Birth Rates and Poverty in Niger
Niger is the seventh poorest country in the world. It is an example of the multitudinous effects of extreme poverty. With high political instability, high levels of gender inequality, high birth rates, high levels of malnutrition and ethnic conflict, attempts to lift Niger out of poverty have often failed because of the magnitude and multitude of problems to be faced.

The population of Niger works largely in fishing and farming. As a result, they are unusually susceptible to natural disasters and climate conditions. A 2005 drought that led to a massive food shortage had devastating effects on the people and the economy, with the IMF forgiving 100% of the nation’s debt, roughly $86 million USD. In 2010, famine wiped out many people and the country reported the outbreak of multiple diseases, with deaths due to diarrhea, starvation, gastroenteritis, malnutrition and respiratory diseases.

Education levels in Niger are among the lowest in the world, with many children unenrolled and children often forced to work instead of study. Nomadic children often do not have access to schools.

The high birth-rates in Niger are a problem, as they contribute to an expanding population whose families cannot support them. This is partly as a result of the belief that the greater the number of children one family has, the greater the chance that a family will be lifted out of poverty when one finds success.

– Farahnaz Mohammed
Source:, DW.DE
Photo: Niger Delta Rising

Rural Poverty in Armenia
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Armenia descended into poverty. Industries that were previously operated by the Soviet state, including agriculture, were discontinued, creating massive unemployment in this region of the Southern Caucasus. Today, nearly 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. Many of those affected by poverty either reside in rural areas along the nation’s borders or in isolated mountain villages.

In a 2012 article written for the Guardian, reporter Sigrid Rausing portrays a bleak portrait of Armenia. Rausing describes a polluted mountain landscape devastated by the fall of the communist regime. She says, “Every village we drove through was half abandoned – the falling-down houses haphazardly mended with metal sheets or planks of wood. Whole families move if they can, otherwise, women and children remain while the men join the migrant labor force in Russia, sending meagre remittances home.”

Over 30% of households in Armenia are headed by single women whose partners have traveled to other countries for work. The end of collectivized agriculture destroyed efficient food production because Armenian farmers were ill-equipped and undereducated in the business of farming. In addition to this, the rocky Armenian soil was a thorn in the side of former Soviet agricultural laborers who were not used to dealing with such challenges without the help of Soviet officials. It was this combination of factors that forced agricultural workers into migrant labor, leaving the women of rural Armenia to fend for themselves.

The situation in Armenia requires international attention. Armenia was assisted by several Western powers in the early 1990s when the threat of famine loomed over the fledgling nation, however, development in Armenia could be the chance to improve food production, reduce migration, and lift this struggling country out of poverty permanently.

– Josh Forgét

Source: Rural Poverty Portal,The Guardian
Photo: Care Armenia

The Social Costs of High Food Prices

The failure of wages to keep pace with rising food prices is putting a strain on families and communities worldwide, according to a report titled ‘Squeezed’ by OxFam and the International Development Studies. The food price spike of 2011 alone increased the numbers of people living in poverty by an estimated 44 million. The study focused on rural and urban consumers in 10 developing countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Zambia, Bolivia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Leaders continue to disregard the specific impacts the food system has on low income households. The authors of the report write, “Many people are earning more, but this is often illusory: wage rises rarely match rises in the cost of living. People have to cope in time-honoured ways by cutting back, substituting, shopping around, and growing and gathering more. The impacts are felt in homes, relationships, communities and work places, changing the way people think about themselves and others.” More often households are being forced to resort to riskier ways of getting income, for example, gold mining in Burkina Faso; sex work in Kenya; and jungle fishing in Bangladesh, despite the risks posed by tigers and pirates. The numbers of migrants has also increased as people must travel to find work. And the stress to food insecurity often leads to increased levels of domestic violence, and alcohol and drug abuse.

The types of food that people consume represent the single best indicator of their well-being. The research from this report uncovered a familiar hierarchy of hardship whereby the poorest people eat too little and lose out on vital nutrients. Even some better-off urban communities are struggling to afford basics, and have begun eating less diverse diets and substituting foods. Latest estimates suggest one in eight of the world’s population suffer from undernourishment and that nearly one in five face food “inadequacy”.

The rising costs of fuel, rent, and agricultural inputs make it more difficult for people to become farmers, despite the need to produce cheaper food. Without relatively large land assets, capital and the capacity to store produce and hedge their cultivation decisions, contemporary farming in the 10 developing countries surveyed will remain very difficult. Furthermore, agriculture is less appealing for young people to enter into due to of unpredictable returns, high input costs, and high costs of living. Education is perceived as a ticket off the farm, and agricultural aspirations are rare.

Societies, too, are changing in response to the food price crisis. Customary cooperative labor arrangements are being replaced with wage labor. The urgent need for cash takes priority over collective social life and values. The high price of essentials translates into a decline in public social life, with families becoming more inwardly focused and people less willing or able to socialize or help each other.

The report recommends that national social protection policies aim to provide routine protection for the poorest and most vulnerable communities, with the understanding that it is too late to start developing schemes when a price spike occurs. Policymakers should design social assistance policies aimed at protecting against spikes in the form of temporary cash or food transfers, or by providing subsidies that are automatically triggered by price rises. And economic leaders should adjust to real changes in needs by linking social protection to inflation.

– Maria Caluag

Sources: Guardian, OxFam-IDS
Photo: Politico

Ethiopia is a country defined by its environment. The East African nation has been plagued by droughts and famine throughout its history, plunging the people into an abject state of poverty. In the latter half of the 20th century, drought and famine became more prevalent, inciting political turmoil in Ethiopia.

These unfavorable environmental conditions especially devastated the northeastern Wollo and Tigray regions of Ethiopia. One of the most tragic events in the nation’s history was the 1958 famine in Tigray in which around 100,000 people perished.

In 1973, another brutal famine struck Wollo that resulted in the toppling of Ethiopia’s government. The reigning monarch Hailie Selassie’s inability to resolve the food crisis incited revolution. Selassie was removed from power and supplanted by a Communist junta under the infamous Mengistu Haile Mariam.

From 1983-85 Ethiopia suffered the worst famine in its history. Over 400,000 people died over the two year period. A combination of climate conditions and the policies of the incompetent Derg regime caused the famine.

After the fall of the Derg in 1991, Ethiopia stabilized before entering into a war with the neighboring country Eritrea in the late 1990s. Although the war has ended, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest nations in the world and has become a breeding ground for separatist groups like the Ogaden National Liberation Front and the Islamist terror group al-Ittihaad al Islami. Both of these groups, although their goals are different, pose a threat to the current government in Ethiopia. Moreover, the existence of radical Islamic terrorist organizations in Ethiopia could eventually harm the United States.

As Ethiopia continues to reel from the damages of famine, perhaps it would be wise for the United States to supply their East African ally with more aid. If Ethiopia is not provided for, the nation will spiral into another devastating cycle of coups. This would threaten the well being of the Ethiopian people, the stability of the region, and the national security of the United States.

– Josh Forgét

Source: BBC,The Borgen Project,Bahru Zewde
Photo: Word Press

Despite the obvious concerns that genetically modified crops (GMOs) generate in regards to water usage and biodiversity, GMOs are – at present – the only viable option for feeding a worldwide population of 9 billion people by 2050. Why embark upon a policy of greater investment in GMOs as opposed to organic farming? Considering both the land and climate constraints of many developing nations, the strengths of GMOs lie primarily in their ability to adapt to challenges that would otherwise be prohibitive to organically grown crops. The following are 3 ways that GMOs encourage global food security.

1. GMO’s production yields are higher – As the global population increases, greater pressure will be placed on the agricultural industry to produce yields large enough to meet both local and international demands. GMOs encourage global food security by maximizing the potential of long established independent farmers and agribusinesses, a tool considered invaluable for maintaining adequate food supplies in developing countries still lacking the requisite knowledge and infrastructure for conventional farming.

2. GMOs use less land – As land starved countries of the global south continue to experience the high birth rates and greater population density of economic development, the low land usage of GMOs encourage global food security by increasing the productivity of their farmers without stifling growth. GMOs offer emerging economies the distinct advantage of developing previously underutilized areas without the accompanying sacrifices of farmland.

3. GMOs are more affordable – The inevitable cost increases that occur when demand outpaces supply will be an significant issue as the worldwide population increases; however, GMOs encourage global food security by keeping the price of food low enough to feed those with even the most meager of financial resources. GMOs are able to better withstand the climatic, pest, and blight challenges that would otherwise devastate organically grown crops, leading to the supply shortfalls and price increases that cripple poverty stricken communities.

– Brian Turner

Source Science Daily
Photo Chuck Haney Photography

imageFAO Allocates Funding to Combat Locust Crop Destruction in Sudan
As though part of some biblical plague of the ancient world, the recent swarms of invading locusts have wreaked havoc on the crops of many North African countries. In an effort to both stem the flow of the relentless Lucusta migratoria and prevent future flare-ups, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has donated 1 million dollars to help fight the locust crop destruction in Sudan.

The funds, which resulted from joint cooperation of donors that included $400,000 from Saudi Arabia, $75,000 from the CRC’s emergency trust, and $500,000 from the FAO, will serve as a much needed shot in the arm in the ongoing war against the locust crop destruction in Sudan. The locusts, which began their migration back in February, initially did little damage to the Sudanese agricultural industry. However, the previous swarms laid eggs across much of the county, and like a ticking time bomb are expected to hatch risking further locust crop destruction in Sudan, which could decimate their spring and summer harvests.

The recent allocation of funds from the FAO is great news in the continuing effort of preventing further locust crop destruction in Sudan. Furthermore, through the combined funding of several generous donors, along with the agricultural expertise of the FAO, countries such as Sudan that have been dealing with the ravages of the locust swarms can now look forward to some much-needed relief.

– Brian Turner
Source African Brains
PhotoThe Desert Review

FAO Encourages Food Security in North Korea
With their recent posturing and threats of nuclear destruction to both South Korea and the United States, North Korea has been a hot topic of many newspaper headlines and evening news programs. Surprisingly though, little attention has been paid to the chronic lack of food security in North Korea, an issue that the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has been trying to address for years.

The gross human rights violations of Kim Jong-un notwithstanding, North Korean civilians have been the greatest casualty of the failed agricultural and food reapportionment policies of the government. By shutting out much of the international community, including various NGOs and aid workers, progress has been slow in devising a realistic solution to the problem of food security in North Korea. The most recent FAO mission report on food security in North Korea is startling, with both soybean oil and vegetable production down dramatically, raising concerns that were highlighted by mission leader Kisan Gunjal when he remarked that “The country needs to produce more protein-rich foods like soybean and fish and to put more effort into growing two crops a year so a more varied diet is available for everyone.”

However, there were bright spots on the horizon as annual staple food production has been growing over the past couple of years, effectively mitigating the amount of acute malnutrition in the population. Overall, the FAO was satisfied with the improvements their targeted aid has made in specific areas, yet considerable headway still remains in combating children’s vulnerability to shock and pregnant and nursing mothers’ levels of malnutrition. DPRK Country Director Claudia von Roehl commented on the status of food security in North Korea when stating that while harvest figures were optimistic, “the lack of proteins and fats in the diet is alarming” as there are still about two million children in the country who are in need of healthy, balanced diets.

Brian Turner

Source: FAO News
Photo: Time

Dupont Invents Life Saving Packaging
DuPont, in collaboration with Simonalbag, recently launched “MixPack,” the first flexible package in Mexico capable of combining high-and-low resistance seals. This new technology is proving to be a life saving solution to malnutrition in rural communities.

Between 1,000 and 3,000 Tarahumaras indigenous people live in the remote caves of Chihuahua, Mexico. They are isolated and poor, when droughts come they have no access to drinkable water, and no water for farming – thus unable to feed themselves.

The MixPack product is a bag with two compartments, which are separated by an internal seal made of DuPont Surlyn®. This solution prevents the mixing of the milk powder with the purified water that is contained within the same packaging unit. Then, when needed, by squeezing the package, the inner seal breaks mixing the ingredients – resulting in a nutritious and healthy drink for children.

Dupont has started a program that provides milk for children living in these areas. CEO Alvaro Navarro states that MixPack was the result of a dream to help people nourish their children but have no way to refrigerate baby milk or do not have a source of drinking water. He projects MixPack will revolutionize flexible packaging around the world.

“I have a dream and a mission to alleviate hunger through science and innovation,” said Navarro

– Mary Purcell

From February 2nd to 3rd, over 50,000 Taiwanese attended the 30-hour famine campaign in Kaohsiung (a province of Taiwan). This was part of a larger 30-hour famine campaign, the 30 Hour Famine Hero Rally, run by “World Vision Taiwan.” It was the 24th year of this campaign, and it has been growing in strength as the years have passed.

World Vision Taiwan is part of World Vision: 30 Hour Famine, a global campaign to raise awareness of world hunger. The 30-hour famine is a worldwide experience that students, as well as anyone else, take part in once a year.

Participants gathered together and did not eat solid food for 30 hours, in order to experience what it feels like to live in poverty with scarce or no food. The 30-hour famine campaign in Kaohsiung, just like all of the 30-hour famine campaigns, had two parts: raising awareness about world hunger and fundraising for the hungry.

In the past twenty years, the 30-hour famine campaign in Kaohsiung is one event that has helped lower world hunger. The rate of hungry children has dropped by 50%. The goal of this rally was to raise $13.5 million U.S. dollars to help eradicate poverty and hunger not only in Taiwan but worldwide.

The donations do far more in disaster areas than they ever could do in countries like the United States. World Vision uses the donations to feed children and families in high-risk areas, but also teaches them how to overcome hunger on their own, and provides them with the proper tools to do it. Anyone can take part in a 30-hour famine, or host their own.

Visit the 30 Hour Famine website to learn how to host your own fasting event for the sake of world hunger.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: Gospel Herald, World Vision Taiwan
Photo: Want China Times