Information and stories about food security news.

Child Malnutrition in Chad
Chad, a country located in Central Africa, faces one of the highest levels of child malnutrition worldwide. A meta-analysis of child malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa from 2006 to 2016 found that 39.9% of children in Chad suffered from stunting and 28.8% were underweight. Extreme weather events and conflict in the country exacerbate food insecurity, making it harder for many families to provide adequate, nutritious diets for their children. To help improve children’s health and reduce food insecurity, four recent initiatives are tackling child malnutrition in Chad.

Scaling Up Nutrition

Scaling Up Nutrition is an organization that collaborates with low- and middle-income countries’ governments to organize malnutrition prevention efforts. In 2017, SUN developed partnerships with five civil society organizations in Chad focused on improving nutrition. SUN has also established six local Civil Society Alliance offices across different provinces of the country. With SUN’s support, these organizations adopted nutrition as an integral part of their development plans. SUN has also trained and mobilized 35 radio presenters and journalists for nutrition communication, who continue to help raise awareness on malnutrition across the country.

Collaboration with UNICEF and the UK’s Department for International Development

Through its Department for International Development, the U.K. committed £4 million to a collaboration with UNICEF to reduce acute malnutrition in Chad in 2018 and 2019. Using this grant, UNICEF provided therapeutic milk, Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food and essential drugs to 58,670 children across 20 provinces nationwide.

UNICEF also used the DFID grant to develop more sanitary and hygienic health centers, improving 30 facilities across the country. This development benefited an estimated 40,000 mothers and caregivers of children suffering from acute malnutrition.

Zafaye West Health Center

A nutrition project that UNICEF and the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office sponsored supports the Zafaye West Health Center. The project selected N’Djamena, where the health center is located, as a priority province in Chad for nutrition aid, because a 2019 survey detected a high prevalence of acute malnutrition in the region.

Community volunteers from the center travel door-to-door to reach out to mothers. They are encouraging them to visit the health center to check up on their children’s health and for educational campaigns. The campaigns educate mothers on the importance of balanced diets for their children and teach them nutrient-dense, affordable recipes to prepare. The nutrition project has saved 43,000 children, located within the six target provinces it serves, from acute malnutrition as of June 2021.

The World Food Program (WFP)

The World Food Program is an organization that provides food assistance across more than 80 countries worldwide. WFP helps provide nutritious meals to 120,000 school children in the Sahel, the region of Africa where Chad is located. The organization also feeds 15,000 children in the Lake Chad region through an emergency school meal program.

In addition, WFP helps prevent child malnutrition in Chad among six-month to two-year-olds by providing cash-based nutrition support to their families. This support provides families with more stable access to nutrient-dense foods.

Although many children in Chad currently face malnutrition, these four initiatives are making progress in eradicating this issue. With this support, child malnutrition in Chad could hopefully decline in the years to come.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Syria The civil war in Syria began in March 2011, greatly impacting the lives of those who live in and around the country of Syria. With the United Nations noting a staggering poverty rate of 90% in March 2021, the people of Syria are struggling to secure their basic needs. Rising levels of food insecurity in Syria are of particular concern, a consequence of the conflict within the nation. According to the United Nations, in 2021, 60% of Syrians were at risk of hunger, “the highest number ever in the history of the Syrian conflict.”

The Numbers

According to an August 2021 World Food Programme (WFP) country brief, 12.4 million people in Syria suffer from food insecurity. This number rose by 4.5 million since the previous year, marking a record high. The onset of COVID-19 served to exacerbate food insecurity and poverty, compounding existing issues of “years of conflict, displacement, soaring food prices and a decline in the value of the Syrian” currency. The cost of essential food “is now 29 times higher” than it was before the civil war began. Due to worsening conditions in the nation, 1.3 million people in Syria are suffering from severe food insecurity. The conflict and war have also led to the displacement of 6.8 million people, serving as another contributing factor to growing food insecurity in Syria.

War and conflict within Syria also affect crops and harvests. A study published by Nature Food in January 2022 uses satellite data to shows that cropland near urban settlements suffered severe disruption after the start of the Syrian civil war. The areas that saw the most cropland reduction are the northwest and southeast. The issue of food insecurity becomes greater when the people of Syria can no longer grow their own crops.

Emergency Food Assistance

According to USAID, 11.7 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance, 9 million of whom “require emergency food assistance.” Some 65% of Syrians have restricted their food consumption and are now “purchasing food on credit.” This means going into debt to feed their families. USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) has donated “more than $3.2 billion in emergency food assistance [to Syria] since 2012.” This includes $401.8 million in 2017, $514.6 million in 2018 and another $475.4 million in 2019.

WFP is also providing assistance to the people of Syria. It provides food assistance to 4.8 million people on a monthly basis. This food assistance includes “rice, pulses, oil and wheat.” The WFP also provides pregnant and nursing mothers with “nutritious food” as well as vouchers to help maintain their nutritional needs and improve their diets and vitamin intake. In addition, WFP provides school children with the nutritional food they need. The organization has given “vouchers to more than 348,000 students” to ensure they receive “snacks, fresh meals and assistance.” The crisis in Syria is concerning enough that WFP fundraises hundreds of thousands of emergency funds for its various food emergency initiatives.

Addressing the Crisis

The people of Syria continue to face difficult times during the ongoing civil war. Syrians have lost their homes, family members and access to food during this time. Food insecurity in Syria is at an all-time high, with millions going hungry every day. Citizens’ struggles to grow crops only add to the food insecurity. However, with the help of the FFP and WFP, millions of people in Syria are receiving food assistance. Women and children also benefit from these programs by receiving food and vitamins. These programs offer a great example of how the international community can contribute to food insecurity emergencies around the world.

– Sierrah Martin
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in The Bahamas
Aside from a vacation spot, The Bahamas is home to approximately 388,000 people, 12.5% of whom are in poverty. Living in poverty presents unique challenges to one’s life, one of these challenges is food insecurity. Food products in The Bahamas come with a noticeable price tag. This is because the island imports nearly 90% of these items. Expensive food prices not only affect the economy and any employment opportunities from local agriculture but also alienate those who cannot afford these food prices. As a result, food insecurity in The Bahamas is a significant issue that requires addressing.

Statistics Behind Food Insecurity

According to the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), 21% of people experienced food insecurity in The Bahamas during 2017. This means that almost a quarter of Bahamians experienced a lack of consistent access to enough food to lead a healthy life, whether it is missing meals or not being able to consistently afford quality food products.

This is largely a result of a weak food and agricultural infrastructure and a heavy reliance on imports. Food and agriculture contributed to less than 1% of The Bahamas’ GDP in 2018. This leaves the vulnerable population largely at the mercy of import prices. It also often puts Bahamans in a position where they may not have consistent access to quality food and food products.

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened and really shed light on the existing challenges in The Bahamas. As a heavily tourism-dependent economy, many people found themselves without work and a consistent income. This made it increasingly difficult for people to afford the food prices from the globally disrupted supply chain.

The Bahamas Feeding Network

The Bahamas Feeding Network uniquely stands out from the crowd when addressing the food insecurity issue. Operating more as a channel, BFN works to coordinate and distribute resources among its member organizations. BFN and its member organizations organized finances, feeding programs, food and non-food supplies, making the fight against food insecurity more effective.

BFN also works to improve communication between different organizations. It is developing a database with times and locations of feeding programs as well as identifying the most underserved areas in The Bahamas.

In 2013, BFN had 13 member organizations. Now, it has more than 100 feeding centers and programs. Through frequent partnerships with Rotary Clubs, The Bahamas Feeding Network is able to mobilize resources and financial support for organizations fighting food insecurity.

BFN and the Rotary Club donated money to Hands For Hunger, an NGO dedicated to food distribution among those who need it. Thanks to this, the organization distributed food vouchers to 100 families. BFN also receives support from the Chinese ambassador.

National Distribution Task Force

BFN joined forces with The Bahaman Government and several NGOs to form the National Food Distribution Task Force (NFDTF). The task force through majority government funding targeted people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each participating NGO was delivering food relief to Bahaman residents in the form of food parcels and vouchers. Within the first official month of its formation in June 2020, the task force was able to assist more than 76,000 people.

BFN uniquely approaches the fight against food insecurity in The Bahamas. Through mobilizing support, organizing and distributing resources among the many organizations addressing this specific issue, it creates a grid of cooperation that maximizes the effectiveness of its members’ efforts.

– Owen R. Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Food Waste in China
By November 1, 2021, China reported more than 97,000 COVID-19 cases and 4,636 deaths. Graphic representations of this data seem to show an upward trend as COVID-19 numbers continue rising. Apart from the direct health impacts of COVID-19, the pandemic has also exacerbated existing social strife, such as nationwide hunger. Along with high rates of hunger, China also reports high rates of food waste, with a recent report from July 2021 stating that the nation discards about 350 million tonnes of its farm produce. Addressing the issue of food waste in China provides a solution to growing rates of hunger in the nation. China’s Clean Plate campaign aims to tackle these two issues simultaneously.

Food Waste Globally

With the global population possibly expanding by 2 billion people by 2025, totaling more than 9 billion global citizens, the United Nations stated that “food production must double by 2050 to meet the demand of the world’s growing population.” Yet, about “one-third of the food” the world produces “for human consumption” annually, equating to 1.3 billion tonnes, goes to waste. Fruits and vegetables account for the greatest portion of food waste. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.”

Food Waste in China

In China, specifically, food waste or loss amounts to “more than 35 million tonnes of food.” This amount of food can “feed 30 to 50 million people.”

In August 2020, President Xi Jinping pressed for the nationwide Clean Plate campaign in response to food waste and the economic and food-centric devastation that COVID-19 caused. At the time of Jinping’s address, the southern end of China had suffered immense flooding, ruining crops and leaving the rest of the nation without a sufficient supply of produce.

In essence, the campaign directs that diners must finish the food on their plates. Encouraging empty plates may lead to less food waste. In response to the Clean Plate campaign, “the Wuhan Catering Industry Association urged restaurants in the city to limit the number of dishes served to diners” to reduce instances of over-ordering, thereby reducing food waste. Culturally, there is a traditional understanding that a clean plate is indicative of “a bad host,” implying that there is “an insufficient amount of food” for diners.

Jinping’s initiative encourages people to be more conscious of food waste in order to address food insecurity in the nation. The Clean Plate initiative has proven to be successful, continuing in an entrepreneurial and consumerist sense. Prior to the Clean Plate initiative, taking leftovers home was unheard of, but has since become a commonality.

Looking Ahead

To avoid past crises of food insecurity, initiatives like Clean Plate encourage consumers to approach food consumption more consciously. Traditionally, in China, ordering more food than necessary is an indicator of power, wealth and status. However, the Clean Plate challenges these traditions in the name of reducing food waste to address hunger in China.

– Maia Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Food insecurity rates in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has experienced many crises in recent decades, with several domestic and international conflicts transpiring within the nation’s borders. Afghanistan’s economic crisis as well as conflicts and droughts aggravate rates of food insecurity in Afghanistan. With the recent Taliban takeover in August 2021, the country is seeing a collapse in food security. On October 25, 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) issued a warning that millions of Afghans may face starvation during Afghanistan’s winter unless the world responds with urgent intervention. Understanding the challenges that Afghanistan and its people face, many international organizations are providing both donations and aid to alleviate food insecurity in the nation.

The Food Insecurity Situation in Afghanistan

According to the WFP in October 2021, more than 50% of Afghans, approximately 22.8 million citizens, are enduring severe food insecurity. Furthermore,  about 3.2 million Afghan children younger than 5 years old are at risk of acute malnutrition. In a WFP news release, the executive director of the WFP, David Beasley, says, “Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises, if not the worst.”

The full Taliban takeover that came to fruition in August 2021 debilitated an “already fragile economy heavily dependant on foreign aid.” In an effort to cut off support to the Taliban, many nations chose to suspend aid to Afghanistan and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) chose to halt payments to Afghanistan. For a country with about 40% of its GDP stemming from international support, vulnerable Afghans are hit heavily with the impacts of aid suspensions as food insecurity rates in Afghanistan continue to rise.

In September 2021, the U.N. warned that just 5% of Afghan families have sufficient daily food supplies, with essential ingredients like cooking oil and wheat drastically rising in prices. In October 2021, the WFP warned that “one million children were at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition without immediate life-saving treatment.” WFP also predicted that the looming winter would further isolate Afghans depending on humanitarian assistance to survive. With overall food insecurity rates skyrocketing, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities. The WFP stresses the importance of continuing international aid to Afghanistan so that citizens can survive the coming months.

The Aid Dilemma for Global Economic Powers

“If we do nothing, Afghanistan drifts into state collapse. The economic chokehold is squeezing the air out of the economy,” said Graeme Smith, a consultant for the International Crisis Group (ICG), in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor on November 4, 2021.

The danger of a total state collapse is so concerning that European donors “are trying to expand stopgap emergency measures to find creative ways to alleviate the financial challenge faced by the central Taliban government in Kabul.”

The challenges of providing support remain. The U.N. estimates that as much as 97% of the country’s population could live in poverty by 2022 “in a worst-case scenario.” However, recognizing the severe consequences of aid suspensions, in October 2021, “The Group of 20 major economies” pledged to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. As a global powerhouse, the United States also announced its intention of providing aid to Afghan citizens as the harsh winter season starts. However, these countries are skeptical about providing aid directly to the Taliban government, therefore, aid will likely come through international agencies.

Aid to Afghanistan

Recognizing the need for aid, international organizations worked tirelessly to deliver food, blankets and monetary assistance “to hundreds of displaced families in Kabul” in October 2021. Humanitarian assistance from different global agencies found a way into Afghanistan. Even though the distribution of aid only reached 324 families, a very small percentage of the total needs of the nation, this aid gives hope to many Afghans who are experiencing severe food shortages.

Rising food insecurity rates in Afghanistan highlight the desperate need for aid. With many donors creatively developing ways to help the Afghan people, during a time of crisis, the country is hopeful for a brighter future.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Max Pixel

Secretary Vilsack
The secretary of agriculture in President Barack Obama’s administration, Thomas J. Vilsack, has returned in 2021 to serve in the same position under President Biden. Secretary Vilsack has received recognition for his civil service and efforts to combat global poverty, receiving recognition from the Congressional Hunger Center and the Global Child Nutrition Foundation. He is also “a former member of the board of directors for GenYOUth as well as Feeding America.” At the U.N.’s Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Secretary Vilsack declared that the U.S. would invest $10 billion to ensure global food security over the next five years. Here are five global food security initiatives that Vilsack supports.

5 Global Food Security Initiatives Secretary Vilsack Supports

  1. Feed the Future. Secretary Vilsack supports Feed the Future, the United States’ program to ensure global food security “by boosting inclusive agriculture-led economic growth, resilience and nutrition in countries with great need and opportunity for improvement.” Feed the Future began in 2010 following the 2007-2008 global food crisis. In 2016, Secretary Vilsack supported the Global Food Security Act, a bill ensuring that the efforts of Feed the Future could continue on even after Obama’s end of term. By backing the bill, he expressed his support for sustainable food systems for the world’s impoverished. The Feed the Future program significantly contributes to poverty reduction, reducing poverty by 37% over 10 years in countries like Bangladesh.
  2. McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program. The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program combats global poverty and hunger through the support of the USDA. As secretary of agriculture, Vilsack oversees this program, which supports education and child development in low-income countries, donates “U.S. agricultural commodities” and provides financial assistance for school feeding and community nutrition programs. Overall, the program aims to increase literacy and education to break the cycle of poverty. By overseeing the McGovern-Dole Program, Secretary Vilsack works to ensure that students in need, especially girls, receive the nutrition and support required to thrive in schools.
  3. Food for Peace. Secretary Vilsack also oversaw Food for Peace in the International Affairs Budget during the Obama administration. The Office for Food and Peace began with President Eisenhower’s Food for Peace Act in 1954. Food for Peace aids people in low-income countries and areas of conflict by providing international emergency services, organizing development activities and providing nutritional support. Its development activities shares tools and resources with people in food-insecure areas to end global hunger.
  4. Food is Never Waste Coalition. Secretary Vilsack announced in 2021 that the U.S. would be partnering with the Food is Never Waste Coalition. The coalition emerged from the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit. The coalition aims “to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food losses by at least 25%.” Reducing food waste involves member collaboration to create sustainable food pathways and invest in food loss reduction methods.
  5. School Meals Coalition. While attending the U.N. Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Secretary Vilsack remarked on collaborating with the School Meals Nutrition, Health and Education for Every Child coalition. The coalition strives to provide all children access to nutritious school meals by 2030. In 2021, 150 million students continue to go without school meals worldwide, which sometimes stands as their only meal of the day. The coalition seeks to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing nutrition within education. As a member state of the coalition, the United States will invest in feeding programs to incentivize education globally.

Reducing Global Poverty and Hunger

Secretary Vilsack maintains his efforts to reduce both poverty and hunger through his work in the USDA. By supporting and overseeing various food security initiatives and aid programs, Secretary Vilsack positively impacts the lives of those in need across the world.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

The Food is Never Waste CoalitionThe United Nations Environment Programme’s latest 2021 Food Waste Index Report suggests that the world is in “an epidemic of food wastage.” Currently, the world wastes about 17% of all food available for human consumption. Households contribute 61% to the total food waste while 26% comes from the foodservice industry and the retail industry contributes 13%. These wasted food resources could help to feed the 690 million undernourished global citizens.

A Closer Look at Food Waste

Food loss and waste persist for various reasons. Households may not utilize every food item they purchase and often throw out leftover food. Typically, the average household wastes roughly 74 kilograms of food per person annually. Food waste is responsible for an annual monetary loss of $1 trillion, impacting both farmers and families. The UNEP’s report finds that food waste occurs across all nations, not just low-income nations as is common belief. In fact, “at the farming stage alone,” roughly 1.2 billion tonnes of food is lost. Interestingly, middle and high-income nations account for “58% of global farm-stage food waste.” Considering these statistics, the world is searching for ways to decrease food waste and make food accessible to all.

The World’s Response

Many coalitions and campaigns are emerging to address the food waste crisis. In 2013, the UNEP began the Think Eat Save food waste awareness campaign. Now, UNEP is implementing “Regional Food Waste Working Groups in Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and West Asia.” The groups share ideas and findings concerning food waste within a peer-to-peer network in order to reduce food waste across nations.

USAID is also taking a stand against food waste by investing $60 million over the next five years to research and reduce food waste. In September 2021, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that “the United States joined the global coalition on food loss and waste” — the Food is Never Waste Coalition. The coalition aims “to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food losses by at least 25%.” The coalition works to fulfill the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to reduce consumer and retail food waste and loss.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition

The Food is Never Waste Coalition represents a significant step for global action against food waste. The international coalition works to reduce food loss and waste while emphasizing financial and economic sustainability. Members include G7 and G20 groups as well as more than 30 member states in addition to academic groups, NGOs, UN agencies and private sector groups.

Drawing from various sectors, including technology, energy and education, the coalition utilizes a public-private partnership (PPP). A PPP enables the coalition to look across food supply chains and intervene from multiple angles. By collaborating with governments and private businesses, the coalition invests in mutually beneficial sustainable food pathways. In Norway, a PPP strategy helped manufacturers reduce food waste by 15% in a period of just three years.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition will conduct research, share knowledge on food waste reduction methods and invest in food loss reduction. The coalition tracks progress with the UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report. Tracking progress will enable the coalition to maintain goals and establish necessary initiatives. Member states benefit from participating in the coalition. For instance, investing in food waste reduction creates business opportunities for local farmers and women in low-income countries.

The coalition also offers a platform for collaboration between countries by sharing knowledge on food waste research and strategies. Through grassroots efforts, private sector involvement and research, the Food is Never Waste Coalition seeks to improve food pathways. Additionally, the group will encourage food surplus donations among members states to feed those in need.

Alleviating Global Hunger by Reducing Food Waste

Ultimately, halving food waste and loss by 2030 will be a collaborative effort. The coalition embodies the international effort to improve food systems. Resources usually lost at the production or household levels could feed the world’s hungry. By improving global food pathways and encouraging surplus donations, the Food is Never Waste Coalition works to create sustainable and accessible systems with less food waste.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

Angolas Drought
The drought in Angola is the worst the country has seen in four decades. Angola’s drought has initiated widespread food shortages and hunger among Angolans, touching as many as 1.3 million people in late September 2021. The World Food Programme (WFP) has recognized the dangers of the drought and its impact on Angola. As a result, it has begun to provide
nutrition support in the country.

 

The Drought in South-West Angola


Angola’s rainy season typically occurs from
November through April. The remaining months of the year are the “colder” season, and rainfall dwindles during that time. However, during the 2020-2021 rainy season, fewer than 100 millimeters of rain fell per month. 


Based on averages from previous years, the predicted rainfall shows little to no rain predicted in December, which was often one of the months to receive the most rain in Angola. The Cunene, Huila and Namibe provinces have been bearing the brunt of Angola’s drought’s impacts. Climate experts have predicted that Angola’s drought will persist, and it already began impacting the agricultural and livestock sectors in Angola
 in April 2021


The Impact of Drought in Angola


Angola’s drought has caused a loss of up to
40% of agricultural output. Most of the farms in Angola are small, communal farms designed to serve communities. The farms typically produce vegetables and fruits, such as cassava, bananas, potatoes, maize, sweet potatoes, citrus and pineapples. All these crops require low-to-medium levels of water, which under normal conditions, is not an issue.

The drought has increased food insecurity across Angola. The diminished crops and livestock have left more than 100,000 children under the age of 5 years old hungry. The number could increase over the next year.

Many in the workforce work in the agricultural sector, accounting for more than half of the labor force at approximately 50.2%. The lowest pay for an agricultural worker in Angola is 66,100 AOA, roughly $110 USD per month. 

Many live in extreme poverty in Angola. With the low agricultural output, farmers are often unable to earn wages. As a result, poverty, which reached 88.5% in 2018, could rise further by the close of 2021. 


The World Food Programme’s Assistance


Angola’s drought has brought distinct challenges to the country, but even though the situation seems dire, the World Food Programme (WFP) has outlined plans to provide resources to the country, such as food and nutrition support.
The WFP will likely set up food distribution centers. Additionally, the organization has analyzed the regions that the drought most impacted in order to organize relief efforts. 


When Angola’s drought began, the WFP saw that its assistance would be necessary and initially collaborated with schools to provide food and nutrition to children, easing the burden for parents. However, the issue of food has extended beyond school. In fact, almost daily, children in Angola struggle to secure food. 


The WFP is working with the officials representing the
Angolan provinces to expand nutrition activities and outreach to maximize the effectiveness of their work. The WFP is a branch of the United Nations (U.N.), serving as the world’s largest aid relief organization. With funding from the U.N., WFP plans to secure $6.3 million to pay for the services and supplies to assist Angola.


The WFP’s aid will not undergo strict coordination and organization by WFP alone. The assistance will help Angola’s government regulate food security and nutrition mechanisms within each province to limit the
necessity of WFP’s assistance later.


The WFP’s work in response to
Angola’s drought will help the Angolan government build resilience and hopefully become less reliant on aid from organizations, such as the WFP.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Olive Trees
Olive trees hold symbolic, agricultural and economic meanings for Palestinian farmers. In a nation where almost one-third or 1.6 million people face food insecurity and do not have access to “nutritious food,” essential crops, like olives, are vital for many communities’ survival. Here is some information about the importance of olive trees in Palestine.

Harvesting Crops Despite Denial of Access

The rise of Israeli forces and conflict on Palestinian lands in May 2021 forced Palestinian farmers from their olive tree harvesting grounds. However, after the olive harvest season started earlier in 2021, a cohort of Palestinian olive farmers decided to take the risk of returning to their farmlands despite the armed Israeli guards in their path.

Residents and landowners from the small Palestinian town in the Northern West Bank of Palestine returned to Jabal Sabih, Mount Sabih, to handpick olives from their trees. Israeli guards are still present at the site. However, the Palestinian farmers successfully harvested their trees despite the Israeli presence.

Impact of Growing Tensions

Tensions between Israeli and Palestinian communities have remained high throughout history, but escalated tensions between the two occurred in May 2021. Israeli settlers attempted to take over Palestinian lands, and 50 Israeli families set up camp on the Palestinian olive farming grounds in May. Israeli families then evacuated in July. Palestinian farmers said these farming lands have passed through generations of family members and the trees are “part of their souls and more.”

The farmers emphasized that olive trees are one of only a few arbors that can grow in their mountainous farming areas. The trees do not need water, which means they can grow in drought conditions. Farmers said that transporting water into the region would be extremely difficult due to the terrain.

The Many Uses of Olives

The production of olives is a main source of income for more than 80,000 families in Palestine, showing the importance of olive trees to the country. More than 90% of the oil that farmers harvest from olive trees goes toward making olive oil, with them allocating the remainder to making olive soap, table olives and pickles. In the West Bank, farmers have planted more than 12 million olive trees. The nation exports some of the olives to Jordan but the rest are for local consumption.

Following the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, the Israeli army began destroying or uprooting olive trees in farmlands. The army stated that it needed to use the grounds for military operations and to provide pathways between villages. However, later reports suggested that the military specifically targeted the farmers to make it difficult for them to earn a living.

Foundations Wanting to Help

Some local organizations are helping olive tree farmers. The Arab Group for the Protection of Nature started a campaign after the severe removal of the olive trees. In 2011, AP Nature replaced 1 million olive and fruit trees. To date, the campaign has planted more than 2.5 million trees.

The Near East Foundation, an organization with a focus on building more sustainable communities in the Middle East and Africa through education, community organizing and economic development, directly supports Palestinian communities through three programs. These include early childhood education and school feeding, support for the olive oil groups and support for women’s economics.

The Near East Foundation renovated and upgraded 18 olive oil mills in Palestine and Israel due to the importance of olive trees and olive oil production to the Palestinian economy. The organization also facilitated training for oil producers to increase their production and quality of olive oils.

The ongoing tension between Israel and Palestine has extreme effects on Palestinians’ ability to access their crops to provide food for themselves and earn a living. Though permits for Palestinian farmers are available to access the lands that the Israeli army now dominates, these permits are hard to obtain and there is still no guarantee Palestinian farmers can access their land even with a permit. A group of Palestinian olive farmers had the bravery to enter into Israeli military grounds to harvest their olives, but tensions between the two nations must subside before Palestinian farmers can have full access to their own lands once again.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Flickr

UN Food Systems Summit
The U.N. Food Systems Summit recently took place on September 23, 2021. The U.N. Food Systems Summit highlighted the key nexus between food sustainability and food insecurity. The Summit was a virtual conference, and it described the food-related challenges that many people around the world are currently facing. Statistics highlighted the magnitude of the nutritional issues.

The UN Food Summit: Igniting Action and Hope

The World Food Program’s (WFP) Executive Director, David Beasley, mentioned several concerning facts. For example, 3 billion people are unable to attain a balanced diet. Beyond that, 9 million people die from hunger each year. In 2020 alone, 25,000 people died per day due to starvation. However, following these morbid realities, the Summit revealed the goals of the U.N. and some solutions to the pre-established issues. The emphasis was on galvanizing people to care for one another. At its core, the Summit was a rallying call to action.

Main Objectives of the Summit

The main objective of the Summit was to raise awareness of the food system’s importance to the entirety of the sustainable development agenda. The urgency of addressing the issues plaguing global food systems has increased, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Summit also aimed to unite stakeholders around a common understanding of food systems as a foundation for action, to recognize the necessity of innovation addressing global food obstacles and catalyze action for the transformation of food systems in every corner of the globe.

António Guterres, the U.N. Secretary-General, issued a summary and statement of action for the Summit. One of the key points of the statement was how the pandemic has significantly worsened food insecurity, resulting in a 20% increase in the number of people facing hunger between 2019 and 2020. Furthermore, the Secretary-General established five action areas to help ensure the necessary changes to achieve all of the SDGs by 2030:

  1. Nourish All People
  2. Boost Nature-Based Solutions
  3. Advance Equitable Livelihoods, Decent Work and Empowered Communities
  4. Build Resistance to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses
  5. Accelerating the Means of Implementation

This statement of action was very robust. It included details about how the U.N. Resident Coordinators and U.N. Country Teams will work with national governments to develop new national pathways to improve food systems and ensure the accomplishment of the SDGs by 2030.

Global Leaders Reactions

During the Summit, leaders from a variety of countries spoke in an attempt to elicit empathy and initiative in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Agriculture Ministers and others were present at the Summit. The Summit’s goal was to “transform food systems to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Many of the leaders who spoke focused on the specific issues plaguing the food systems within their state and established courses of action and priorities for tackling those issues.

Spain stated that it will be focussing on boosting family farming, with President Pedro Sanchez saying that “family farming…contributes to the economic and socio-cultural fabric of rural areas.” He followed that statement by announcing that the Spanish government will support family farming by boosting the coalition for the Decade of Family Farming. Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), made a strong statement condemning humanity’s current state of production and consumption. He emphasized the urgency of investment into global food systems and called upon food manufacturers to change the composition of their products.

The Conversation Needs to Continue

The U.N. Food Systems Summit provides hope and reassurance that action will occur to address food insecurity and poverty worldwide. The Summit was available to watch for anyone with internet access, and those who registered were able to connect in chat sections. Globalizing the combat of food insecurity and reaching the individual level increases awareness and participation in the Summit, which is beneficial to the U.N. cause. International humanitarian organizations and NGOs should continue to host these community dialogues to raise awareness of the issues plaguing humanity and to establish roadmaps to alleviate these issues.

– Wais Wood
Photo: Flickr