biotech in kenya
Kenya is one of the most food-insecure countries in the African region, where 14.5 million people suffer from chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition. One in three Kenyans suffers from illness due to malnutrition. However, food and textiles engineered with biotechnology prove promising for the agricultural industry. These Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) bode well for future Kenyan prosperity. Here are some of the factors that support biotech in Kenya.

Food Insecurity and Poverty

Indicators of poverty in Kenya include high rates of infant mortality, tuberculosis and low rates of literacy. Kenya is ranked 55 out of 195 countries on the Global Health Security Index and almost half of the population live in absolute poverty making an average wage of less than $1.90 per day. Though this nation is dependent on agriculture, with 79% of the population relying on food and crop production, farming does not produce an easily livable salary. In contrast, many of the crops produced in Kenya are exported to other countries. Around 72% of consumer products are imported from surrounding areas. Kenya’s poorest demographic has an average of four to six children per household. The country experiences a continued increase in population because of a lack of affordable healthcare and education.

Much of the poverty is due to the corrupt nature of Kenya’s government. A large majority of public officials and officers accept bribes in order to consolidate power. According to Transparency International, Kenya is one of the most corrupt nations in the sovereign world. Public surveys state that 45% of public service users offered bribes (in turn accepted) in the past year. In 2019, 67% of people observed an increase in government corruption, placing Kenya in the top 45 most corrupt countries on Earth.

Upon President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election into office, he proposed a plan to replace the Kenya Vision 2030 goal to eradicate poverty with the Big Four. President Kenyatta plans to ensure food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare for all through a budget proposal that prioritizes public infrastructure. Kenyatta intends to achieve these goals by 2022. Still, environmental challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic have threatened the food production industry and government capability to prioritize these goals.

New Industries, New Hope

Kenyan farmers are slow to embrace GMOs and biotech due to cancer concerns and suggested links between disease and ingestion of “unnatural products.” However, the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture’s updated research suggests that there are no significant links between genetically modified crops and cancer. Local biotech research claims the adoption of these processes and materials will aid the eradication of bollworms in cotton plants. They are hopeful for the reduction of hunger in the nation. With the adoption of biotech crop management, Kenya is one of the first East African nations to implement majority transgenic cotton farming.

In 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture approved the use of “Bt Cotton,” a specially engineered breed of cotton that naturally drives away destructive caterpillar breeds without the additional use of pesticides. The Standard defines this type of GMO production stating, “Popularly known as agritech, biotechnology is the practice of using scientific techniques and tools such as genetic engineering to change and improve plant and animal productivity.” Crops like cotton are one of the widest used in the textile industry and compromise more than 21% of Kenya’s export economy. With more than 69% of Kenya’s economy dependent upon the export of tea and cut flowers to bordering nations, reduction of “lost product” due to pests and other factors is necessary to protect these industries and ensure future growth.

GMOs produce the ideal shape and size of crops. They simultaneously maintain the preferred growth rate with the ability to ward off pests and other diseases. With these modifications, farmers can expect higher yields of crops and less water usage due to drought-resistant biotechnologically modified seeds.

Cassava in Kenya

Cassava is one of the main food groups in the coastal regions of Kenya. The population consumes it largely as a calorie-dense and nutrient-rich root. Bt Cassava is undergoing trials to determine the crop’s resistance to brown streak disease and cassava mosaic disease. Professor Miano of the Virca Plus Project asserted that farmers lose up to 70% of crops due to these problems. Bt Cassava awaits approval from the Ministry of Agriculture during the assessment of sustainability and safety. Former trials seem promising as Professor Miano quotes, “…I can confirm that it is good, highly resistant to the diseases and its nutritional composition has not been affected in any way.” If Bt Cassava manufacturing continues such promising results, the strain of food security could become a memory for Kenyans.

Economic Growth

Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product is stagnant at less than 5% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, revealing the lowest economic growth in three years. Slowed tourism and accommodation services are to blame for decreased economic expansion. Nonetheless, biotechnical engineering is one of the most promising innovations for the expanding population. Food often contains vitamins and other nutritional benefits to improve malnourished communities. Crops engineered with biotechnology are increasingly more affordable for Kenyan farmers. With an adoption rate of more than 11%, the previously decaying textile industry is sure to observe a boost soon.

Modified crops will reduce the need for imports. Increased product yields due to biotech in Kenya will save farmers time from mundane tasks like weeding. Without the cost of pesticides, farmers can expect an increase in production and reap the benefits of saved labor. A transition towards biotechnology in food production will make Kenya one of the leading nations in agricultural production. The conversation about biotech in Kenya could result in extreme poverty reduction and a more sustainable, healthy future for the population.

– Natalie Williams
Photo: Pixabay

Food Insecurity in New Zealand
New Zealand, an island country located in the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean, is home to a population of about 4.8 million people and comprises of nearly 600 islands. In 2019, New Zealand received the rank of one of the world’s richest countries, ranking fifth after Switzerland, Hong Kong, the United States and Australia. Despite its status as a rich country, New Zealand still has hidden issues with poverty, food insecurity and hunger.

Hunger and Poverty in New Zealand

Nearly one in five children in New Zealand are living in “relative poverty,” according to a report done by Stats NZ in June 2019. This number rises to one in four in the case of the Māori population (New Zealand’s indigenous people). Though it is a relatively wealthy country, many New Zealanders live with food insecurity. Defined as a lack of access to healthy and nutritious food, food insecurity has negative effects on families, children, health and even mental health.

New Zealand’s Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) estimated that the weekly cost to feed a person ranges from 29 to 74 NZD (depending on age and sex). For a family of four, that means food costs can average over $400 NZD a month on top of other costs like utilities, rent, clothing and education. According to CPAG, about 7% of New Zealanders experienced severe food insecurity in 2008/2009, and 3% — one-third of New Zealanders — experienced moderate food insecurity. The implications of this, even when dealing with moderate food insecurity, were large. CPAG reported on families struggling to feed their children, often opting for unhealthy food because it was cheapest, going through garbage to salvage food or forgoing food altogether to make sure their children did not go hungry.

COVID-19’s Impact

Food insecurity, fortunately, has reduced to about 10% of New Zealanders in 2019. But with the outbreak of COVID-19, the Auckland City Mission estimated that that number had rocketed to 20%. Between citizens losing jobs, panic-buying at grocery stores and other factors, the pandemic is threatening more widespread food insecurity in New Zealand. Emergency food assistance services have seen large spikes in demand. Additionally, many essential workers may be working full-time but are still not making enough to put food on the table.

Though it expects the winter months (June through August) to be harder on families, especially with the pandemic, Auckland City Mission was able to provide emergency food to over 23,000 families and individuals who were “in desperate need” over the last financial year. Additionally, when New Zealand released its 2020 budget in May 2020, Auckland City Mission released a statement noting that its social services support package meant the mission could help even more families who are facing food insecurity this winter.

The Future of Food Security

Food insecurity in New Zealand remains an important problem. In the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, these problems are becoming harder to ignore. Recently, CPAG released a paper about its ideas to solve food insecurity for New Zealand’s youth, including food programs in schools. It showed that with awareness and advocacy, people can begin to find solutions to these problems. In fact, the 2020 budget plans to expand an existing school lunch program to ensure that by the end of 2021, 200,000 students will receive a healthy lunch every day at school, up from the 8,000 currently receiving aid from the program. This sort of increase is a promising step to reducing the amount of food insecurity for New Zealand’s children.

Additionally, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Auckland City Mission has gone from supporting 450 families to over 1,200 and expect that number to stay high throughout the winter. Thanks to the 2020 New Zealand budget, Auckland City Mission will be able to continue helping those in need.

It is an unprecedented time for food insecurity in New Zealand, especially on top of existing challenges lower-income families have been facing. However, with help from the government and organizations like Auckland City Mission, the country is beginning to put more focus on providing food to those who need it most.

Sophie Grieser
Photo: Pixabay

Food Security and Innovation ProgramAs the world encounters one issue after another, food insecurity increases in countries with inadequate resources or less-than sufficient agriculture systems. With the pandemic at the helm and climate change an ongoing phenomenon, to survive these stressful times, innovative strategies are necessary. In this advanced society, new ways are necessary to process, distribute and reshape food production. Connections between food security and innovation seem far-fetched, but the United Arab Emirates/UAE’s food security and innovation program has found state-of-the-art techniques that relieve their people of this struggle.

Key Constraints Facing Food Security

The UAE aims to rank in the top 10 in the Global Food Security Index by 2021, and number one by 2051. In this arid region, however, traditional farming is next to impossible from limited water for irrigation and an unequal ratio between people and the UAE’s production. Due to these hardships, the country is reliant on its imports. For a food-dependent country, when disaster hits, food systems are unstable.

While there are several reasons for poor food production in the UAE, the scarcity of water contributes heavily. Most of the water in the country is recycle and reused, but this process can only occur for a given amount of time. Given that traditional agriculture utilizes a significant amount of water, UAE’s food security and innovation program is the answer. . To combat the issue of their unstable food system, the UAE has set up the FoodTech Challenge. This global competition seeks out innovative solutions for the country to address food production and distribution.

Vertical Farming: An Innovative Farming Technique

In response to the FoodTech Challenge, the company Smart Acres has provided a technique that utilizes vertical farming to support the UAE’s food security and innovation program. Vertical farming consists of vertically stacked plants, providing more produce per square area, resembling green walls as displayed in shopping centers. Smart Acres used South Korean vertical farming technology to decrease water usage and monitor temperature and nutrients. Regarding the UAE’s water issue, vertical farms save over 90% of the water in comparison to conventional farming methods. The constant flow of water across the plants provides the necessary nutrients for all the plants to grow. This high-tech design allows the company to produce clean crops without any chemicals and negligible interference.

Although the farm has not been implemented yet, this form of food production is expected to produce 12 cycles of crops annually; the farm will expand from Abu Dhabi to the rest of the country gradually. By using vertical farming, this technique expects to produce approximately 8,000 kilograms of lettuce and other leafy greens per cycle. In addition to the increased number of crops, the variety is also expected to increase and include items, such as strawberries, arugula, potatoes, etc.

Aquaculture Farming: Decreasing the Dependence of Imports

On average, the UAE consumes 220,000 tons of fish annually. However, imported food is 90% of the UAE’s diet, suggesting that advancements in the country’s aquaculture would be beneficial. To aid the seafood industry in the UAE, the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Center has taken the responsibility to use advanced technology to harvest marine organisms. The center utilizes photo-bioreactors to generate food for juvenile fish.

In addition to manufacturing primary live food for marine organisms, UAE’s food security and innovation program also include water recycling technologies, where water is cycled through fish tanks to reduce water consumption. To make aquaculture a more efficient and sustainable system in the country, the center is establishing a disease diagnostic laboratory, which will reduce the number of disease-related deaths associated with marine life.

While many countries face tumultuous times currently, UAE’s food security and innovation program seems to be a ticket out of poverty. Through the FoodTech Challenge, the country has found multiple viable options to strengthen its food system. With water scarcity, a large problem regarding food production, both vertical and aquaculture farming, has found a way to recycle the limited water and attend to other problems the UAE faces, such as dependence on imports from other countries. The challenge is open to the entire country, increasing the country’s opportunity in establishing a sustainable system. Through these systems, the UAE’s food security and innovation program is well on its way to stabilizing its food security and achieving its goal as a titleholder in the Global Food Security Index.

Aditi Prasad
Photo: Flickr

Worst Humanitarian Crises
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) ranks the world’s top 20 countries experiencing the worst humanitarian crises annually in order to identify and aid the countries that need it most. For the 2020 Watchlist, the top five countries experiencing the worst humanitarian crises are Yemen, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Syria, Nigeria and Venezuela. All five were also in the top 10 countries in 2018’s watchlist.

Top 5 Countries Experiencing the Worst Humanitarian Crises

  1. Yemen: For the second year in a row, Yemen is at the top of the list as the worst humanitarian crisis. Most of Yemen’s troubles are due to the civil war that began in 2015. With failed peace talks and a shaky government, the Houthi insurgents, who began the civil war over high fuel prices and a corrupt government, and the Saudi-led coalition of Gulf forces continue to fight. The ongoing conflict has greatly destabilized the country, its infrastructure and its ability to provide services to its people. Around 80% of Yemen’s population (more than 24 million people) need humanitarian assistance. Attacks on infrastructure have further weakened the ability to provide healthcare, education, food, fuel, clean water and sanitation. More than 1.2 million Yemenis face severe food insecurity and around 68% of Yemenis do not have access to healthcare. In 2019, cholera began to spread through Yemen, placing even more pressure on the extremely limited and unprepared healthcare system. The outbreak eventually killed more than 3,700 people.
  2. The Democratic Republic of the Congo: The DRC has been in a state of crisis for nearly 30 years. It began with conflict and corruption fueling under-development and instability in the country. This lead to 17% of the population needing humanitarian aid. Fighting between the military and different ethnic militias is common. Most recently the fighting has been in the East and Central DRC. These internal conflicts have displaced 4.5 million Congolese. These people had to flee their homes and agricultural livelihoods, which also drives up food insecurity. Around 15.6 million Congolese are experiencing severe food insecurity. In 2019, the DRC had both the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history and a measles outbreak. Measles alone has killed more than 4,000 people.
  3. Syria: The home to the largest displacement crisis in the world, Syria has been at war since 2015. As a result, 65% of the Syrian population requires aid. The complex civil war has dilapidated the infrastructure, leaving 54% of health facilities and 50% of sewage systems are non-functional. The conflict has displaced more than 12.7 million Syrians. More than 6 million people are internally displaced and around 5.7 million Syrians are refugees in Europe or neighboring countries.
  4. Nigeria: Nigeria faces internal conflicts in the north, a cholera outbreak and high levels of food insecurity. Around 7.7 million Nigerians need aid, mainly from the northern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. There is a significant difference between the developed areas, like the cities of Lagos and Abuja, and the less developed areas in the north. The north has experienced conflict with Boko Haram, a terrorist group, and its splinter faction, the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP). Operating in Nigeria’s North-East region since 2009, Boko Haram and ISWAP present a dangerous threat to Nigeria’s military. As a result, local militias and vigilantes responded against these groups. Due to the conflicts between the terrorist groups and the militias, 540,000 Nigerians are internally displaced and 41,000 people traveled north into Niger. On top of the ongoing fighting, endemic diseases, such as cholera and Lassa fever, are spreading throughout the country.
  5. Venezuela: Due to the near-collapse of Venezuela’s economy and the continued political turmoil, basic systems that provide food, clean water and medicine are in short supply. Hyperinflation drove up the prices of basic goods and services, leaving households without enough money to purchase food. At least 80% of Venezuelans are experiencing food insecurity. Additionally, only 18% of people have consistent access to clean water. Without healthcare, people are unguarded against disease. With 94% of households in poverty, Venezuelans are compelled to leave the country. By the end of 2020, the IRC estimates that 5.5 million Venezuelans will emigrate. This will cause the largest internal displacement in Latin America and the second-largest refugee crisis in the world behind Syria.

Help on the Ground

There are many NGOs working to alleviate the situation in these countries. Organizations like the Red Cross, IRC and Doctors Without Borders among many others, have been working for years in conflict-heavy countries. For example, Doctors Without Borders set up mobile health clinics to provide maternal health, vaccinations and treat non-communicable diseases in Syria. The International Committee of the Red Cross increased its budget to $24.6 million in 2019 to ramp up efforts to improve “health, water and sanitation” in Venezuela. The International Rescue Committee brought health, safety and education to 2.7 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo 2019. It provided healthcare, supplies and sanitation aid to the area.

David Miliband, the president and CEO of IRC, stated, “It’s vital that we do not abandon these countries when they need us most, and that governments around the world step up funding to these anticipated crises before more lives are lost — and the bill for humanitarian catastrophe rises.” These five worst humanitarian crises in 2020 show the world that there is much work still needed. With continued aid and funding from all governments, the U.N. and its agencies and NGOs, millions of people can receive the help that they so desperately need.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Flickr

food waste in macedoniaNorth Macedonia, a small developing country situated North of Greece, has experienced impressive progress in addressing hunger within the country. For instance, The poverty rate in North Macedonia was 27% in 2010. By 2017, that number reduced to 22%. Further, in 2019 Macedonia’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was 5.6, a relatively low level of hunger. Unfortunately, high levels of food waste in Macedonia have limited progress towards completely eradicating poverty and hunger in the region.

Are the Programs Working?

People continue to have severely limited access to nutritious food in the country despite the recent progress made in reducing poverty. The GHI found that 5-10% of the childhood population under the age of five experienced stunting in the form of impaired growth and development, a common indicator of undernourishment. In addition, one in five Macedonians continues to struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. The Macedonian government pointed to food waste as being a relevant contributor to the level of hunger in North Macedonia.

According to the World Bank, globally, people waste one-third of food. For developing countries, waste is largely due to poor infrastructure and storage. In North Macedonia, 40% of solid waste comes from food, accounting for a staggering 100,000 tons of waste. Agricultural surpluses create the majority of waste. This leads to decreased access to nutritious foods, lower incomes for actors in the value chain, and increased food prices for consumers. These all negatively impact those living in poverty, and further, may potentially lead to an increase in hunger in North Macedonia.

Is There a Solution to Food Waste?

Food waste and support for eradicating global hunger is on the rise. An apparent solution to the problem would be to redistribute food waste to those at risk of hunger. The Fund for Innovation and Technological Development has teamed up with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to address these redistribution efforts. The organization has provided support to the Let’s do it North Macedonia association to address sustainable solutions for food waste in Macedonia. People in need are receiving the redistribution of food surplus through the Everyone Fed program. This is happening in Skopje, Kumanovo and Prilep. The program has supported 10,000 people in need, including the provision of over 550,000 meals.

The Let’s do it North Macedonia association has successfully advocated for the passage of the Food Surplus Donation Law. The association is currently advocating for the creation of the first National Food Loss and Waste Prevention Strategy. These measures will help further mitigate food waste in Macedonia and contribute to the alleviation of hunger. In addition to redistributing food waste, the waste can be reduced through investments in infrastructure, as recommended by the NGO Ajde Makedonija. At the international level, the FAO is supporting smallholders and family farmers in Macedonia to overcome insufficient agricultural infrastructure which may further alleviate hunger. By eliminating food waste in Macedonia through innovative measures, such as the redistribution of surplus food, the Macedonian economy could save an upwards of $1 million a year. People could, in turn, repurpose these savings to further address poverty and hunger in Macedonia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

hunger in Serbia
The Republic of Serbia, located in the Balkans region of Southeast Europe, has a population of approximately 7 million citizens and ranks 25 out of 117 qualifying countries struggling with hunger, per the Global Hunger Index. Hunger additionally coincides with low food security — a detrimental status that many inhabitants face due to lack of money for food or the absence of other resources for them to use as food. The United States Department of Agriculture defines low food security as the multiple reports of “reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet.” As Serbia’s persistent hunger crisis continues to affect its inhabitants, many will encounter illness and death because of the insufficient amounts of nutrition consumed. Here are five facts about hunger in Serbia.

5 Facts About Hunger in Serbia

  1. Global Hunger Index: Serbia has a Global Hunger Index (GHI) score of 6.5; a value that the country’s indicators of undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality determines. All of these variables factor into caloric deficiencies and poor nutrition statistics throughout the country. On the GHI Severity Scale, a score of 6.5 is considerably low.
  2. Malnourishment: According to Macrotrends — 5.7% of Serbia’s population had gone undernourished from 2016 to 2017. Those that the study accounted for did not meet the dietary energy requirements because of their inadequate food intake.
  3. Children: Children under the age of 10 are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and can suffer from being underweight and thin. According to a cross-sectional study in regard to hunger in Serbia by Cambridge University Press — Serbian school children (ages 6 to 9) attending schools without any health-focused educational programs were “1.57 times more likely to be thin than peers enrolled in schools with such programs.”
  4. Disease: Coronary heart disease and heart inflammation (also known as myocarditis) are the two leading causes of death in Serbia. A study that the Journal of Evolution of Medical and Dental Sciences conducted found a link between malnutrition and cardiac debility — especially in children. Those children experiencing malnourishment are likely to experience alterations to their body compositions as they mature, including a loss of skeletal and heart muscle mass as well as other cardiac abnormalities that electrolyte, mineral or vitamin deficiencies cause. In 2018, coronary heart disease contributed to 22.16% of total deaths in Serbia, while myocarditis contributed to 16.02% of total deaths.
  5. Dietary Assessment Tool: The Network for Capacity Development in Nutrition in Central and Eastern Europe and Balkan countries (NCDNCEE) created a dietary intake assessment tool to identify areas of hunger and challenges of malnutrition within the region. By utilizing pre-existing food composition databases, dietary studies and micronutrient suggestions — the Diet Asses & Plan (DAP) platform can identify any nutritional concerns within the region.

A Need for Strategic Intervention

As the issues of malnutrition and hunger in Serbia continue to affect the populace, the country’s overall health will continue to decline — unless the country devises and implements a premeditated plan of action. Despite the many hunger reduction and alleviation strategies that have emerged to aid in these issues, the Republic of Serbia still has ample room to enhance its citizens’ nutritional health and well-being for a much healthier future.

Isabella Socias
Photo: Flickr

hunger in lithuaniaLithuania is a fairly young country, having established independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. Its successes and issues are new to the independent country but have existed for generations for local people. According to the World Bank, Lithuania’s hunger rate is about 2.5%, between that of Hungary and New Zealand. Though this may seem like a low number, 2.5% of Lithuania’s population is about 70,000 people: a large group of malnourished people.

The prevalence of severe food insecurity in Lithuania is less than 1%, affecting about 14,000 people. Lithuanian citizens receive a minimum salary of €607 monthly, or around $675, which is lower than most countries in the European Union. Lithuania is a largely developed country, meaning that a good portion of its economy relies on the service industry.

Income Inequality

Lithuania’s vulnerability to poverty ranks high in the European Union, close to Romania and Latvia. About 23% of Lithuanians are at risk of poverty, by the standard that their disposable (after-tax) income is 60% lower than the national average. Some have noted that as Lithuania is a fairly prosperous country, those with incomes 60% below the national average are not necessarily living in abject poverty. However, it does indicate income inequality in Lithuania, which has increased greatly in recent years. In fact, Lithuania has one of the largest wealth gaps in the European Union — in 2016, the income of Lithuania’s wealthiest 20% was seven times that of Lithuania’s poorest 20%, an indicator of a large and widening wealth gap.

Lithuanian Economy and Employment

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Lithuania faces unique challenges that could contribute to hunger in Lithuania. Lithuania produces large amounts of agricultural exports, but as a result of quarantine measures, surrounding countries have limited the amount of food they are importing. Exports to other countries in the European Union have nearly stopped altogether, and this could cause severe financial difficulties and a shortage of agricultural products. This is particularly important because one in four working Lithuanians are employed in the agricultural sector.

Another factor in food insecurity in Lithuania is the employment rate. Prior to COVID-19, in 2019, the employment rate was 73.2%. However, at present, that number has decreased to 73%. The unemployment rate has climbed to 12.1% as of April 2020, from 8% in October 2019. The increase in unemployment as a result of COVID-19 could likely result in an increase in food insecurity.

Food Waste and Food Banks

In Lithuania, food waste is a significant problem that, if rectified, could provide a solution to hunger in Lithuania. The average Lithuanian household wastes an estimated 19% of food. Food waste is also prevalent at the wholesale level. To combat this problem, food banks in Lithuania and other European Union countries work hard to prevent food from being wasted on the wholesale level and to distribute food to the hungry. The European Federation of Food Banks encapsulates 253 food banks in 21 countries aiming to fight hunger. Iki, a popular retail chain in Lithuania, distributes eight to 10 tons of nearly expired food products to charity each day. The practice of donating nearly expired food rather than wasting it could be encouraged through tax cuts for companies that choose to donate.

Though Lithuania is a fairly prosperous country, hunger in Lithuania still affects thousands of people every day. In the time of the COVID-19 crisis, this number will likely increase. Hunger in Lithuania could be reduced by eliminating preventable waste in grocery stores and by increasing the number of people with access to employment, so progress may ensue after policy changes.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Flickr

hunger in latvia
Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania border Latvia, a country on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. The country has been officially independent since 1991 due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As a country, Latvia is about half the size of Greece and has had a population of about 2.2 million people since 2019. However, underneath the country’s beautiful scenery and culture, there is plenty of poverty and hunger in Latvia.

The Current State in Numbers

Of all the countries in the European Union, Latvia is the fourth poorest country. Due to this status, roughly 25% of the population in Latvia lives below the poverty line. With an average household size of 2.4 individuals, Latvian families may struggle, as the median household income is $7,732. Although the cost of living in Latvia is 28.54% lower than in the United States, the cost of living, transportation and other necessities do not always leave enough room for families to purchase food. The ones who suffer the most from food insecurity include young children and senior adults.

Although hunger has remained an ongoing problem in Latvia for years as a result of World War I, the country has made waves to fight it. According to the Global Health Index, a tool that rates countries one to 100 based on statistics like child mortality and malnourishment, Latvia is the fifth most improved country. From 2000 to 2015, there was a 59% decrease in hunger, with an average shift from 8.3 in 2000 to 3.4 in 2015.

Food Insecurity and Hunger

To decrease food insecurity within Latvia, several initiatives have emerged to help the country. A European Union program called Food Distribution for the Most Deprived Persons of the Community has been active since 2006 and receives funding from the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund. This organization works with the Latvian Red Cross to distribute food packages for individuals in need. According to a Transmango National Report on Food and Nutrition Security in 2015, there were 448 distribution centers throughout Latvia.

Besides this E.U.-sponsored program, NGOs and other charitable organizations, such as Paēdušai Latvija, have worked to combat hunger in Latvia. Paēdušai Latvija is a charity based in Riga, Latvia, that emerged in 2009. As of 2015, Paēdušai Latvija has a network of 56 charity organizations throughout Latvia. Besides the work its network is doing, Paēdušai Latvija receives more than 1,200 requests for emergency food supplies every month. However, it can only satisfy about 500 of those requests each month.

The Future of Hunger in Latvia

The programs in existence have proved successful as the rates of hunger in Latvia have plateaued. Since 2016, the rate of hunger in Latvia has remained stagnant at 2.5%. According to the 2019 Global Hunger Index (GHI), Latvia is one of 17 countries with a GHI score of less than five. Due to more and more individuals within the country and outside of it continuing to donate and mobilize individuals, the rate of hunger in Lativa seems as though it will shrink in the coming years.

Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger and starvation are a harsh reality for the Albanian people. The country, for many years, has had a significant portion of the population who are unable to feed themselves and their families. According to the Global Hunger Index, Albania is ranked 28th out of 117 countries struggling with hunger. The Global Hunger Index also gives Albania an overall score of seven. While a score of seven is not incredibly low, according to the Global Hunger Index, it could still be improved. In order to address the impacts of hunger in the country, multiple Albanian organizations are providing support to help their people. Here are three organizations working to positively impact hunger in Albania.

3 Organizations Making a Difference

  1. Nehemiah Gateway is working to reduce hunger in Albania. Nehemiah Gateway originally started in Albania but has expanded to help people in other countries as well. The organization provides not only food parcels, but also medical supplies and social care to people in need in Albania. It is currently running a fundraiser guided toward providing the necessary supplies to starving people in Albania. As of July 29, 2020, the organization has received more than $7,800 in donations out of a $9,000 goal. Nehemia Gateway is still accepting fundraiser donations.
  2. The Children’s Human Rights Center of Albania is another organization pursuing an end to hunger in Albania, especially with respect to youth in the country. Along with addressing hunger, the organization also represents the rights of children in other ways. The organization seeks to make sure the youth of Albania is educated, protected and participates politically within the country. In April of this year, The Children’s Human Rights Center of Albania made news when it made a plea to the European Commission, asking for relief efforts to help 100,000 children who are at risk of starvation. While the request for help has not yet been answered, the human rights center is still committed to fighting for the well being of Albania’s youth.
  3. Food Bank Albania is another organization that has been making extremely focused efforts to help those at risk of hunger. The food bank is based in Albania and its primary concern is making sure the people of the country are fed no matter the circumstances. Food Bank Albania gave an update on its activities during the recent earthquakes as well as during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The organization said that, since November of 2019, it has been able to provide people in need in Albania with about 223,000 kg of food. This is equivalent to about 500,000 meals. The organization is also confident that it can provide about 30 to 40 tons of fresh produce to people in need throughout the summer.

Hunger in Albania continues to be a major concern. The country is ranked 28th out of 117 countries struggling with hunger. As a result, a large portion of the population is still in need of help and further support. However, these three Albanian organizations have been resourceful in fighting to make sure that their people remain fed and provided for.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Plant-based Diets
Around 820 million people face hunger today due to droughts, high food prices, wars and insufficient access to healthy foods. Many vulnerable communities around the globe do not have access to healthy or affordable meats. For some communities, meat is not a cultural staple and is otherwise unattainable. In these cases, some impoverished individuals can focus on plant-based diets as a sustainable agriculture alternative.

7 Quick Global Hunger Facts

  1. According to the World Health Organization, over 820 million people worldwide are currently hungry.
  2. Hunger is defined as having “short-term physical discomfort as a result of chronic food shortage, or in severe cases, a life-threatening lack of food,” according to the National Research Council.
  3. Food insecurity leads to hunger when an individual faces inadequate access to appropriate quantities and qualities of food in the long-term. About 18% of the total global population is food insecure, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
  4. The most food insecure populations are in Africa and Asia, while the least food insecure populations are in North America and Europe, suggesting the most vulnerable communities to food insecurity reside in the poorest countries.
  5. Consistent food insecurity often leads to health conditions like micronutrient deficiency and malnutrition because of unbalanced diets.
  6. Despite huge progress since the announcement of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals in 2000, hunger has started rising again. This results largely from the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, as rising hunger numbers have paralleled economic turndowns in countries across the globe.
  7. There are three staple micronutrients that are key for a healthy diet in all bodies, according to the World Health Education Service: iron, vitamin A and iodine. Fifty-four countries have iodine deficiency problems; approximately 250 million children have a vitamin A deficiency around the world; and Anemia (which is caused by iron deficiency) leads to about 20% of all maternal deaths.

Nutritional Facts of Meat and Plant-Based Diets

“Food insecurity is not just about insufficient food production, availability, and intake, it is also about the poor quality or nutritional value of the food,” Former Assistant Director-General of UNESCO Paris, Albert Sasson, said in his 2012 research publication, “Food security for Africa: an urgent global challenge.”

There is no scientific evidence of whether incorporating meats into one’s diet is overall more or less beneficial to one’s nutritional health than consuming only plant-based diets. Many cultures cut out some or all meats, such as Jewish and Muslim communities, while others encourage mainly meat consumption, like the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic. Professor of Nutrition at Texas A&M University and Associate Department Head of Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service Jenna Anding, Ph.D., said in an interview with The Borgen Project that both types of diets have benefits. However, for communities where healthy and affordable meat is unattainable, there are sustainable and healthy alternatives found in plant-based foods. These foods help increase food security.

“Both plant- and animal-derived foods are important to the diets of vulnerable populations,” Anding said. “Plants can provide a source of energy (calories), fiber, and essential nutrients. Foods derived from animals also provide energy, but also protein as well as essential nutrients … such as vitamin B12, selenium and iron needed for growth and development.”

Sustainable Agricultural Practices for Vulnerable Communities

The Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture Office of International Training is a leading U.S.-based agricultural training program that works with developing and middle-income countries. The program provides education and resources on sustainable agriculture to scientists and researchers. Those individuals are then able to share these practices with their home countries and communities.

In 2015, the Borlaug Institute successfully completed the Food, Agribusiness and Rural Markets II project, which helped share sustainable agricultural practices with 36 payams in South Sudan. Borlaug scientists focused on growing maize, cassava, groundnuts and beans. These crops are the most sustainable, affordable, accessible and culturally accepted foods available for those communities. Thus, a plant-based diet is the most food-secure option in that particularly vulnerable community.

The African Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) is a global nonprofit corporation that seeks to empower African farmers to choose sustainable agriculture. ASAP works directly with farmers across the continent to educate them on best practices that will increase their profit yields. The best practices will also provide safe and affordable food for the communities.

Through their Zamura Farms Quality Protein project, ASAP has reached approximately 4,000 preschool-aged children in Rwanda by providing one egg per day. They also employ 20 Rwandan women in their Musanze hen farm. This provides them with a steady income in the formal economic sector.

Meats are not always available in vulnerable communities. However, plant-based diets can provide an alternative source of necessary nutrients for food-insecure populations. Some communities will increase food security by focusing on growing only foods for plant-based diets. However, others may find the best option is to raise animals for consumption. It is important for scientists and researchers to continue expanding sustainable agricultural practices across the world. The practices should be tailored to each specific physical and socioeconomic climate in order to achieve zero hunger by 2030.

Myranda Campanella
Photo: Flickr