Food Waste in China
By November 1, 2021, China reported more than 97,000 COVID-19 cases and 4,636 deaths. Graphic representations of this data seem to show an upward trend as COVID-19 numbers continue rising. Apart from the direct health impacts of COVID-19, the pandemic has also exacerbated existing social strife, such as nationwide hunger. Along with high rates of hunger, China also reports high rates of food waste, with a recent report from July 2021 stating that the nation discards about 350 million tonnes of its farm produce. Addressing the issue of food waste in China provides a solution to growing rates of hunger in the nation. China’s Clean Plate campaign aims to tackle these two issues simultaneously.

Food Waste Globally

With the global population possibly expanding by 2 billion people by 2025, totaling more than 9 billion global citizens, the United Nations stated that “food production must double by 2050 to meet the demand of the world’s growing population.” Yet, about “one-third of the food” the world produces “for human consumption” annually, equating to 1.3 billion tonnes, goes to waste. Fruits and vegetables account for the greatest portion of food waste. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.”

Food Waste in China

In China, specifically, food waste or loss amounts to “more than 35 million tonnes of food.” This amount of food can “feed 30 to 50 million people.”

In August 2020, President Xi Jinping pressed for the nationwide Clean Plate campaign in response to food waste and the economic and food-centric devastation that COVID-19 caused. At the time of Jinping’s address, the southern end of China had suffered immense flooding, ruining crops and leaving the rest of the nation without a sufficient supply of produce.

In essence, the campaign directs that diners must finish the food on their plates. Encouraging empty plates may lead to less food waste. In response to the Clean Plate campaign, “the Wuhan Catering Industry Association urged restaurants in the city to limit the number of dishes served to diners” to reduce instances of over-ordering, thereby reducing food waste. Culturally, there is a traditional understanding that a clean plate is indicative of “a bad host,” implying that there is “an insufficient amount of food” for diners.

Jinping’s initiative encourages people to be more conscious of food waste in order to address food insecurity in the nation. The Clean Plate initiative has proven to be successful, continuing in an entrepreneurial and consumerist sense. Prior to the Clean Plate initiative, taking leftovers home was unheard of, but has since become a commonality.

Looking Ahead

To avoid past crises of food insecurity, initiatives like Clean Plate encourage consumers to approach food consumption more consciously. Traditionally, in China, ordering more food than necessary is an indicator of power, wealth and status. However, the Clean Plate challenges these traditions in the name of reducing food waste to address hunger in China.

– Maia Nuñez
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

Secretary Vilsack
The secretary of agriculture in President Barack Obama’s administration, Thomas J. Vilsack, has returned in 2021 to serve in the same position under President Biden. Secretary Vilsack has received recognition for his civil service and efforts to combat global poverty, receiving recognition from the Congressional Hunger Center and the Global Child Nutrition Foundation. He is also “a former member of the board of directors for GenYOUth as well as Feeding America.” At the U.N.’s Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Secretary Vilsack declared that the U.S. would invest $10 billion to ensure global food security over the next five years. Here are five global food security initiatives that Vilsack supports.

5 Global Food Security Initiatives Secretary Vilsack Supports

  1. Feed the Future. Secretary Vilsack supports Feed the Future, the United States’ program to ensure global food security “by boosting inclusive agriculture-led economic growth, resilience and nutrition in countries with great need and opportunity for improvement.” Feed the Future began in 2010 following the 2007-2008 global food crisis. In 2016, Secretary Vilsack supported the Global Food Security Act, a bill ensuring that the efforts of Feed the Future could continue on even after Obama’s end of term. By backing the bill, he expressed his support for sustainable food systems for the world’s impoverished. The Feed the Future program significantly contributes to poverty reduction, reducing poverty by 37% over 10 years in countries like Bangladesh.
  2. McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program. The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program combats global poverty and hunger through the support of the USDA. As secretary of agriculture, Vilsack oversees this program, which supports education and child development in low-income countries, donates “U.S. agricultural commodities” and provides financial assistance for school feeding and community nutrition programs. Overall, the program aims to increase literacy and education to break the cycle of poverty. By overseeing the McGovern-Dole Program, Secretary Vilsack works to ensure that students in need, especially girls, receive the nutrition and support required to thrive in schools.
  3. Food for Peace. Secretary Vilsack also oversaw Food for Peace in the International Affairs Budget during the Obama administration. The Office for Food and Peace began with President Eisenhower’s Food for Peace Act in 1954. Food for Peace aids people in low-income countries and areas of conflict by providing international emergency services, organizing development activities and providing nutritional support. Its development activities shares tools and resources with people in food-insecure areas to end global hunger.
  4. Food is Never Waste Coalition. Secretary Vilsack announced in 2021 that the U.S. would be partnering with the Food is Never Waste Coalition. The coalition emerged from the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit. The coalition aims “to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food losses by at least 25%.” Reducing food waste involves member collaboration to create sustainable food pathways and invest in food loss reduction methods.
  5. School Meals Coalition. While attending the U.N. Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Secretary Vilsack remarked on collaborating with the School Meals Nutrition, Health and Education for Every Child coalition. The coalition strives to provide all children access to nutritious school meals by 2030. In 2021, 150 million students continue to go without school meals worldwide, which sometimes stands as their only meal of the day. The coalition seeks to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing nutrition within education. As a member state of the coalition, the United States will invest in feeding programs to incentivize education globally.

Reducing Global Poverty and Hunger

Secretary Vilsack maintains his efforts to reduce both poverty and hunger through his work in the USDA. By supporting and overseeing various food security initiatives and aid programs, Secretary Vilsack positively impacts the lives of those in need across the world.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

The Food is Never Waste CoalitionThe United Nations Environment Programme’s latest 2021 Food Waste Index Report suggests that the world is in “an epidemic of food wastage.” Currently, the world wastes about 17% of all food available for human consumption. Households contribute 61% to the total food waste while 26% comes from the foodservice industry and the retail industry contributes 13%. These wasted food resources could help to feed the 690 million undernourished global citizens.

A Closer Look at Food Waste

Food loss and waste persist for various reasons. Households may not utilize every food item they purchase and often throw out leftover food. Typically, the average household wastes roughly 74 kilograms of food per person annually. Food waste is responsible for an annual monetary loss of $1 trillion, impacting both farmers and families. The UNEP’s report finds that food waste occurs across all nations, not just low-income nations as is common belief. In fact, “at the farming stage alone,” roughly 1.2 billion tonnes of food is lost. Interestingly, middle and high-income nations account for “58% of global farm-stage food waste.” Considering these statistics, the world is searching for ways to decrease food waste and make food accessible to all.

The World’s Response

Many coalitions and campaigns are emerging to address the food waste crisis. In 2013, the UNEP began the Think Eat Save food waste awareness campaign. Now, UNEP is implementing “Regional Food Waste Working Groups in Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and West Asia.” The groups share ideas and findings concerning food waste within a peer-to-peer network in order to reduce food waste across nations.

USAID is also taking a stand against food waste by investing $60 million over the next five years to research and reduce food waste. In September 2021, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that “the United States joined the global coalition on food loss and waste” — the Food is Never Waste Coalition. The coalition aims “to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food losses by at least 25%.” The coalition works to fulfill the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to reduce consumer and retail food waste and loss.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition

The Food is Never Waste Coalition represents a significant step for global action against food waste. The international coalition works to reduce food loss and waste while emphasizing financial and economic sustainability. Members include G7 and G20 groups as well as more than 30 member states in addition to academic groups, NGOs, UN agencies and private sector groups.

Drawing from various sectors, including technology, energy and education, the coalition utilizes a public-private partnership (PPP). A PPP enables the coalition to look across food supply chains and intervene from multiple angles. By collaborating with governments and private businesses, the coalition invests in mutually beneficial sustainable food pathways. In Norway, a PPP strategy helped manufacturers reduce food waste by 15% in a period of just three years.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition will conduct research, share knowledge on food waste reduction methods and invest in food loss reduction. The coalition tracks progress with the UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report. Tracking progress will enable the coalition to maintain goals and establish necessary initiatives. Member states benefit from participating in the coalition. For instance, investing in food waste reduction creates business opportunities for local farmers and women in low-income countries.

The coalition also offers a platform for collaboration between countries by sharing knowledge on food waste research and strategies. Through grassroots efforts, private sector involvement and research, the Food is Never Waste Coalition seeks to improve food pathways. Additionally, the group will encourage food surplus donations among members states to feed those in need.

Alleviating Global Hunger by Reducing Food Waste

Ultimately, halving food waste and loss by 2030 will be a collaborative effort. The coalition embodies the international effort to improve food systems. Resources usually lost at the production or household levels could feed the world’s hungry. By improving global food pathways and encouraging surplus donations, the Food is Never Waste Coalition works to create sustainable and accessible systems with less food waste.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

Pope Francis
Hunger is a “scandal” whose crime “violates basic human rights,” according to Pope Francis. In a recent United Nations (U.N.) meeting in Rome, the Pope argued that the world holds enough food for all yet sees prevalent hunger. The Pope’s message aligned with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s assertion that a third of greenhouse gas emissions is due to global food systems. Further, Guterres warned that an 80% loss of biodiversity serves as another drastic consequence of those food systems.

The Message

The Pope spoke during the July Pre-Summit of the U.N. Food Systems Summit that focused on scientific, evidence-based solutions to food systems transformation. Pope Francis noted that COVID-19 has underlined the “systemic injustices that undermine our unity as a human family.” Further, he pointed out the paradoxical nature of the technologies designed to increase food capacity as it “exploits nature to the point of sterilization.” He said that the poorest people suffer the most because we inflict damage “…through irresponsible use and abuse of the goods God has placed in it.”

In a similar July message that the Vatican published, the Pope spoke of the preventable nature of forced displacements, terrorism and wars. He contended that these are all precursors to hunger. In the message, Pope Francis also elaborated on the lack of solidarity plaguing humans that stunts resolutions to end malnutrition. He spoke of a desire not to promote “mere progress” or “development goals in theory.” He wrote, “All of us realize that the intention to provide everyone with his or her daily bread is not enough.”

The UN’s Call to Action

An early July U.N. report credited COVID-19 to the additional 161 million people facing hunger compared to 2019. It discussed that healthy diets are now out of reach of a staggering 3 billion people. This is due to the high cost of food, income inequality and poverty. The fact that the Agricultural Commodity Price Index rose by 30% from January 2020 supports this argument. Also, Guterres noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one in three people lacked adequate food sources.

Also recently, the U.N. agency International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) appealed to decision-makers to rectify the “failures in food systems.” IFAD suggested that food production should factor in protecting the environment, supporting biodiversity and fairly compensating laborers.

Finally, according to the chief economist of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), alleviating hunger for 100 million people would require $14 billion a year until 2030. Moreover, to triple that amount would see a goal of zero hunger across the globe by 2030.

Moving Forward

The calls to action by Pope Francis and the United Nations are loud and clear. Together, they should positively impact the fight against hunger by transforming the current global food systems.

Pope Francis specifically urged “bold local and international policies.” He said, “Therefore, it is everyone’s duty to root out this injustice through concrete actions and good practices.”

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: Flickr

UN Food Systems Summit
The U.N. Food Systems Summit recently took place on September 23, 2021. The U.N. Food Systems Summit highlighted the key nexus between food sustainability and food insecurity. The Summit was a virtual conference, and it described the food-related challenges that many people around the world are currently facing. Statistics highlighted the magnitude of the nutritional issues.

The UN Food Summit: Igniting Action and Hope

The World Food Program’s (WFP) Executive Director, David Beasley, mentioned several concerning facts. For example, 3 billion people are unable to attain a balanced diet. Beyond that, 9 million people die from hunger each year. In 2020 alone, 25,000 people died per day due to starvation. However, following these morbid realities, the Summit revealed the goals of the U.N. and some solutions to the pre-established issues. The emphasis was on galvanizing people to care for one another. At its core, the Summit was a rallying call to action.

Main Objectives of the Summit

The main objective of the Summit was to raise awareness of the food system’s importance to the entirety of the sustainable development agenda. The urgency of addressing the issues plaguing global food systems has increased, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Summit also aimed to unite stakeholders around a common understanding of food systems as a foundation for action, to recognize the necessity of innovation addressing global food obstacles and catalyze action for the transformation of food systems in every corner of the globe.

António Guterres, the U.N. Secretary-General, issued a summary and statement of action for the Summit. One of the key points of the statement was how the pandemic has significantly worsened food insecurity, resulting in a 20% increase in the number of people facing hunger between 2019 and 2020. Furthermore, the Secretary-General established five action areas to help ensure the necessary changes to achieve all of the SDGs by 2030:

  1. Nourish All People
  2. Boost Nature-Based Solutions
  3. Advance Equitable Livelihoods, Decent Work and Empowered Communities
  4. Build Resistance to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses
  5. Accelerating the Means of Implementation

This statement of action was very robust. It included details about how the U.N. Resident Coordinators and U.N. Country Teams will work with national governments to develop new national pathways to improve food systems and ensure the accomplishment of the SDGs by 2030.

Global Leaders Reactions

During the Summit, leaders from a variety of countries spoke in an attempt to elicit empathy and initiative in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Agriculture Ministers and others were present at the Summit. The Summit’s goal was to “transform food systems to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Many of the leaders who spoke focused on the specific issues plaguing the food systems within their state and established courses of action and priorities for tackling those issues.

Spain stated that it will be focussing on boosting family farming, with President Pedro Sanchez saying that “family farming…contributes to the economic and socio-cultural fabric of rural areas.” He followed that statement by announcing that the Spanish government will support family farming by boosting the coalition for the Decade of Family Farming. Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), made a strong statement condemning humanity’s current state of production and consumption. He emphasized the urgency of investment into global food systems and called upon food manufacturers to change the composition of their products.

The Conversation Needs to Continue

The U.N. Food Systems Summit provides hope and reassurance that action will occur to address food insecurity and poverty worldwide. The Summit was available to watch for anyone with internet access, and those who registered were able to connect in chat sections. Globalizing the combat of food insecurity and reaching the individual level increases awareness and participation in the Summit, which is beneficial to the U.N. cause. International humanitarian organizations and NGOs should continue to host these community dialogues to raise awareness of the issues plaguing humanity and to establish roadmaps to alleviate these issues.

– Wais Wood
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Food Insecurity in Canada
Globally, indigenous communities living on colonized land face significant difficulties beyond those of non-indigenous citizens. Systemic and historic discrimination have pushed down the livelihoods and traditions of indigenous peoples, creating widespread food insecurity at the same time. In Canada, indigenous households are more likely to face extreme poverty and food insecurity than non-indigenous households. While Canada is not a developing nation, the conditions and treatment of indigenous communities reflect the extreme poverty common in emerging economies. Here are three vital facts to know about indigenous food insecurity in Canada.

First Nation and Métis Food Security

A majority of First Nation people live off-reserve land in Canada, and food insecurity remains high within those communities and on-reserve First Nation people. In First Nation households, about a quarter of 2,878 households that a survey looked at experienced moderate food insecurity involving compromised diets and reduced quality or quantity of food. Compared to the 9% food insecurity among non-indigenous Canadians, 33% of off-reserve First Nation and Métis consider food insecurity prevalent and harmful. Conditions for on-reserve indigenous communities were worse than for off-reserve First Nation people, with approximately 54% of people food insecure. This wide gap between First Nation communities and the broader Canadian population highlights the institutional oversight and avoidance of confronting indigenous struggles.

Inuit Food Security

The Inuit, the indigenous people of the Canadian Arctic, face severe food insecurity rooted in failed government systems and neglect. The presence and prevalence of food insecurity in Inuit households ranked seven times higher than non-indigenous Canadian households. A survey on households with at least one preschooler determined that 69.6% of households were food insecure. Already significantly more at risk of food insecurity than non-indigenous Canadians, the Inuit people face food insecurity at a severity three times greater than First Nation and Métis indigenous nations.

These stark comparisons reflect a failure to support the Inuit people and end indigenous food insecurity in Canada. The access and availability of traditional food remained a significant factor in boosting food security for Inuit communities, and in households with at least one hunter, food insecurity became a less prevalent factor relating to health and livelihoods. Ultimately, the Inuit population in Canada faces the most extreme food insecurity out of other indigenous groups and needs revolutionary reforms to boost health and food systems in their communities.

Food Availability and Affordability

Within each tribe and community, the access to wild food becomes less secure; as a result, many turn to the local markets for sustenance. However, the exceptionally high prices at local markets and the low average incomes of many indigenous communities inhibit the possibility of buying groceries, let alone a meal, from local grocers. On top of high market pricing, the costs of hunting, fishing and gathering food increase due to gas prices and chances of returning empty-handed from hunts. While many indigenous people lack access to traditional meals or diets, the desire for more reasonable access to their traditional foods is powerful. In addition, high prices force families to choose cheaper, less nutritious options to feed themselves. These factors contribute to indigenous food insecurity in Canada and ultimately decrease well-being and perpetuate poverty within these communities.

Potential Solutions

The high food insecurity and poverty within indigenous communities in Canada demand solutions that uplift indigenous communities and put their voices at the forefront of change. There is an apparent schism between low-income indigenous nations and the Canadian government. Some argue to lower prohibitively high pricing for necessary goods and food products in Inuit and First Nation markets. This could be the first step in decreasing indigenous food insecurity in Canada. Organizing to support indigenous leaders and activists who highlight the inequality within Canadian food systems can help build support for change.

While the Canadian government cannot always provide necessary assistance and understanding, grassroots organizations and campaigns also work to end indigenous food insecurity and promote food sovereignty. The Indigenous Food Systems Network (ISFP) is an organization that combines the efforts and minds of Indigenous food producers, researchers and policymakers in Canada, promoting reform and deconstruction. The ISFP forms and supports various projects, such as the Indigenous Food Cooperatives and Challenge, revitalizing First Nation hunting, fishing, gathering and trade practices.

Outside of broad scope projects, the IFSP works on local levels, such as by organizing community gardens for indigenous communities. A second NGO attempting to eliminate food insecurity in Canada is Food Secure Canada, which attempts to reach zero hunger with healthy, safe and sustainable food. Since 2001, Food Secure Canada has lobbied for food justice and policy change, and in 2019, the Canadian government included within its budget $134 million for specific initiatives such as a national school food program. These organizations reflect the hope and growing support for indigenous nations in Canada fighting for positive reform.

– Mikey Redding
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Armenia
As of August 2021, the World Bank found that increases in food prices account for about two-thirds of Armenia’s rise in inflation. The World Bank also pointed to rising transportation and health prices as contributors to inflation. COVID-19’s impact on Armenia has resulted in increases in unemployment, food insecurity and poverty. Accessible medicine and transportation would stimulate Armenia’s economy following its economic shutdown.

Since July 2021, Armenia’s currency has depreciated by 2%. In December 2020, the World Bank estimated that Armenia’s economic reaction to the pandemic could impoverish 70,000 Armenians and cause 720,000 people to experience a downward economic shift.

The pandemic expanded Armenia’s lower welfare group considerably. In 2019, about 26% of Armenia’s population lived below the poverty line. The 2020 economic shutdown will ultimately expand Armenia’s impoverished population. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the only stressor on Armenian welfare.

Conflict and COVID-19’s Impact on Armenia

Before the pandemic, Armenia was working to recover from the first Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which lasted from 1988 to 1994. In September 2020, the dispute arose once again and ended after six weeks. Although Russia brokered a cease-fire between Azerbaijan and Armenia in November 2020, the conflict’s effects persist. The second Nagorno-Karabakh dispute exacerbated the effects of the pandemic by displacing 100,000 civilians.

In an interview with UNICEF, Dr. Naira Stepanyan, an infectious disease specialist in Yerevan, compared the sobering effects of the war to the pressures that the pandemic brought on. Together, conflict and COVID-19 place a significant burden on Armenians in need. Additionally, as of October 8, 2021, Armenia has had 269,874 confirmed cases and 5,499 deaths. Reuters estimates that only about 8.7% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Slow vaccination turnout curbs economic recovery.

International Aid

The COVAX Initiative and the Ministry of Health have spearheaded vaccination efforts in Armenia. In March 2021, the Ministry of Health received 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Additionally, UNICEF and USAID united to provide and distribute personal protective equipment and hygiene materials to Armenia.

Armenia also received aid from the World Bank’s development projects. The World Bank has provided 70 ventilators and 80 patient monitors to Armenia. The World Bank’s Country Partnership Framework established the State Health Agency and the Disease Prevention and Control Project in Armenia, creating a more secure infrastructure to address the COVID-19  pandemic. The framework’s goals include:

  • Saving lives
  • Protecting the vulnerable and impoverished
  • Encouraging economic growth
  • Reinforcing policies, institutions and investments within the country

Cohesive COVID-19 responses, economic stimulation and international partnerships are working to place Armenia back on the path to recovery.

The Path to Recovery

Although COVID-19’s impact on Armenia has been significant, the path to progress is not far. Despite the increased inflation and unemployment rate, Armenia’s macroeconomic recovery continues to develop. For instance, foreign trade continues to increase along with copper, agriculture and textile exports.

Additionally, Armenia’s government outlined a series of actions to address the pandemic’s economic impact. For instance, Armenia established a loan program aimed to support agriculture, small businesses and tech industries. Armenia’s domestic investments offer stability to citizens in need.

Aid and support significantly shifted the pandemic’s course in Armenia. The World Bank’s continued help through the Country Partnership Framework supports the economy and serves to reduce the unemployment rate. Overall, international aid, domestic investment and growing vaccination rates work to ease the pandemic’s effect on Armenia.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

Food Systems SummitThe first global Food Systems Summit will take place on September 23, 2021, preceded by a three-day pre-summit in Rome from July 26 to July 28, 2021. The summit is part of the United Nations’ Decade of Action, in which the U.N. aims to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Goals of the Food Systems Summit

The Food Systems Summit will examine how food insecurity, climate and human conflicts intersect. According to the United Nations website, the summit has four main goals including:

  1. Establishing a clearer agenda to achieve the U.N.’s SDGs. This means creating action steps for all levels, from national governments to local representatives and from global companies to individual citizens.
  2. Opening up public discussion about food insecurity and creating more awareness.
  3. Formulating guiding principles for governments as they create their own plans to support the U.N.’s SDGs.
  4. Establishing a system of accountability, follow-up and review to ensure tangible progress.

Activists’ Immediate Demands

The summit has long-term strategic potential, but some activists have more immediate concerns as well. The summit comes at a time when food prices, job insecurity and overall global hunger are all rising. On April 20, 2021, more than 250 aid groups and organizations wrote an open letter to the United Nations demanding $5.5 billion in emergency food assistance funding.

Activists’ Criticisms of the Summit

Many activists have major concerns about the Food Systems Summit, particularly regarding who is involved in the program and the direction that the program aims to take for food production. Although small-scale food suppliers such as fishermen, farmers and Indigenous people provide the vast majority of the world’s food, they do not have a seat at the table at the summit. Many feel that the preparation process has not been transparent enough to allow small-scale producers to participate.

Additionally, other activists have concerns about how the summit will approach food insecurity. Many believe it focuses too much on technological solutions to food insecurity and that supporting other systems is necessary to return self-autonomy to people in poverty. Though new technology can play an important role, alternative solutions must undergo consideration as well. For example, agroecology draws upon historical, cultural and scientific knowledge of specific regions, ensuring more sustainable farming and preserving people’s cultural practices. Activists also worry that some high-tech solutions will tighten corporate control over developing countries’ food systems.

Looking to the Future

Though the Food Systems Summit has received criticism, it is still an important step as it will bring countries together to form a plan to address the pressing crisis of food insecurity. According to the United Nations, “Scientists agree that transforming our food systems is among the most powerful ways to change course and make progress toward all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.” With collaboration among governments and citizens, the world can better tackle problems related to food consumption and production.

Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

food security in Antigua and BarbudaThe World Bank classifies the dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda as high income for a non-OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) country. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt the country’s economy. A 2020 survey by the World Food Programme (WFP) found that 40% of the population cannot cover expenses for essential needs. Additionally, almost 30% of respondents reported an inability to meet basic dietary requirements. Economic response and recovery efforts supporting Antigua and Barbuda are essential to help those living in poverty. New social programs and technological innovations are working to improve water access and food security in Antigua and Barbuda.

National Backyard Gardening Program

According to the 2020 WFP survey, 72% of respondents reported a spike in food prices since the pandemic began. This is not the first time Antigua and Barbuda has experienced a fluctuation in food prices. In 2008, Hurricane Omar and the surge in food prices demonstrated Antigua and Barbuda’s susceptibility to market volatility. The cost of imported fruits and vegetables reached $12.8 million in 2008, compared to only $4 million in 2000.

In 2009, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and the Environment collaborated with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to develop the National Food Production Plan to reduce food costs. The plan included the National Backyard Gardening Program, currently overseen by the Ministry’s Agricultural Extension Division.

The National Backyard Gardening Program has successfully reduced food insecurity in Antigua and Barbuda. Backyard gardens contribute around 280 tons of total vegetable production to the country each year. Backyard gardens also equip citizens with a stockpile of food in the event of severe weather. The program provides advanced productivity-boosting technology, including “drip irrigation, vermicomposting, shade houses and microgardening in cut drums and table pallets.”

Nearly 2,500 households participate in the National Backyard Gardening Program. More than two-thirds of participants consume most of the harvested food and distribute some to the community. Almost 650 household gardens also profit from selling vegetables to local markets. In both cases, families benefit from food cost savings and a more balanced diet.

AF Innovation Project

Several Caribbean nations, including Antigua and Barbuda, are defined by the United Nations as water-scarce, which means a country has “less than 1000 cubic meters per capita of renewable water resources a year.” Droughts are becoming more seasonal in the Caribbean and experts anticipate that the agriculture industry will be most affected. Antigua and Barbuda obtains water for agriculture from reverse osmosis (RO) facilities and rain barrels. Between 3.4 and 3.5 million gallons of the country’s total daily requirement of roughly six million gallons come from the country’s three operational RO plants.

Several factors threaten water availability for farmers in Antigua and Barbuda, including groundwater depletion, high costs of generating water and high costs of delivering water to remote regions. The Department of Environment has received a $250,000 grant from the Adaptation Fund to implement the AF Innovation Project, officially known as the Innovative Technologies for Improved Water Availability to Increase Food Security in Antigua and Barbuda Project.

The project strives to alleviate food insecurity in Antigua and Barbuda within two years by making ground and surface water more accessible and usable for farming. Solar-powered RO units and solar-powered water pumps will be resistant to power outages and adverse weather. They will also help the country meet its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2030. The RO units and water pumps are scheduled to be acquired by October 2021.

Solar-Powered RO Technology

Among other technologies, the AF Innovation Project will test the SolarRO 1500 solar photovoltaic (PV) powered desalination unit. This device filters brackish water and saltwater to eliminate dirt and particles that might contaminate the RO membrane. After filtering, it compresses the salty seawater so that only freshwater can pass through the RO membrane. Then, a UV light removes biological pollutants that may have made it through the RO membrane, like bacteria or viruses. Autogenous renewable energy powers the SolarRO device entirely, thus eliminating the potential of disturbance due to a power loss. SolarRO units are anticipated to improve the sustainability of Antigua’s agriculture industry and boost water security in the event of extreme weather or environmental disasters.

Looking Ahead

Increasing agricultural productivity will improve food security in Antigua and Barbuda. However, an insufficient water supply will impede farming. The National Backyard Gardening Program, the AF Innovation Project and solar-powered RO technology are examples of recent initiatives working to solve the country’s food and agriculture industry issues. Because of the success of these initiatives, Antigua and Barbuda has designated April 21 as National Backyard Garden Day and has launched a school gardening program called “Grow What You Eat.”

Tiara Tyson
Photo: Flickr