Information and stories on food.

Agricultural Sustainability in the DRCDespite the Democratic Republic of the Congo harboring the second-largest cultivable land in the world at 80 million hectares, food insecurity and malnutrition are pressing issues in a country that ranks among the poorest in the world. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) characterizes almost 22 million of the 89.5 million residents as severely food insecure, despite 70% of the employed population working in the agricultural industry. Lack of infrastructure combined with prolonged national armed conflict has led to only 10 million hectares currently under cultivation, leaving enormous potential for agricultural and economic growth. Agricultural sustainability in the DRC is crucial to address food insecurity and poverty.

The Joint WFP-FAO Resilience Program in DRC

A combined effort from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) focuses on the optimization of agriculture production as well as market revisions and improvements to reduce food insecurity and bolster a declining national economy. Improving agricultural sustainability in the DRC could prove effective in stabilizing a region with enormous agricultural potential.

The Need for Agricultural Sustainability

Providing direct financial relief to the DRC has proven both necessary and effective, especially in the wake of nationwide flooding in 2019 and 2020 on top of widespread armed conflict and displacement. Since 2018, USAID reports that the DRC has received roughly $570 million worth of direct food relief. However, direct relief does not equal sustainability and is a relatively short-term solution. The joint program from the WFP and FAO implements successful strategies to provide much-needed agricultural sustainability in the DRC and creates an important foundation for further improvements.

The Benefits of Cooperation

Promoting organizational cooperation and improving managerial structure has allowed for combined agricultural improvements nationwide. Since 2017, this project has reached 30,000 small farm households and stimulated cooperation that has improved organizational structure and operational capacities. This cooperation has allowed for the distribution of newer agricultural technologies and concepts such as improved seeds and more advanced tools to optimize production.

Increased cooperation has also helped eliminate local conflicts between farmers and has increased the total area of land being cultivated. The program has also provided 7,000 local women with functional literacy education, allowing for more female community engagement as well as involvement in managerial duties in farming communities.

Addressing Nutrition in the DRC

At a local level, the joint program has implemented enhanced nutritional programs to utilize the increasing resources. Increased cooperation and education have allowed for the growth of crops with enhanced nutritional value. To promote long-term sustainability, in 2020, the project utilized direct aid to establish 300 vegetable gardens, reaching 13,510 residents. The program also held 150 culinary demonstrations regarding optimal cooking techniques that are both affordable and nutritious.

Developing the DRC’s Infrastructure

Large agricultural areas such as the DRC rely heavily on infrastructure for transportation and storage of goods. The joint program has fixed 193 kilometers of agricultural roads since implementation in 2017, with 65% of the road rehabilitators being women.

Not only has the program enhanced transportation capabilities but it has also constructed 20 different storage buildings as well as 75 community granaries, allowing for the long-term storage of agricultural products. This enhanced storage capacity reduces waste from spoilage and allows product to be sold during favorable selling seasons, allowing for advanced agricultural sustainability in the DRC.

The Joint WFP-FAO resilience program in the DRC has made significant accomplishments in the country. With further efforts, agricultural sustainability in the DRC can be further developed to improve poverty in the region.

Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

Flood-Tolerant Rice BenefitsRice farming and production impacts the lives of millions throughout the world. Rice is the staple food of three billion people globally and a source of income for many. The farming of rice also contributes significantly to the economic growth of many countries. Especially within developing countries, the success of rice production is crucial for feeding individuals and creating economic stability. Flood-tolerant rice benefits developing countries reliant upon rice for livelihoods, food security, and the economy’s stability.

Environmental Challenges Affect Rice Production in India

Recent changes in the climate have caused rice production volatility due to flooding and drought. As many as 4.8 million people in India are exposed to river flood risks each year. In India, environmental challenges have had an especially negative effect on rice crops as floods have overtaken many viable planting areas. This flooding has disproportionately affected low-income farmers. These farmers often work with less reliable plots of land that are more prone to flooding. Without the development of techniques to help combat extreme weather, both the livelihoods of low-income people within India and the general Indian economy will experience a significant socio-economic impact.

Swarna Sub-1 Rice

A strain of flood-tolerant rice called Swarna Sub-1 has been a major development that addresses crop damage due to flooding in India. As a mixture of two different rice varieties, this scientifically developed plant is able to withstand intense flooding. This type of rice has been on the market for use since around 2009; however, many farmers have not had access to the rice strain until recently. This is largely due to the lack of information about the existence of Swarna Sub-1 and a lack of accessibility to it.

Flood-Tolerant Rice Benefits

The introduction of flood-tolerant rice has allowed for an increase in rice production, as J-PAL studies have shown. J-PAL is an organization that researches innovative solutions to global poverty. The increased rice production throughout India has had an incredibly positive effect, both economically and socially, as there is a larger supply of rice boosting local economies. As impoverished farmers have seen more successful rice harvests, they have been keener to cultivate a greater amount of farmland and make riskier agricultural decisions. Farmers have also invested in fertilizers to further increase crop health as they are more sure of their ability to create a solid income through rice farming. Additionally, precautionary rice savings decreased, suggesting farmers have perceived lower risk of crop losses with the flood-tolerant rice.

Swarna Sub-1 seeds increased rice yields by about 10% over the course of two years, as seen in the study. Researchers stated that the productive behavior changes among farmers who planted Swarna Sub-1 accounted for 41% of the long-term increase in rice yields. The higher yields also increased the income of farmers by roughly $47 per hectare.

The Potential of Flood-Tolerant Rice

These flood-tolerant rice benefits have improved the livelihoods of impoverished farmers in India while also contributing to food security and local economies. Increased access to flood-tolerant rice varieties in developing countries has the potential to improve lives and lift people out of poverty.

– Olivia Bay 
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in IsraelIt is an indisputable fact that everyone needs food for survival. Even further, everyone needs enough nutritious food to truly thrive. That being true, the reality is that not everyone gets enough high-quality, nutritious food yet significant amounts of food are thrown away daily. This dilemma is present globally and Israel is no exception. Food waste and food insecurity in Israel is a growing problem, but one organization, Leket Israel, is working to address both.

Israel’s Food Dilemma

Food waste is an excess of food that usually gets thrown into landfills instead of being consumed. The amount of food wasted in Israel is striking, but possibly more striking is the economic impacts it has on individual and infrastructural levels.

The Environmental Protection Ministry in Israel cited that Israeli families throw away about $1,000 worth of food per year. This equates to $352 million in waste treatment and a month and a half of average household food expenses.

Food waste is present not only on the household level but also prominently in the restaurant and agricultural sectors. Remedying food waste would likely lift a considerable economic weight from the shoulders of many Israeli individuals and communities.

Remedying food insecurity in Israel would do the same. Food insecurity is widely considered as a lack of consistent access to balanced, nutritious food sources. Many in Israel suffer from food insecurity and the number continues to climb.

The Latet organization’s yearly Alternative Poverty Report revealed that the 20.1% of Israeli households in poverty grew to 29.3% in 2020 due to COVID-19.

So naturally, food insecurity has worsened because of the pandemic. The number of food-insecure households in Israel grew from 17.8% before the pandemic to 22.6% in December 2020. Further, the number of households in extreme food insecurity increased by 34,000 during the pandemic, per the National Insurance Institute of Israel.

There is a great need to address the dilemma of food waste and food insecurity in Israel.

Leket Israel

Leket Israel is an organization that recognizes the importance of addressing the increased need for more accessible food sources and reducing food waste. Joseph Gitler started an organization in 2003 that would become Leket Israel, a food bank and the largest food rescue chain in the country.

Specifically, Leket takes nutritional food excesses and distributes them to thousands of Israelis who need them. The food provided mostly consists of agricultural surpluses and gathered cooked meals that would become food waste, with special focus on the quality and nutritional value of the food distributed to beneficiaries across Israel.

Nutritional Education

Within food insecure populations that do not have access to reliable nutritious food, there can also be a lack of knowledge about balanced nutrition. For this reason, Leket Israel implements multiple nutrition workshops to make its impact and fight to promote food security more lasting. Nutritional workshops involve lessons on how to select and prepare diverse, healthy meals on a restricted budget. They are given in Hebrew, Amharic, Arabic and Russian to increase accessibility.

There is a greater demand for the work that Leket Israel is doing because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in food insecurity across Israel. The organization’s affirmative response to this demand is undeniable. Take, for example, the experience of Natalie Digora. During the pandemic, Leket Israel is helping people like Natalie Digora in Ramat Gan, Israel, who turned to the organization after being sent home from her occupation as an opera singer in March 2020. They have continued serving her.

Turning Food Trash into Food Treasure

Digora’s story is one of thousands. To date, Leket Israel has served more than 2,300,000 cooked meals to more than 200,000 individuals. As it continues this, turning one person’s trash into another’s treasure, Leket gives hope to people struggling with food insecurity in Israel.

– Claire Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in WalesWales, one of the four scenic countries that comprise the United Kingdom, has 25% of its population facing poverty. Around 200,000 children live in poverty in the country too, with 90,000 of these children enduring extreme poverty. As Wales struggles with poverty on a daily basis and searches for improvement, NGOs in the country are doing their part to combat poverty.

5 NGOs Fighting Poverty in Wales

  1. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is an independent NGO working to solve poverty in the United Kingdom and Wales. Through research, policy, collaboration and practical solutions, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation aims to inspire action and change inside of the United Kingdom. By shining a light on poverty in Wales while offering solutions of potential change, poverty in the country can be clearly addressed and better managed.
  2. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD). CAFOD is an international NGO that reaches out to people living in poverty with practical help in the overall pursuit of campaigning for global justice. Through donations, campaigning and calling upon individuals to volunteer in both their local communities and internationally in Wales, CAFOD looks to immediately impact poverty with positive results. CAFOD is also a member of Caritas Internationalis, one of the largest humanitarian, development and social service networks in the world.
  3. The Trussell Trust. This is an NGO that supports a nationwide network of food banks that collectively provides emergency food and support to people locked in poverty. The Trussell Trust handed out 70,393 emergency food parcels in April through September through its 117 food banks that comprise the Welsh network of the NGO. Across the United Kingdom, more than 1.2 million emergency food parcels were distributed through the Trussell Trust’s network during the first six months of the pandemic.
  4. Save the Children. An NGO founded in 1919, Save the Children combats child poverty worldwide in the mission of keeping children safe, healthy and learning. The Wales sector of Save the Children works with education, social care and health partners to deliver a range of programs that directly benefit the livelihoods of children in Wales. Children growing up in poverty in Wales are deeply affected, and as they fall behind in school due to the limited income of their parents, the cycle of poverty continues. Save the Children directly combats this cycle in Wales, advocating to the Welsh government about the importance of childhood education.
  5. The Bevan Foundation. Located directly in Wales, this NGO is on the constant lookout to reduce poverty in the country through innovation and ideas. Working alongside the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to find new solutions to poverty, the Bevan Foundation has presented evidence to the Welsh Parliament’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee inquiry on the impact of COVID-19 on communities, poverty and housing. The evidence will be beneficial for implementing anti-poverty strategies in Wales. The Bevan Foundation has also advocated consistently for social security benefits that would alleviate poverty.

The Future of Wales

Wales, facing increasing poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finds its poverty worsening among children of the country more so than adults. Amid this poverty, organizations are working to address the situation in different ways. With the help of more NGOs, poverty in Wales can see even better results by addresing the very core and cycle of it.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About Insecurity in KuwaitLocated on the western edge of the Persian Gulf, Kuwait is a small Arab state comparable to the size of New Jersey. Nevertheless, Kuwait holds the sixth-largest oil reserve in the world. This has helped its citizens become among the wealthiest in the world. Kuwait has consistently ranked among the Arab world’s best for food security. However, its reliance on food imports, as well as having underdeveloped agriculture and fishing industries, could hinder its future. Here are five facts about food security in Kuwait.

Top 5 Facts About Food Security in Kuwait

  1. According to the Economist’s 2019 Global Food Security Index, Kuwait received a score of 74.8 out of 100 and ranked 27 out of 113 countries for food security. As a result, Kuwait only trails Qatar (ranked 13) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (ranked 21) in the region. Kuwait is most notably fifth in the world for food “affordability” and boasts a high “sufficiency of supply”. Both factors significantly prevent hunger.
  2. Despite its high ranking on the Global Food Security Index, Kuwait imports over 96% of its food. Given that Kuwait only has 1.4 million citizens, more than 700,000 foreign nationals and migrant workers benefit from a subsidy program. In November 2019 alone, subsidy expenditures reached upwards of $23.5 million. Kuwait’s food subsidy initiative has ultimately improved the nutrition of Kuwaiti children and created widespread food security in Kuwait.
  3. Expatriates in Kuwait who do not receive subsidized food are at great risk of food insecurity. The average non-Kuwaiti worker in 2018 earned about 299 KD, while the average Kuwaiti citizen earned 1,415 KD. In the event of another surge of COVID-19, this wage gap could be especially catastrophic for the 2 million foreign nationals in Kuwait who do not receive food subsidies. For some, their salary might even not cover all of their basic human needs.
  4. A major reason for Kuwait’s reliance on imported food is its weak agriculture industry, which has traditionally consisted of fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, onions and melons. Ultimately, agriculture contributes less than 0.5% to the country’s GDP. Further development of agriculture seems unlikely considering an average annual rainfall of about four inches and 8.6% arable land. An underdeveloped agriculture sector would be an existential threat to most countries. Conversely, Kuwait’s small population, great wealth and diversified imported food supply chain allow it to circumvent such risks.
  5. Kuwait’s fisheries have experienced reduced production. Kuwait’s fisheries can provide only 33-49% of total fish demand in Kuwait and their production has dropped by over 20% in recent decades. Anything that negatively impacts Kuwait’s fishing industry could make Kuwait more dependent on other countries for their fish supply. If water temperatures increase as predicted, the average price of fish would likely rise with the departure of locally-sourced fish. This could increase poverty nationwide. Therefore, programs like the DNA Project are crucial to protecting Kuwait’s food security in the future. The DNA Project intends to collect DNA from local and migrating fish in order to manage stock more effectively.

Kuwait Works with FAO

Although fighting domestic poverty has long been a priority for Kuwait, the growing presence in foreign policy is exciting. Kuwait’s current work with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to combat hunger in Syria is just one example of this transition. In May 2019, Kuwait donated three million dollars to the FAO, securing 200 kilograms of enhanced wheat seeds for 20,000 Syrian farmers and their families. Consequently, agricultural production and food security in Syria have both been bolstered. Kuwait’s involvement in eliminating poverty in Syria builds on its partnership with the FAO in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, where it has achieved similar success in improving food security. As collaboration develops between nations to eliminate poverty, the ability to achieve other humanitarian goals will significantly increase as well.

Alex Berman
Photo: Pexels

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

USAID in India
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is an independent body within the American federal government. This means that, though it receives funding from the federal government, it may operate virtually independently from the political will of any sitting presidential cabinet. Its focuses are international economic development, gender equality, health care and humanitarian aid. USAID works with over 100 governments all over the world. This article will focus specifically on USAID in India.

The Situation

As it has grown in terms of population, the Indian government has struggled to provide basic services for its people. USAID in India has played a not-insignificant role in overcoming socioeconomic challenges over the past few decades. American and international economic aid to India stems back to the 1950s with the creation of the World Bank and it underwent further formalization in the 1960s with the construction of USAID in 1961. Since its inception, USAID has worked to support the efforts of local grassroots organizations, community initiatives and various branches of the Indian government.

USAID and the Indian Government

The main point of cooperation between USAID and the Indian government in the past few decades has been the organization and creation of public-private partnerships that help fulfill the need for basic services within India. A public-private partnership (PPP) is an agreement between one or more private entities and one or more public bodies, generally established with the purpose of lessening the burden of development and provision of public services on the local government.

PPPs receive criticism as a form of covert privatization and are therefore harmful to the local community in the long-term. However, arguments have also determined that PPPs are a way of dragging private entities into the public(ally accountable) sector, as the government retains ownership over the entity, and is still largely responsible for the delivery of services. In recent decades, USAID in India has helped establish a minimum of 34 Indian PPPs, generating a combined total of close to $400 million in financial resources.

Triangular Cooperation

As per the 2016 U.S.-India Joint Statement, the American and Indian governments have made a commitment to working with partners throughout the whole of Asia as well as Africa for the purposes of poverty-reduction. This includes the pursuit of food security via public-private partnerships, farmer-training and the sharing of technological advances; and the promotion of clean energy. For example, USAID supports the Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI). This society has helped increase productivity for Indian farmers by providing them with more efficient agricultural equipment, which SRISTI hopes to also provide to struggling farmers in Kenya. USAID is also helping India become energy-secure by helping the Indian government provide citizens with access to clean energy sources. In the past four years alone, USAID has provided access to over 600 megawatts of power in India.

Grants and Awards for Indian Aid Organizations

USAID, among other branches of the American government, also provides various financial grants and awards to aid organizations in India and throughout the world. The major requirements to be eligible for USAID funding, as an Indian organization, are (among others) that the organization registers with the Indian government as a nonprofit organization, and that the organization is able to demonstrate a genuine impact on the demographic of focus. The purpose of these grants is to enable self-reliance within Indian communities, thereby lessening the overall need for international assistance. An example of an Indian nonprofit organization receiving USAID funding is Piramal Swasthya, who in 2019 received $30,000 USD and the “Inclusive Health Access Award” for providing health care to underprivileged Indian communities.

Transparency

All over the world, governmental and non-governmental aid organizations struggle with demands from citizens and government officials for increased transparency in terms of operations as well as funds. Because of this, every single year, USAID submits the “U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants” report, AKA the “Greenbook” to United States Congress for review. The annual Greenbook is also available to members of the public who are interested in how USAID conducts its operations. USAID also maintains a database of foreign aid, called the Foreign Aid Explorer, which, like the Greenbook, is open to members of the public. The USAID organization itself supports the International Aid Transparency Initiative and plays a significant role in helping the United States government pursue total transparency in foreign aid initiatives.

Closing Remarks

Over the past 60 years, USAID has worked alongside local Indian actors to unlock the infinite development potential of Indian civilians. USAID and American foreign policy initiatives have worked alongside local actors to improve Indian health care, promote gender equality, promote food security and strengthen international cooperative endeavors to end global poverty. During times of agricultural crises beginning in the 1960s, USAID organized food imports for India.

In the current COVID-19 crisis, USAID continues to work closely with the Indian government to provide health care for one of the world’s most populated countries. Additionally, both during and outside of times of crisis, USAID has tried to involve the Indian diaspora itself in India’s development, placing Indians at the forefront of social and economic change. Over the past 10 years alone, nearly 300 million Indians have escaped poverty. While one cannot understand the efforts and successes of grassroots Indian organizations when discussing India’s socio-economic development over the past six decades, the role that USAID in India has played in supporting these successes is worthy of note.

Olivia Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Food SystemsIn the next 30 years, the world population will grow by two billion: approximately 25% of the current population. Food demand will increase significantly during this time and international organizations are prioritizing the development of strategies to address this concern. Framing the future of food systems, which encompass producing, processing, transporting and consuming food, is key to continued efforts in reducing poverty and extreme hunger.

Population Growth in Africa

Global population growth does not imply an equal or even proportional increase in every region of the world. The population of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is estimated to double by 2050, from approximately one to two billion. This number accounts for half of the global population growth expected. Such substantial growth in a population already experiencing food insecurity, if not coupled with sustainable food system developments, will exacerbate the issue and make advancement more difficult.

Facets of Food Security

Increasing demand for food is not the only threat to the future of food systems around the world. The cultivability of land is changing with the climate, requiring workers in the agriculture sector to adjust crop selection and techniques. Instability in the industry detracts from the appeal of such an occupation and further strains the food supply.

Many producers of food are among the hardest hit by the effects of food insecurity. In India, 41% of the workforce falls under agriculture, yet the country is home to the largest number of people experiencing hunger in a single nation — approximately 189 million. With the food supply responsibility falling on some of the most at-risk populations, food systems are even more vulnerable when confronted with adversity.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of adversity faced by food systems. Limits put in place to prevent further spread of the virus weaken the agriculture sector of the workforce and economy. This stress on food systems extends to the global economy, education, peace efforts and human rights, among others.

The Decade of Action

Just 10 years remain to meet the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The second SDG necessitates improvements in food security, nutrition and agriculture across the globe, marking the next 10 years as the Decade of Action. The 2021 U.N. Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) has been planned to foster discussions of global challenges, priorities, opportunities and solutions in the food system sector, hopefully resulting in unified and inclusive efforts toward achieving the SDGs. In a lead up to the 2021 UNFSS, 13 organizations collaborated to host the two-day Bold Actions for Food as a Force for Good event in November 2020.

Food System Innovations

Along with the need to shift toward more sustainable consumption, gender-equity in food systems, agricultural innovations and financing for solutions, the Bold Actions for Food as a Force for Good event emphasized the importance of novel approaches to reducing extreme hunger with the Food Systems Innovation Challenge. In this challenge, teams of students from 20 universities proposed innovative ideas to transform the future of food systems. Solutions proposed by these teams include online systems connecting producers and consumers to keep all facets of the food market current on need and capacity. Apps and food labels to provide guidance on reducing food waste and making more sustainable dietary choices as well as food packaging that minimizes waste and carbon footprints formed part of these solutions.

A Sustainable Future

Projections for global population growth alongside new challenges stemming from climate change and COVID-19, make food security a top concern. By promoting the now-underway Decade of Action, the U.N. is leading unified efforts to establish sustainable and equitable food systems worldwide. Progress will depend on effective mobilization, collaboration and innovation— the backbones of development toward more stable food systems.

– Payton Unger
Photo: Flickr

AI Increases Food SecurityArtificial Intelligence seems like a far-off concept reserved for science fiction. In truth, AI is present in modern life and the advancements in this technology are being used to combat global poverty. Most prominently, computer scientists and engineers are improving the ways that AI increases food security globally. The need for utilizing technology in food security is essential to protect more than 800 million people suffering from hunger worldwide.

Predicting Threats to Food Security

A vital step to protect food security is looking ahead and responding proactively to potential problems. The Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS) works by gathering massive amounts of data from vast sources to forecast developing situations affecting food supply. NEWS is a perfect example of how AI increases food security with constant improvements in its system to enhance response times to price changes, poor weather conditions for food development and other global crop issues.

The effectiveness of machine learning far surpasses human data collection and these types of technology have already seen success. Through the algorithms created by AI technology, a forecasted drought prevented many Colombian farmers from planting crops that would not have been fruitful. This prediction saved the farmers millions of dollars by avoiding crop loss during the dry spell. Preserving large amounts of money to spend during opportune times is another way AI increases food security and stabilizes supply.

AI Optimizes Agricultural Procedures and Production

People living in rural areas that work in farming communities are usually the most susceptible to extreme poverty. AI can improve working conditions and modernize agriculture to protect vulnerable populations and provide them with upward economic mobility through technology education and increased crop production.

AI robotics is revolutionizing agriculture and crop harvesting robots as well as AI-enhanced drones are increasing production and keeping workers safe. Robotic weed control allows for the proper and safe distribution of herbicides that can be harmful to humans. This also prevents herbicide resistance. In Argentina, drones inspect wheat crops for harmful infections and pests. AI increases food security by diagnosing soil conditions as well. This technology allows workers to implement the necessary strategies for correcting nutrient deficiencies.

The most important aspect of these technologies is that they provide benefits but will not reduce the need for actual workers. Though education in these fields can be expensive, the skills learned will add value and mobilize people out of extreme poverty.

The FAO AI Systems Used for Food Security

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has implemented two programs in which AI increases food security and improves agriculture sustainability; the FAO’s WaPOR portal and the Agriculture Stress Index System (ASIS). Both systems monitor water usage in agriculture in different ways.

  • The FAO’s WaPOR portal monitors water in the Near East and African regions. It does this through open-source technology that gathers massive amounts of data. Simultaneously, the AI analyzes the data to determine the best water use for different crops and regions and uploads the information in real-time.
  • ASIS works similarly to NEWS. It is a satellite system that works as an early detection system for droughts or other water shortages. ASIS breaks down the information from a global standpoint to each country and region. Doing this allows people to be proactive in their preparation for impending droughts by improving water usage and shoring up logistics of moving aid to an area troubled by food shortages, thereby preventing hunger.

The Future of Food Security

As time progresses, AI will improve and become more common, eventually becoming cheaper and more accessible worldwide. With the rapid advancement in this technology and what is already in place to sustain food security using AI, a hunger-free world is a closer reality.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in KenyaKenya is currently home to 46 million people. Over 35% of them suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition each year, with 2.6 million facing a food insecurity crisis. The state of food insecurity in this country is serious, with the country ranking 86 out of 117 countries on the 2019 Global Hunger Index. Children are especially at risk, with just under a third of those who are food insecure suffering from stunted growth.  This is one of the many common issues related to hunger and poor nutrition. The rampant hunger in Kenya is a dire situation. However, there are some efforts to fight this crisis.

The Farming Issue

Nearly 75% of Kenyans rely on agriculture for all or part of their incomes. The industry makes up about a third of the Kenyan economy, but only one-fifth of the land in Kenya is suitable for farming. A lack of reliable irrigation forces farmers to rely on rain as their primary water source. Reliance on nature makes planting and harvesting unpredictable and risky. This is combed with the population boom in Kenya over the past 25 years. This has left the food supply limited at best and extremely vulnerable to weather patterns and natural disasters.

Domestic farmers are the main food providers in Kenya. The industry needs a robust workforce to keep up with the heavy demands of an ever-increasing population. However, the younger generation is uninterested in farm work and current farmers are getting too old for the job. Conversely, lack of employment also perpetuates hunger in Kenya. Millions of Kenyans are unemployed or underpaid, and many can’t afford to buy food in the first place. Poor infrastructure and high domestic taxes levied on farmers for transporting their goods are the cause of such steep food prices. These exorbitant transportation fees leave much of the population hungry.

Despite all of this, the issue of hunger in Kenya has generally improved over the past decades. Further, many organizations continue to battle this crisis and expand food access to the millions of struggling Kenyans.

World Vision

The Christian nonprofit World Vision tackles child poverty and injustice worldwide. The organization first branched out to Kenya in 2017. Upon arrival, World Vision volunteers saw villages suffering from drought and hunger. They noticed people eating animals like hyenas and vultures while others mourning the loss of their livestock, the remains of which were everywhere.

In the first year of its project, World Vision reached 3.5 million individuals. The organization was able to provide clean water, health care, and nutritional support. World Vision knows that hunger in Kenya is far from solved and doesn’t plan on stopping its efforts. The nonprofit has hope in expanding water and nutrition access as a way to help alleviate the suffering in this country.

Action Against Hunger

The “world’s hunger specialist,” Action Against Hunger, is a nonprofit working to end hunger with our lifetime. It provides global aid to children and families to treat and prevent malnutrition. The organization has worked in Kenya since 2002.

Its work has included implementing programs on health, water, sanitation, refugees, and childcare. The nonprofit has been able to expand access to health treatments, screenings, and services for those suffering from malnutrition. It also supported thousands of herders by providing livestock vaccinations and training animal health experts.

In 2019, the organization reached over 1.9 million people with its nutrition and health programs and nearly 50,000 people with its water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives. Additionally, it aided over 40,000 people with its food security and livelihood programs. This all added up to over two million people in 2019 alone, a huge effort for a team of only 43 employees.

Conclusion

Hunger in Kenya is a severe issue that has cost the lives and livelihoods of millions of individuals and families. Children are at severe risk of malnutrition and related diseases, while the farming industry is struggling to provide even a portion of the country’s necessary food supply. Aggressive and comprehensive government or international intervention to shore up farmers and expand their capacity to produce are absent. It is organizations like World Vision and Action Against Hunger that have to pick up the slack. Fortunately, they have been able to reach and save the lives of millions of Kenyans. The issue lives on, but the efforts of nonprofits continue to provide hope.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr