Farming in the Sahel
Desertification is a problem that those living in the Sahel Region have faced for many years. Desertification is when areas of viable land for farming dry up and are absorbed or transformed into a more desert-like climate. The Sahel Region spans 10 African countries including Burkina Faso, Chad and Cameroon. The Sahel Region has lost millions of hectares of easily accessible farming land to the desert, thus creating food insecurity and loss of income for thousands, if not millions, in the region.

The Impact of Desertification

Desertification is the official term for the process when fertile land, typically in an arid, semi-arid or sub-humid area, loses enough moisture to receive classification as desertland or drylands. The drylands are 40% of the earth’s land surface. According to the United Nations, the rate of degradation in areas susceptible to desertification has sped up 30 more times than in previous years. Increased human activity and the lack of rainfall for extended periods are the leading causes of dryland desertification. Desertified lands officially are 10% of the Earth’s land surface. Many families in areas at risk of desertification rely on farming for their income. But, as the land dries, farming becomes impossible.

Desertification hits some of the most vulnerable populations as it takes away income sources. Desertified land can neither grow crops nor provide the food or land necessary for livestock. The land that some once coveted for farming now cannot retain water. The income that agriculture and livestock farming on desertified land formerly bought no longer exists.

Farming in the Sahel Region

The Sahel Region is officially a semi-arid climate, making farming difficult. Large companies do not typically organize farming in the Sahel Region. Instead, farming is family or community-run and provides food immediately for the owners and operators of the farms. There is little food or livestock traded elsewhere to earn income. Additionally, there is little to no developed infrastructure for communities to develop commercial farming.

Farming in the Sahel Region does not provide a lot of income, nor is it located in an area with highly-ranked or flourishing economies. It has, however, in many past years, contributed at least 45% of each region’s gross domestic product. Many countries in the Sahel Region employ the majority of their workforce in the agriculture sector. In half of the countries of the Sahel Region, poverty rates are as high as 40%. Therefore, the income of the Sahel Region farmers is vital.

In Chad, farmers earn an average of $253 a month. Mali farmers earn less than Chad farmers, with an average monthly income of $169. Senegal farmers earn around $173 a month. These farmers earn enough to sustain themselves, but there is rarely extra money to circulate into the local economy.

How to Improve Farming in the Sahel Region

Farming in the Sahel Region is a race against the clock as the region faces desertification. Organizations such as Context Global (CGD) invest in small farms to bring about economic growth and improvements to the Sahel Region farming communities. CGD does this by creating international links between the farms. CGD builds commercial links without requiring membership in an overarching organization so the farms can maintain independence and gain more experience to advance their operations and incomes.

In the desertified lands, though, farming is incredibly difficult. To combat desertification, there is a new farming tool called the Delfino Plough. The plough brings the ground back to life. This plow, in particular, can cover a minimum of 10 hectares a day to revitalize the land. As the plow moves along along the farmland, it injects seeds deep into the ground that are rich in vitamins to allow the soil to sustain life. As nutrients seep into the ground, it can revert back to its original state and sustain more and more crops.

Creating Opportunity

The more crops that farms are capable of producing, the more they can earn and provide for their landowners and communities. The land brought back to life saves the farmers money as well. If they can grow hay instead of buying it, farmers save money that they can then spend on other farming necessities. With the efforts of organizations such as CGD and tools such as the Delfino Plough, the farmers will have the opportunity to expand their farming operations and increase their immediate incomes while saving for the future.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

food insecurity and disability
Food insecurity disproportionately affects people with disabilities because they are often at higher risk of unemployment and lower-paying salaries. Additionally, people with disabilities are more likely to encounter obstacles with transportation and accessibility at work. Economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic make food insecurity an even more widespread issue for people with disabilities, especially in developing countries. Around the world, there is a strong link between disability and food insecurity. Fortunately, solutions exist to help reduce poverty and alleviate food insecurity among people with disabilities.

Social and Economic Disparities

People with disabilities face an array of challenges that make them more susceptible to poverty and food insecurity. For example, stigmatization and discrimination increase the likelihood of people with disabilities facing hunger and malnutrition. This marginalized group is also at increased risk of enduring poor living conditions and limited access to health care.

From a young age, people with disabilities are less likely to have access to education. This makes it more difficult to secure job opportunities and afford basic essentials as an adult. Social services and assistive technologies for disabilities also tend to be scarce in developing countries. A variety of socioeconomic factors, intensified by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, drive the link between food insecurity and disability.

Disability Assistance

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are several ways to combat food insecurity among people with disabilities. One way is to provide federal and local disability assistance. Disability assistance programs help people with disabilities obtain the economic means to meet and sustain their basic needs. Disability assistance is designed to compensate for lower earnings and higher living expenses that people with disabilities often face, especially in low-income areas.

However, many disability assistance programs do not provide enough assistance to fully combat poverty or food insecurity. Proper funding and resources are necessary for disability assistance programs to succeed in addressing the link between food insecurity and disability.

Food Assistance

In contrast to disability assistance programs, USDA also advocates food assistance programs that are designed to provide food sources to people with disabilities. However, food assistance programs are only short-term solutions to food insecurity. These types of programs rarely protect people with disabilities from long-term poverty and food insecurity. People with disabilities often have difficulties making their way to food distributors, managing food resources and preparing food on their own. Food assistance programs typically do not address any of these issues. Therefore, in order to fully address the connection between food insecurity and disability, people with disabilities need equal access to long-term economic opportunities. Food assistance programs can help combat food insecurity, but cannot single-handedly address the problem.

Possible Solutions

In the long run, a combination of public and private disability and food assistance programs may be necessary to combat food insecurity among people with disabilities. Additionally, reforming education systems and workplaces to make them more accessible could allow many people with disabilities to pull themselves and their families out of poverty and food insecurity. Removing social and economic barriers is essential in the fight against food insecurity, especially for people with disabilities.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Food Insecurity in South SudanThe North African country of South Sudan is currently facing its worst hunger crisis to date. Estimations indicate that close to 8.5 million people out of the nation’s total population of 12 million people “will face severe hunger” in 2022, marking an 8% spike from 2021. There are several reasons for the worsening levels of food insecurity in South Sudan.

Issues Contributing to Food Insecurity in South Sudan

South Sudan’s most recent civil war, beginning in December 2013 and ending in February 2020, is one of the many reasons for the major food insecurity in South Sudan, among other issues. According to Oxfam International, the war caused an “economic free–fall,” leading to rising food prices and a crumbling economy. Furthermore, food stocks have diminished and harvests are poor due to extreme weather conditions.

The country is facing “the worst floods in 60 years,” affecting close to 1 million people and serving as a significant contributor to food insecurity in South Sudan. In just seven months, from May 2021 to December 2021, about 800,000 South Sudanese people endured the impacts of “record flooding” within the country. The floods have not only destroyed lands where crops were growing but have also led to the loss of a quarter million “livestock in Jonglei state alone.” The floods also swept away vital supplies such as fishing nets, impacting people relying on fishing in waterways as a means of securing food sources.

Along with the devastating floods, in 2021, the United Nations had to cut its food aid by about 50% due to reduced funding and increased costs of food. This reduction in the amount of food aid from the United Nations alone affects more than three million people.

Extreme Measures and Potential Collapse

To prevent starvation, families are resorting to extreme measures such as “ground-up water lilies” as their only meal of the day. Other people living in hunger have attempted to flee to other towns and states in search of food and shelter.

Further compounding the issue of food insecurity in South Sudan is “government deadlock as the country’s two main political parties try to share power.” Resistance among the political groups to work together is a cause of concern for the head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, who warns of “a collapse in the country’s peace deal” if parties cannot find common ground in the political arena.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

One of the organizations working to help end food insecurity in South Sudan is the WFP. The WFP is currently employing a variety of methods to get food to the millions of South Sudanese people enduring food insecurity. These methods “include airdrops, all-terrain vehicles, river barges and SCOPE registration.”

The WFP utilizes airdrops as a last resort to deliver food to the most “dangerous and inaccessible” locations in South Sudan where safe road travel is not possible. The WFP also utilizes SHERPs, a type of all-terrain vehicle, to deliver food supplies to isolated areas where travel is challenging but still possible. The SHERPs can traverse the most adverse roads, go over obstacles and “float across water” in flooded areas.

The WFP also uses river barges that run along the Nile River to transport food to families who live in areas where there are no roads. Lastly, the WFP uses SCOPE, which is a blockchain service employed to “register and document people who receive food assistance” from the WFP. SCOPE helps workers to track the individuals receiving assistance and record each person’s “nutrition and health status” and determine full recovery and treatment success.

Looking Ahead

Although the situation in South Sudan is dire and experts predict these circumstances will worsen, many organizations are committing to providing as much aid as possible to South Sudanese people facing the devastating impacts of several disasters. By supporting these organizations, even an ordinary individual can make a difference in reducing food insecurity in South Sudan.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

urban agricultureWith approximately 1.5 million residents, the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have dense populations with locations often on the outskirts of the city. Disproportionately underserved, the communities in these informal settlements deal with issues such as improper waste disposal, gang violence and unemployment. Out of Brazil’s total population of 214 million people, about 23.5% of people experience moderate to severe food insecurity.  Feeding America defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life.” Run by gangs and riddled with violence, large areas of the favelas are often hard to reach and support, which leaves the local population with little choice but to devise their own strategies and solutions to address the issues in their communities. To improve living conditions in the favelas and wider Brazil, organizations are turning to urban agriculture to address food insecurity.

Urban Agriculture and Poverty

Urban agriculture involves the transferring of local food production processes to the urban landscape. Often community-centered, urban agriculture can take several forms, such as rooftop or community gardens. Urban farming provides a space where social bonds and collaborations may be formed within impoverished communities. Additionally, urban agriculture creates organic, affordable, accessible and nutritious food systems to improve food insecurity in the favelas. Not only does urban agriculture provide a reliable supply of food to people who need it most but urban agriculture can also create job opportunities for people in poverty.

Manguinhos Vegetable Garden (Horta de Manguinhos) Project

This urban farming project operating in the impoverished Manguinhos favela is “Latin America’s largest community farm.” In some areas of the Manguinhos favela, the unemployment rate exceeds 50%. According to Al Jazeera, the project is “helping at least 800 families survive” during COVID-19 while “employing more than 20 local workers at a time when Brazil grapples with a pandemic-battered economy.”

Created by Rio de Janeiro’s environment secretary, Hortas Cariocas is the “municipal-led social development initiative” that launched the Manguinhos Vegetable Garden in 2013 in an attempt to reduce poverty and improve food security in the favela. Members involved in the project receive training, equipment and weekly produce to secure the food needs of their families. The project also requires members to deliver some of the produce “to at-risk members.” The project then sells excess produce “commercially to Brazilian distributors.”

The Hortas Cariocas initiative has expanded to almost 50 vegetable gardens across Rio, according to Reuters in December 2021. All of Rio de Janeiro’s urban agriculture initiatives combined allow the city to yield “more than 80 tonnes of produce” to improve food security for more than 20,000 households.

Looking Ahead

Urban agricultural programs and initiatives in the favelas are a step toward providing marginalized communities with some form of self-sustenance and food security. In addition to this, urban farming also creates a potential source of income for communities as well as a green space for people to come together peacefully. As more urban agricultural initiatives form and expand, food insecurity in Brazil’s most impoverished areas reduces exponentially.

– Owen R. Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Syria The civil war in Syria began in March 2011, greatly impacting the lives of those who live in and around the country of Syria. With the United Nations noting a staggering poverty rate of 90% in March 2021, the people of Syria are struggling to secure their basic needs. Rising levels of food insecurity in Syria are of particular concern, a consequence of the conflict within the nation. According to the United Nations, in 2021, 60% of Syrians were at risk of hunger, “the highest number ever in the history of the Syrian conflict.”

The Numbers

According to an August 2021 World Food Programme (WFP) country brief, 12.4 million people in Syria suffer from food insecurity. This number rose by 4.5 million since the previous year, marking a record high. The onset of COVID-19 served to exacerbate food insecurity and poverty, compounding existing issues of “years of conflict, displacement, soaring food prices and a decline in the value of the Syrian” currency. The cost of essential food “is now 29 times higher” than it was before the civil war began. Due to worsening conditions in the nation, 1.3 million people in Syria are suffering from severe food insecurity. The conflict and war have also led to the displacement of 6.8 million people, serving as another contributing factor to growing food insecurity in Syria.

War and conflict within Syria also affect crops and harvests. A study published by Nature Food in January 2022 uses satellite data to shows that cropland near urban settlements suffered severe disruption after the start of the Syrian civil war. The areas that saw the most cropland reduction are the northwest and southeast. The issue of food insecurity becomes greater when the people of Syria can no longer grow their own crops.

Emergency Food Assistance

According to USAID, 11.7 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance, 9 million of whom “require emergency food assistance.” Some 65% of Syrians have restricted their food consumption and are now “purchasing food on credit.” This means going into debt to feed their families. USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) has donated “more than $3.2 billion in emergency food assistance [to Syria] since 2012.” This includes $401.8 million in 2017, $514.6 million in 2018 and another $475.4 million in 2019.

WFP is also providing assistance to the people of Syria. It provides food assistance to 4.8 million people on a monthly basis. This food assistance includes “rice, pulses, oil and wheat.” The WFP also provides pregnant and nursing mothers with “nutritious food” as well as vouchers to help maintain their nutritional needs and improve their diets and vitamin intake. In addition, WFP provides school children with the nutritional food they need. The organization has given “vouchers to more than 348,000 students” to ensure they receive “snacks, fresh meals and assistance.” The crisis in Syria is concerning enough that WFP fundraises hundreds of thousands of emergency funds for its various food emergency initiatives.

Addressing the Crisis

The people of Syria continue to face difficult times during the ongoing civil war. Syrians have lost their homes, family members and access to food during this time. Food insecurity in Syria is at an all-time high, with millions going hungry every day. Citizens’ struggles to grow crops only add to the food insecurity. However, with the help of the FFP and WFP, millions of people in Syria are receiving food assistance. Women and children also benefit from these programs by receiving food and vitamins. These programs offer a great example of how the international community can contribute to food insecurity emergencies around the world.

– Sierrah Martin
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Success in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe, a landlocked country located in southern Africa, is experiencing improvements in the nation’s economy after “facing its worst economic crisis in a decade.” This crisis is the result of a drought as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following this difficult period, however, the recent upswing in the economy is largely due to agricultural success in Zimbabwe. If this trend continues, the future looks promising for Zimbabwe and its citizens.

Agriculture in Zimbabwe

The economy in Zimbabwe, specifically in rural areas, is primarily reliant upon agriculture. The agricultural sector employs approximately 60%-70% of the population and is responsible for 40% of all export revenue. Due to this dependency, when agriculture in Zimbabwe struggles, the rest of the economy suffers as a result.

The Economy in Zimbabwe

In the past two years, Zimbabwe has endured a significant economic recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing drought. In 2020, the GDP decreased roughly 10% and inflation increased from about 227% to a staggering 622.8%. However, more stable weather conditions now pave the way for agricultural recovery in Zimbabwe, which, in turn, is now fostering economic improvement.

Tafadzwa Gamanya, a small farmer in rural Zimbabwe, has had a productive season for his crops due to the end of the drought. “This year is much better for us here,” Gamanya tells VOA. “We had good rains. We have enough water to irrigate our crops until the next rain season.”

Confirming these favorable conditions, the Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department reports that Zimbabwe is witnessing statistically average to above average amounts of rainfall during this crop season. The support of the government also plays an integral role —  government initiatives “ensured that farmers had adequate inputs on time for the 2020/21 cropping season.”

During December 2020 and January 2021, some parts of the region experienced “wet spells,” greatly contributing to the significant crop yield. The farmers welcome this change in comparison to the drought that previously ravaged the nation.

Minimizing Food Insecurity

Along with economic improvements, agricultural success in Zimbabwe reduces food insecurity in the nation. The country notes that the 2021 harvest is “capable of feeding” the entire population of 14.65 million people over the course of “the next year.”

The 2021 maize harvest is so large that, in May 2021, agricultural authorities placed a ban on importing the crop. This stands in stark contrast to Zimbabwe’s $298 million expenditure on maize imports during the 2019-2020 drought season. These savings are tremendously helpful to the Zimbabwean economy.

The Road to Recovery

As rains begin to stabilize and businesses are able to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, World Bank experts anticipate that Zimbabwe’s GDP may climb to 3.9% by the close of 2021. Bringing even more hope to the nation, experts predict that Zimbabwe’s GDP may rise by 5.1% in 2022 if the pandemic or other factors do not interfere with current trends.

After a difficult two-year recession, Zimbabwe’s economy is finally on the road to recovery. While businesses are beginning to rebound following the most severe impacts of COVID-19, agricultural success in Zimbabwe is further contributing to economic improvement. The nation’s GDP is growing and the number of food-insecure Zimbabweans is shrinking. While there remains room for progress, Zimbabwe’s current economic course shows that the nation is heading in the right direction.

River Simpson
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in The BahamasAside from a vacation spot, The Bahamas is home to approximately 388,000 people, 12.5% of whom are in poverty. Living in poverty presents secondary challenges such as food insecurity. Food products in The Bahamas come with a noticeable price tag. This is because the island imports nearly 90% of these items. Expensive food prices not only affect the economy and any employment opportunities arising from local agriculture but also alienate those who cannot afford these food prices. As a result, food insecurity in The Bahamas is a significant issue that requires addressing.

Statistics Behind Food Insecurity

According to the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), 21% of people experienced food insecurity in The Bahamas during 2017. This means that almost a quarter of Bahamians experienced a lack of consistent access to adequate food to lead a healthy life, whether through missing meals or being unable to consistently afford quality food products.

This is largely a result of a weak food and agricultural infrastructure and a heavy reliance on imports. Food and agriculture contributed to less than 1% of The Bahamas’ GDP in 2018. This leaves the vulnerable population largely at the mercy of import prices. It also often puts Bahamians in a position where they may not have consistent access to quality food and food products.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated and shed light on the existing challenges in The Bahamas. As a heavily tourism-dependent economy, many people found themselves without work and without a consistent income. This made it increasingly difficult for people to afford the food prices arising from the globally disrupted supply chain.

The Bahamas Feeding Network

The Bahamas Feeding Network uniquely stands out from the crowd when addressing food insecurity. Operating more as a channel, BFN works to coordinate and distribute resources among its member organizations. BFN and its member organizations organized finances, feeding programs, food and non-food supplies, making the fight against food insecurity more effective.

BFN also works to improve communication between different organizations. It is developing a database with times and locations of feeding programs while identifying the most underserved areas in The Bahamas.

In 2013, BFN had 13 member organizations. Now, it has more than 100 feeding centers and programs. Through frequent partnerships with Rotary Clubs, The Bahamas Feeding Network is able to mobilize resources and financial support for organizations fighting food insecurity.

BFN and the Rotary Club donated money to Hands for Hunger, an NGO dedicated to distributing food to disadvantaged people. Thanks to this funding, the organization was able to distribute food vouchers to 100 families in March 2021. BFN also receives support from the Chinese ambassador.

National Food Distribution Task Force

BFN joined forces with the Government of The Bahamas and several NGOs to form the National Food Distribution Task Force (NFDTF). The task force through majority government funding targeted people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each participating NGO delivered food relief to Bahamian residents in the form of food parcels and vouchers. Within the first official month of its formation in June 2020, the task force was able to assist more than 76,000 people.

BFN uniquely approaches the fight against food insecurity in The Bahamas. Mobilizing support and organizing and distributing resources among the many organizations addressing this specific issue creates a grid of cooperation that maximizes the effectiveness of members’ efforts.

– Owen R. Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

samis-project-how-children-in-morocco-are-breaking-cyclical-poverty
Children in Morocco have turned tragedy into new beginnings. Sami’s Project, named after a young Moroccan student who died of cancer, has mobilized thousands of students across Morocco to plant fruit trees in rural communities. Since 2011, Moroccan children have planted 35,000 trees across the country through Sami’s Project while gaining agricultural management skills. Centered in the rural province Essaouira, the project aims to supply students with the resources and curriculum necessary to plant and manage fruit trees and botanical gardens. In 2018 alone, 19,000 children mobilized to plant trees across 23 provinces in Morocco. The goal of the project is not simply to reforest Morocco. The group also works toward a larger impact on national poverty reduction.

Decreasing Food Insecurity in Rural Communities

By planting fruit trees, the project directly improves food security in rural provinces. Over the last two decades, Morocco has drastically reduced the prevalence of multidimensional poverty from 58.9% in 1998 to 3.6% in 2021. Within that last 3.6%, 80% of those still living in poverty live in rural communities. By planting fruit trees in rural communities, the organization directly increases food supplies to populations that poverty most impacts.

Planting fruit trees in these communities has economic and ecological benefits, outside of food production. By improving native biodiversity through fruit tree planting, the project works to decrease soil erosion in arid regions. This has the potential to increase the amount of arable land in rural agricultural communities. In Morocco, 80% of agricultural land is currently at threat of desertification. Planting trees and increasing green spaces improve the resiliency of land and slow the process of desertification. According to Sustainable Food Trust, more than half of the active workforce in Morocco works in agriculture. Therefore, Sami’s Project works toward protecting both job security and food production.

Future Building Through Youth Outreach

Auxilary to providing fruit trees, Sami’s Project also provides teachers in rural Morocco with a curriculum that teaches sustainable nursery management. The project gives teachers the ability to equip their students with organic certification training, product management skills and hands-on business development skills.

Through the project, children build and manage fruit tree nurseries and botanical gardens. By developing these skills through a sustainable and organic curriculum, the children build a base for becoming more competitive agriculturalists. The project then sells the food it produces to the local communities, simultaneously increasing local food security and bringing in revenue for the schools, according to High Atlas Foundation.

Improving Education Infrastructure

Finally, the organization uses the funds to improve school infrastructure. Sami’s Project funds clean drinking water systems and improves sanitation infrastructure. Through the project, clean water systems and bathrooms have undergone construction in 12 schools in rural Morocco, as High Atlas Foundation reports. The goal is to increase access to education for children in Morocco and ensure students have access to basic necessities while at school.

By equipping teachers and students with fruit trees, Sami’s project has increased food security for rural communities. It has also improved education infrastructure and given children in Morocco the skills to grow into agriculturalists.

– Aiden Smith
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Poverty and Hunger
In September 2021, the White House introduced two of USAID’s new programs to reduce poverty and hunger. USAID, the U.S.’s international development agency, provides aid to countries to support various sectors such as agriculture, trade and human rights. The latest programs of USAID include the Gender Responsive Agricultural Systems Policy (GRASP) and its latest collaboration with the Eleanor Crook Foundation’s Global Nutrition Financing Alliance. GRASP will provide African female policymakers with a three-and-a-half-year virtual leadership development fellowship to empower women in food systems. USAID’s collaboration with the Eleanor Crook Foundation will mobilize $100 million over five years to reduce COVID-19’s impact on food insecurity and reduce malnutrition worldwide.

GRASP: African Women in Agriculture

According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women account for 43% of the world’s agricultural workforce. Although women make up nearly half of all global agricultural workers, they may not receive equitable opportunities in developing countries. In some regions of Africa, women make up 60% of domestic farm labor. Despite their participation, African women hold limited leadership roles in food systems.

Issues regarding legal ownership of land, fair compensation and access to financial resources hinder African women’s leadership in agriculture. According to Feed the Future, “women tend to own less land, have limited ability to hire labor and face impediments to accessing credit, agricultural extension services and other resources.”

GRASP intends to address gender inequality within African agriculture by empowering female policymakers and inciting change in food systems. With help from USAID, GRASP will provide 100 women with mentorships, networking opportunities and virtual leadership programs targeted to create food-secure communities. By empowering African women in leadership, GRASP strives to develop improved and equitable food systems beneficial to all.

USAID and the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance

USAID has also joined the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance in mobilizing $100 million to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition in low- and middle-income countries. The Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF) and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC0 initially established the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance. The partnership combines public and private sectors to address the pandemic’s effect on malnutrition.

The ECF projects a 50% rise in severe malnutrition due to COVID-19’s economic and existing food programs disruption. USAID’s partnership will help catalyze comprehensive approaches to decrease food insecurity. The alliance will prioritize health and food systems along with food-oriented small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The collaboration seeks to address the financing gap among SMEs, bolster women-led businesses and advance food safety. The alliance also seeks to end malnutrition by 2030.

USAID’s Promising Next Moves to Reduce Poverty and Hunger

USAID’s latest programs will benefit not only those in need but also the rest of the world. GRASP can open new markets by supporting African women in agriculture. The program will also expand leadership and business in African food systems. With accessible development opportunities, African women can create social and economic change to address global poverty and food insecurity.

Additionally, USAID’s alliance with the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance will help reestablish the world’s progress to reduce poverty and hunger. The alliance’s monetary aid will also function as a sustainable investment in global food systems. In helping the world’s poor and hungry through programs like GRASP and the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance, USAID helps the world get back on track.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

Food insecurity rates in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has experienced many crises in recent decades, with several domestic and international conflicts transpiring within the nation’s borders. Afghanistan’s economic crisis as well as conflicts and droughts aggravate rates of food insecurity in Afghanistan. With the recent Taliban takeover in August 2021, the country is seeing a collapse in food security. On October 25, 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) issued a warning that millions of Afghans may face starvation during Afghanistan’s winter unless the world responds with urgent intervention. Understanding the challenges that Afghanistan and its people face, many international organizations are providing both donations and aid to alleviate food insecurity in the nation.

The Food Insecurity Situation in Afghanistan

According to the WFP in October 2021, more than 50% of Afghans, approximately 22.8 million citizens, are enduring severe food insecurity. Furthermore,  about 3.2 million Afghan children younger than 5 years old are at risk of acute malnutrition. In a WFP news release, the executive director of the WFP, David Beasley, says, “Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises, if not the worst.”

The full Taliban takeover that came to fruition in August 2021 debilitated an “already fragile economy heavily dependant on foreign aid.” In an effort to cut off support to the Taliban, many nations chose to suspend aid to Afghanistan and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) chose to halt payments to Afghanistan. For a country with about 40% of its GDP stemming from international support, vulnerable Afghans are hit heavily with the impacts of aid suspensions as food insecurity rates in Afghanistan continue to rise.

In September 2021, the U.N. warned that just 5% of Afghan families have sufficient daily food supplies, with essential ingredients like cooking oil and wheat drastically rising in prices. In October 2021, the WFP warned that “one million children were at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition without immediate life-saving treatment.” WFP also predicted that the looming winter would further isolate Afghans depending on humanitarian assistance to survive. With overall food insecurity rates skyrocketing, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities. The WFP stresses the importance of continuing international aid to Afghanistan so that citizens can survive the coming months.

The Aid Dilemma for Global Economic Powers

“If we do nothing, Afghanistan drifts into state collapse. The economic chokehold is squeezing the air out of the economy,” said Graeme Smith, a consultant for the International Crisis Group (ICG), in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor on November 4, 2021.

The danger of a total state collapse is so concerning that European donors “are trying to expand stopgap emergency measures to find creative ways to alleviate the financial challenge faced by the central Taliban government in Kabul.”

The challenges of providing support remain. The U.N. estimates that as much as 97% of the country’s population could live in poverty by 2022 “in a worst-case scenario.” However, recognizing the severe consequences of aid suspensions, in October 2021, “The Group of 20 major economies” pledged to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. As a global powerhouse, the United States also announced its intention of providing aid to Afghan citizens as the harsh winter season starts. However, these countries are skeptical about providing aid directly to the Taliban government, therefore, aid will likely come through international agencies.

Aid to Afghanistan

Recognizing the need for aid, international organizations worked tirelessly to deliver food, blankets and monetary assistance “to hundreds of displaced families in Kabul” in October 2021. Humanitarian assistance from different global agencies found a way into Afghanistan. Even though the distribution of aid only reached 324 families, a very small percentage of the total needs of the nation, this aid gives hope to many Afghans who are experiencing severe food shortages.

Rising food insecurity rates in Afghanistan highlight the desperate need for aid. With many donors creatively developing ways to help the Afghan people, during a time of crisis, the country is hopeful for a brighter future.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Max Pixel