Information and stories on food.

Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa with a population of more than 15 million people. Today, more than 70% of the country’s population experience poverty. The people of Somalia struggle with food insecurity, vulnerability to human trafficking and youth unemployment among other challenges. One issue, in particular, is malnutrition in Somali children.

Food Insecurity

The most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report on Somalia projects that 22% of the population or 2.7 million people will struggle with acute food insecurity in the coming months. The main factors contributing to food insecurity are locusts, floods, droughts and low amounts of rainfall.

Malnutrition in Somali Children

The current food insecurity crisis facing Somalia has placed more than 800,000 children at risk of acute malnutrition. Nutrition surveys taken in 2020 measured Global Acute Malnutrition levels of 36 population groups in Somalia on a scale increasing in intensity from Acceptable (IPC phase 1) to critical (IPC phase 4). Specifically:

  • Nine out of 36 population groups in Somalia faced critical levels of Global Acute Malnutrition. This means that more than 15% of the population of children in these regions are suffering from acute malnutrition.
  • A total of 28 population groups suffered from severe (IPC phase 3) levels of malnutrition. This means at least 10% of the population experienced acute malnutrition.
  • More than 34% of Somali children are in need of treatment for acute malnutrition.

Compared to years past, more populations have improved to phase 3 as their acute malnutrition levels decrease. Malnutrition levels have improved due to continued humanitarian aid efforts and accessibility to milk. The ongoing pandemic and seasonal challenges may lead to increased levels of acute malnutrition as food access decreases and the ability to get aid to at-risk populations becomes more costly.

Combating Malnutrition

Save the Children is a humanitarian organization that has been working in Somalia since 1951. The organization has helped more than 500,000 children by providing food, water and medical assistance to at-risk populations. With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to cause further harm to Somali children, Save the Children has created an emergency fund to increase the amount of aid it can provide.

Action Against Hunger is another humanitarian organization that has been combating malnutrition in Somali children since 1992. In 2019, the organization had provided aid in the form of food, water and health services support to more than 600,000 people. The organization helped more than 20,000 children suffering from severe malnutrition and provided health services to more than 160,000 pregnant women. Action Against Hunger plans to continue supporting Somalia. It plans to expand existing health services for the Somali people and empower the Somali healthcare system.

With millions being affected by food insecurity and more than 800,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition, Somalia is in need of continued humanitarian support. Continual improvements to healthcare, food and water systems have improved the lives of millions of people. The ongoing pandemic and droughts are obstacles in the way of continuing progress in combating malnutrition in Somali children. With these issues, the need for continued humanitarian support only grows.

Gerardo Valladares
Photo: Flickr

Peanuts Reduce PovertyEvery year, more than three million children under 5 years old die as a result of severe acute malnutrition (SAM), making it the largest killer of young children. In developing countries, including sub-Saharan African countries, Uganda, Malawi and Haiti, malnutrition is a severe issue that pediatricians and scientists are looking for a simple way to solve. Some of these ideas are successfully showing how peanut butter and peanuts reduce poverty and save lives.

Malnutrition

Malnutrition starts in the womb. Therefore, scientists intend to stop malnutrition and anemia in young mothers hoping to give their babies a more nutritional start to life. In Malawi, roughly 50% of all pregnant women and nearly a third of nursing mothers are anemic and in need of a higher calorie diet that can start with peanut butter.

The Power in a Peanut

Peanuts contain more plant protein per ounce than any other nut, making it a powerhouse for nutrition. Only one ounce of peanuts reduces malnutrition by providing an adequate source of niacin and magnesium. Peanut butter is also a good source of fiber and contains other essential nutrients. The nutritional value in peanut butter creates better nutritional and health outcomes, necessitating fewer hospital visits for young children.

Peanuts also contain healthy oils that are “trans-fat-free, cholesterol-free and low in saturated fats.” As a high caloric nut and an impressive source of nutrients, peanuts reduce poverty because the nut addresses malnutrition in malnourished children and young mothers, helping them to gain weight and maintain a balanced diet.

Peanut Butter With a Punch

Peanut butter alone is a good source of nutrition and calories but scientists working to eradicate malnourishment have amped up the standard peanut butter recipes to cater to undernourished bodies.

The most talked-about of these miracle nutritional products is Plumpy’Nut, a nutritional, protein-packed peanut-based paste. Plumpy’Nut comes in portioned plastic wraps that are easy to store and easy to open, making it a resilient food for unstable conditions. Unlike some other ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF), one does not need to mix Plumpy’Nut with water, cutting down the risk of spreading disease.

Nourimamba is a similar peanut-based product that includes extra protein. Packaged in jars, hospitals mostly use Nourimamba to treat severely malnourished children. These jars of sweetened paste also end up in schools as snacks for children.

Dr. Mark Manary founded Project Peanut Butter, an organization in Malawi that helps to feed malnourished children in Sierra Leone, Malawi and Ghana. The organization uses a locally sourced, protein-rich and high caloric peanut butter known as “chiponde” to treat severe malnutrition.

While peanut butter is already a nutritious food, these pastes pack a greater punch in the fight against malnutrition. These products have a long shelf life and require no preparation, making them the ideal snack for undernourished individuals.

Positive Impacts on Poverty

Getting peanut butter into hungry stomachs is the top priority, but in the process, the nut helps uplift developing nations. In addition to addressing malnutrition, these peanut butter products create jobs that can break the cyclical poverty malnourished children are born into.

The Mwayi Wathu Peanut Butter Processing Group, supported by Oxfam and the Catholic Development Commission of Malawi (CADECOM), produces peanuts and peanut butter. This cooperative addresses malnutrition with its products while creating local jobs to stimulate the economy.

Peanuts Reduce Poverty

W. K. Kellogg graciously funded Accesso’s nutritional snack program, which aimed to feed 11 schools in central Haiti. As a result of this initiative, enrollment at the schools increased by 20%. The jobs that the program created allow parents to send their children to school. These families were unable to afford educational endeavors before.

Accesso works with 7,400 local farmers and has tripled the profits of farmers through its agribusiness model. Through this model, farmers strengthened their income and the organization can provide nutritional peanut snacks to more than 4,000 children every single day.

Part of this improved agribusiness model is the spicy peanut butter, Lavi, which holds the promise of opening up new markets for these developing nations. Accesso, the organization that championed the creation of Lavi, aims to expand its business to global markets, especially the United States, where demand for peanuts is high. As the most commonly enjoyed nut by U.S. citizens, more than two-thirds of all nut consumption in the U.S. is peanuts, making it a powerhouse in helping foreign farmers increase their incomes and rise out of poverty.

The benefits of nutritious peanut butter products show how peanuts reduce poverty in developing countries, tackling several concerns at once.

Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

How Japan Can Solve Its Own Hunger Crisis
Japan has the third-largest economy in the world. However, the nation’s poverty rate is 15% and continues to worsen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Japan’s hunger crisis has notably risen because efforts to provide consistent meals to children stopped after schools closed. The nation has enough rice and resources to feed its citizens. However, organizations and communities urge the government to take action in acknowledging the lack of infrastructure around federally-mandated food security.

The Role of Kodomo Shokudo

Nonprofit organizations and communities have provided food welfare in Japan through Kodomo Shokudo. Kodomo Shokudo is a series of programs that provide students with a space to eat and socialize. Hiroko Kondo is a restaurant owner who coined the term. She kickstarted the movement when she heard that a student only had one banana to eat for one week. Kondo established the first Kodomo Shokudo so young adolescents could eat affordably. As a result, a network of restaurants and community members participated to help eliminate Japan’s hunger crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted Kodomo Shokudo. There has been a 33% increase in people who rely on food pantries and services. Furthermore, a survey revealed that half of the people had concerns about exposing themselves to the virus at these eating spaces. As a result, many locations and vendors have recoursed to alternative solutions such as donating bento boxes. Moreover, some organizations are working towards community-based solutions to simultaneously improve food distribution and aid struggling businesses.

How the Government Could Help

The Japanese government has struggled to distribute food for a long time. Japan holds an emergency supply of rice to prepare itself for potential famines. These reserves currently hold a million tons. Furthermore, it has assisted Kodomo Shokudo vendors in the past. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) set a precedent that rice handouts for students receive categorization as food education. However, welfare efforts are strictly dissociated from it. Yet, the demand for food handouts has doubled within the past year. As such, recent challenges suggest the government should implement radical changes.

The government continues to practice extreme budgetary caution. The nation allowed charities to take a limited amount of cooked rice at the beginning of the pandemic. It was careful to eliminate any chances of scheming the system and distributed 10 tons of rice. Additionally, food banks are frustrated with the slow-moving bureaucracy of feeding the hungry and continue to lobby for more generous rations.

The government could resolve Japan’s hunger crisis. However, the government must find it economically and politically beneficial. Fortunately, there are potential avenues to improve government assistance such as nonprofit organizations and Kodomo Shokudo. Although the food crisis in Japan remains largely unrecognized, the need for improved general governmental welfare has not gone unnoticed. Only 40 food pantries exist in Tokyo to support 14 million residents. In addition, the pandemic has eroded the prospects of economic security. Furthermore, unemployment rates are steadily rising. Addressing Japan’s hunger crisis is the first step in alleviating poverty within the nation.

– Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

Chad's Food Security
Chad’s food security is a persistent issue and challenge. More than 2 million people suffer from malnutrition, and 43% of children under 5-years-old have developed stunting due to malnutrition. In total, 3.7 million people experience food insecurity in Chad. Fortunately, many great organizations work to reduce food insecurity. These organizations include The World Food Programme (WFP), The World Bank and The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States (FAO).

The World Food Programme (WFP)

The World Food Programme has provided food assistance to 1.4 million people in Chad. Furthermore, this organization has provided food assistance and school meals to 370,000 refugees and 135,000 children.

WFP worked with other nonprofits on a project in Farchana, a refugee camp in Chad in 2018. This project allowed about 30,000 people to unite and help build a more self-reliant, food-secure community. The project consisted of reworking the landscape and providing workers with money to purchase food or other necessities. According to WFP, “The work done by both host communities and refugees expands the availability and diversity of food produced and consumed locally, and ensures that local food production and income-generating activities can continue through shocks and crises.”

Furthermore, WFP has developed a strategic plan for 2019-2023 that includes how the organization plans to aid in improving Chad’s food security. The nonprofit will help ensure that people in targeted areas have access to food year-round, meet their basic food needs and have more self-sustaining ways of obtaining food. WFP also hopes to increase the nutritional levels in the population and make sure the government can help feed the population.

The World Bank

The World Bank has supported over 50 projects in Chad and is currently working on 19 projects. This organization launched the Emergency Food and Livestock Crisis Response AF project in 2017. The project aimed to “improve the availability of and access to food and livestock productive capacity for targeted beneficiaries.” Additionally, the project received an $11.6 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA) that focuses on social protection, agriculture, fishing and forestry, livestock and crops.

The World Bank approved a $75 million grant from the IDA to continue the Refugees and Host Communities Support Project for Chad (PARCA) in September 2020. PARCA has helped improve the lives of impoverished and vulnerable people in the country. The project is set to end in 2025 and has received a rating of “moderately satisfactory” as of October 2020.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO)

The FAO has been working hard to improve Chad’s food security for the past several years. Furthermore, the World Bank published an analysis of a project that the FAO and other organizations contributed to in 2019. This project consisted of providing agricultural knowledge and tools to people in Goré, a town in Southern Chad. In addition, the project aided almost 500,000 people and established a process for the community to feed itself year-round at an affordable price.

The FAO provided “emergency agricultural assistance to vulnerable populations” in 2019. Additionally, the organization helped just under 300,000 people improve their agricultural output and prevented them from suffering from future climate inconsistencies or disasters.

The FAO completed the Sustainable Revitalization of Agricultural Systems project which aided about 4,000 people in 2020. In addition, it provided irrigation systems and fences to protect crops. The project succeeded in increasing agricultural yields.

Chad rates 187/189 on the Human Development Index and 66.2% of the population lives in severe poverty.  Despite these struggles, organizations are helping improve the lives of the people. The government of Chad has also been working to help improve the lives of its population. Chad created a plan to improve Chadians’ quality of life by developing human and social capital, social protection and economic empowerment by the end of 2021.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Drones and Precision AgricultureIn Africa, farming provides more than 30% of the continent’s gross domestic product and employs more than 60% of the working class. Unfortunately, Africa’s agriculture sector is hurting because environmental challenges have affected the continent’s weather patterns and temperatures, making farming extremely difficult. Outdated practices also hold Africa back, such as planting based on the moon phases, which further affects productivity. These issues bring new challenges to a struggling market trying to provide for a growing population but drones and precision agriculture may be able to help.

A Growing Population

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in three decades, Africa’s population will rise to about 2 billion people, requiring the farming sector to grow exponentially to sustain Africa. Luckily, a new relationship has formed between technology and agriculture. Drones and precision agriculture are helping farmers increase food production, protect their crops and protect themselves from poverty.

4 Ways Drones and Precision Agriculture Benefit Africa

  1. Drones and UAV’s can speed up the land registration process. Just 10% of Africa’s rural land is mapped and registered, leaving people insecure about land ownership and affecting rural farmers more than others. People involved in trades besides farming would benefit because they could use the land as a backup plan if a period of economic instability occurs instead of falling into poverty.
  2. Drones also provide farmers with an aerial view of their crops, allowing them to manage them better and notice changes. UAV’s with specialized sensors can alert farmers to changes like normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), leaf area index and photochemical reflectance index. This allows farmers to notice developments the human eye would not. Using NDVI, a person receives information about water pressure, infestations, crop diseases and nutrient problems that may affect crop production. Around 7,000 African farmers in Uganda have used these drone techniques to better manage their crops.
  3. Drones and precision agriculture provide data that helps farmers take inventory of their crops and estimate crop yields faster. Drone use also lets a farmer know the location of livestock and helps to monitor fencing. Additionally, if farmers have detailed layouts of their land, including size, crop health and location, it will improve their ability to get credit, which will provide more economic advantages.
  4. Drone technology is also changing the schema of crop insurance. Crop insurance helps small farmers recover when natural disasters destroy their crops but poor reporting delays payouts. The use of UAVs makes it easier to quickly assess disaster damage and compensate farmers that disasters affect. Some larger reinsurers, such as Munich Re, have partnered with UAV service providers to improve response times and reporting accuracy after natural disasters strike. This use of technology to better assess farm damages keeps farmers from falling into poverty and allows them to protect their livelihood.

Drone Regulations

Over the past couple of years, Africa’s food exports have increased. This rise increases farmers’ productivity, especially those who can grow staple crops, allowing them to sell their produce for more money. Drones and precision agriculture help low-income farmers learn new techniques to keep up with the demand.

While multiple countries have proven the benefit of using drones, African farmers still face a problem. About 26% of African countries have laws about drone usage. Regulations restrict drone use in certain areas, which thus restricts farmers’ productivity. In Mozambique and Tanzania, drones undergo deployment at random to assist small farmers but most drones in Africa monitor wildlife. Increasing beneficial regulations for drone and UAV usage is integral to transforming Africa’s agriculture sector.

Drones and precision agriculture have the potential to revolutionize agriculture in Africa, presenting a way to lift Africans out of poverty.

Solomon Simpson
Photo: Flickr

Digital Green Empowers Poor Farmers
World hunger is one of the biggest challenges to overcome in the journey to eradicate poverty. It is impossible for communities to advance into other sectors without access to food. Roughly 690 million people do not have adequate access to food today. However, if information can be readily available and accessible for rural farmers, they could help reduce this number. Digital Green is a company that began in 2006 and aims to reduce world hunger.

What is Digital Green?

Digital Green is an Indian-based company that aids smallholder farmers in implementing better farming practices. It uses a unique software that more conventional organizations do not utilize. However, company co-founder Rikin Gandhi did not always see himself in Digital Green. He graduated from college with knowledge in science and engineering in hopes of becoming an astronaut. Moreover, the way astronauts melded intelligence and courage inspired him.

Gandhi said that he ended up focusing on another group of people who meld intelligence and courage after experiencing rejection from astronaut programs. He focused on the smallholder farmer. Immediately, he knew he wanted to approach things differently. Thus, he teamed up with Microsoft to create Digital Green.

Community Videos

Gandhi believed that the best way for smallholder farmers to improve their practices was by learning tricks from other farmers in the area. However, there was a problem. Many smallholder farmers in India live far apart. As a result, he created a database called community videos. This database is a collection of videos from several farming communities to share their wealth and knowledge.

Community videos are different from YouTube because they specifically target smallholder farmers. Farmers can easily select their desired language and region, and ensure that they are watching content that someone they can identify with produced.

Digital Green has produced more than 6,000 videos relating to farming practices to date. Additionally, the company oversees every video’s production from start to finish, ensuring that the sequence makes sense and that communities find the information relevant. Certain crop yields have soared by as much as 74% after farmers began using community videos.

FarmStack

Digital Green also implemented FarmStack to empower farmers. FarmStack is a platform designed to connect government and non-governmental organizations to smallholder farmers. It allows both groups to upload and download relevant data such as soil conditions and food prices at local markets.

The platform allows for immediate communication and makes sure that farmers receive customized solutions for unusual predicaments. In addition, it ensures that farmers receive relevant data that will help them better manage productivity as well as finances. As a result of the program, farmers’ income has increased and crop failure has decreased.

What is Next for Digital Green?

Digital Green is currently working on projects primarily in India and Ethiopia. COVID-19 has posed new challenges for the organization, but it shows no signs of slowing down. Furthermore, Digital Green hopes to one day reach every smallholder farmer in need. Luckily, the organization has partnered with powerful organizations around the globe to accelerate the process. Some organizations currently partnered with Digital Green include Walmart, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UKAid and Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD).

Although smallholder farmers only support a small aspect of their community, Digital Green acknowledges that they hold the key to ending world hunger. If all of these small communities connected, knowledge would spread like a wildfire. Eventually, every smallholder farmer across the globe may see an uptick of even 5% in crop yield. This impact would be tremendous.

– Jake Hill
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Mexico
When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck in March 2020, a group of college students came together to start The Farmlink Project, a nonprofit organization that works to alleviate food insecurity among poor people. Now, nearly a year later, Farmlink is making its mission an international one with The Farmlink Project: Mexico, which will fight food insecurity in Mexico. At the same time that Farmlink was forming, Mexicans living in poverty were experiencing the same disproportionate effects that the pandemic has had on the world’s poor communities.

Food Insecurity in Mexico

The pandemic hit Mexico early. The country had the fourth-highest death toll in the world by June 2020. As a result, impoverished communities suffered the brunt of the consequences. A government agency estimated that about 10 million people in Mexico fell into extreme poverty due to the economic effects of the pandemic. Food insecurity in Mexico became an immediate problem in many communities. Moreover, the government did little to support its citizens. Mexico did not provide stimulus checks or similar measures. Essentially, citizens ended up fending for themselves.

The Farmlink Project has been incredibly successful in its mission to deliver unused food to communities in need. This organization’s strategy is simple, straightforward and effective. It finds inefficiencies in the food distribution system that leads to food waste. Thus, the nonprofit implements measures to prevent that waste. Additionally, it receives donations for supporters. The nonprofit facilitates the transfer of that food directly to impoverished communities through food banks.

Food insecurity in Mexico is a prominent problem. However, the nation produces enough food to feed its citizens. Yet, the infrastructure necessary to feed everyone does not yet exist. Thus, The Farmlink Project is leaving a big impact on citizens by addressing food waste. This is more important now as Mexicans continue to sink into extreme poverty.

The Farmlink Project

The Farmlink Project’s Data Analytics lead Jake Landry talked to The Borgen Project about how it is approaching the unique challenges and opportunities of fighting hunger in Mexico. He stated that the nonprofit’s transfer into Mexico has started positively. It has delivered 112,160 kilograms of produce to Mexico since the beginning of the mission. Additionally, it has prevented 113,464 kilograms of carbon emissions in Mexico. Furthermore, it has begun working with GrupoPaisano, a fair trade organization that supports Mexican farmers. Together the organizations are creating media collaborations and promotional videos to raise awareness of The Farmlink Project’s mission.

This organization has been successful in the United States and is now providing hope to Mexicans during the pandemic. The Farmlink Project’s goal is to lay the groundwork for new infrastructure in the food distribution network in Mexico. It hopes to eliminate the large amount of food waste that Mexico generates every year.

– Leo Ratté
Photo: Flickr

Combating Food WasteThe British Government has led successful campaigns to get citizens to rethink the food they throw away. The British charity, Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), works with larger businesses and local communities to use resources efficiently and sustainably. Charities like FareShare are combating food waste by redistributing food to hungry people in the U.K. For about 25 years, the organization has been keeping communities fed by providing millions of meals to those in need.

The Facts on Food Waste

Since World War I, the U.K. has struggled with food waste. The country implemented rationing methods in both World Wars to combat excess waste in times of crisis. These methods have undergone adaptation to address modern food waste issues.

Several campaigns target the impact of domestic food waste in the U.K. There has been a great success, with household waste falling 6% in a three-year span. Still, an estimated 4.5 million tons of food goes to waste. Meal planning and using food within the home reduce domestic food waste. Small and simple actions on the individual level lead to large change across the nation.

The exact amounts of waste in the food industry are not clear, however, estimates are concerning. Food services waste roughly one million tons, “equivalent to throwing away one in six meals served.” Surplus food is responsible for much of this waste. Food producers produce food in quantities too large to match consumption. Additionally, while some of the food remains edible, it may be undesirable due to its appearance. In 2018, 20-40% of supermarket produce underwent disposal for failing to meet cosmetic standards.

Food waste comes with a price tag for individual households and the food services sector. Industries lose £2 billion due to excess food. Meanwhile households, manufacturing, retail and food services waste an estimated £19 billion worth of food annually. Solving the matter of food waste is not only of humanitarian interest but of economic value too.

The Role of WRAP

WRAP came about in 2000. It has successfully brokered agreements with several industries to reduce waste, including food retail. With the United Kingdom’s population expected to grow in coming years, there will be an increased need for food, resulting in possible excess waste. WRAP’s 2025 Food Vision tackles seven aspects of food waste:

  • Food production
  • Food packaging
  • Supply chain wastage
  • Role of consumers
  • Food waste collections
  • Waste management infrastructure
  • Energy conversion

Each focus point works in tandem. Improving efforts in one sector will benefit the others. Therefore, food waste reduction initiatives must address each aspect to ensure optimal success.

WRAP works with businesses and provides a roadmap and toolkit to guide parties interested in reducing food waste. The organization encourages businesses to set a target goal for reduction, to measure appropriately and to effectively act. The initiative aims to ensure the U.K. meets its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

WRAP began the Love Food Hate Waste campaign in 2007. The campaign raises awareness and teaches simple steps to reduce waste on an individual level. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign also offers recipes to ensure that each food item goes to use.

FareShare: Combating Food Waste

The longest-running food redistribution charity in the United Kingdom, FareShare, has been giving back to communities since 1994 by ensuring that no food goes to waste. The organization solves two problems with one solution: reduce waste and solve hunger by putting surplus food to good use. Powered by volunteers and fueled by charities, FareShare has provided millions of meals to vulnerable populations.

The process is simple: retailers supply FareShare with their surplus food and FareShare redistributes the goods to local charities. FareShare supports almost a million people every week. The U.K. economy also benefits by saving £51 million each year.

FareShare does not tackle its grand mission alone. The Borgen Project spoke with James Persad of FareShare who says, “There are still tons of food going to waste, enough for millions of meals. Our mission is not possible without our partners.” Businesses both big and small have committed to the cause. Nestlé is one of FareShare’s longest ongoing partnerships. From 2005 to 2016, they redistributed “roughly six million meals worth of food” to those in need.

Efforts have led to creative innovations. One such success is FareShare Go, a service that allows local supermarkets to donate surplus food to charities through text messages. The initiative received recognition from the World Food Innovation Awards in 2018.

Addressing Dual Issues

Food redistribution efforts are successfully combating food waste. Hunger and food waste are two dire problems society faces, but thankfully, solutions have emerged that address both. These food rescue solutions combat hunger by ensuring that no food goes to waste.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

combat extreme hungerIn Kenya, hunger and food security are two of the most dire issues faced by impoverished communities. The locust swarms that plagued countries in the Horn of Africa in 2020, devoured millions of hectares of crops resulting in significant food loss. The incident also served to illuminate the precarious insecurity of the food supply in the region. This gave way for creative solutions to combat extreme hunger in Kenya and other African countries alike.

A Promising Solution

The massive inundation of locusts in regions where food is scarce also served as a concrete reminder of the relative abundance of biomass from insects in Africa. This abundance of biomass from insects presents a promising solution for Kenya — use insects to combat hunger by converting them into food products.

Eating insects has a long history in tropical and subtropical climates due to the large populations of insects. Kenya is no exception. Though locusts were long considered a valuable food source, they should not be eaten now due to the widespread usage of insecticides to curb locust outbreaks. However, other related insects like grasshoppers can be eaten. Countries like Kenya can potentially use insects to combat extreme hunger.

Nutrition

Among the millions of undernourished people in Kenya, lack of protein is the main cause and one of the most important areas to focus on to reduce malnutrition.

According to the Global Hunger Index, 24.2% of people in Kenya were undernourished in 2018. In the same year, roughly 26% of children under the age of 5 had experienced stunted growth due to malnourishment.

Insects are an extremely good source of proteins and essential amino acids. Insects like grasshoppers and locusts contain more protein per ounce than traditional forms of protein like beef, chicken or sheep.

Stable and Efficient Production

The production and harvest of insects for consumption provides a stable and efficient method of food production. It takes only three months for crickets to grow to their fully matured state.

Studies have also shown that insects are as efficient as poultry in converting feed into biomass. In addition, insects can feed on waste byproducts such as manure. Both of these facts mean that insect farmers in Kenya will not need to spend much time or money on providing feed to their insects.

Environmentally Sustainable

The cultivation of insects consumes less water and results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than the cultivation of other sources of protein like livestock. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, insect cultivation is believed to be less likely to result in zoonotic infections.

In Kenya, where insects such as termites are already commonly foraged for consumption by humans, the mass production of insects could combat extreme hunger. Insect cultivation has the potential to provide a cheaper, more efficient and stable solution.

More research and development must occur before entrepreneurs and activists in Kenya can roll out products like insect protein powders, cricket-based flour or just plain fried insects to Kenya’s hungry. Nonetheless, the value of insects presents a possible solution that can be considered to combat extreme hunger in Kenya.

Willy Carlsen
Photo: Flickr

Food Security in MexicoIn 2018, almost 42% of the Mexican population lived in poverty. Furthermore, in the same year, it was estimated that more than 10.4 million people in Mexico experienced severe food insecurity. This figure has risen since 2016, with 10 million severely food insecure individuals registered. CIASPE is an NGO that believes that sustainable living is vital to improving food sovereignty and food security in Mexico.

CIASPE Mexico

CIASPE is working toward food security and sustainability by empowering families and communities through education. CIASPE is located in the central Mexican city of Querétaro, and its food system designs continue to spread through Latin America. Additionally, CIASPE offers training and consultation services that range from the fundamentals of agriculture to the latest innovations in sustainability. CIASPE was founded in 2011 by agronomist and agricultural engineer Gabriela Lucas Deeke. Deeke strives to equate food sovereignty with food security. Furthermore, she works to give communities the tools and know-how to provide for themselves.

Gabriela Lucas Deeke

Deeke has a master’s degree in integrated watershed management from the Autonomous University of Querétaro and another master’s degree in rural tourism from the University of Argentina. In addition, Deeke served 10 years in public service with the Ministry of Agriculture. Furthermore, she took courses in bio-intensive agriculture, which studies how to achieve the biggest crops out of the smallest plots of land.

Deeke’s dream is to give rise to conscious farmers and ensure families can live off what they produce. Additionally, Deeke and CIASPE strive to teach people about the importance of giving back and creating sustainable systems. The organization’s courses reflect this holistic yet practical approach to agriculture.

Agricultural Education

CIASPE offers courses on the fundamentals of farming, advanced practices in sustainability and much more. It opens with basics such as raising poultry, sheep and rabbits. Additionally, it offers a kitchen workshop that focuses on basic nutritional education. The organization preaches respect and care for the land through courses such as agroecology farming, which focuses on making the best use of nature without doing damage to the resource or land. Lastly, it seeks to complete the circle of life with a workshop on composting.

This philosophy runs counter to many of the farming practices deployed today. For example, pesticides and over-farming detract from the nutrients of the crops on an industrial scale. This renders the land useless in the long term. In addition, local impoverished farmers often resort to shortcuts that are ultimately detrimental to their yield and their health. CIASPE looks to combat these harmful practices from the ground up through its educational offerings and focus on the family unit.

Food Sovereignty

CIASPE’s team believes that food security in Querétaro, Mexico, Latin America and beyond can be achieved family by family, community by community. The organization collaborates with other NGOs, schools and entrepreneurs to plant community gardens. Additionally, it employs women who work in handicrafts to help facilitate the sales of surplus produce. CIASPE’s family projects provide a blueprint on how families can live sustainably.

CIASPE works extremely hard to equip communities with everything that they need to be self-sufficient today, tomorrow and in all years to come.

Greg Fortier
Photo: Flickr