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

Poverty eradication in ItalyMany programs are working toward innovations in poverty eradication in Italy. These programs include an income program instated by the government, a fuel poverty program partnership between two companies and charities that provide assistance to the needy. Here are four facts about innovations in poverty eradication in Italy:

4 Facts About Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Italy

  1. Italy’s welfare program: In 2019, Italy introduced a €7 billion income welfare program to help reduce poverty. As of 2018, 5.1 million people in Italy lived in poverty. This program targets those people, as well as Italian citizens, EU citizens and legal residents living in Italy for 10 years or more. Households whose annual income is equal to or below €9,360 are eligible. Those eligible receive €780 a month, which can help pay for essentials such as grocery, rent and utilities. In the program, individuals who are able-bodied are also required to sign up for job placement and training programs. Employers who hire individuals taking part in the program receive financial incentives.
  2. Reducing fuel poverty: Fuel poverty is present in Italy, but so are programs to help tackle it. Fuel poverty is defined by the European Energy Poverty Observatory as “the inability to keep the home adequately warm at an affordable cost.” This affects more than 3.9 million Italians per year. A U.K.-based company called PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partnered with an international organization, Ashoka, to reduce low-income families living in fuel poverty in Italy. The project relies on social innovators and entrepreneurs to find novel methods of tackling fuel poverty and reducing it in Italy.
  3. Food stamps: Italian programs for food assistance are giving out free meals and food stamps. Particularly during the COVID-19 crisis, many Italians are facing unemployment, and about one million are in need of food assistance. Programs such as the Ronda della Solidarieta charity, which offers free dinners twice a week in Rome to those in need, and the Nona Roma association, which drops off boxes filled with food necessities to low-income Roman families, are helping reduce the amount of people who go hungry. In 2020, the prime minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, delegated €400 million for food stamps.
  4. Charities: Charities for the homeless and low-income are attempting to provide resources such as food and health items to those in need. The COVID-19 crisis can be especially difficult for homeless Italians, as closed restaurants and bars provide less access for them to wash their hands. Similarly, it can be difficult to obtain food while social distancing, and homeless people are sometimes stopped by the police for not abiding by quarantine laws. The Community for St. Egidio is a charity that keeps their soup kitchen open, and they distribute 2,500 meals per week. They are also seeking donations for face masks, hand sanitizers and food. 

There is still a long way to go in eradicating poverty in Italy, and COVID-19 may worsen the plight of low-income families in Italy. However, it is still important to note these programs as they help families in need and create innovations in poverty eradication in Italy.

– Ayesha Asad
Photo: Unsplash

Hunger in FijiFiji is an upper-middle-income country located in the Pacific Islands. In Fiji, the agricultural sector has been steadily declining over the last several decades, resulting in hunger concerns. Here is everything you need to know about hunger in Fiji.

Background of Hunger in Fiji

Traditionally, countries struggling with hunger are thought to be plagued with food insecurity and starvation. This is not the case in Fiji, where food availability is adequate — especially in comparison with other Pacific Islands. Fijians even have above-average access to energy-dense foods. Rather than food security, concerns surrounding hunger in Fiji stem from the double burden of over-nutrition and under-nutrition, caused by obesity and deficiencies in micronutrients. Trade policies, poverty and climate change are further causes of hunger in Fiji.

Main Causes of Hunger in Fiji

  1. Trade Policy: Fiji’s poor nutrition largely stems from increased dependence on cheap imported food, resulting in a decreased intake of traditional Fijian food. This decline in demand has resulted in traditional food being grown for export, thus increasing domestic prices. Consequently, families above the poverty line spend 18% of their income on food, and families below the poverty line spend 29% of their income on food.
  2. Poverty: Although extreme poverty is uncommon in Fiji, according to the World Bank, 35.2% of Fijians live in poverty. Furthermore, the per capita purchasing power parity in Fiji is significantly below the global average. Thus, not only do Fijians generally struggle with poverty, but food is also disproportionately expensive.
  3. Climate Change: Fiji is extremely vulnerable to climate change, experiencing frequent storms, cyclones, floods and droughts — all of which can be detrimental to the agricultural sector. Additionally, 25,700 people in Fiji are annually pushed into poverty as a result of climate change, further exacerbating the problem of poverty leading to hunger.

Traditional Fijian Diet

Traditionally, Fijians consumed a diet of fish, seafood, root crops, fruit, wild plants and legumes. In recent years, this traditional diet has been abandoned. In 2014, 50% of the population ate rice daily, 43% ate roti daily and 15% ate instant noodles daily. These unhealthy choices became popular while fruit and vegetable consumption declined, with only 15% of adults getting the recommended five servings daily.

Health Consequences

The major health consequences that arise from hunger in Fiji stem from obesity. One-third of adult Fijians are obese, and the rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as type-2 diabetes is correspondingly high. Obesity increases the risk of NCDs, thus increasing the risk of mortality. Consequently:

In comparison to its Pacific Island neighbors, Fiji possesses great food security. However, Fiji’s problems with poverty, trade policy and climate change perpetuate hunger. For Fijians to be able to afford and consume healthy foods once again, Fiji will need to invest in climate action, limit trade tariffs and promote native crops.

Lily Jones
Photo: Flickr

transportation in impoverished areas
Transportation plays a major role in the development of a region. A lack of transportation impacts a large population of the global poor, from those in rural regions looking for urban jobs to students who need to commute to school. There is great potential for transportation in impoverished areas to stimulate growth and increase opportunities for underserved communities. Here are five facts about transportation in impoverished areas.

5 Facts About Transportation in Impoverished Areas

  1. Access to Transportation: Though a seemingly simple topic, transportation is quite complex for many people across the globe. There are many potential obstacles to accessing transportation. For example, public transport remains unaffordable to many poor people. Relatively high fares make public transportation unattainable for the bottom 20% of the income pyramid.
  2. Increased Job Opportunities: In developing regions, a large portion of economically disadvantaged people live in rural areas. Transport conditions are frequently difficult and draining for these rural poor. A study found that transportation services in rural sub-Saharan Africa actually helped reduce poverty and encourage growth. Improved transportation generally increases access to opportunity for the poor, potentially leading to increased income and ownership of assets. Eventually, these improvements support sustained economic growth for individuals, spurring generational change.
  3. Access to Education: Many students in impoverished areas find that commuting to and from school takes a toll on their physical and mental capacity to learn. In many cases, students drop out of primary school because they have to walk long distances to reach school. In fact, in the absence of paved roads, only 21% of rural girls and 58% of rural boys attend school. On the other hand, if a paved road exists, school enrollment rates increase to 48% for girls and 76% for boys.
  4. Food Security: Access to food and the risk of hunger remain major threats to the global poor. Although rural economies in developing countries are predominantly agrarian, approximately 45% of land area in low-income countries is located more than five hours away from the main market. Without proper infrastructure, farmers cannot sell their produce to a larger market. For instance, poor road links were shown to raise transport costs of bananas in Kenya by 14%. Better transportation systems improve the efficiency of food distribution by connecting regions, while also lowering vehicle damage.
  5. Gender Disparities: There is an obvious gap between the number of men and women in poverty. Despite increasing their participating in the labor force, women end up with lower salaries, often working in the informal sector. Unequal access to transportation perpetuates this trend. In Pakistan, where 75% of women engaged in non-agriculture jobs in the informal economy, a lack of access to public services adversely impacted women’s economic security. Due to fear of violent street crime and abuse, a disproportionate share of women’s commutes in cities are walking trips.

Transportation is a necessary investment to fight global poverty and lift living conditions for those abroad. Governments must work hard to improve access to transportation in impoverished areas. However, foreign aid stands to elevate local governments’ abilities to meet citizens’ basic needs.

Elizabeth Qiao
Photo: Flickr

Food Supply Chains
Despite immense stress due to COVID-19, food supply chains have demonstrated resilience by offering a potential avenue for long-term poverty alleviation. The pandemic has threatened food security around the globe, with Feeding America reporting that as many as 17 million people could experience food insecurity in its wake. As such, food supply chains play an important role in assuring individuals’ access to food.

The Resilience of Food Supply Chains Amidst COVID-19

Food supply chains are the mechanism by which raw food becomes consumer-ready. These supply chains consist of farm production, processing, transportation and consumption. There are two primary categories of food supply chains. Firstly, domestic chains, in which food is produced and consumed in the same country. Second, international chains, in which food is transported across borders. Both domestic and international chains have been severely affected by the pandemic. However, there are notable differences in the impact on the two systems. This is due to their unique types of labor, transportation, and consumer demand among other conditions.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) explained that food supply chain complications disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries. Wealthier countries, which use large-scale international chains, have more capital- and knowledge-intensive structures. These international supply chains have shown greater resilience amidst the pandemic. The recovery of international chains helps explain why low-income countries are experiencing disproportionate effects of the pandemic on food security.

In comparison, low-income countries primarily rely on small and medium domestic chains. Small domestic chains are more labor-intensive and thus affected more heavily by pandemic labor restrictions. Furthermore, the labor-intensive components of food supply chains are the hardest-hit by COVID-19. This impact stems from mobility restrictions, reduced workplace capacities and illness that limits employees’ ability to complete their jobs.

The Potential to Fight Poverty

Ensuring logistical flexibility and employee health is imperative in mitigating harm to domestic food chains. Social innovations are emerging to address the labor needs created by the pandemic. These innovations aim to increase the “flexibility of labor sourcing and timing,” by improving access to transportation, decreasing reliance on physical labor in certain production zones and improving hygiene and health education to avoid outbreaks in densely populated work areas.

Far beyond social innovation in labor, though, many believe the COVID-induced threat to food supply chains could provide an incredible opportunity for long-term poverty alleviation. One contributor to the International Food Policy Research Institute wrote: “During COVID-19, the bureaucratic, financial, logistical and technological reasons that always seemed to make actions impossible or improbable have fallen away.”

Food supply chain innovations have also addressed financial, managerial and health complications. These issues affect supply chains both in the short and long terms. For instance, digital innovation and the growth of e-commerce have played significant roles in enabling supply chains to overcome previously existing complications in the face of the pandemic.

Every type of food supply chain has increased e-commerce use. E-commerce decreases contact between workers and consumers and allows for easier food access around the globe. Apps developed by governments and businesses in places like India and China have allowed consumers direct access to food providers. Overall, these changes simplify the transportation process for food producers in countries around the world.

Innovations in Food Supply Chains

Large-scale supply chains and companies have also supported small and medium domestic supply chains with kick-starter financial support for COVID-19. Aid has also been provided to families and communities through voucher programs. Additionally, the World Bank has been working to stabilize prices across the various supply chains. By investing in the infrastructure and labor flexibility of domestic supply chains, governments and development partners have the power to strengthen global food security.

The threats to food supply chains have considerable policy implications, the OECD explains, underscoring the importance of open borders for importing and exporting food items. The World Bank released a joint statement calling for the free international movement of food to prevent a food insecurity emergency, calling on countries to cooperate to ensure food accessibility around the world. The statement also emphasizes the importance of making every step of food logistics accessible to prevent all people from going hungry, especially during pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.

– Emily Rahhal
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

Genetically Modified PestsHumanity’s ability to feed itself by farming crops is a skill that has existed for millennia. Agriculture has long served humans’ need for nourishment and has allowed the growth and expansion of populations across the world. However, the same agricultural problems that plagued early farmers’ crop fields such as weeds, insects and weather still plague modern farmers today. Modern solutions like genetically modified pests are emerging to increase crop yield and food security for millions.

Issues Facing Farming

One key problem farmers face is pests. Pests such as the diamondback moth and the medfly are extremely dangerous to the health of key crops globally, and pests in general cause crop damage in one of two ways: they either eat or burrow into the plant, or they carry a disease that threatens the plant’s health. On a global scale, pests and the pathogens they carry are reducing crop yields major food crops by 10 to 40%. Furthermore, the resulting dead or inedible crops around the field lead to lower crop yields. In poverty-stricken areas, every crop is critical in preventing families from going hungry. For this reason, crop loss to pests is a massive problem that must be addressed.

Current Solutions and Room for Improvement

Farmers currently attempt to combat these insects with many types of pesticides, including insecticides. Insecticides are chemicals used in both rich and poor countries worldwide to kill the insects that threaten crops. Pesticides are utilized particularly heavily in South America, with insecticides comprising a significant component of total use: in fact, as of 2017, countries like Ecuador have used as many as 4,700 tons of insecticide on their crops to protect against dangerous insects.

With the heavy use of insecticides permeating agriculture globally, a major problem is on the horizon. The very insects these chemicals are designed to protect against are beginning to grow resistant to pesticides’ effects. This resistance leads to chemicals being unnecessarily sprayed on food crops, adversely affecting human health without protecting crops from any damage. Given the issues emerging from insecticide use, an innovative new solution is desperately needed.

A New Solution: Genetically Modified Pests

Valiant scientific efforts are emerging to curtail the issue of insecticide immunity. Oxitec, a company based in the U.K., has created a healthy and environmentally friendly solution to the pest dilemma. Their methods involve the “friendly” genetic modification of male pests to include a “self-limiting” gene. This gene is then passed on to wild females in affected areas. This gene kills off the female’s offspring before they can reach a mature enough age to reproduce, restricting population growth. The gene modification process ultimately shrinks the insect population, protecting more plants and increasing crop yield.

The benefits of Oxitec’s technology extend beyond plant protection. This gene also helps protect other insects, such as bees, that are vital to the agricultural process by killing off their predators. With a robust population, these insects can more efficiently pollinate and increase overall crop yields. Genetically modified pests are also beneficial to environmental and human health. Once properly implemented, this method completely replaces the insecticides that have been known to cause pollution and illness when applied in high volumes.

Impact of Genetically Modified Pests

Genetically modified pest control presents positive implications for poor farmers worldwide. This technique is cost-effective, as the work to defend against pests is done by the insects themselves in nature. Thus, participating farmers save money by no longer having to purchase insecticides and can use the extra funding to help increase crop yields, food supply and income. Additionally, the health benefits of removing insecticides from crops mean farmers and consumers alike benefit nutritionally. This is especially useful in regions where healthcare quality is poor or inaccessible. By removing the health risks of insecticide ingestion, those lacking adequate healthcare could experience a reduction in medical concerns.

By providing a plethora of agricultural, environmental and financial protections, genetically modified pests have the potential to improve the quality of life for millions of farmers. Better yet, this new method of pest control empowers farmers by allowing them to focus on improving other aspects of agriculture, which could increase food security and health for consumers across the globe.

– Domenic Scalora
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Botswana
For a wealthier African country, the prominence of hunger in Botswana may be surprising. Botswana is considered a high middle-income country with several strong industries, particularly mining diamonds. The exports of diamond mining produce roughly 70% of the country’s GDP. Despite being wealthy in diamonds, however, the country is poor in food. Compared to such behemoths as the diamond industry, agriculture makes up a minuscule 3% of the economy. From 2016 to 2018, 70% of Botswana’s population faced moderate to severe food insecurity and 26% were malnourished, most of these cases occurring in poor, urban communities. The country has a large wealth gap between its wealthy and poor citizens, and it is the poor that shoulder the burden of food insecurity and malnourishment.

Inconsistent Food Production

One of the root causes of food insecurity is poor and inconsistent food production. Botswana’s farmers are hampered by a tempestuous climate that threatens frequent droughts. The Kalahari Desert extends into the country and the arid climate causes large temperature fluctuations; this makes growing crops extremely difficult. There are few crops that can grow in even the most favorable conditions in Botswana. The four main crops that can be raised are maize, millet, cowpeas and sorghum. Even though these crops can survive, however, only 0.65% of Botswana’s land is suitable for farming, and on this fraction of farmland, droughts are still frequent. In 2018, drought eliminated 75% of the nation’s crops.

Due to these unfavorable conditions, most agrarian practices revolve around herding cattle. 85% of agricultural output in Botswana comes from animal products. Only recently, because of several droughts shrinking herds, has the number of people living in Botswana surpassed the number of cows, which are essential for many rural Botswanans. Drought can kill most of a herd and destroy a farmer’s livelihood. In a four-year time period from 2011 to 2015, the cattle population of Botswana dropped from 2.5 million to 1.7 million because of severe weather.

A Reliance on Imports

Some Botswanans eat beef from their own cattle, but they still must look elsewhere for the remainder of their diet. Because they cannot produce much on their own, much of Botswana’s food is imported from surrounding countries, mainly South Africa. In 2018, Botswana brought in $380 million USD worth of food from South Africa to feed its people. While it is beneficial that Botswana’s next-door neighbor can supply them with a majority of their food, supply chains are not as reliable as domestic production. This has become evident as the COVID-19 pandemic has burdened South African production and supply chains. Hunger in Botswana is expected to rise over the coming months.

Next Steps

There is a serious lack of consistent food production in Botswana, and it is responsible for the malnutrition and food insecurity that plagues many citizens. Looking to combat this issue, Go Fresh!, an award-winning startup company, has brought grade-one vegetable production to Botswana. Using greenhouses and hydroponics, the company is able to produce quality vegetables throughout the entire year. With this new technology, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and other large vegetables can be grown locally instead of coarse traditional crops. Hydroponics also reduces the amount of water needed in the arid climate: plants require 2% the water of normal commercial farming. As modern farming technology continues to improve, Botswana will be able to shoulder a greater load of food production, helping to aid the crisis of hunger in Botswana.

Brett Muni
Photo: Flickr

solar-cookersAn estimated three billion people around the globe rely on open, bio-fuel based fires to cook. Open-fire cooking can cause injuries from open flames, generate long-term health issues from smoke inhalation, and aggravate deforestation. Furthermore, the time-consuming and often dangerous task of traveling long distances to collect biofuel and maintain the fire disproportionately burdens women and children. Solar-cookers offer a cheap, clean and safe alternative to cooking with an open fire. Implementing this technology can help families avoid the detrimental effects of open-fire cooking that contribute to the cycle of poverty. 

How Solar Cookers Work

Solar-cookers are oven-like devices that use mirrored surfaces to concentrate the sun’s thermal energy and heat the cooker’s contents. These devices are easily constructed with low-cost materials and even the most rudimentary model—the box cooker—can cook at a temperature up to 140° Celsius, or 284° Fahrenheit. 

How Solar-Cookers Help Break the Cycle of Poverty

  1. The only fuel needed to operate solar-cookers is both free and abundant—the sun. While some regions are better suited for harvesting sunlight than others, 85% of the 500 million people living in sun-abundant territories suffer from regional biofuel shortages. Due to these shortages, families either spend as much as 25% of annual income on biofuel or regularly travel long distances to collect it themselves. Solar-cookers relieve families of this financial burden. Besides the initial cost of purchase or construction, solar-cookers need only sunlight to operate. The funding typically allotted for fuel can then be spent on education, increased healthcare or more nutritious foods.
  2. Solar-cookers provide time for families to pursue other activities. Cooking with open fires can require as many as four hours daily to retrieve biofuels. Comparatively, solar-cookers eliminate the need to travel large distances in order to cook altogether. Additionally, the food in solar-cookers does not need regular stirring and can be left unattended for the total cook time. For the women and children typically involved in the process of maintaining the fire or gathering fuel, the valuable time saved can be spent on other economically beneficial activities, such as pursuing education, caring for family members or producing and preparing goods for sale.
  3. Solar-cookers can reduce the rate of infections and death due to water-borne illnesses. Solar cookers can be used to pasteurize water in locations where potable sources of water are unavailable. Eliminating the cost of biomass fuel to heat the water, solar-cookers make consistent purification of drinking water more economically viable. Water purification also saves families from unnecessary and costly expenditures on healthcare due to water-borne illnesses.
  4. Solar-cookers combat malnutrition. High levels of childhood stunting, a direct effect of chronic malnutrition, correlates directly with household poverty. Biofuel-scarcity contributes to malnutrition, as families exclude foods with higher nutritional value due to longer cook times. Solar-cookers eliminate this problem, allowing families to restore nutrient-heavy foods to their diets. Additionally, the slow cooking style of solar-cookers allows food to retain more nutrients than if cooked through traditional methods. Lastly, local food production and availability improve as solar-cookers reduce deforestation; the increased quality of soil and water lends itself to superior agricultural production.
  5. Solar-cookers eliminate the risk of health issues caused by open fires. According to the World Health Organization, household air pollution from open fire cooking and simple stoves are responsible for approximately four million deaths annually. Accidents from open-fire cooking can lead to burn injuries and disfigurement, as well as the destruction of property. Solar-cookers are entirely flame and smoke-free. These devices effectively eliminate the detrimental consequences of meal and water preparation and save families from burdensome healthcare costs.

Solar-Cookers in Action

The success stories are plenty. In the Iridimi refugee camp in Chad, distribution of solar-cookers by the NGO Solar Cookers International caused an 86% drop in trips outside of camp to collect firewood. This reduced exposure to violence from the Janjaweed militia group. Additionally, food consumption increased as families no longer needed to barter food rations away for firewood. In Oaxaca, Mexico, where households spend as much as 10% income on energy, Solar Household Energy supplied 200 local women with solar cookers in 2016. Today, users report that the cookers have reduced the use of their woodstoves by more than 50% and that they have more free time. Many of the women now organize solar-cooker demonstrations in their homes to promote the benefits of leaving open-fire cooking behind. 

– Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr

Global Food Security
The Borgen Project has published this article and podcast episode, “COVID-19 and the 5 Major Threats it Poses to Global Food Security,” with permission from The World Food Program (WFP) USA. “Hacking Hunger” is the organization’s podcast that features stories of people around the world who are struggling with hunger and thought-provoking conversations with humanitarians who are working to solve it.

 

Entering 2020, the number of hungry and malnourished people around the world was already on the rise due to an increase in violent conflict and climate change impacts. Today, over 800 million people face chronic undernourishment and over 100 million people are in need of lifesaving food assistance. The novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, risks undermining the efforts of humanitarian and food security organizations seeking to reverse these trends.

As former International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Director General Shenggan Fan, writes, “COVID-19 is a health crisis. But it could also lead to a food security crisis if proper measures are not taken.”

Every major outbreak in recent memory—Ebola, SARS, MERS—has had both direct and indirect negative impacts on food security. On this episode of Hacking Hunger, Dr. Chase Sova, WFP USA senior director of public policy and research, tells us what the experts are saying about the likelihood and nature of such impacts from COVID-19.

Click below to listen to what Dr. Chase Sova has to say about the threat COVID-19 poses to global food security.

 

 

Photo: Flickr