Vertical FarmingThe new AI-run vertical farming plantation brings new possibilities to agriculture and efficient production, as Plenty, an ag-tech company, co-founded by Nate Storey, proves there is now more benefit than cost to vertical farming. By utilizing robots and artificial intelligence systems to regulate LED sunlight panels, watering systems and pest control, this futuristic method has surpassed its previous form of being too expensive and complex.

Vertical Farming

Through the current transitions made toward maximizing agricultural use of AI, farming today has already begun employing drones and smart robots to remove weeds or spread herbicides efficiently. Greenfield Robotics had already released different functional fleets active in certain farms. Now, Plenty utilizes similar technologies with robots harvesting and organizing plants in the vertical farming stations. Fundamentals such as water, temperature and light are systematically calculated and regulated through smart systems that prioritize a greater, faster and better crop turnout.

Benefits of AI-Run Vertical Farming

Through artificial intelligence, farmers are now able to adopt a more eco-friendly methodology. Robots and machine learning promote certain technologies such as tracking soil composition, moisture content, crop humidity and optimal crop temperatures. Despite the previous vertical farming history and cost-benefit analysis, modern-day AI-run vertical farming allows certain resources to be recycled, controlled and reused. This can be seen in AI-run water filtration systems that catch evaporated water from the farms or indoor energy renewal systems.

Alleviating Agricultural Issues

These innovations alleviate many issues that arise in agriculture and distribution. The most notable feat is the space that vertical farming saves in comparison to traditional farmland regions. Plenty’s vertical farm covers two acres and yields similar, if not better, harvest and product quality to that of a 750-acre flat farm. Plenty’s website expresses its greatest feat yet: “Imagine a 1,500-acre farm. Now imagine that fitting inside your favorite grocery store, growing up to 350 times more.”

Plenty also points out the freedom AI-run vertical farming brings to agriculture today. By being independent and self-sufficient with consistent sunlight, recycled water and a controlled environment, farming is no longer restricted to natural inconsistencies. Climate change and weather patterns do not determine the outcome of the produce, due to this new ability to control the necessary components to production. In light of COVID-19 and wildfires that breakdown supply chains, this factor prevents unprecedented shutdowns of essential services in agriculture.

AI-run vertical farming allows farms to exist within metropolitan sectors instead of weather-dependent regions. By having a closer source, distribution is more efficient leading to less CO2 emissions and dependency on preservatives. This method also allows cost reduction, since transportation, product cost and labor are reduced, which allows impoverished communities access to better produce.

The Future of AI-Run Vertical Farming

All things considered, this new innovative alternative brings a cleaner and more sustainable future for agriculture, whether it be in produce quality or carbon footprint. With Plenty’s ongoing environmental adjustments and technological updates, the organization continues to expand its service, with a $400 million investment capital from Softbank, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos and former Google chairman, Eric Schmidt. Plenty has also partnered with Albertsons to supply 430 stores in California.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Lab-Grown MeatIn the effort to reduce poverty around the world, scientific innovations and technological solutions are welcomed. Developments in technological capabilities provide new potential approaches to reducing poverty. One such development that has received increased attention is the emergence of lab-grown meat as an alternative source of food for populations in developing countries. Lab-grown meat has only emerged as a potential solution quite recently, and even at this young stage of development, there are many who argue both for and against its potential effectiveness and applicability in the effort to reduce poverty.

Lab-Grown Meat

Lab-grown meat, known alternatively as cultured meat, is an alternative application of stem cell technology typically used in medicine. Stem cells are extracted from an animal and converted to muscle cells. The cells are then cultured on a scaffold with nutrients and essential vitamins. From this point, they grow and can eventually be shaped into any desired form, such as sausages, hamburgers, steaks or mince. Lab-grown meat is being considered as a potential solution to food insecurity in impoverished countries as it takes much less time to grow, uses fewer of the planet’s resources and no animals need to be farmed or slaughtered.

The Arguments Against Cultured Meat

Those against the implementation of cultured meat as a tool in the struggle against world poverty point firstly to the impracticality of current production. The world’s first cultured burger, cooked on live TV in 2013, cost $330,000 to produce and more of its kind might not be commercially available for decades.

In addition to the practicality issue, critics also argue that providing meat grown in foreign labs to developing countries is not ultimately constructive. It creates a dependence on exports for food when most developing countries have the capabilities to produce their own food.

Most African and Asian countries used to be self-sufficient with regard to food production but this has changed over the last 30 years. Subsidized western-grown crops have been pushed on developing countries and barriers to markets have been lowered, allowing U.S. and European firms to export crops to developing countries.

Poverty Reduction Applicability

Kanayo Nwanze former president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), presented an argument in 2013 which has maintained support today. The argument is that the decline of agriculture in developing countries has been an effect of underinvestment as a result of structural adjustment programs pushed by the World Bank. The World Bank has funded numerous investment programs in recent years that aim to provide developing nations with western food as a means of poverty alleviation. Some argue that this is not a sustainable solution and will only lead developing nations to be dependent in the future. Instead of investing in big science, those looking to reduce global poverty should focus on supporting rural regions and small farmers.

Eat Just: Cultured Meat

Despite the existing criticism of cultured meat, supporters of this developing technology have reason to be optimistic. In December 2020, U.S. startup, Eat Just, became the first in the world to gain government approval to sell its product to the public. This approval came from the government of Singapore, which means cultured chicken will soon be available at an unnamed restaurant in Singapore. This is a landmark development for the cultured meat business. Following this gain of approval, more governments around the world may follow suit. According to Eat Just, cultured chicken nuggets will be available at “price parity for premium chicken you’d enjoy at a restaurant.”

The Potential of Lab-Grown Meat

The debate around the effectiveness of cultured meat as a tool in poverty reduction is justified and indeed necessary. Only after serious consideration and scrutiny does any new idea earn approval and the right to be implemented. Though right now it may seem that there are more arguments against its implementation than for, this is largely due to the novelty surrounding the idea. The technology and industry with regards to lab-grown meat as a whole are still in the early stages of development. The idea of lab-grown meat as a potential solution to hunger and poverty is being followed eagerly by supporters and skeptically by critics. Only time will tell whether this novel idea succeeds or falls short.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr

cause of hungerThe COVID-19 pandemic is deemed a global health crisis that has resulted in an economic crisis and a hunger crisis too. In the Dominican Republic, Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger.

Unemployment Due to COVID-19

Cabarete, Dominican Republic, prides itself on being one of the watersports capitals of the world. Nearly two-thirds of Cabarete’s population depends on the local tourism industry for work and income. These jobs mostly fall under the informal economy.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 60% of the world’s working population were employed in the informal economy. The informal economy is defined by hourly jobs that offer neither a salary nor employee benefits. The pandemic left many people without a regular source of income and without health insurance.

Compared with the bailout packages that the governments of wealthy nations were able to provide to their citizens, the governments of impoverished nations were unable to provide citizens with such economic support. Around the world, NGOs have attempted to assist in providing the support that impoverished governments are unable to provide.

Cabarete Sostenible Addresses the Root Cause of Hunger

Moraima Capellán Pichardo, a citizen of Cabarete, is a supporter of the concept of food sovereignty. The Borgen Project spoke with Capellán Pichardo about the origins of Cabarete Sostenible and the organization’s long-term goals. Food sovereignty, the principle that individual self-actualization is dependent on having enough to eat, is at the heart of Cabarete Sostenible’s mission.

Capellán Pichardo told The Borgen Project that individual NGOs in Cabarete were working independently of each other when the COVID-19 pandemic began. These separate organizations had a common goal so they came together to form a coalition and increase their impact. This coalition became the nonprofit organization, Cabarete Sostenible. Everyone who works with Cabarete Sostenible is a volunteer. The organization works with local food distributors and organic farms and distributes the foodstuff that it receives to struggling families and individuals in Cabarete. This forms the organization’s first response to the hunger crisis.

Although it began as a method to address an acute crisis, Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger. Capellán Pichardo indicated that food sovereignty has been on the minds of Cabarete Sostenible’s volunteers and organizers since its inception. “Very early on, we sat down to discuss where we thought Cabarete Sostenible was going in the future. For us, we wanted to make sure that we did not just stick to giving out food because that does not really address the root problem.”

The Concept of Food Sovereignty

Food insecurity means being without reliable access to sufficient and nutritious supplies of food at any given time and is a common reality for citizens of Cabarete. On the other hand, food sovereignty, organizing society in such a manner that every individual has access to producing his or her own food, is a possible solution to food insecurity. “Food sovereignty is tied to land access,” Capellán Pichardo says. “For us, it is important that the first mission that Cabarete Sostenible focuses on is food sovereignty: access to healthy and appropriate food and using the native agricultural land to provide that.”

Food Sovereignty Addresses Food Insecurity

Since COVID-19, many factors have contributed to a rise in food insecurity and extreme poverty worldwide. Mass rates of unemployment have threatened access to food as even the poorest households spend close to three-fourths of their income on food.

Widespread unemployment, combined with unexpected drops in agricultural production, has created an unprecedented crisis. Because of supply line disruptions and trade barriers, often the result of increased health precautions, citizens of the world’s poorest nations are left without access to food. Some of the suffering caused by such disruptions can be mitigated by food sovereignty policies. Perhaps, a societal approach may be modeled after Cabarete Sostenible’s efforts to address the root causes of hunger.

Sustainable Community Solutions to Hunger

Capellán Pichardo is optimistic about the road ahead as she details how the organization has worked with local landowners to collaborate on solutions. The organization has opened the first community garden and is working to partner up to create a community-style farm. All this is work toward creating a social business model. Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger by helping to create a sustainable way of living, where food shortages are less likely and future hunger crises are averted.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Farming Innovations in JapanAgri-tech, a growing term used to describe Japan’s digital farming technology has greatly advanced farming systems in the country in order to combat a potential water shortage by 2030. Both experienced and inexperienced farmers in Japan are using new technologies to limit the overuse of water and fertilizer, which in turn, is fighting food insecurity and poverty for the entire population. Professor Kiyoshi Ozawa, from Meiji University Kurokawa Field Science Center, summarizes the system, “instead of spraying a large amount of water with sprinklers or the like, fertigation uses narrow pipes to place drops of water and fertilizer at the roots of the growing crops.” Farming innovations in Japan aim to reduce overall poverty in the country.

Farming Innovations in Japan

There are several innovations to take note of that have eased the labor intensity and climate impact of farming in Japan, such as heat-resistant varieties, delayed transplanting and specialized application of fertilizers, to combat both climate change and poverty in the face of a potentially grave water and food shortages.

Japan Today, an esteemed magazine based in Japan, also highlights the main goal of this growing agri-tech business as a collaboration between experts, advanced farmers and younger generations to create permanent, sustainable solutions and share knowledge about the most efficient farming techniques. “The valuable experience and techniques of veteran farmers could also be more accessible to newer farmers via the web,” explains writer Allen Croft, “such as learning resources about harvesting times with databases and photos.”

Factors Affecting Farming in Japan

Not only do these farming innovations in Japan help to alleviate poverty in vulnerable communities but they also fight climate change issues by directly limiting water and fertilizer usage and combatting overproduction. Climate change has caused tension in the agricultural world of Japan, as unpredictable water levels cause heightened food prices, specifically in terms of rice production. Several other factors are contributing to pressure on Japan’s farming industry, including a decline in labor force participation as fewer young people are becoming farmers as well as Japan’s reliance on food imports.

These new technological farming innovations in Japan are working to alleviate the problems outlined above and are bringing new uses to AI and loT technology in a way the farming communities have never seen before. Through data analysis and observation of traditional farming structures, farmers can maintain exact water measurements and maximize soil fertility in order to maintain consistent crop growth. The main goal of these digital solutions to farming in Japan is to create permanently sustainable agricultural practices for generations to come.

The Japan Social Development Fund

Specifically from the standpoint of poverty alleviation, the World Bank has implemented a project, the Japan Social Development Fund, that aids impoverished communities while focusing on education, adaptation to climate change, health and sanitation services as well as environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. While most vulnerable communities in Japan do not have access to the digital technology innovations that farmers have developed, a social shift towards awareness of water usage has allowed farmers with limited resources to implement certain practices.

The Future of Digital Agriculture

There are a variety of growing measures set in place to make the agriculture business in Japan more sustainable in the face of both climate change and poverty. Digital agriculture is growing at an immense rate and it is predicted that the global market, specifically for agricultural robots, will reach $73.9 billion by 2024, which will vastly change the structure of food production and the labor force. The scope of digital farming innovations in Japan is broad and could potentially create a basis for agriculture in other countries struggling with water and food shortages as well.

– Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr

Fall ArmywormMachine learning, a variation of artificial intelligence that includes the development of algorithms that independently learn new information, has innumerable applications. An example of this can be found in Africa, where the fall armyworm pest in Uganda has ravaged crop yields. Amid the destruction, a new machine learning-based app created by a Ugandan developer has the potential to stop the spread of the crop-destroying pest.

Agriculture in Uganda and the Fall Armyworm

Approximately 22% of Uganda’s GDP comes from agriculture, with most Ugandans working in the agricultural sector, often engaging in subsistence farming. With the nation’s economic performance relying on successful agricultural harvests and the population’s everyday food source coming from their own crop yields, any invasion of pests in Uganda can have serious consequences.

In 2016, Uganda experienced its first invasion of the fall armyworm pest, the larva of the armyworm moth. A native of the tropical regions of the western hemisphere, the fall armyworm pest eats through crops for nourishment before its transformation into a moth. By mid-2017, the fall armyworm had been detected throughout Uganda and was estimated to have caused $192 million USD in maize crop losses alone. In some regions, up to 75% of crop yields were lost.

Despite the severe threat posed by the fall armyworm pest in Uganda, local developers have created a machine learning-based tool to assist Ugandan farmers with detecting the presence of the fall armyworm in their crops and preventing its spread.

Machine Learning to Protect Crops

In the aftermath of the arrival of the fall armyworm pest, Nazirini Siraji, a Ugandan woman from the city of Mbale, began work on a modern solution to the age-old problem of pest invasions. After attending one of Google’s Codelabs events, Siraji used Google’s TensorFlow platform to develop her Farmers Companion App. TensorFlow is an open-source machine learning tool that enables developers like Siraji to create digital solutions powered by artificial intelligence.

The Farmers Companion App enables farmers to use mobile technology to identify this specific pest on their crops and their lifecycle stage. Using this information, the app notifies the user about the threat level faced by their crops and the extent to which the fall armyworm has the potential to spread. The app also recommends specific pesticide treatments that can be used based on the situation of the farmer’s crops.

According to Google, the app has already been deployed in the agricultural lands surrounding Mbale, where Siraji partners with local farmers in utilizing her Farmers Companion App.

Big Tech Meets Local Developer

The global expansion of the internet has been accompanied by a rise in local innovation aimed at solving local issues. In Africa, pest invasions have been responsible for countless crop shortages and famines, which exacerbates problems of instability and poverty. While invasions from pests like the fall armyworm will inevitably occur in the future, they will not happen again without opposition from new technology.

John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Agroforestry Can Reduce Global PovertyForests provide food, medicine, fodder and energy for 250 million of the world’s extreme poor. If utilized properly, the method of agroforestry can reduce global poverty. The resources and benefits that forests can provide are often inaccessible to those in poverty due to the private ownership of forests.

Ownership of Forests

Approximately 77% of the world’s forests are owned and administered by governments that do not recognize the claims of indigenous peoples and local communities to the land. Since government priorities do not always align with community needs, the locals who need the forests to survive do not receive the benefits that they should. For example, the timber and ecotourism industries in Africa are skyrocketing but the locals do not share in the profits.

Agroforestry

Agroforestry, the agricultural practice of growing trees and shrubs around crops or pastureland, can ameliorate this problem. Agroforestry builds on existing agricultural land already owned by communities to create new forests not owned by the government, thereby circumventing the ownership problem and guaranteeing that profits remain in the community. Agroforestry systems are smaller in scale than typical forests but they still deliver many of the same positive results: they diversify production, restore soil fertility and increase biodiversity.

The benefits of agroforestry extend beyond environmental issues. Agroforestry can reduce global poverty by increasing food resources and security, improving nutrition and increasing profits for farmers.

3 Countries Using Agroforestry

  1. Bolivia uses agroforestry to reduce food insecurity. Bolivia is one of the biggest producers of organic cacao, which despite being edible, is not a major food crop. Cacao is grown mostly wild or in monocultures, though there is a growing shift to agroforestry systems where cacao trees are intercropped with shade trees and other by-crops like bananas and avocados. Over 75% of Bolivian households lack regular access to basic foods. Thanks to agroforestry, 40% of the population who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods can both produce more food and earn more money to buy what they do not grow. The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) found that the return on labor was double for agroforestry systems compared to monocultures even though the cacao yields were 40% higher in the monocultures. The revenue difference came from the sale of the by-crops, which offset the lower cacao yield. The by-crops helped farmers earn a profit but also represented a food source for the communities.

  2. Burkina Faso uses agroforestry as a means of women’s empowerment. The U.N. Development Program estimates that an average of three million African women work directly or indirectly with shea butter. Women have historically played an important role in the extraction of shea butter but they have not always been compensated for their work, even as the industry and profits grew. Agroforestry allows for more community involvement in farming, which in turn opens up opportunities for women. NGOs like CECI and WUSC help to train women in shea harvesting as part of the Uniterra project, which aims to get women involved in entrepreneurial ventures such as developing their own shea butter businesses for international exports. As a result of agroforestry, more women are empowered to take themselves out of poverty.

  3. India is a global leader in agroforestry policy. India was the first country to create a national agroforestry policy in 2014 despite existing policies that were unfavorable to agriculture, weak markets and a lack of institutional finance. The country set the ambitious goal of increasing national tree cover to 33% as a way to make agriculture more sustainable while optimizing its productivity. Agroforestry is currently in use on 13.5 million hectares in India but the government hopes to expand it to increase benefits like reducing poverty and malnutrition by tripling crop yields. Already, agroforestry provides 65% of the country’s timber and almost half of its fuelwood. Timber production on tree farms generates 450 employment days per hectare per year, which can reduce rural unemployment, and in turn, rural poverty.

The Potential of Agroforestry in Poverty Reduction

Many other rural communities in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia have relied on agroforestry throughout history, with and without government backing. As a whole, agroforestry is underused in the fight against global poverty. Nations with large agricultural sectors need to adopt agroforestry policies and promote the training needed to help farmers implement agroforestry on a large scale. These agroforestry efforts have the potential to significantly contribute to global poverty reduction.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Solving Hunger in South Korea, From Its Own Borders to the International CommunitySouth Korea remains one of the most technologically and economically developed countries. Standing as the number one most educated country and the 14th largest economy, South Korea has a small rate of undernourishment and relatively low levels of poverty. The poverty rate in South Korea is 13% for the working-age population and 44% for the elderly, ages 66 and older. Additionally, the rate of hunger in South Korea is relatively low. As of 2019, South Korea ranks 29 on the Global Food Security Index and only 2.5% of South Korea is undernourished. Stunting in South Korea, which refers to a child who is too short for their age as a result of chronic malnutrition, is 3%. These low rates of undernourishment and stunting are due to the high presence and quality of South Korea’s Food Safety Net Programs.

Innovate Ways to Battling Hunger

South Korea has implemented excellent programs and initiatives for poverty and hunger-reduction. The South Korean government worked to alleviate hunger among the elderly by offering a retirement program where elderly individuals receive about $200 a month. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in South Korea also established a food safety management system to provide safer and healthier food. Foods that are made domestically go through a three-step process of manufacturing, distribution and consumption.

During the manufacturing stage, the business operator must submit a food and item report. Inspections are then conducted to ensure the safety of the products. In the distribution stage, food products are collected and inspected further to strengthen the safety of food distribution. The food is also traced through a system so that all distribution routes are tracked. Lastly, the program ensures that in the consumption stage, all false or over-exaggerated advertisements are monitored thoroughly and food standards are met. This three-step program is essential to ensure the food safety and nutritional needs are met.

Addressing Food Waste and Building Rice Self-Sufficiency

Today, the world produces enough food to sustain every single individual, but almost a third of all food produced every year never reaches consumption due to excessive food waste. To tackle this problem and maximize the efficiency of food distribution, South Korea has implemented food waste programs that recycle more than 95% of its food waste. Leftover food in major cities like Seoul is collected from residences, hotels and restaurants and deposited in sorting facilities. The food is then crushed and dried and used as fertilizer, animal feed and even used for generating electricity. This program has reduced food waste in districts by 30% and in restaurants by 40%.

One of the biggest contributions to hunger reduction in South Korea is the system of rice self-sufficiency, where rice consumption became a matter of “national duty.” In the late 1970s, South Korea grew self-sufficient in rice for the first time. Local consumers were prompted to buy local Korean produce through food campaigns that insisted on the consumption of rice as an important national responsibility. As a result of local rice production and consumption, the average rural income grew higher than the average urban income and South Korea became self-sufficient in its most essential food commodity: rice. This rice self-sufficiency contributed tremendously to food security in South Korea.

Helping Others

South Korea has come a long way since the Japanese colonization of Korea and the Korean War. The country has found innovative ways to strengthen its economy, reduce its poverty and establish food security and food safety net programs. These innovative programs and the resulting low rates of hunger have inspired the international community to take note of South Korea’s achievements and follow its lead. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), for instance, has joined forces with South Korea to encourage and strengthen its Zero-Hunger efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. South Korea has been working with FAO to help drought-stricken farmers in Afghanistan as well as provide training in rice production for farming communities in West Africa. In June of 2019, South Korea also responded to the severe food shortages afflicting 40% of North Korea by distributing $8 million in food aid to North Korea.

Today, the vast influence that South Korea has on the international community is clear. Not only did they create new critical ways to solve important issues such as poverty, hunger and food waste in their own country, but they also shared these strategies with other countries. South Korea continues to provide aid and assistance to countries like Afghanistan and communities in West Africa while ensuring that hunger in South Korea is managed.

—Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

Urban Farming Can Help Reduce Poverty

The United Nations reports that over 2.5 billion people live in urban areas today and the rate of urbanization is only accelerating. By 2025, it is estimated that 3.5 billion people will live in urban areas, nearly half of the world’s population. People’s way of life is changing and the way people access their food also needs to adapt, which is where urban farming comes in. Urban farming can help reduce poverty in addition to an array of other benefits.

Challenges of Urbanization

Historically, moving to a city has been associated with increased opportunity and wealth, driven by more and better jobs and the promise of upward momentum and a better life. Today, the reality of urbanization is much different. Urbanization in low-income countries is growing exponentially and marked by poverty, unemployment and food insecurity. Many people move to the city from rural areas to escape over-population, violence, disease and hunger. As a direct result of this, about one billion people live in urban slums without access to sanitization, clean water or enough food or work. To survive, many people have resorted to growing their own food wherever they can. This is known as urban agriculture or urban farming and in many places, it is becoming the front line of food production.

What is Urban Farming?

Urban farming is a local food system of growing plants and raising livestock in and around cities, as opposed to traditional rural areas. Today, 800 million people around the world rely on urban agriculture for access to fresh, healthy foods. Urban agriculture is versatile, allowing for different crops to be grown. This provides urban communities with direct access and control over nutritious and locally-produced food, which creates jobs and boosts the local economy. Urban farming is also good for the environment and positively impacts household food security. All of these factors result in poverty reduction, which helps quickly developing urban areas.

Financial Incentives

Urban agriculture requires workers to harvest, care for, sell and maintain crops and animals. This has a huge impact on families struggling to find employment by creating jobs and supporting livelihoods. Additionally, it makes fresh food cheaper, allowing people in low-income areas access to affordable produce. Urban farming can help reduce poverty because when more people have jobs and are able to buy, it fuels the economy, creating even more opportunities. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) sees how important urban agriculture is in poverty reduction efforts and has helped over 20 city governments implement multidisciplinary actions to optimize policies, financial incentives and training programs to low-income farmers in order to “improve horticultural production systems.”

Environmental Benefits

Cities, especially highly populated ones, face many environmental challenges. These may include lack of greenspace, heat capture, pollution, lack of biodiversity and poor air quality. Urban farming can reduce the negative effects of these concerns. By decreasing carbon dioxide in the air, providing environments for different species to thrive and decreasing the environmentally costly process of importing food from other places, urban agriculture is environmentally beneficial.

Success Stories

Across the world, urban farming is helping people and seeing success in many communities. RotterZwam, located in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is a “circular system” mushroom farming operation that uses coffee grounds used by local businesses to fertilize the plants. The facility itself is solar-powered and delivers products with electric cars. Another organization based out of London, England, uses the same circular system method. Called GrowUp Urban Farms, the farm grows crops and farms fish simultaneously by utilizing their symbiotic relationship. Both farms are good for the environment and jobs and are also booming local businesses.

Overall, urban farming can help reduce poverty in a number of important ways. It improves local economies by stimulating commerce and creating jobs, helps the environment and provides healthy, affordable food to local communities.

– Noelle Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Mexico
Right now, over a quarter of Mexican children live in poverty. Many of these children lack the basic necessities for success, such as education, food and housing. As a result, the cycle of poverty continues. Mexico possesses a two-sided economy in which one side thrives with a growing GDP, while the other is overwhelmingly impoverished. This socioeconomic disparity results in devastating consequences for Mexico’s most vulnerable demographic- its children. Here are three important ways to help alleviate child poverty in Mexico.

3 Ways to Help Alleviate Child Poverty in Mexico

  1. Improve Education Quality: The dedication to education in Mexico is staggeringly low. As of right now, only 0.8% of Mexico’s GDP is dedicated to early childhood social investments. This percentage is lower than every other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country other than Turkey. With nearly 5,000 Mexican children dropping out of school every day, the need for education reform is growing increasingly stronger. Only 62% of Mexican children reach high school and a mere 38% of Mexican adults between 25 and 64 have completed an upper secondary education. This is a startling statistic in comparison to the OECD average of 74% of adults between 25 and 64 having completed secondary education. Education directly links to poverty reduction; organizations such as Enseña Por México recognize the serious disadvantages that children in Mexico face as a result of their lack of effective schooling. Enseña Por México, a counterpart of the U.S. organization Teach for America, aims to expand educational opportunities in Mexico. Its methodology includes one-on-one teaching from education professionals in the hopes of bolstering academic, professional and social development. While the organization has been running for the past six years, it has served over 60,000 students.
  2. Ensure Food Security: While rates of malnutrition in Mexico have dropped within recent years, the prime issue of food insecurity still prevails. Nationally, 13% of children under the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition. This percentage primarily comes from rural southern Mexico, where food insecurity is a prevalent issue. Food insecurity results from problems with availability, accessibility and consumption. The number of malnourished children in Mexico is not a result of the country’s lack of national food production; rather, it is a product of Mexico’s poor families lacking basic access to food. However, some are making efforts to help these underprivileged children and their families. Organizations such as the Southern Baja Food Security Alliance (SBFSA) are working to provide healthy food programs in rural areas of Mexico. The organization works in collaboration with community stakeholders to help institute education programs that teach citizens how to grow and harvest healthy foods. These programs reach into the particularly rural areas of Southern Mexico that suffer from food insecurity the most severely. These communities desperately need sustainable solutions to alleviate hunger in their communities and ensure proper nutrition for their children.
  3. Remove Children from Dangerous Situations: Homelessness is a frequent consequence of child poverty in Mexico. “Street children” is a term that people often use to describe this group between the ages of 6 and 18 years old. Mexico City has 1,900,000  underprivileged and street children; nearly 240,000 of these are children who have experienced abandonment. Housing instability results in a heightened number of at-risk youths. Stunted development physically, psychologically and behaviorally all inextricably link to homelessness. These inhibited developments lead to children falling victim to issues like substance abuse, depression and mental health problems. The reasons why many children are homeless in Mexico are that they have learning disabilities, come from situations of domestic violence or have familial estrangements. Tragically, it is not uncommon to see homeless children as young as 5 years old attempting to sell trinkets on the streets of larger cities such as Mexico City or Puebla. Certain organizations have been working to take these homeless children out of their dangerous living situations. Mexico Child Link Trust, for example, works toward helping abandoned children with learning disabilities in Mexico. The organization provides housing for abandoned and orphaned children with learning disabilities, many of whom are prior street children. With over 20 years of success, the Mexico Child Link Trust has helped numerous children gain sustainable housing. Meanwhile, Street Soccer Mexico A.C. uses soccer as a tool to help homeless and disadvantaged children transform their perspectives and attitudes. The organization receives aid from national and civic institutions to organize soccer training and tournaments for its members. Since its opening 6 years ago, Street Soccer Mexico A.C. has expanded its program to reach every state of Mexico.

Child poverty in Mexico is flourishing as a substantial portion of the Mexican population lives below the poverty line. A lack of education, food insecurity and homelessness plague many of their lives. While organizations work toward aiding these vulnerable individuals, an abundance of work still needs to occur to help the impoverished children of Mexico.

– Hope Shourd
Photo: Pixabay

hunger in switzerlandSwitzerland is a well-off country with a high standard of living and a low poverty rate. While poverty does exist within the country, food security is not much of a concern due to strong welfare programs. This is because hunger in Switzerland is an issue that the government takes seriously and works hard to improve.

Life in Switzerland

Switzerland has a high overall standard of living, but this comes with a high cost of living that can alienate impoverished people. Both Zurich and Geneva are some of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live. Even against other developed countries with similar standards of living, Switzerland is expensive. The average total household expenditure in Switzerland is about 60% higher than the average of the European Union.

The price of living in Switzerland is steep. Swiss health insurance is mandatory by law, monthly rent is relatively high, and transportation and grocery costs are significant expenses. Switzerland also boasts some of the highest salaries in the world, which offsets the costs of living. However, of the 7.9% of Swiss residents living below the poverty line— about 660,000 people—still struggle to afford what they need. However, poverty in Switzerland is relatively low. Government welfare programs help impoverished people get back on their feet.

Welfare Programs in Switzerland

Hunger in Switzerland is rare due to the fact that Swiss welfare payments cover necessities such as food, clothing, housing, health insurance, and other personal needs. Upwards of 270,000 Swiss residents receive some sort of welfare, distributed at the cantonal level to residents living below the country’s poverty line. This amounted to about $2.85 billion spent on welfare throughout the entire country in 2018.

There are several guidelines about who qualifies for receiving welfare and how welfare benefits can be spent. They include housing within a certain price range, cars covered for health reasons or jobs inaccessible by public transport, and welfare not covering expenses for pets. Welfare recipients are not eligible to become Swiss citizens while receiving welfare or for three years after (although the wait is longer in some cantons).

The social assistance programs work to ensure Swiss residents are receiving the help they need to survive and get back on their feet. 8% of welfare recipients need help for six or more years, 20% require assistance for only one or two years, and about 50% receive welfare for less than a year. Aggressive and good quality welfare programs ensure that hunger in Switzerland is a very rare and easily fixable issue.

Global Food Security and Hunger Worldwide

While hunger in Switzerland itself is not much of an issue, Switzerland works hard to assist global food security.

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is a global partnership for agricultural research.  CGIAR is one of Switzerland’s 15 priority organizations for global development. It supports research in 80 countries on food quality and sustainable natural resource management. The goal of their research is to stabilize agricultural production and food supply for a rising global population. The Swiss Federal Council renewed its contributions to the CGIAR in 2019, pledging to contribute CHF 33.1 million or $35.9 million in the 2020-21 period.

Switzerland is dedicated to supporting other countries in facing food insecurity, as shown by the town of Basel which put together the event “Basel Gegen Hunger” in June of 2018. This was the second annual event for the campaign. The event raised funds and brought awareness to the hunger crisis in South Sudan. In six weeks, the residents of Basel raised more than CHF 53,000—close to $60,000—for people affected by the famine.

Hunger in Switzerland is low due to its comprehensive welfare programs. However, the Swiss are dedicated to fighting global hunger. Switzerland addresses hunger domestically and globally through agricultural research, giving money, and spreading awareness.

Kathy Wei

Photo: Flickr