water that should be used to yield the most crops. While these tests are useful, they are expensive, time-consuming and can only provide data for a small area of land.

Satellites may provide a comprehensive solution. Equipped with imaging and sensing technology, satellites may analyze entire fields at more regular intervals for a more timely and lower-cost option. With land-use mapping and monitoring technologies, satellites cater to a variety of farmers’ needs. Farmers are using satellite technology to:

  • Analyze soil fertility.
  • Map irrigated land.
  • Monitor crop growth.
  • Produce crop yield forecasts.
  • Track crop development.
  • Measure soil moisture content.
  • Test soil chemical composition.

Depending on the program and type of imaging, the costs of satellite data may differ. The Sentinel-2, a land-monitoring system of two satellites that the European Space Agency (ESA) controls, provides vegetation imagery and moisture maps to farmers for $0.20 per acre per two months of service.

Satellites: Prediction, Protection and Prevention

In places like sub-Saharan Africa where agriculture accounts for 64 percent of all employment, satellite-based technology is vital to the survival of farmers. Ninety-five percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s farmable land lacks irrigation systems, thus making the farmland more susceptible to drastic land conditions like droughts and floods. With satellite technology and remote sensing, farmers can shift their focus from reacting to disasters after they occur to planning response before the disasters cause damage. Because low soil moisture content is an indicator of drought, satellites can measure the soil’s moisture content using microwave radiation and send an early warning to farmers in the affected area.

With these early response mechanisms, insured farmers can apply early to their insurers and receive money. Programs like the Ethiopian Productive Safety Net Program provides cash-transfers to poor households using this satellite-based technology.

People have used satellite drought imaging combined with data on local market supply and demand to bring the right amount of food aid to countries in need. Molly Brown, a researcher for NASA, uses satellite images of cropland in Niger, where farmers not only grow food for markets but also eat the crops, to estimate rising market costs. During droughts, these farmers cannot grow enough food to feed themselves and sell locally, thus demand and market prices increase. Since many rural families in Niger live on only around $400 a year, drastic price increases may mean that they cannot get enough to eat.

The goal of Brown’s research is to predict rising market prices before they occur based on satellite images of farmland. It is also to bring in enough food aid when people need it and to stop food aid when it is not necessary. Brown hopes satellites will be an important step toward ensuring food security.

Already at Work

Many organizations, large and small, have already begun harnessing the power of satellite technology and its use in agriculture. NASA has rolled out several satellite-driven initiatives to help combat food security. The Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS) Network, established in 2000, uses NASA’s Landsat satellite imaging and remote sensing to gather data, forecast weather trends and hazards and create maps for vegetation, rainfall and water use. In order to make satellite imaging and data more accessible to the communities that could best utilize them, NASA established a web-based visualization and monitoring system, for Africa and Central America, called SERVIR, in collaboration with USAID.

Working with more than 200 institutions and training around 1,800 regional support staffers, SERVIR provides previously inaccessible satellite data, imaging and forecasts to local governments and researchers. With this information, SERVIR hopes that developing nations will be able to respond better to natural disasters, improve their food security and manage water and other natural resources.

Even private companies like Planet Labs, are investing in satellite-based technology. Planet uses many smaller, relatively inexpensive satellites for its imaging force. The company has around 140 currently deployed, enough to capture an image of the entire Earth every day. It sells imaging and monitoring data to over 200 customers, many of whom are agricultural companies.

In 2015, at the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit, Planet Labs introduced its Open Regions initiative. By making $60 million worth of its satellite imagery for certain regions available to the global public and directly accessible online, Planet Lab’s imagery brings data vital to the health of crops directly to farmers. With the U.N. deadline to end global hunger and ensure global food security by 2030, it is important for governments and organizations to look for new, sustainable opportunities to increase productivity. By looking beyond conventional, ground-based agricultural solutions and turning to the skies, farmers may find that satellites may be an important part of ensuring global food security.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in South America
The poverty that affects so much of South America comes from a history of colonialism, which has left the region with extractive institutions including weak states, violence and poor public services. In order to combat these issues, it is vital to understand these top 10 facts about poverty in South America.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in South America

  1. Dependence Theory: According to the Council of the Americas, the South American economy is suffering from the U.S.-China trade war, a drop in crude oil prices and generally worsening economic conditions throughout the region. This poor economic performance has been present in the region for a long time. NYU Professor Pablo Querubín noted in a lecture that this is largely due to Dependence Theory. This theory argues that poorer countries and regions will have to specialize in raw materials and agriculture due to the comparative advantage other countries and regions have in producing industrialized products such as computers, advanced technology and services. Therefore, because Latin America has a comparative advantage in producing agricultural products and oil, it will have much greater difficulty moving into the industrial sector.
  2. The Reversal of Fortune Theory: The South American economy has also had such a difficult time growing because of the history of colonialism and extractive institutions. Professor Pablo Querubín also referenced the Reversal of Fortune Theory which explains how the pre-Columbian region of South America was so much more wealthy than pre-Columbian North America, yet those roles have reversed in the modern era. The reason is that South America put extractive institutions into place to send wealth back to Spain rather than “promote hard work or to incentivize investment, human capital, accumulation, etc.” Yet, in areas with low population levels, such as pre-Columbian North America, settlers had to establish inclusive institutions “designed to promote investment, effort, innovation, etc.”
  3. Political Instability: Political consistency has been rare in the history of South America. New leaders would often change the constitution when they entered office to better suit their political wishes. In fact, while the U.S. has only ever had one constitution with 27 amendments over the course of about 200 years, Ecuador had 11 separate constitutions within the first 70 years of its history. In Bolivia, there were 12 within the first 60 years. This instability and very quick political turnover have been detrimental to the steady growth of the economy and confidence in the government. Understanding the effects of this issue and the other top 10 facts about poverty in South America are integral to fighting poverty in the region.
  4. Inequality: Inequality is incredibly high in South America. As a result, the incredibly wealthy can afford to use private goods in place of public ones. For example, the rich use private schools, private health insurance, private hospitals and even private security forces instead of relying on the police. Therefore, there is very little incentive for the wealthy to advocate for higher taxes to improve public goods such as public education, police or public health initiatives. As a result, the public services available to the poor in Latin America are extremely lacking.
  5. Education: Education in South America is full of inequality both in terms of income and gender. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, an institution which evaluates teenagers on their educational performance in key subject areas, most countries in South America perform below average. In one evaluation it determined that the highest-scoring country in South America, Chile, was still 10 percent below average. Furthermore, poor educational performance highly correlates with income inequality.
  6. Indigenous Women and Education: In addition, indigenous women are far less likely than any other group to attend school in South America. According to UNESCO, in Guatemala, 70 percent of indigenous women ages 20 to 24 have no education. The issue of unequal education spreads further to affect women’s livelihoods and presence in the South American workforce. According to the International Monetary Fund, about 50 percent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean do not work directly in the labor force. However, the International Monetary Fund also noted that “countries in LAC [Latin America and the Caribbean] have made momentous strides in increasing female LFP [labor force participation], especially in South America.”
  7. Teenage Pregnancy: One major driver of the cycle of poverty in South America is the persistence of teenage pregnancies which lead to impoverished young mothers dropping out of school and passing on a difficult life of poverty to their children. The World Bank reported that Latin America is the second highest region in terms of young women giving birth between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Furthermore, a study called Adolescent Pregnancy and Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean interviewed several South American teen mothers including one who noted that sexual education was not the problem: “We knew everything about contraceptive methods,” she said, “but I was ashamed to go and buy.” Thus, the study advised that in addition to preventative methods for pregnancy such as education and the distribution of contraceptives, there needs to be action to “fight against sexual stereotypes.” Fortunately, there are activist campaigns such as Child Pregnancy is Torture which advocates for raising awareness about the issue of child pregnancy in South America and encourages the government to take steps such as increased sex education, access to contraception and the reduction of the sexualization of girls in the media.
  8. Food Insecurity: Hunger is a growing issue related to poverty in South America. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 39.3 million people in South America are undernourished, which represents an increase by 400,000 people since 2016. Food insecurity in the region as increased from 7.6 percent in 2016 to 9.8 percent in 2017. However, the issue is improving with malnutrition in children decreasing to 1.3 percent. Additionally, there are many NGOs such as the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Action Against Hunger and Pan American Health Organization of the World Health Organization (PAHO) that are implementing vital programs throughout the continent to fight hunger.
  9. Migration: The economic instability and rising poverty in South America have caused many people to migrate out of the region. Globally, 38 million people migrated out of their countries last year with 85 percent of that 38 million coming from Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Manuel Orozco from the Inter-American Dialogue think tank stated that “The structural determinant is poor economic performance, while demand for labour in the United States and the presence of family there encourages movement.”
  10. Violence: The high level of violence in South America exacerbates the cycle of poverty in South America. Fourteen of the 20 most violent countries in the world are in South America and although the region only contains eight percent of the world’s population, it is where one-third of all murders take place. Dr. Orozco went on to say that “There’s a strong correlation between migration and homicide. With the potential exception of Costa Rica, states are unwilling or unable to protect citizens.”

Fighting poverty in South America is dependent upon an understanding of the history and realities of the region. Hopefully, these top 10 facts about poverty in South America can shed light upon the cycle of poverty in the region and how to best combat it in the future.

– Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Poverty in GazaThe Gaza Strip, a highly controversial tract of land, borders both Israel and Egypt. Gaza Strip’s population of 1.8 million, living in an area about the size of Detroit, endures severe hardships. Gaza has a poverty rate of 53 percent. An ongoing conflict with Israel and political instability are the chief reasons for Gaza’s extreme poverty rate. Below are seven facts about poverty in Gaza.

7 Facts about Poverty in Gaza

  1. The Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas, a militant fundamentalist organization.
    Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip since it orchestrated a coup d’état in 2007  Both the United States and the European Union label Hamas as a terrorist organization, This is due to its explicit acts of violence against Israel and its citizens. Meanwhile, the Hamas government has developed robust social and welfare programs in the Gaza Strip. Spending is between $50-70 million annually.
  2. Hamas instituted a blockade of Gaza, resulting in poverty complications.
    The next among these facts about poverty in Gaza is about its blockade. Since Hamas came to power, Israel and Egypt have enforced a land, air and sea blockade of Gaza, citing security concerns. The blockade has contributed to a struggling economy, a lack of clean drinking water, inadequate housing and severe food insecurity. According to the United Nations, “the blockade has undermined the living conditions in the coastal enclave and fragmented… its economic and social fabric.”
  3. Gaza’s GDP is declining.
    In a 2018 report, the World Bank described Gaza’s economy as in “free-fall.” The World Bank cites a combination of factors as the reason for a six percent decline in the territory’s GDP. While the decade-long blockade has done significant damage to the economy, recent cuts to international aid are placing additional strains on Gaza. Another contributing factor is that 52 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants are unemployed. Gaza has a youth unemployment rate of 66 percent.
  4. As many as 90 percent of those living in Gaza have little access to safe drinking water.
    In fact, 97 percent of Gaza’s freshwater is unsuitable for human consumption. Diarrhea, kidney disease, stunted growth and impaired IQ result from Gaza’s water crisis. Additionally, humanitarian groups warn that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 due to shortages.
  5. Poverty in Gaza is exacerbated by precarious access to food and other basic goods.
    In 2018, the UN characterized 1.3 million people in the Gaza Strip as food insecure. This constitutes a 9 percent increase from 2014. The blockade prevents many goods from entering the territory. Further, it places strict limits on fishing activity, a major source of economic revenue. It also limits availability to the equipment needed for construction, as Israel worries the equipment could be used for violence.
  6. Gaza currently has access to electricity for only eight hours each day.
    Demand for electricity far exceeds the supply. Likewise, the UN describes it as a chronic electricity deficit. From providing healthcare to desalinating water, poor access to electricity makes life more difficult in the Gaza Strip.
  7. Many organizations and movements are working to alleviate poverty in Gaza.
    The United Nations has several arms at work, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNRWA provides education, health services and financial loans to refugees in the territory. The UNDP targets its assistance to decrease Gaza’s reliance on foreign aid. Additionally, the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement strives to put economic pressure on Israel and lift the blockade.

Importance of Addressing Poverty in Gaza

These seven facts about poverty in Gaza provides some insight into the situation. However, addressing the region’s poverty proves to be a worthwhile pursuit. Poverty reduction can lead to greater stability. Furthermore, it can increase the chances for dialogue between Israel and Palestine. Overall, international cooperation and foreign aid have the potential to vastly improve the lives of the 1.8 million individuals in Gaza.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Central AmericaThe ability to consistently access nourishment is vital for all people. In regions affected by poverty, like Central America, many families lack this ability. These 10 facts will provide a glimpse at food insecurity in Central America, how it affects the lives of the people who live there and what has been done to address it.

10 Facts About Food Insecurity in Central America

  1. More than 10 percent of Guatemalan children are underweight. About 46.5 percent of Guatemalan children suffer from stunted growth caused by malnutrition. Indigenous children are more likely to suffer from stunted growth; 58 percent of Guatemalan indigenous children under 5 suffer from this condition. Indigenous children are also more likely to suffer from anemia and vitamin deficiencies.
  2. Food insecurity fuels migration to the U.S. Severe droughts, crops destroyed by fungus and persistent poverty all play a role in preventing families from thriving in their home country. USAID and U.N. reports find that poverty and food insecurity in Central America motivates migration more than other factors.
  3. From 2015 to 2018, food insecurity in Central America increased annually. Indigenous populations and women were the groups most impacted by chronic hunger. Poor and rural communities were also likely to suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
  4. USAID’s response to food insecurity is focused on agriculture. USAID funds studies that create solutions to agricultural problems. USAID works with many groups, including governments, universities and American farmers, to bring agricultural solutions to regions affected by food insecurity. USAID also implements initiatives like Feed the Future that directly address food insecurity. Guatemala and Honduras are two of the 12 countries that receive specially targeted assistance through Feed the Future.
  5. Between 2013 and 2017, USAID’s initiative Feed the Future provided assistance to 215,000 Guatemalan children. During this period, Guatemalan agricultural production created $47.8 million worth of profits for the Guatemalan economy. Feed the Future worked to improve agriculture in Guatemala by providing resilient seedlings, higher-quality pesticides and training to prevent the spread of disease among crops. Guatemalan agriculture also became more diverse thanks to the introduction of new crops. In cooperation with USDA, Feed the Future helped Guatemalan farmers learn new methods of planting crops and tracking their growth electronically.
  6. In 2014, USAID implemented new programs in Honduras to fulfill the goals of the U.S. Global Food Security Strategy. In cooperation with the Honduran government, USAID works to decrease rates of stunted growth by 20 percent by 2020. USAID is also working to move 10,000 families out of extreme poverty by 2020. To combat food insecurity in Honduras, USAID is promoting crop diversity, improving infrastructure connecting rural areas to urban areas and improving child nutrition.
  7. The Dry Corridor is experiencing drought. The region referred to as the Central American “Dry Corridor” consists of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. During the summer of 2018, the Dry Corridor was hit by low levels of rainfall and above-average temperatures. The unusually severe drought of 2018 came after a previous two years of drought that lasted from 2014 to 2016, which required food relief for millions of people.
  8. Food insecurity in Central America has been worsened by severe droughts. For the past year, there has been a severe drought in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. 290,322 families in the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador were affected by the 2018 drought. $37 million worth of corn was destroyed in El Salvador alone due to lack of rain.
  9. The Central American drought was caused by the effects of the 2015-16 El Niño Event and by the results of global climate change. After the drought, about 3.6 million people required food-related aid. 50-90 percent of the region’s agricultural production was destroyed.
  10. After the 2014-15 droughts and the following spike in food insecurity, the Central American Dry Corridor received an influx of humanitarian aid. Efforts were made to conserve soil, more closely track data about nutrition and hunger and better prepare for future droughts. In the midst of the 2018 drought, data collection was prioritized in order to maintain stable food prices, combat food insecurity within particularly vulnerable populations and relocate rural families away from the regions most severely affected by the drought.

Central America, a region already affected by poverty, reached the brink of crisis after nearly 5 years of severe droughts. By 2018, food insecurity in Central America had spread throughout the countries of the Dry Corridor. But regional governments, with the assistance of relief agencies, implemented agriculture-based solutions to ensure that future droughts would not have the same disastrous consequences. These innovative solutions pave the way for a more secure future in Central America.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr