Information and stories on food.

People who Fight Poverty
Poverty is a global issue that affects at least 80 percent of the world’s population. The number seems frightening and can intimidate any person who might want to help. Some come together to fight as a united front and tackle the worldwide issue due to the sheer magnitude of the dilemma. Either way, every solution starts with a single person and a single idea. Below describes the top five people who fight poverty today, who they are and what they do (or did) to combat poverty.

Top Five People Who Fight Poverty

  1. Suzanna Mayo Frindt Empowers Rural Communities
    She is the current President and Chief of Staff of The Hunger Project, a nonprofit organization which aids countries in South Asia, Latin America and Africa. The organization provides aid through the establishment of self-reliance within the community. The Hunger Project begins by encouraging women to take active roles within the locale by training them to obtain leadership positions. Then, it enforces self-reliance. It does this by having individuals mobilize their peers through local government to take action and improve the conditions of the area. Finally, The Hunger Project works closely with these governments to ensure it is aiding the people. This system helps bring entire communities out of poverty. As President, Frindt is in a powerful position to fight poverty. She earned her position through 25 years of experience in the field as she worked in impoverished areas, like Peru. Additionally, she co-founded the firm, 2130 Partners. The firm is another organization that dedicates itself to guidance and education. Though these are just a few of her accomplishments, these key points showcase why Frindt is one of the top five people who fight poverty.
  2. Ellen Gustafson Feeds the Hungry
    This woman is an entrepreneur, activist, author and speaker whose primary cause is to work to eliminate world hunger. She focuses on hunger of particularly impoverished areas where the problem is most prominent. Gustafson co-founded FEED Projects, a charity which provides food for people around the world. As of 2019, it has provided 60 million meals to schools around the world. She has also tackled the issue of obesity through educational activism. Overall, Ellen Gustafason’s goals may center around food, but her work has improved the lives of impoverished people in places where they often need help the most.
  3. Bono Advocates Against Poverty
    He is an American musician and frontman of the popular music group, U2. Bono’s infamy stems not only from his musical persona but also from his philanthropic efforts. The singer is the founder of ONE, an advocacy organization that works to raise awareness of poverty and fight against the issue. Similar to The Borgen Project, ONE addresses its cause through legislation and lobbying of governments. ONE focuses on reducing poverty in Africa’s poorest areas. It is just one of the few organizations Bono supports with a target against poverty. This fact showcases the musician’s dedication to both his art and beliefs.
  4. Anthony Lake Leads UNICEF in the Fight Against Poverty
    He has been the director of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) since 2010. He earned his role through a longstanding career as a foreign policy advisor to various presidential candidates and officers of the United States. During the office of President Bill Clinton, Lake served as National Security Advisor. His political career prepared him well to undertake the leadership position of UNICEF, the organization responsible for a significant amount of the world’s humanitarian aid. Specifically, it focuses on the needs of children in over 190 countries. As Lake has taken directorship, his prominence in the fight against poverty has risen immensely.
  5. Bill Gates Shares His Financial Success with Developing Countries
    People primarily know Bill Gates as a technological innovator and a record-breaking billionaire. Through the creation of Microsoft, he has amassed substantial financial benefits. People also know Gates as an impressive philanthropist who gears his saving towards aid programs. Specifically, he has established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a joint project between him and his wife. The program receives a significant amount of his donations. Since its establishment in 2000, the foundation has “spent more than $36 billion to fund work in global health, emergency relief, education, [and] poverty,” as reported by Business Insider. The organization is using some of that money to fight malaria and ebola outbreaks in developing countries.

From political professionals to celebrities, these five people who fight poverty show that stepping up for the world’s poor does not require a designated hero. Anyone, with the right drive and ambition, can make a change for the better. The list features only a few prominent people who fight poverty, though it does not have to end there.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

GreenFingers Mobile Aids in Food Insecurity
Agriculture is at the center of many African families. With over 70 percent of African families depending on agriculture as their main source of income, 90 percent of them live on less than $1 to $2 a day. GreenFingers Mobile aids the food insecure to attempt to change that. This app provides small and emerging South African farmers access to the growing market to help reduce poverty and make Africa food secure.

How GreenFingers Mobile Works

Initially piloted in 2013, GreenFingers Mobile did not fully establish until 2015. Prior to 2018, the mobile app served three countries and assisted more than 5,000 smallholder farmers. Today, it serves more than 8,700 farmers across three countries. The goal of the app is to provide small farmers with access to the agriculture market. GreenFingers Mobile aids the food insecure by replacing the inefficient pen and paper system and supplying farmers with real-time data. Instead, it provides farmers with a variety of services that range from improving the yield of their harvest to a virtual profile to build their credibility within the market.

In addition to informing farmers of the wellbeing of their fields, GreenFingers Mobile also aids the food insecure by registering over 12,500 farmers in training courses. These training courses provide farmers with knowledge of the agricultural market and ways to improve the yield of their cash crops. According to the World Bank, in 2016, nearly one out of nine people living in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and East Asia suffered from chronic hunger. That same year, 27.4 percent of Africa’s population suffered food insecurity. With food insecurity on the rise, the app presents many small African farmers with the ability to fight back. Through GreenFingers’ efforts to ensure food security in growing communities, it simultaneously reduces poverty. With the threat of hunger erased, communities and countries will become self-sustaining.

GreenFingers Mobile’s Funding and Investors

In 2018, GreenFingers Mobile was a finalist in Google’s Impact Challenge and received $125,000 in funding. That same year, Kiva, an international nonprofit organization with the mission to expand financial services to developing countries, approved a $15,000 loan for the company. Many expect the app to grow the sub-Saharan agricultural market to five times its current size in 2030, going from $200 billion to $1 trillion. Within the next two years, GreenFingers Mobile hopes to have more than 30,000 farmers utilizing the app. In May 2019, GreenFingers Mobile launched the GFM Tree Tracking module, which will provide the farmers with over a million trees.

Among many of the app’s investors is the Hivos Food & Lifestyle Fund, which Hivos provides. Hivos is an organization that focuses on “social change, digital activism and rural innovations in the sectors of sustainable food systems, renewable energy and governance,” as the GreenFingers Mobile website says. Natalie Miller, GreenFingers Mobile CEO, says the fund provided several cycles of seeds and helped lower the entry barrier, which assisted the app in cutting prices by two-thirds.

With nearly 60,000 commercial transactions completed, GreenFingers Mobile continues to grow. It is paving the way for technological innovation in Africa. Though it will take time for Africa to see an effect on its food security, GreenFingers Mobile is on its way to improving the lives of those in poverty.

– Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

What is Hunger?
Every day, people around the world experience those familiar sensations of emptiness and rumbling pangs in their stomach, signaling that it is time to eat. At this point, most people would get something to eat and go on with their day. Sadly, many people in the world, especially those in developing countries, do not receive this luxury. They experience chronic hunger, which is undernourishment from not ingesting enough energy to lead a normal, active life. It is difficult to empathize with what hunger feels like, to live with a body longing for nourishment, weakened by a lack of energy and unable to fulfill its basic need for food.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, an estimated one in nine people, 821 million, live with chronic hunger. It also states that the number of people living with the condition has been on the rise since 2014, with a staggering 98 percent living in developing countries.

The Consequences of Hunger

Hunger brings along with it many problems other than an aching stomach. Prolonged lack of adequate nourishment results in malnutrition, which causes the stunting of growth and development in children and wasting syndrome. Wasting syndrome is a side effect of malnutrition, in which the victim’s fat and muscle tissues break down to provide the body with nourishment. The condition results in an emaciated body and in some cases, death. In fact, malnutrition links to around 45 percent of deaths among children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  Fortunately, some have made progress. Since 2012, the number of stunted children in the world has decreased by nine percent from 165.2 million to 150.8 million, a significant improvement.

Hunger and Poverty

Poverty is the underlying determinant in who suffers from chronic hunger. Impoverished people are unable to consistently provide substantial amounts of food for themselves or their families, as they simply cannot afford to. This inability to provide nourishment creates a vicious cycle of hunger and poverty.

Undernourished people lack the energy required to perform basic tasks and therefore are less productive. Those who were malnourished as children develop stunted physical and intellectual abilities, which results in a reduction in the level of education achieved and the individual’s income, according to UNICEF.

What Can People Do?

People can break this vicious cycle and help people suffering from chronic hunger. Organizations such as The Hunger Project, the FAO and the Gates Foundation all have initiatives aimed at helping those in need get on their feet.

The Hunger Project works to empower those suffering from hunger with the tools they need to become self-reliant.  In Mbale, Uganda, the organization partnered with the local community to build a food bank where farmers are able to safely store grain, which has greatly increased their food security.

The FAO focuses on aiding governments and other organizations in implementing initiatives that aim to decrease hunger and malnourishment. A great example of this is Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050, in which the FOA helps countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia develop livestock infrastructure that will support the countries as their populations increase over the coming years.

Bill and Melinda Gates formed the Gates Foundation in 2000 with the main focus of providing internet to those who do not have access to it. Since then, the scope of the foundation’s mission has expanded to help the impoverished through global health and development initiatives. One of the foundation’s major initiatives is Seed Systems and Variety Improvement, which aims to improve seed breeding systems in Africa and India in an effort to make agriculture in those countries more sustainable.

With projects that aim to give impoverished people access to clean water, infrastructure, sustainable farming, disaster relief and education, these organizations have made significant strides.

Individuals can help eradicate chronic hunger by donating to charitable organizations or by contacting their government representatives, encouraging them to support bills and initiatives that aim to combat global hunger. Everyone can play a role and spread the word. There is a long road ahead, but with the tools available, chronic hunger can become a thing of the past.

– Shane Thoma
Photo: Flickr

Food security for refugeesAround the world, a record number of people have become forcibly displaced due to violence, natural disasters or a variety of other reasons. According to the U.N. Human Rights Council, 70.8 million people are forcibly displaced, and 25.9 million of those are considered refugees. At the same time, millions of people lacked food security around the world. The Peace Corps defines food security as “when families are able to afford and obtain enough nutritious food.” In 2018, more than 700 million people faced severe food insecurity.

Food security and refugee issues are deeply intertwined, as refugees are particularly vulnerable to becoming food-insecure. Worldwide, millions of refugees face food insecurity. Thankfully, many organizations are using their resources to create innovative solutions to provide healthy food to refugees who are not able to afford or access it. Here are three organizations that are improving food security for refugees:

African Women Rising

The Palabek refugee camp in northern Uganda hosts more than 38,000 refugees who have fled the brutal civil war in South Sudan. Humanitarian organizations have been struggling to find a long-term solution to food insecurity in the camp. While the Ugandan government allocates plots of land for refugees to farm on, these plots of land are usually too small for traditional farming techniques to work. However, the NGO African Women Rising (AWR) thinks it has found an innovative solution to malnutrition among refugees. In 2017, AWR introduced the camp to 30 by 30-meter plots of land known as “permagardens”.

AWR’s permagardens are specially cultivated in a way that allows them to maximize the number of crops, trees and plants that can be grown in them. It can take anywhere from a few months to a year to teach someone permagarden farming techniques. The total cost of developing, training and supporting a permagarden is just $85. The gardens primarily grow various fruits and vegetables, which provide vital micronutrients and vitamins that are not present in their monthly World Food Programme portions. Many other organizations are already starting to replicate the microgarden approach in refugee settings, including the U.N., the Danish Refugee Council and USAID.

Sunrise-USA

Sunrise-USA was founded in 2011 by a group of Syrian-American professionals and claims to be one of the world’s leading humanitarian aid organizations focused on victims of war inside Syria and in refugee camps in neighboring countries. In addition, to providing food security for refugees, Sunrise-USA provides refugees with healthcare, orphan sponsoring services, education, water and sanitation. The organization also helps Syrian refugees, who are mostly Muslim, observe Islamic religious traditions such as Ramadan, Udhiya and Zakat.

Within Syria, Sunrise-USA works to deliver badly needed food baskets to besieged cities. These baskets typically contain chicken, eggs, dates, oils, margarine, tuna cans, sugar and powdered milk, and only cost $45 to produce. While the city of Aleppo was under siege, the organization delivered over 5,000 food baskets, as well as two containers of jackets, sweaters and mattresses. Sunrise-USA’s “Feed Them” campaign has delivered food aid to 30,000 families in need and has provided milk and baby formula to 20,000 vulnerable families with children.

Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger)

Action Contre La Faim (ACF) is a French organization that works in more than 45 countries to treat and prevent malnutrition. For more than 40 years, it has provided various forms of food aid where it is needed most. Its 7,500-member staff currently assists 21 million people worldwide. The organization has responded to various humanitarian crises that have generated large numbers of refugees, including the civil wars that have taken place in South Sudan and Syria, as well as the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

In Bangladesh, ACF works to increase food security for refugees who have escaped into the country from Myanmar. Every day, the organization provides 83,000 hot meals and 551,497 liters of water to Rohingya refugees. The organization has also conducted malnutrition screenings for 100,000 Rohingya children and has diagnosed over 11,000 malnourished children. These malnourished children were then referred to ACF’s emergency nutrition programs for treatment through mobile clinics.

As the global refugee crisis continues to intensify, more and more organizations will need to come together to provide both short-term and long-term solutions to food security for refugees. These organizations have shown they are more than willing to rise to this task and have each made a measurable impact on the wellbeing of refugees around the world.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

2018 USAID Initiatives
The 2018 USAID initiatives included many successful programs to combat global poverty. Certainly, USAID plays a fundamental role in addressing the needs of the developing world through programs that rebuild infrastructure, increase agricultural diversity and reduce crime rates. Here are five facts about USAID’s accomplishments in 2018.

Five Facts About USAID’s 2018 Accomplishments

  1. Food For Peace – In 2018, the USAID Office of Food For Peace provided assistance to 76 million people in 59 countries. It accomplished this through cash transfers, food vouchers, cooperation with regional and local institutions and other services. Food For Peace donated 254,275 metric tonnes of development food assistance. Additionally, the initiative donated 2,244,815 metric tonnes of emergency food assistance. Food For Peace spent $350 million on development programs designed to directly combat poverty. Furthermore, Food For Peace implemented initiatives related to the improvement of agricultural practices and child nutrition in Guatemala.
  2. AIDS Relief – The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) saw great progress in 2018. With the support of the U.S. government, PEPFAR’s work even placed 13 countries with high rates of HIV on the path to controlling their epidemics by 2020. In 2018, the organization expanded vital AIDS treatment to reach 14 million people. Just over six million children orphaned or affected by AIDS received support from PEPFAR. Furthermore, 250,000 health workers received training and were able to go to the countries that needed their help the most.
  3. Access to Assistive Technology – In July 2018, USAID instituted ATscale: A Global Partnership for Assistive Technology. USAID intended ATscale to increase global access to assistive technology like hearing aids and wheelchairs. ATscale’s goal is to provide assistive technology to 500 million people by 2030 through partnerships with the U.N., the WHO and others.
  4. Central America – Another fact is that several 2018 USAID initiatives focused on Central America. Currently, USAID investments are a source of funding for a restructuring of El Salvador’s tax system. Another USAID program provides job training to young adults in Guatemala. USAID cooperates with the State Department to provide community programming that reduces crime rates.
  5. Aid Transparency – In June 2018, USAID introduced its 2018 Aid Transparency Index. This index, run independently of USAID, will make aid data visible to the public. No other development agency has undertaken a measure like this. Consequently, by making data about its spending available, USAID will be more likely to receive increased support for its initiatives, especially ambitious ones such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Overall, in 2018, USAID involvement was a positive force for the citizens of many countries throughout the world. The U.S. International Affairs Budget funded countless 2018 USAID initiatives that served a multitude of purposes. For example, treating AIDS in Africa or assisting farmers in Central America. Although the projects that USAID funds are diverse, they share a common purpose: to create a more peaceful world. To encourage continued congressional support of USAID, U.S. voters can contact their representatives here.

-Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Kiribati
Kiribati is a small island country located between Hawaii and Australia. Thirty-three islands make up Kiribati, but people only inhabit 20 today. After receiving its independence in 1979, Kiribati began to focus on becoming a self-sufficient nation. However, with Kiribati’s growing population, heavy dependence on imports and reliance on income from overseas, the issue of hunger continues to grow. Here are the top nine facts about hunger in Kiribati.

Top 9 Facts About Hunger in Kiribati

  1. After an economic crisis in 2006 and according to Kiribati’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, nearly 22 percent of Kiribati’s population was living in poverty. Though most of Kiribati’s people may not be going hungry, the lack of sufficient nutrition can affect a child’s development and growth, and the children could face a variety of health issues in the future. Of the 22 percent, 5 percent were living in extreme poverty. Simultaneously, the report considered 44 percent of Kiribati’s population vulnerable.
  2. Children are not the only ones at risk of hunger, as adults also face this issue. Without sufficient nutrition, adults risk underperforming while carrying out laborious tasks. With many fisheries throughout Kiribati and a lack of variety in food, hunger threatens to disrupt Kiribati’s top export market.
  3. According to Dr. Aurelie Delisle, an environmental social scientist, the villages “are restricted to fish, rice and taro.” However, on some islands, the diet is changing. In place of the traditional fish, leafy greens and root diet, islanders are turning to imported packaged foods. According to William Verity, these areas now face “some of the world’s worst rates of obesity and diabetes.”
  4. In 2012, the U.N. defined Kiribati as a Least Developed Country (LDC). Though Kiribati has met two of the three thresholds of criteria to graduate from LDC, the U.N. does not expect Kiribati to officially graduate until December 2021. One of the goals the Committee for Development Policy (CPD) has for LDC is to ensure food security.
  5. Nearly 50 percent of Kiribati’s population live on the outer islands of the Gilbert Group. According to the World Bank, the rising prices of importing food greatly affect Kiribati’s Outer Islands. Many families “spend 50 percent of their budget on food” since the country imports most of its food. In 2011 to 2012, the World Bank and Kiribati’s government signed The Food Crisis Response Grant. The $2 million grant helped the residents improve the affordability and availability of food throughout the islands.
  6. In October 2017, Kiribati entered the third phase of the Kiribati Adaptation Program implemented by the World Bank. Kiribati put $0.87 million towards improving the resilience of the Islanders to protect against the impact of climate change on freshwater and buildings. One of the program’s primary goals was to provide islanders with safe drinking water.
  7. Families that lack access to imported goods rely heavily on agriculture. The most common crops are copra, coconuts, taro, breadfruit, banana, papaya and mango. Nearly 55 percent of Kiribati’s population depend on copra. Due to the change in climate, the heavy rainfall makes it difficult for copra and coconuts to grow.
  8. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is focusing its efforts on livestock and agriculture projects to enhance Kiribati’s food security. Due to rising sea levels, Kiribati has limited agriculture. Erosion and flooding threaten farmers livelihoods by destroying crops, roads and even villages. Despite this, the yields of coconuts and bananas are slowly improving with the agricultural techniques provided by the Timber and Forestry Training College of Papua New Guinea’s University of Technology. Nearly 600 farmers have received training in seed and nut selection, and nursery establishment and management.
  9. In September of 2014 to 2019, The Outer Island Food and Water Project (OIFWP) emerged. Focusing on the four outer islands of Abebama, Beru, North Tabiteuea and Nonouti, the OIFWP helps increase food availability through gardening and livestock, reduce the Islander’s dependence on imported foods, increase income for poor families and reduce sickness due to unclean water. Around 25 percent of Kiribati participated in the project. The project installed a total of 278 water systems throughout the islands. In 2018, the project had completed 60 percent of its goal by implementing new diets.

The fear of flooding is always on the Kiribati people’s minds. In an early phase of the Kiribati Adaption Project, participants installed systems that collect rainwater. According to the government water technician on the island of North Tarawa, there are around 50 water pumps. Ruteta, an islander who feared that children were becoming ill from the water, is “grateful because life is much simpler having rainwater.” This project ensures that Islanders have 24-hour access to fresh water.

These top nine facts about hunger in Kiribati demonstrate that hunger greatly impacts the Kiribati people’s wellbeing. Though Kiribati is a small developing country, hunger still remains. Through humanitarian efforts and grants, such as The Food Crisis Response Grant, Kiribati’s battle with hunger is one step closer to victory.

– Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

10 International Issues to WatchWith the world always changing, there are some issues that remain constant. Some of these issues are directly related to poverty while other events increase the likelihood of creating impoverished communities. Here are 10 international issues to watch in relation to world poverty.

10 International Issues to Watch

  1. Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa
    The good news is that global poverty rates have been dropping since the turn of the century. Nevertheless, there is still work that needs to be done. Approximately 10 percent of people in developing areas live on less than $2 per day. Poverty rates have declined in Eastern and Southeastern Asia, but more than 40 percent of residents of sub-Saharan Africa still live below the poverty line.
  2. Lack of Access to Clean Water
    There are more than 2 billion people in the world who cannot access clean water in their own homes. Lack of access to clean water increases the likelihood of contracting illnesses. When people get sick, they have to spend money on medicine, which can cause families to fall into extreme poverty. In other cases, people have to travel extremely far to collect clean water. Altogether, women and girls spend approximately 200 million hours walking to get water daily. Access to clean water is one of the 10 international issues to watch in relation to world poverty.
  3. Food Security
    By 2050, the world will need to feed 9 billion people, but there will be a 60 percent greater food demand than there is today. Thus, the United Nations is taking steps to address the problem. The U.N. has set improving food security, improving sustainable agriculture and ending hunger as some of their primary focuses by the year 2030. The U.N. must address a wide range of issues to combat these problems. These issues include gender parity, global warming and aging populations.
  4. Improving Education
    Most impoverished communities around the world lack a solid education system. Some common barriers include families being unable to afford school, children having to work to support their family and the undervaluing of girls’ education. UNESCO estimates more than 170 million people could be lifted out of poverty if they had basic reading skills.
  5. Limited Access to Jobs
    In rural and developing communities around the world, there is often limited access to job opportunities. There is a multitude of factors that can lead to a lack of adequate work or even no opportunities at all. Two common roadblocks are a lack of access to land and a limit of resources due to overexploitation. It is obvious that no available means to make money ensures that a family cannot survive without outside help.
  6. Limiting Global Conflict
    When conflict occurs, it impacts the poor the hardest. Social welfare type programs are drained, rural infrastructure may be destroyed in conflict zones and security personnel moves into urban areas, leaving smaller communities behind. At the state level, impoverished communities have lower resilience to conflict because they may not have strong government institutions. Poverty and conflict correlate strongly with one another.
  7. Gender Equality
    From a financial standpoint, gender equality is vital to improving the world economy. The World Economic Forum states that it would take another 118 years to achieve a gender-neutral economy. In 2015, the average male made $10 thousand more a year than their female counterparts. However, there has been an increased amount of awareness on the issue that may lead to an improved economy for all.
  8. Defending Human Rights
    In 2018, the world saw a decline in global freedom. However, over the last 12 consecutive years, global freedom rights have decreased. More than 70 countries have experienced a decline in political and civil liberties. However, in 2019, steps are being taken to limit this problem. At the International Conference on Population and Development, there will be a focus on human rights. France will also align its G-7 efforts at limiting a variety of inequalities.
  9. Responding to Humanitarian Crises
    The 2019 Global Humanitarian Overview shows a large number of humanitarian crises around the world. Between Syria, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there are more than 19 million internally displaced people. In 2019, approximately 132 million people have needed humanitarian help, costing the world economy almost $22 billion.
  10. Climate Change
    From a scientific standpoint, the land temperature has increased by 1 degree C. in the last half decade, and greenhouse gas emissions have risen to their highest levels in more than 800,000 years. This has led to increased storms and droughts throughout the world. In the last 39 years, weather-related economic loss events have tripled.

Even though the world still has many issues to address, progress is being made in a variety of areas that may help limit global poverty. These are but 10 international issues to watch in relation to global poverty. The global awareness of poverty-related issues is something that continues to be extremely important for the advancement of our world.

Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Google Images

Food Shortages in North KoreaCurrently, food shortages in North Korea are severe. Over the last year, serious droughts, low crop yield and economic sanctions have pushed hunger levels in North Korea to crisis levels. The UN recently estimated that approximately 10 million North Koreans are in urgent need of food aid.

Last month, South Korea pledged to aid in reducing these food shortages, through a donation of 50,000 tons of rice and 4.5 million dollars to the World Food Programme. Once the World Food Programme can guarantee high standards of access and monitoring for this donation, they will oversee its delivery and distribution in North Korea.

Food Shortages in North Korea

Several factors have contributed to the severe food scarcity in North Korea, according to a UN report from May 2019. Conditions over the past year have been terrible for crop production. Prolonged dry spells, serious droughts, flooding and high temperatures prevented crops from growing normally. On top of this, UN experts expect post-harvest losses to be high as well. This is due to shortages of fuel and electricity. This will complicate the transport and storage of crops.

At the beginning of this year, food rations in North Korea fell to a mere 300 grams per person per day. The UN predicts these rations may fall even further in the coming months. The decreasing size of rations is important since the majority of North Koreans require these rations. The UN report estimates that 40 percent of North Koreans are in urgent need of food, while 70 percent of North Koreans depend on rations.

North Korea hasn’t experienced food scarcity of this magnitude, since a nationwide famine in the 1990s. While there is no definitive data for the 1990s famine, experts believe it caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans. These food shortages could cause similar fatalities if food aid isn’t provided quickly.

South Korea’s Food Donation

On June 19, the World Food Programme officially accepted the donation from the Republic of Korea. South Korea has pledged 4.5 million dollars, as well as a direct donation of 50,000 tons of rice. These donations will help approximately 1.5 to 2 million children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

This donation represents South Korea’s largest donation to food aid in North Korea since 2008. That donation was when South Korea contributed 5,000 tons of rice to relieve food scarcities in North Korea. South Korea’s unification minister, Kim Yeon-Chul, stressed that the South Korean government couldn’t ignore the struggles of its northern neighbor. For South Korea, this donation represents a step forward in the relationship between the two countries.

Looking Forward

Despite the monumental donation from South Korea, the World Food Programme estimates food shortages in North Korea will require more aid. It estimates a need of approximately 300,000 metric tons of food and the equivalent of 275 million dollars of supplies. Though UN sanctions do not limit humanitarian aid to North Korea, the international political situation has made it difficult to reliably distribute aid in the area. However, South Korea’s government believes its donation will cross the border. Overall, the country hopes it will bolster efforts towards reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

Effects of Desertification
Desertification poses many threats. In the fields of sustainable development and climate change, it is a serious problem mentioned in one of the 17 global goals for sustainable development. It is also a pertinent issue in the fields of herders in pastoral Africa and China with too many animals who overgraze the vegetation. Among the many preconceived notions and potential threats that it poses, there are several effects of desertification.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), desertification is defined as “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.” Defining and fixing desertification is a balancing act between human activity versus climatic activity. Environmental and social processes continue to stress the existing arable land still available. The resulting effect of desertification poses a threat to the condition of the land, the productivity of the agriculture and the health of the people, which all point to the larger issue of poverty in those areas.

Desertification’s Effect on Agriculture

Climatic change and human impact are the largest factors in desertification. Within the subcategory of climate change, one of the biggest causes includes climatic variation. Although desertification may intensify with a general climatic trend towards aridity, desertification itself can initiate change in local areas. As such, desertification has serious agricultural effects. When productive land becomes arid and useless, the absence of crop production on a local level has potential global effects. For example, in Jeffara, Tunisia, “desertification threatens around 52% of the land area suitable for agriculture, forestry and pasture farming.” Desertification in Jeffara has resulted in unusable forms of land with degrading soil, as well as salinization and water and wind erosion. These have all led to a loss of land productivity.

It would be natural to wonder what Tunisia has done to combat these contemporary issues. However, these issues are anything but contemporary. Tunisia has been on the search for solutions to desertification since ancient times since it contributes greatly to the country’s impoverished state. The first step to fighting these persistent issues is monitoring. With the use of monitoring initiatives, from field studies to high-resolution satellite images, The Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) developed an environmental monitoring program to set up dashboards and agendas for countries combating desertification through the lens of national policy and sustainable management of resources. With monitoring initiatives like these, people can track the effects of desertification and governments can respond with suitable measures that can not only aid in reducing negative agricultural effects but also subsequently alleviate the poverty in the area.

Desertification’s Effect on the Environment

Beyond the agricultural aspect, desertification has a significant impact on the environment. There is a strong interrelation between desertification and climate change. Desertification not only compromises food production and future food security, but it also releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. The decomposition of organic matter and biomass in desertified areas in the last 7,800 years has resulted in carbon dioxide emissions that compare to the total emissions from fossil fuel combustion so far.

The Mediterranean Basin has felt these environmental effects of desertification since Platonic times. Plato described forests transforming into rocky lands, resembling “the bones of a sick body.” Unfortunately, this imagery still exists today. Because desertification results in carbon dioxide emissions without replenishing biomass and drastically changes the water content in degraded soil, one of the primary solutions is to restore moisture in drylands with silvopasture and agroforestry. These processes aim to rehabilitate desertified areas by rebuilding carbon sinks, while also providing employment to local farmers. These methods are a win-win solution since they address both the reversal of environmental degradation and the economic concerns of farmers.

Initiatives such as Project Wadi Attir in Northern Negev, Israel are adopting such approaches. The project aims to sequester 10-20 million tons of carbon dioxide into recovering biomass while providing work to thousands. These solutions are promising because they address the environmental effects of desertification while also providing jobs, both which aim to help the state of poverty in the area.

Desertification’s Effect on Health

The effects of desertification on agriculture and the environment points to a larger issue; the health of the people. According to the World Health Organization, land degradation has a significant effect on the health of the land as well as the people that live in it. Desertification forces food production to halt, water sources to dry up and inhabitants to move. Additionally, there are higher chances of malnutrition from this lack of access to food and water, respiratory diseases from the dust produced by wind erosion and the spread of disease due to migratory populations. The case of respiratory disease is not as regional as it may seem. For example, dust storms affect not only neighboring countries, but the entire globe. A recent study by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population showed that there is a strong correlation between dust storms in China and mortality in Korea, specifically with the onset of cardiovascular disease in males under 65 years old.

One of the best measures for preventing these adverse effects, as suggested by the aforementioned study, is early warning systems. According to the UNCCD, it is the synergy of “meteorological networks, air quality monitoring stations, and use of satellite data” that can best prevent these health risks. Another approach that shares similar goals with alleviating environmental effects is source mitigation. Sustainable land management and restoration techniques can both help the degraded land itself and prevent the source from spreading these adverse health effects.

Desertification is a complex topic. The question of what the effects of desertification are is a difficult one to answer because it involves complicated interactions between natural and human activity. Desertification manifests in negative agricultural, environmental and health effects, which are all indicators of poverty. The hope is that the solutions to these individual effects can address the larger issue of poverty in those arid regions.

– Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Central AmericaThe ability to consistently access nourishment is vital for all people. In regions affected by poverty, like Central America, many families lack this ability. These 10 facts will provide a glimpse at food insecurity in Central America, how it affects the lives of the people who live there and what has been done to address it.

10 Facts About Food Insecurity in Central America

  1. More than 10 percent of Guatemalan children are underweight. About 46.5 percent of Guatemalan children suffer from stunted growth caused by malnutrition. Indigenous children are more likely to suffer from stunted growth; 58 percent of Guatemalan indigenous children under 5 suffer from this condition. Indigenous children are also more likely to suffer from anemia and vitamin deficiencies.
  2. Food insecurity fuels migration to the U.S. Severe droughts, crops destroyed by fungus and persistent poverty all play a role in preventing families from thriving in their home country. USAID and U.N. reports find that poverty and food insecurity in Central America motivates migration more than other factors.
  3. From 2015 to 2018, food insecurity in Central America increased annually. Indigenous populations and women were the groups most impacted by chronic hunger. Poor and rural communities were also likely to suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
  4. USAID’s response to food insecurity is focused on agriculture. USAID funds studies that create solutions to agricultural problems. USAID works with many groups, including governments, universities and American farmers, to bring agricultural solutions to regions affected by food insecurity. USAID also implements initiatives like Feed the Future that directly address food insecurity. Guatemala and Honduras are two of the 12 countries that receive specially targeted assistance through Feed the Future.
  5. Between 2013 and 2017, USAID’s initiative Feed the Future provided assistance to 215,000 Guatemalan children. During this period, Guatemalan agricultural production created $47.8 million worth of profits for the Guatemalan economy. Feed the Future worked to improve agriculture in Guatemala by providing resilient seedlings, higher-quality pesticides and training to prevent the spread of disease among crops. Guatemalan agriculture also became more diverse thanks to the introduction of new crops. In cooperation with USDA, Feed the Future helped Guatemalan farmers learn new methods of planting crops and tracking their growth electronically.
  6. In 2014, USAID implemented new programs in Honduras to fulfill the goals of the U.S. Global Food Security Strategy. In cooperation with the Honduran government, USAID works to decrease rates of stunted growth by 20 percent by 2020. USAID is also working to move 10,000 families out of extreme poverty by 2020. To combat food insecurity in Honduras, USAID is promoting crop diversity, improving infrastructure connecting rural areas to urban areas and improving child nutrition.
  7. The Dry Corridor is experiencing drought. The region referred to as the Central American “Dry Corridor” consists of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. During the summer of 2018, the Dry Corridor was hit by low levels of rainfall and above-average temperatures. The unusually severe drought of 2018 came after a previous two years of drought that lasted from 2014 to 2016, which required food relief for millions of people.
  8. Food insecurity in Central America has been worsened by severe droughts. For the past year, there has been a severe drought in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. 290,322 families in the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador were affected by the 2018 drought. $37 million worth of corn was destroyed in El Salvador alone due to lack of rain.
  9. The Central American drought was caused by the effects of the 2015-16 El Niño Event and by the results of global climate change. After the drought, about 3.6 million people required food-related aid. 50-90 percent of the region’s agricultural production was destroyed.
  10. After the 2014-15 droughts and the following spike in food insecurity, the Central American Dry Corridor received an influx of humanitarian aid. Efforts were made to conserve soil, more closely track data about nutrition and hunger and better prepare for future droughts. In the midst of the 2018 drought, data collection was prioritized in order to maintain stable food prices, combat food insecurity within particularly vulnerable populations and relocate rural families away from the regions most severely affected by the drought.

Central America, a region already affected by poverty, reached the brink of crisis after nearly 5 years of severe droughts. By 2018, food insecurity in Central America had spread throughout the countries of the Dry Corridor. But regional governments, with the assistance of relief agencies, implemented agriculture-based solutions to ensure that future droughts would not have the same disastrous consequences. These innovative solutions pave the way for a more secure future in Central America.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr