Information and stories on food.

Snack Against Hunger and PovertyPeople can often feel hopeless nowadays when addressing global poverty and hunger on a personal level. One can only donate so many times before it feels pointless. For decades there was a decrease in poverty and hunger all around the world. However, with the pandemic in full force, the numbers are once again increasing.

So what should can each individual consumer do to help those in need and bring these statistics down? They must change daily patterns, so nearly all of their “normal” actions start benefitting someone else. One way is to switch up the food consumers eat. Many brands in a variety of food categories use their profits to fight global poverty and hunger. Switching to one of these brands allows people to effectively snack against hunger and poverty. Below are just a few of the brands aiding in poverty and hunger-reduction.

1. Bobo’s

Bobo’s donates their profits from selling oat-based products to eight organizations. Two of the organizations focus on food security in the U.S. (Community Food Share and Conscious Alliance), and one nonprofit provides housing for low-income families (Habitat for Humanity). Get in a dose of nutritious oats to snack against hunger and poverty.

2. This Saves Lives

This Saves Lives has something for everyone. They have 10 different flavor options, a variety of kid’s options and five types of crispy treats. For each purchase, This Saves Lives provides a calorie-dense packet of paste filled with nutrients to a child in need. So far, over 24 million packets have been sent out!

3. Barnana

Barnana is a company that produces plantain-based chips in normal chip form, tortilla style and flavor bites. All consumers can find a chip that will satisfy whether that’s salty or sweet. The plantains used for the chips are upcycled from those that were deemed not perfect enough for mainstream market standards. By upcycling the produce, Barnana fights food waste and secures extra income for small scale farmers that depend on every sale.

4. Project 7

Project 7 is a healthy candy brand that makes gummies, lollipops and everything in between. They partner with nonprofits to help the seven areas of need: healing, saving, housing, food, drink, teaching and hope. Make chewing a life-giving activity and snack against hunger and poverty.

5. Beanfields

Beanfields is another company that creates chips both sweet and salty, similar to Barnana. The company — centered in a kitchen and not a boardroom — cooks up a variety of bean-based tortilla chips and cracklings. They get creative by producing an environment-conscious snack while also supporting people in need. Beanfields partners with Homeboy Industries, an organization that helps ex-gang members find peace and stability in their new lives. Homeboy Industries partners with many nonprofits fighting hunger and poverty that provide ex-offenders jobs and a sense of community.

Buying snacks and snacking are often mindless activities. Helping people should have that same ease and it does. Yet, it often falls on the back burner and gets forgotten. Buying from companies donating to those in need is one easy solution. People can enjoy their favorite foods in a more effective way. Why just snack when one can snack against hunger and poverty?

Anna Synakh
Photo: Flickr

Productive Safety Net ProgramAccess to safe and adequate food is a basic human right under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, food insecurity has been a persistent issue around the world for decades. One key country that has suffered from high rates of food-insecurity is Ethiopia, with around 32 million people living in a state of hunger or malnourishment. However, in 2005, the Ethiopian Government implemented a new way to help meet the needs of vulnerable households through the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP).

Food Insecurity and its Effects on Health

Food security is a vital aspect of health and well-being. The main causes of food insecurity can be attributed to many influences such as low rates of agricultural production, shortage of water and poor sanitation, climate change and natural disasters, among a plethora of other factors.

Furthermore, food insecurity can have significant consequences on communities both in economic terms and in the effect of the physical health of individual members of the community. Research has shown that food insecurity is associated with increased health risks such as cognitive development problems in children, general malnutrition, higher incidents of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and many other ailments.

The Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP)

As rates of food insecurity grew across sub-Saharan Africa, the Ethiopian Government created the PSNP in 2005 in order to provide a more productive and systematic approach to aid vulnerable populations. As explained by the World Bank report on the program, “The PSNP incorporates a number of interesting features, such as public works activities geared towards improving climate resiliency; a risk financing facility to help poor households and communities to better cope with transitory shocks and the use of targeting methods that assist the most climate-vulnerable community members to obtain the full benefits of consumption smoothing and asset protection.”

Results and Impacts of the Program

The Ethiopian Government faced many challenges in implementing this program, such as difficulties in balancing female participation in public work programs and household responsibilities. However, PSNP has shown a positive impact on Ethiopia’s food-insecurity rates and therefore further expanded efforts from 2010 to 2014 with improved strategies and implementation tactics.

As a result of these efforts, the PSNP is credited with the reduction of poverty rates in Ethiopia by two percentage points as of 2014. Furthermore, the program successfully benefited more than one million participants as well as their families. Research shows that the program improved both food security rates and led to a reduced number of months households went without sufficient food. Not only did the program positively affect food insecurity rates throughout Ethiopia, but the PSNP also aided in the improvement of the general health and well-being of many individuals.

The Promise of PSNP for the Future

As recognized around the world, Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program has been widely successful in aiding the country’s impoverished population and improving Ethiopia’s food security rates. Because this program targets food insecurity through agricultural aid, financial aid and structural aid, these strategies have helped to create a strong foundation for these vulnerable populations. Although this program has encountered obstacles in its execution, the PSNP continues to show promise in combatting extreme poverty and food insecurity throughout Ethiopia.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Updates on Hunger in Madagascar
Madagascar is an island off the east coast of Africa, situated on the Indian Ocean. It is the second-largest island country in the world. Today, this island nation is facing a major food crisis and ranks 64 out of 79 on the 2012 Global Hunger Index. As of 2015, around 28% of the island’s population, nearly 4 million citizens, suffered from hunger. Here are some updates on hunger in Madagascar.

The Root of the Issue

A significant factor in Madagascar’s famine rates is its weather. The island is prone to periodic droughts, cyclones and unpredictable rainfall. From 1980 to 2010, the country experienced 35 cyclones and five long drought periods. Moreover, it experienced five large earthquakes and six epidemics during the same period. This type of environment makes it very difficult for farmers to steadily produce adequate crops for the country’s residents. Due to food insufficiency, 47% of the citizens suffer from malnutrition — one of the highest rates in the world.

Recent Updates on Hunger Rates in Madagascar

The hunger rates within the last three years have not decreased. Conversely, the percentages continue to rise. In 2017, Madagascar’s famine rates increased by 1.4% to 44.4% from 2016. In 2018, two destructive cyclones caused flooding around the coastal areas of Madagascar. This affected roughly 200,000 citizens and displaced 70,000. During the same year, unpredictable rainfall dropped food production for around 80% of citizens. Fortunately, in 2019, livestock prices began decreasing due to the higher availability of food. Similarly, the price of rice decreased slightly since 2018 — suggesting modest improvements in the country’s food supply.

Solutions from International Organizations

While the government has struggled to control Madagascar’s famine rates, other organizations have stepped in to aid the country with its food crisis. These organizations provide necessary resources to people across the island and representing positive updates on hunger in Madagascar.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a U.N.-sanctioned organization, is providing agro-pastoral support to rural families in western Madagascar. The aim is to increase productivity in farming systems and improving farmers’ incomes. The FAO also is collecting and analyzing data on food security and agro-weather conditions to help farmers prepare for potential natural disasters. Importantly, these disasters would include climate-related crises. Also, the FAO supports government efforts to incorporate nutrition awareness programs into education systems.

As a temporary solution, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has paid trucks to deliver resources, such as clean water, to villages prone to contaminated drinking water. UNICEF also carries out routine health checks for children. In 2015, the organization began reporting high percentages of children suffering from malnutrition.

The World Food Programme (WFP) also came up with a short-term solution to address Madagascar’s hunger crisis. In 2016, within famine-affected areas, the WFP gave $20 each month to families to buy resources they could find. Also, it distributed nutritional supplements to children.

Final Outlook

Overall, the famine statistics in Madagascar do not seem to be dropping. This is primarily due to the country’s geographic location. The island is more prone to natural disasters and the government does not have any long-term solution that can certainly decrease the country’s current high famine rates. Yet, with the continued support from international organizations, there may be a bright light at the end of the tunnel for Madagascar.

Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr

ColdHubsIn sub-Saharan countries, post-harvest crop loss is so high that nearly 50% of fresh food never reaches consumers. These losses not only diminish the economic potential of the agricultural industry, but they also aggravate food insecurity, malnourishment and stunting in young children. In turn, poor nourishment decreases productivity in individuals, which is reflected by a 2% to 3% loss in GDP. So far, many countries lack a solution to this serious problem. This is where Nigerian company ColdHubs comes in.

Post-Harvest Losses

The main culprit in post-harvest losses is spoilage, the natural process of decay and deterioration characteristic to perishable food items. While reduced temperatures can slow the pace of spoilage, sub-Saharan countries lack ample access to chilled storage spaces for produce. The small-scale farmers of sub-Saharan Africa who lack such storage face both financial and infrastructural barriers. While 62% of farmers cannot afford cooling technology, 36% do not have access to power in the first place.

In Nigeria, agriculture accounts for 22% of GDP and employs 36% of Nigerians. Nearly 90% of these Nigerians are small, family farmers. Yet large quantities of post-harvest losses pose a tremendous hurdle to their economic progress. For instance, Nigeria is home to the largest tomato production belt in West Africa. However, nearly half of the crop of tomatoes spoils each year. As of 2017, post-harvest losses in Nigeria cost up to $9 billion dollars annually. Meanwhile, more than 5 million people in Nigeria are food insecure. Two million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, and 45% of all child deaths are due to malnutrition.

Cabbage in Nigeria: A Case Study

One company is working to make a dent in those statistics. In 2013, a radio journalist specializing in agricultural news was following the journey of cabbage from farms to markets in Jos, Nigeria. What the journalist, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, hadn’t anticipated addressing was the story of the cabbage post-market. Farmers abandoned the cabbage that didn’t sell, leaving edible food to rot. Ikegwuonu tracked down the farmers, asking why they had left the cabbage and how to avoid such a situation.

In a recent interview with The Borgen Project, Ikegwuonu recounted, “They actually told me that if there was a form of storage inside the market, that it would be very useful to them to actually store their produce and then come back in the next week to pick up their produce [for sale] when there is less cabbage in that market.” It was this moment that inspired Ikegwuonu to develop ColdHubs. The idea: 100% solar-powered, walk-in cold rooms for food storage, installed in Nigerian markets and farms.

How ColdHubs Helps

The ColdHubs business model is simple. Farmers store perishable items in reusable crates provided by ColdHubs, using a flexible pay-as-you-store subscription. The crates then go into a ColdHub refrigerated room powered by solar panels. Each unit features enough solar panels to generate six kilowatts of energy every hour. However, the cold room itself uses up only 1.5 to 2 kilowatts per hour. This surplus allows for refrigeration to continue to run on rainy or cloudy days.

For a daily flat fee per crate stored, the solar-powered system allows farmers access to 24/7 chilled storage that operates entirely off the grid. This storage extends the shelf life of perishable foods from two days to 21 days. Importantly, this leads to an 80% reduction in post-harvest loss and a 25% increase in smallholder farmer income. For the 24 ColdHubs presently in use, some 3,517 smallholder farmers use the service. So far, ColdHubs has saved more than 20,000 tons of food from spoilage. Another 30 ColdHubs are currently under varying stages of construction. By the end of the year, the company hopes to have 50 ColdHubs fully operational throughout Nigeria.

Supporting Women and Farmers

ColdHubs looks not only to serve economic and renewable ends, but social ones as well. ColdHubs aims to employ women for its management and oversight operations. Thus far, the organization has created new jobs for 48 women. Additionally, ColdHubs is careful to maintain an affordable model ultimately aimed to support farmers over increasing profit.

“We designed Cold Hubs from a smallholder farmer from our perspective. I’m a smallholder farmer myself. The design was specifically suited so that the technology and service would be affordable,” Ikegwuonu explained. This manifests in the pay-as-you store model, as opposed to selling cold rooms outright. “We actually take up the risk of building in a cold room, and in three to four years we recover on that capital expenditure. It’s a slow, philanthropic process.”

Why It Matters Now

The proliferation of ColdHubs throughout Nigeria comes at a crucial moment, as farming seasons become more and more volatile. With prolonged heatwaves and an increasingly erratic rainy season, rain-reliant smallholder farmers struggle to raise  crops, predict growing seasons, and sell food before it rots.

“Once you harvest tomatoes, you have approximately 48 hours to sell it. With increased heat, it has actually reduced now to about 32 hours to sell that tomato.” Ikegwuonu added. With climate change in mind, ColdHubs operates with as much attention to its own climate footprint as possible. In addition to being entirely solar-powered, the cold rooms also use natural refrigerants. This reduces their contribution to atmospheric pollution.

Since approximately 54% of the working population in the continent of Africa relies on agriculture for income, ColdHubs could be a lifeline in the fight against hunger. The organization intends to bring its technology into other regions of Africa. As in Nigeria, it hopes to uplift smallholder farmers. “The future for us is to be running close to 10,000 ColdHubs in about five to 10 years, all across Africa,” Ikegwuonu shared. Once ColdHubs spreads throughout Africa, he hopes to bring the technology to developing countries across the globe.

Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in MexicoMexico struggles with multiple food-related health issues that range from malnutrition to obesity. Many families do not have access to the proper nutrients that their bodies need. However, this is not because of a lack of resources but rather because they cannot afford the food that is available. Approximately 7% of Mexico’s population survives on less than $2 a day, making it difficult to afford nutritious food. This makes hunger in Mexico a huge problem for the country since many simply cannot afford to meet their basic needs.

National Crusade Against Hunger

In January 2013, President Peña Nieto created the National Crusade Against Hunger (CNCH). President Nieto designed the program to not only fight poverty and hunger in Mexico but completely eradicate it. He centered the program around five main objectives. The five objectives were to achieve zero hunger through adequate food provisions, improve child nutrition rates, increase monetary income and food production for rural farmers, minimize food loss during transportation and promote internal community awareness. The CNCH allowed Mexicans in local communities to choose what objectives they wanted to focus on. The hope was for the program to address the diverse needs of varying regions.

The Struggle Remains

Unfortunately, Mexico continues to struggle with poverty and hunger. Of the 126 million inhabitants, over 20 million Mexican citizens still do not have access to food. Two years after the CNCH began, Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy observed that CNCH made no substantial progress towards the five listed goals. Additionally, the Federal Auditor’s Office found that the program only covered approximately 60% of the population. Moreover, those that the program did cover failed to report adequate data on the aid received. After advising that the program be shut down in 2018, the Federal Auditor’s Office labeled CNCH a failure.

Other Solutions

What has been done to improve poverty rates and hunger in Mexico since then? The Hunger Project (THP) has been a long-time supporter of the cause, having worked with the people of Mexico for over 30 years. By providing training, education and monetary support, THP aims to teach communities how to take care of themselves long-term.

In addition, food banks in the Mexican cities of Monterrey and Torreon also received grants from The Global FoodBanking Network in 2017. With this money, the Monterrey Food Bank was able to afford new equipment to store, process and sort fresh produce. Similarly, the Torreon Food Bank was able to purchase a large refrigerated truck, allowing for the transportation and protection of perishable food. Both food banks have since partnered with several companies and universities in order to help expand programs in order to assist more people.

The failure of a program such as CNCH can be disheartening. Even so, there are still many people and organizations that are actively working to make a difference. Hunger in Mexico is still a large problem but Mexico has immense potential to improve the situation. With the help of foreign aid, NGOs and a commitment from the Mexican government, hunger in Mexico can be alleviated.

Nicolette Schneiderman
Photo: Flickr

Farm to ForkRecently, the European Union Green Deal created a new food security strategy called the “Farm to Fork Strategy.” The European Union Green deal aims to make Europe the most climate-neutral continent and the Farm to Fork strategy is at the heart of this goal. Farm to Fork is a directive designed to “ensure food security, nutrition and public health, making sure that everyone has access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food.” The EU particularly noted that global food systems cannot be resilient during times of crisis such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, unless food systems are sustainable. The EU further noted that food systems need to be redesigned in order to reduce negative impacts on the environment.

The Farm to Fork Strategy

On June 2, 2020, The EU dedicated €10 billion towards developing the start of the program by donating towards “the research and innovation of food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture and the environment” along with developing new technology to find a nature-based solution for naturally grown food, that is also sustainable year-round and throughout multiple years, by growing annuals in the farms of European countries. This trial run, done exclusively in Europe, hopes to be a pioneer in agriculture, destined to help millions globally once the project receives more traction.

The Farm to Fork Strategy stands in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and not only plans to provide more sustainable food sources but will also provide aid to issues such as global warming, pollution, deforestation and overfishing. The overall goal is to “ensure food security and create a safe food environment” globally.

The Main Goals of Farm to Fork:

  • Ensuring sustainable food production;
  • Ensuring food security;
  • Stimulating sustainable food processing, wholesale, retail, hospitality and food services practices;
  • Promoting sustainable food consumption and facilitating the shift to healthy, sustainable diets;
  • Reducing food loss and waste;
  • Combating food fraud along the food supply chain.

This detailed plan, if executed properly, is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global food shortages. Targets that are essential to meet in order to reach the environmental and food safety goals of Farm to Fork are:

  • a reduction by 50% in the use of chemical and hazardous pesticides by 2030;
  • a reduction of nutrient losses by at least 50% while ensuring that there is no deterioration in soil fertility;
  • a reduction in the use of fertilizers by at least 20% by 2030;
  • a reduction of overall EU sales of antimicrobials for farmed animals and aquaculture of 50% by 2030;
  • reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming by 2030.

The Potential Impact of Farm to Fork

With the use of the Farm to Fork Strategy, the entire world could be more self-sustaining. The initiative could help millions around the world who struggle with food scarcity, making sustainable agriculture one of the most important fields in society. Farm to Fork helps not only food scarcity but the environment as a whole as well. Farm to Fork aims to do more than just curb global hunger, ultimately, aiming to make the planet a better place as a whole.

Alexis LeBaron
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in maldivesThe Maldives, a series of islands bordering both India and Sri Lanka, has faced increased obstacles with food security and hunger. With a population of 515,696 citizens, it is estimated that over 10.3% are battling with hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in the Maldives.

Problem in Numbers

With various scattered islands in the Maldives, it must be noted that a majority of citizens live in urban areas. However, despite this setting, 17.3% of children in the Maldives are underweight while 10.6% are wasted — a condition where a child’s muscle and fat tissues dissolve away to the bone.

It is also estimated that 36% of babies are not exclusively breastfed in their first six months of life, leading many to not receive the necessary nutrients to develop. This heavily contributes to serious health problems in the future.

In addition to the youth being affected by malnutrition, it must be noted that the adult population is also facing a malnutrition burden, with 42.6% of women of reproductive age having anemia.

Causes of Hunger and Poverty

Food insecurity in the Maldives points towards a variety of factors. A recent cause is resultant poverty caused by a lack of tourists. It is estimated that tourism accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s GDP. However, recent border closures due to COVID-19 have severely impacted citizens on a national scale. With one-third of adult males and a quarter of females engaged in tourism-related occupations, thousands have lost their jobs, making it harder for people to provide food and other basic necessities for their families.

Climate change, environmental degradation and declining ocean health severely threaten food security in the Maldives. Rapid changes in temperatures, flooding and drought, impact agricultural yields, reducing the ability to locally produce food.

Another factor that contributes to hardships is the decline of exports in the fish sector. With fishery accounting for another large portion of the nation’s GDP, many families who depend on fisheries as their main source of income have experienced serious financial impacts.

Road to Change

Despite the increased rates of hunger among the Maldivian population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which has dedicated itself to developing both fisheries and agriculture in the Maldives.

The main course of action for the FAO was to reassess the situation in the Maldives and open opportunities to grow the fishery and agriculture sector. Through promoting a stable framework, the organization enabled thousands to enter new jobs in the agriculture industry while accelerating demand for certain goods.

Another course of action was teaching sustainable practices to hundreds of Maldivian farmers. By helping with smaller-scale farms, FAO was able to heavily accelerate growth, boosting production in underprivileged communities. The FAO also helped equip farmers to thrive during climate change. The organization provided farmers with knowledge and methods to increase the productivity of their crops, livestock and fisheries in the face of adverse climatic conditions.

Despite great aid from the FAO, the Maldives continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. Organizations like the FAO can help in the short-term but the Maldives needs government assistance to see long-term change. For the Maldives to see a reduced hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to increase food security in the country. With the help of NGOs and the Maldivian government, the overall hunger rate in the Maldives can be reduced.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: UNDP

Food Insecurity in Guatemala
September 1, 2020, brought joy to citizens of Guatemala City as nearby schools finally received a long-awaited donation from the company, Amazon. Through coordinated efforts with Guatemala Minister of Education Claudia Ruíz Casasola, Amazon donated cooking supplies which will be dispersed among 500 schools surrounding Guatemala City. These schools are located in the Dry Corridor, an area that has suffered from food insecurity due to dramatic flooding followed by months of drought. Amazon’s donation to these 500 schools will perhaps assist 100,000 students currently battling food insecurity in Guatemala.

Amazon’s Partnership with the World Food Program (WFP) USA

Amazon is a partner of the World Food Program USA (WFP), an organization dedicated to fighting global hunger and famine. The organization has had quite a year, providing meals for 138 million people. They even raised $1 million in 10 days for those suffering the results of the explosion in Beirut. This partnership has allowed WFP to continue its efforts in supporting the Guatemalan government’s school feeding program while combating global hunger as a whole.

Amazon’s Partnership with the United Parcel Service (UPS)

This donation was long-awaited, as Amazon delivered the initial shipment back in February of 2020. Concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and international shipping delayed the distribution of the donation until now. Therefore, making this a moment of excitement and gratitude. However, the shipment of this donation was made possible through the generosity of the United Parcel Service (UPS). UPS covered the cost of the shipment of Amazon’s donation to the schools in Guatemala, contributing to the support of the WFP as it navigates the global challenges of the pandemic. The donations expect utilization in January when many public schools plan on welcoming back students.

The outcomes of this donation are plentiful, as food insecurity is a major threat to the children in Guatemala. This year’s cropping season produced Guatemala’s worst crop yield in 35 years due to excessive drought. Moreover, Guatemala faces the highest level of malnutrition in Latin America. As a result, many school-aged children face stunted growth and the pandemic contributed to a total of 1.2 million citizens, already in need of food assistance.

Through the generosity of Amazon and UPS, items such as bowls, blenders and pans will arrive in schools to prepare breakfasts and lunches for students facing food insecurity. By battling food insecurity  in Guatemala and malnutrition in schools, the government can work to make sure students are receiving their necessary nutrient intakes. In parallel, this does not place financial stress on families to provide daily meals for their children.

Mission Guatemala

The Guatemalan government’s school feeding program, in addition to other initiatives, such as Mission Guatemala, has the goal of ending any deaths relating to hunger across the country. Large organizations like the WFP, along with major businesses like Amazon and UPS have the potential to assist in the fight against global hunger in countries like Guatemala. Amazon and UPS have set a positive example with this donation. In this way, they bring awareness to the food crisis that exists in countries outside of the U.S. Due to the companies’ global influence, other major brands may follow suit. Potentially, making donations and partnering with organizations that work to assist others.

The WFP USA also accepts donations and the opportunity to begin fundraising through their website. Advocacy is essential, and any individual contribution can assist those battling hunger, as seen by the generosity of both Amazon and UPS.

Evan Coleman
Photo: Flickr

west african super grain
Fonio is a millet with small grains native to West Africa. It is a staple of many dishes in the Sahel region of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Mali. Also, it has been compared to quinoa and teff by several food scientists. The grain, which has a nutty flavor, can be roasted, pounded or boiled to make bread, couscous and porridge. Also, its swift maturity cycle of two months and its health benefits (gluten-free and fiber-rich) has skyrocketed the popularity of this West African super grain across the Atlantic to Western grocery shelves.

The rise of fonio will benefit the farmers in the Sahel struggling with food security and poverty. A semi-arid region, the 10 Sahel countries experience only 12–20 inches of rainfall per year, making it difficult to sustain agricultural prosperity. Additionally, the GDP in this area ranges between $900 to less than $3,000 per capita — with oil and minerals being the main sources of income. Importantly, due to these nations’ fragile, political environments, business relations tend to suffer. Financial experts are looking at crops like fonio already native to the region so citizens in these countries can help grow the economy. In this same vein, activities like farming will help. Here are some ways the West African super grain will bring prosperity to the region. 

Fonio: Loyal to the Homeland

For thousands of years, fonio has flourished in the arid soil of the Sahel region, just south of the Sahara Desert. Land that is not arable is beneficial for it, as the plant grows in poor soil with little to no need for fertilizers. Its long roots assist in providing topsoil and supplying the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. Farmers in the Sahel are familiar with its low-maintenance and use the crop’s ability to self-fertilize to grow other crops in conjunction. It is rotated with other crops to keep the desert land as fertile as possible. Since fonio favors dry, arid soil, the Sahel is one of the few regions in the world where mass production is possible. As the West African super grain continues to grow in popularity, its environmental selectiveness will be an advantage for Sahel farmers in monopolizing production and generating wealth in the region.

Fonio in the Culinary World

Pierre Thiam, an acclaimed Senegalese chef, restaurateur, author and culinary ambassador, founded Yolélé Foods to bring formerly unknown West African staples to the Western palate. In particularly, fonio. Earlier this year, Yolélé released a series of pre-seasoned fonio pilafs intended to be ready within minutes of opening. While the company focuses in the Brooklyn area, it imports fonio directly from the Sahel. To help farmers increase productivity, the company partnered with SOS Sahel, a nonprofit focused on improving conditions in the region. Additionally, Yolélé built the first industrial-scale mill in Dakar, the capital of Senegal (where Thiam is from). With the increased demand for the crop, hopes are high that farmers in the region will have a steady source of income for their labors.

Win-Win

If the popularity of the West African super grain is any indication, fonio could reach quinoa’s status in the culinary world. In Western homes, it is quickly becoming a key ingredient for those with celiac disease, as well as in gluten-free households. While citizens of these nations incorporate the grain into their salads, bread and cakes — farmers in the Sahel are working to ensure their way of life is not endangered by poverty and hunger.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr

poverty and pollutionPollution impacts people’s air, water and food worldwide. In general, pollution affects impoverished individuals the most. Many individuals in developing countries already struggle to find clean water, edible food and good healthcare. Unfortunately,  pollution only exacerbates these pre-existing issues. The city of Nairobi, Kenya is a prime example of this. Its largest garbage dump surrounds and pollutes churches, schools, shops and places of business. As such, poverty and pollution are closely related. Eliminating pollution may be able to help eradicate global poverty. 

Poverty and Pollution

Runoff from factories, farms and towns has made drinking water sources dangerous because of contamination. In some places, the effects of pollution also decrease the crop yield and increase food prices, as runoff also contaminates farm land. Additionally, imported food products are often tainted with bacteria, thus making these food products dangerous for consumption. These circumstances could increase the number of people suffering from malnutrition, especially in developing countries. Poverty and pollution are therefore connected through causation: high food prices and food insecurity can both contribute to poverty. Indeed, pollution could contribute to the number of people living in global poverty increasing by 100,000 million.   

Pollution and Hunger

There are currently 815 million people around the world suffering from chronic undernourishment. Importantly, one of the main causes of malnourishment and undernourishment is contaminated food. India, for example, lost an estimated 24 million tons of wheat in one year due to an airborne pollutant. More recently, India may also lose 50% of its rice production because of the same pollutant. On a global scale, studies have found that air pollutants decrease the production of staple crops like wheat, rice, maize and soybeans from 5% to 12%. Experts estimate that this is equivalent to the loss of up to 227 million tons of crops, which equals $20 billion in global revenue lost.

However, food is also becoming contaminated through industrial runoff in the ground. Pollution via industrial run-off affects crops in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and South America. In these regions, access to foods that are high in nutrients is low and irrigation runoff is high. Runoff especially impacts Africa, where farmers depend on subsistence farming to feed themselves and their families.

Both of these types of pollution can increase food insecurity and hunger. In these conditions, individuals cannot use their land to grow clean food for themselves and their families. Worldwide, 33% of children who come from middle- to low-income countries already endure chronic malnutrition. This contributes to the fact that 45% of all children’s deaths are due to undernutrition or a related cause. Furthermore, there are at minimum 17 million children worldwide who are acutely malnourished, resulting in the death of two million children each year. Thus, pollution and poverty are related through the issue of hunger, which is fatal for children around the world.  

Pollution Clouds the Water

Unfortunately, pollution does not only amplify the issue of hunger, it also contributes to a lack of clean water. Globally, 844 million people do not have regular access to clean water. The vast majority of these people live in extreme poverty. In Uganda alone, there are 28 million people who cannot readily access clean water. These Ugandans must drink water polluted by sewage, mudslide debris and other contaminants.

Due to these conditions, 70% of all diagnosed diseases are directly linked to unclean water and poor sanitation and hygiene methods. These diseases include hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, diarrhea and dysentery. Unfortunately, these diseases kill 3.4 million people each year, 43% of whom are children younger than five. In Uganda, these illnesses force 25% of children to stop attending school each year. 

Poverty and pollution are directly related through water pollution. On a global scale, the world loses $18 billion when people are to sick with waterborne illnesses to work. Additionally, the time many people must spend finding water results in missed economic opportunities valued at over $24 billion worldwide. 

The Fight Against Pollution

Thankfully, many organizations are addressing these pressing connections between poverty and pollution. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), based at M.I.T., received a $25 million gift from King Philanthropies to combat many issues that both poverty and pollution create. It plans to do so by launching the King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI). The K-CAI focuses explicitly on helping those who live in extreme poverty. Its aims include reducing carbon emissions, reducing pollution, acclimating to the climate change and transitioning toward cleaner energy.

The K-CAI plans to accomplish these goals by creating and evaluating many smaller projects. Once the K-CAI determines which projects are the most impactful, it will implement them in impoverished countries on a large scale. Thus far, J-PAL has focused on improving the production of food, education, policy and healthcare in impoverished countries. K-CAI is using J-PAL’s successes to help determine the most efficient ways to achieve these goals 

The correlation between poverty and pollution is clear and direct. As such, pollution can make the fight to end global poverty more challenging. However, with promising initiatives such as the K-CAI, the global battle against pollution and poverty seem like a much easier feat. Defeating pollution will give the world a much-needed advantage in ending global poverty once and for all. 

Amanda Kuras
Photo: Flickr