Information and stories about food security news.

Food Security and Innovation ProgramAs the world encounters one issue after another, food insecurity increases in countries with inadequate resources or less-than sufficient agriculture systems. With the pandemic at the helm and climate change an ongoing phenomenon, to survive these stressful times, innovative strategies are necessary. In this advanced society, new ways are necessary to process, distribute and reshape food production. Connections between food security and innovation seem far-fetched, but the United Arab Emirates/UAE’s food security and innovation program has found state-of-the-art techniques that relieve their people of this struggle.

Key Constraints Facing Food Security

The UAE aims to rank in the top 10 in the Global Food Security Index by 2021, and number one by 2051. In this arid region, however, traditional farming is next to impossible from limited water for irrigation and an unequal ratio between people and the UAE’s production. Due to these hardships, the country is reliant on its imports. For a food-dependent country, when disaster hits, food systems are unstable.

While there are several reasons for poor food production in the UAE, the scarcity of water contributes heavily. Most of the water in the country is recycle and reused, but this process can only occur for a given amount of time. Given that traditional agriculture utilizes a significant amount of water, UAE’s food security and innovation program is the answer. . To combat the issue of their unstable food system, the UAE has set up the FoodTech Challenge. This global competition seeks out innovative solutions for the country to address food production and distribution.

Vertical Farming: An Innovative Farming Technique

In response to the FoodTech Challenge, the company Smart Acres has provided a technique that utilizes vertical farming to support the UAE’s food security and innovation program. Vertical farming consists of vertically stacked plants, providing more produce per square area, resembling green walls as displayed in shopping centers. Smart Acres used South Korean vertical farming technology to decrease water usage and monitor temperature and nutrients. Regarding the UAE’s water issue, vertical farms save over 90% of the water in comparison to conventional farming methods. The constant flow of water across the plants provides the necessary nutrients for all the plants to grow. This high-tech design allows the company to produce clean crops without any chemicals and negligible interference.

Although the farm has not been implemented yet, this form of food production is expected to produce 12 cycles of crops annually; the farm will expand from Abu Dhabi to the rest of the country gradually. By using vertical farming, this technique expects to produce approximately 8,000 kilograms of lettuce and other leafy greens per cycle. In addition to the increased number of crops, the variety is also expected to increase and include items, such as strawberries, arugula, potatoes, etc.

Aquaculture Farming: Decreasing the Dependence of Imports

On average, the UAE consumes 220,000 tons of fish annually. However, imported food is 90% of the UAE’s diet, suggesting that advancements in the country’s aquaculture would be beneficial. To aid the seafood industry in the UAE, the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Center has taken the responsibility to use advanced technology to harvest marine organisms. The center utilizes photo-bioreactors to generate food for juvenile fish.

In addition to manufacturing primary live food for marine organisms, UAE’s food security and innovation program also include water recycling technologies, where water is cycled through fish tanks to reduce water consumption. To make aquaculture a more efficient and sustainable system in the country, the center is establishing a disease diagnostic laboratory, which will reduce the number of disease-related deaths associated with marine life.

While many countries face tumultuous times currently, UAE’s food security and innovation program seems to be a ticket out of poverty. Through the FoodTech Challenge, the country has found multiple viable options to strengthen its food system. With water scarcity, a large problem regarding food production, both vertical and aquaculture farming, has found a way to recycle the limited water and attend to other problems the UAE faces, such as dependence on imports from other countries. The challenge is open to the entire country, increasing the country’s opportunity in establishing a sustainable system. Through these systems, the UAE’s food security and innovation program is well on its way to stabilizing its food security and achieving its goal as a titleholder in the Global Food Security Index.

Aditi Prasad
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Australians
Many generally regard Australia as a wealthy and successful country, but in the past year, more than one in five Australians (about 22%) have faced food insecurity. Indigenous Australians experience food insecurity at a disproportionate rate. More than 26% of Indigenous households ran out of food at least once in 2019 and were unable to buy more due to high prices. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) found that percentage to be even higher at 43% in remote Indigenous communities.

Who Are the Indigenous Australians?

Indigenous Australians are the descendants of people who lived in Australia and the surrounding areas prior to European colonization in the late 18th century. They comprise approximately 3% of the total population of Australia and have classification under two groups of Indigenous communities: the Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islanders. One-third of all Indigenous Australians live in developed cities, while two-thirds live in rural areas across the country.

What Causes Food Insecurity for Indigenous Peoples?

Reports from locals of moldy produce and overpriced food have been surfacing in sparsely populated areas, prompting questions about the quality of food provided to the Indigenous communities of Australia. At the heart of the conversation is Outback Stores, a not-for-profit and federally funded grocery store chain. The organization emerged to supply Indigenous Australians with access to a wide array of healthy, high-quality food and protect against food insecurity, but locals say it is failing.

Outback Stores has 40 locations that serve rural and remote communities, 26 of which CEO Michael Borg called “unviable or barely viable.” Submissions to the local federal inquiry have claimed “disgusting” pricing of products, saying items such as a can of baby formula and a single pack of diapers are tagged at $50 each. Many available products are also either inedible or unwanted, deterring people from purchasing them even if they could afford to. Many community members have reported that week-old fruits and vegetables rotting in fridges are the only healthy produce options and shelves contain bags of sugar. One resident wrote that Spam, two-minute noodles and white bread were the only food staples available if you were “hungry enough to buy what is in [front] of you.”

How Does Food Insecurity Connect to Poverty?

Health and well-being are also a large concern with food insecurity. Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to live with a chronic illness or other disability compared to non-Indigenous Australians. A prolonged lack of access to healthy food causes subsequent poor nutrition and results in heightened illness and disease rates in Indigenous communities.

Rural Indigenous peoples live in more poverty compared to urban Australians, and they face limited access to work opportunities, education and social services. Poverty is the strongest factor in predicting food insecurity, as determined by the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR). The CAEPR found that a lack of money to keep up with growing food prices is the primary culprit of food insecurity, not a lack of food supply to the community.

What Organizations are Helping?

The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) emerged in 2019 to protect Indigenous people and support ethical policy development and service delivery in their communities. Representatives of the NIAA have reached out to over 200 store managers that serve Indigenous peoples in order to fully understand their needs and how to best allocate funding and resources. The NIAA’s goal is to identify problems that directly affect Indigenous Australians and make them a priority in state, territory and national government agendas.

In addition, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has the task of closely monitoring the prices of essential products to guard against inflation in Indigenous communities. In recent investigations into the complaints of overpricing, the ACCC found that product prices reflect the increased cost of supplying inventory to the stores, not stores attempting to increase profits. Since many Indigenous communities live within hundreds of miles inside the Australian outback, swift deliveries to the area are a challenge. As a result, the Australian government is striving to improve the supply chain costs of rural vendors serving Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Australians face food insecurity at a disproportionate rate compared to non-Indigenous Australians. Many Indigenous peoples are struggling to feed their families as rural supermarket prices continue to rise and healthy options are few and far between. The Australian government and departments like the NIAA are partnering with Indigenous communities to create a cheaper and healthier food supply, combat food insecurity and protect the health and well-being of their Indigenous people.

– Mya Longacre
Photo: Pixabay

Child Poverty in the United Kingdom
While employment in the United Kingdom has seen steady growth over the past decade, ongoing poverty continues to threaten many of its citizens’ health and well-being. Recent reports have documented a growing trend in child poverty in the United Kingdom, specifically among families where at least one parent was employed, with many struggling to make ends meet as living costs continue to rise.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an organization focused on poverty reduction in the U.K., the proportion of individuals in working U.K. families living in poverty has grown by nearly 17% in the past 20 years. This rising phenomenon has made the need for innovations in poverty eradication in the U.K. more critical than ever, as increasing numbers of people struggle with food and housing insecurity. In recent months, the global COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation further, as many have faced cuts to their regular hours, pay, or have even become unemployed altogether.

Children and In-Work Poverty

In-work poverty is a problem that leaves families and especially children extremely vulnerable. A 2018 report by Shelter, a London-based organization that offers support to the homeless, found that nearly 55% of homeless families in the U.K. fell into the “in work” category. As rising housing costs continue to surpass working-class earnings, families must choose between food and Shelter. A 2019 report by the U.K. Parliament recognized food insecurity as a pervasive problem that has “…fallen between the cracks in government plans,” with an estimated 19% of children under 15 facing food and nutrition deficits. In response to this crisis, numerous organizations are campaigning for new strategies and innovations for poverty eradication in the U.K., addressing economic stress on working families struggling to stay afloat.

One of the numerous organizations combatting poverty among families is the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). Founded in 1965, CPAG has been fighting poverty in the U.K. for more than 50 years. In 2018 and 2019 alone, the organization made numerous strides in improving conditions for low-income families. This includes providing professional advising for thousands of families applying for public assistance in London, as well as leading a campaign that made school uniforms more accessible for low-income schoolchildren in Scotland. As part of its most recent efforts, the organization is focusing on three immediate reforms to reduce poverty among children.

Reforms to Reduce Child Poverty

  1. Adjusting the U.K.’s Universal Credit system to better assist families. In 2013, the U.K. introduced its Universal Credit system, a blanket credit for low-income or unemployed individuals. However, CPAG argues that the loan, as it currently exists, fails to fully acknowledge the needs of families as opposed to individuals. The organization estimates that even a modest re-investment into the Universal Credit children’s benefit could potentially lift 700,000 children out of poverty in the next few years alone.
  2. Removing the U.K.’s “two-child” limit on tax credits for families. CPAG’s All Kids Count campaign advocates for the removal of the rule, which limits tax credits to only the first two children in a family. This restriction puts larger families in situations of greater stress, specifically in the case of single parents or households in which only one parent works. CPAG estimates that the removal of this policy could lift nearly 300,000 children out of poverty.
  3. Removing the “benefit cap” for vulnerable families. In the U.K., individuals and families may be eligible to receive government benefits based upon their employment status. As of 2020, the maximum amount is £23,000 per year, but many still encounter significant difficulty making ends meet. For example, new challenges posed by COVID-19 in recent months have caused many families to exceed their allotted £442.31 per week. Thus, it has become clear that the benefits policy for families requires adjustment to meet the needs of U.K. residents.

The Road Ahead

These campaigns represent only a few examples of the issues CPAG engages on behalf of low-income families. In its search for solutions and innovations in poverty eradication in the U.K., the organization has already secured an estimated £5 million for families who are no longer affected by the two-child restriction due to its legal efforts. While currently this victory only applies to adoptive parents and kinship carers (non-parent relatives), the organization plans to continue pursuing the case until the court completely lifts the restriction.

It is clear that much work remains to be done when it comes to eradicating child poverty in the United Kingdom, as thousands of families continue to struggle with the challenge of meeting their basic needs. However, CPAG and other groups are making great strides in changing the lives of many U.K. citizens.

Matthew Otey
Photo: Pixabay

Nicaragua, although having made tremendous progress in recent years, is still one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. According to the World Bank, 24.9% of Nicaraguans lived in poverty as of 2016. Of those people, 200,000 lived in extreme poverty making less than $1.90 a day. As a result of poverty and harsh climate conditions, hunger in Nicaragua is a prominent issue. Even though approximately 70% of the population works in agriculture, 300,000 people still require food aid. Located in what’s known as the Dry Corridor, Nicaragua faces erratic weather patterns prone to climate shocks that are consistent threats to stable food production. However, in spite of the unfavorable conditions, many organizations and programs are on the ground working to fight hunger in Nicaragua.

5 Initiatives to Fight Hunger in Nicaragua

  1. The World Food Program (WFP) offers various programs and services to alleviate hunger in Nicaragua. Since 1971, WFP has implemented strategies to improve food security. By supporting the National School Meal Program, the organization helped provide meals to more than 182,000 schoolchildren in April of 2020. Following a five-year plan that spans from 2019 to 2023, WFP aims to find long-term solutions to hunger in Nicaragua. Along with direct food assistance, WFP promotes creating efficient and sustainable agricultural practices by providing technical assistance in implementing weather-resilient farming methods, improving degraded ecosystems and developing technology for accurate climate information.
  2. The organization Food for the Hungry believes that chickens can be a catalyst for solving hunger. Food for the Hungry stated that chickens rank close to the top of its annual gift catalog because of their uses in decreasing hunger. The nonprofit sponsored a program in El Porvenir, Nicaragua called “Happy Chicks”. This initiative taught the locals skills related to running a poultry farm, which is a creative and sustainable way to provide daily meals to the community and, especially, children. These skills help communities learn to operate self-sufficiently.
  3. Indigenous women have a history of banding together to develop more sustainable agricultural practices. Slow Food is an organization that values the protection of food culture and understands the importance of responsible food production. The organization partnered with communities of indigenous women in Nicaragua to encourage cooperation in improving the quality of agricultural systems. Women in the organization shared ideas about planting and harvesting crops, while also promoting economic autonomy through marketing and commercializing excess products.
  4. The Caribbean Coast Food Security Project (PAIPSAN) is collaborating with communities on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua to fight hunger. The organization provides assistance to those who would normally not have access to adequate technology or resources to engage in sustainable agricultural practices. PAIPSAN encourages farmers to utilize climate-resistant seeds and organic fertilizers, while also promoting innovative and environmentally friendly pest and disease control practices. The program also provides educational services to increase awareness of improving nutrition.
  5. Food assistance programs are a popular way of directly fighting hunger in Nicaragua. Food assistance programs generally provide a stable source of food for those in need. Hope Road Nicaragua works alongside other organizations, such as the Orphan Network and Rise Against Hunger, to provide 3,000 children with meals that include vitamin-dense rice and soy packs, beans, vegetables, chicken and tortillas.  The Rainbow Network is another food assistance program. It has set up 489 feeding centers, reaching approximately 13,581 people. The Rainbow Network also works with The American Nicaraguan Foundation to train community members on how to cook and operate the feeding centers. The American Nicaraguan Foundation itself is an organization that has provided more than 297.3 million meals to Nicaragua’s most vulnerable in the past 25 years. Along with its network of more than 700 partners, the foundation coordinates a variety of programs and allocates resources dedicated to poverty relief.

Nicaragua has made progress in recent years. However, vulnerable groups still need assistance with fighting hunger, a direct result of poverty in the country. In order to address this, many organizations are working to foster the idea of food sovereignty and fight hunger in Nicaragua. 

Melanie McCrackin
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Finland
Despite enjoying one of the world’s most advanced social-democratic welfare systems and the lowest human insecurity rates, there are still major struggles with poverty and hunger in Finland.

First Signs

The first signs of hunger in Finland emerged following a financial crisis in the 1990s which resulted in roughly 100,000 Finnish people reportedly hungry during the years 1992 and 1993. As a result, the foundation for a network of charity-based food aid provisions proliferated in Finland during the 1990s. Several spikes occurred in CFA rates in the late 1990s, with the largest increase at the turn of the century.

What is interesting about this particular response to food insecurity in Finland is that, in principle, the Nordic welfare state “is assumed to provide universal social security against social risks, such as poverty, for all its citizens.” However, at-risk people in Finland have received support largely through charity-based food aid, indicating that the current welfare state falls short of feeding everyone.

Giving Back

In 2013, EVIRA, the Finish Food Safety Authority, improved food safety regulations by allowing food and retail industries to donate food to charity with greater ease. This new food waste redistribution project was part of a new wave of social innovations in the greater E.U. which operated in efforts to reduce food insecurity and ecological waste.

As of 2014, the CFA in Finland had 400 distributors “including parishes, FBOs, unemployment organizations and other NGOs.” It reached roughly 22,000 Finnish people every week.

At-Risk Populations

Statistics Finland’s research shows that the number of people at risk for severe poverty and homelessness was 890,000 in 2017, which is roughly 16.4% of the population. Findings from the European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) Poverty in Finland Report from 2019 show that the number of people living on minimum income benefits and experiencing livelihood problems such as food shortages continues to be a growing problem. The share of Finns turning to food banks every week was roughly 20,000 in 2019. The risk of poverty and malnutrition is highest amongst single mothers and older women living alone, according to the National Council of Women in Finland. Finland is also among one of the most racist countries in the E.U., making it even harder for migrants, especially women, to achieve success in the current economic climate. As a result, many migrants in Finland are poor and at risk of food insecurity.

A Hopeful Horizon

Progressive social reform strategies such as Finland’s Housing First strategy with the extensive food aid provision network in the country have the power to eradicate hunger in Finland. In fact, Finland’s Housing First strategy already accomplished a lot in regard to shelter insecurity in the country. Perhaps a stronger state role in providing food aid could be the extra push necessary to completely tackle the stagnating food insecurity problem.

Jasmeen Bassi
Photo: Unsplash

Despite being a necessary precaution to avoiding life-threatening reactions, managing food allergies is still considerably more difficult for low-income families, according to researchers at the University of Waterloo. Although much progress has been made to increase awareness of food allergies, in Germany in particular, the high costs of allergen-free food products and medications leave Germany’s poor disproportionately affected by allergen-free food inaccessibility. With increases in both food sensitivities and poverty rates in recent years, Germany might encounter a growing issue of food inaccessibility — and it may not be the only country to do so.

Prevalence of Food Allergies in Germany

Globally, the prevalence of food allergies has been rising steadily over the past few decades, affecting nearly 10% of children in Australia and 2% of adults throughout Europe.

In Germany, a study conducted by the Environmental Medicine Commission of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) places the prevalence of food allergies in adults at 4.7%. While researchers note that there have been relatively no changes to the doctor-diagnosed prevalence of food allergies in Germany over the past 15 years, food sensitivities in Germany still remain higher than in most other European countries. Approximately 25.5% of adults were “sensitized” to at least one food in the RKI study, meaning that researchers detected IgE antibodies specific to at least one food allergen in their blood. That compares to a food sensitivity prevalence of only 11% of Spain’s population and 14% of the U.K.’s population.

Although researchers previously observed a greater prevalence of allergies in urban areas, research in Bavaria found that rural areas aren’t excluded from the allergy “epidemic” either. While several studies have associated living on farms with a decreased risk of food allergies in Germany, other research notes an increased prevalence of allergies (37.3%) in the Bavarian countryside as compared to the German national average (20.0%).

The Cost of Allergies

Such data suggests an increased demand for allergen-free foods in rural communities—a hard ask considering the disproportionate distribution of supermarkets. Although supermarkets and discounters are widely accessible by car throughout Germany, by foot their accessibility is considerably poorer in rural areas, especially for less mobile groups like the elderly.

Even if there are supermarkets nearby, however, that doesn’t mean they shelve allergen-free products. Despite the prevalence of food allergies in Germany, allergen-free food products are still considerably more expensive than their mainstream counterparts ($4.50 for a loaf of gluten-free bread compared to $2.50 for a whole grain loaf in the U.K.). The high costs of purchasing ingredient substitutes, preventing cross-contamination and ensuring compliance with strict government regulations contribute to these costs, according to BBC.

Like allergen-free food products, potentially life-saving diagnostics and medications remain a large expense for those with food allergies in Germany and across Europe. Between hospital visits, allergy treatments and travel costs, researchers at the University of Finland concluded that families with a child between 1-2 years of age spend an average of $3,600 on managing their child’s food allergy.

The high costs of allergen-free foods and treatments as well as the lack of accessibility to supermarkets, are not favorable for the food security of Germany’s poor. With 15.5% of the German population currently living in poverty, inaccessibility to expensive allergen-free products may become a more severe problem. However, across Germany, nonprofits and government agencies are taking action to tackle allergen-free food inaccessibility from as many angles as possible.

Increasing Supply of Allergen-Free Food Products

As a result of the increasing demand of allergen-free products (a robust 20% increase over the past 12 months in the case of EHL Ingredients), German food manufacturers are accelerating production of their “free-from” lines. In 2008, for example, only 6.4% of dairy products were lactose-free; by 2013, that number had nearly doubled to 12.1%.

However, nonprofits aren’t simply waiting for the increased demand for allergen-free foods to take down towering prices. Many, like the German Celiac Society (DZG), are also actively intervening to ensure accessibility to gluten-free foods for those with food allergies in Germany.

“Gluten-free food in Germany tend to be twice as expensive as gluten-containing food,” says Michael Mikolajczak, the DZG’s press office representative. “The DZG is talking to politicians about tax-free allowance for people with celiac disease in order to achieve financial compensation.”

Although Larissa Nitz, member of the DZG’s youth committee, said that such tax relief initiatives never were quite successful, both she and Mikolajczak point towards Germany’s strong welfare system as a source of financial assistance for those managing food allergies in Germany.

Accessibility of Food Banks

When it comes to supermarket accessibility, the norm of “buying local” combined with the high prevalence of food banks makes the long distance to supermarkets a less acute issue for those with food allergies in Germany. In fact, according to a 2015 paper examining the German food bank system, only 6.69% of all residents and 5.75% of all welfare recipients lacked access to at least one food bank in their district.

While the researchers did not examine whether these food banks offer allergen-free food products, they did mention that a majority of food donations (82.29%) were supplied by regular donors, most notably retailers. According to Nitz, this may be a reason for hope. As manufacturers of allergen-free food products experience heightened demand, their increased supply of products might allow them to lower prices, and perhaps even contribute more frequently to food bank donations. Food banks, in turn, might be able to contribute more frequently to schools, where the availability of gluten-free food options is oftentimes widely variable.

“In terms of lunch at universities and in-office canteens for those youths who already work, the experiences are very different,” said Nitz. “A concrete initiative we have as the youth committee, is that we on a yearly basis request the possibility of gluten-free breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as features like an exclusive toaster for gluten-free use only from German youth hostels.”

Physician Training and Health Insurance

National health insurance and increased allergy awareness have helped ensure more equitable access to treatments. Physician knowledge of food allergies in Germany is continuously enhanced by the research-based training of the Comprehensive Allergy Center Charite (CACC) in Berlin. The cost of doctor’s visits, on the other hand, are eased by the universal health insurance provided under German’s statutory healthcare system, to which 85% of Germany’s population have access as of 2014.

Allergen-free food accessibility has improved in accordance with increases in food allergies in Germany, as well as poverty rates. Allergy medications and allergen-free food products remain expensive. However, increased product demand combined with food banks and a national healthcare plan all point towards progress in the fight for global food security.

– Petra Dujmic
Photo: Pixabay

Food Security in East AfricaAn apocalyptic scene—swarming locusts blanketing the sky. This is an image the world is mostly unfamiliar with. In fact, locusts are the oldest migratory pest in the world and are often associated with destruction.

A Snapshot of the Problem

There can be as many as 80 million locusts compacted into just a half square mile, and they bring with them devastating effects. In only one day, one square kilometer of these pests can destroy the agricultural produce that could sustain 35,000 people. The FAO states that during plagues, like the ones that occurred in East Africa during 2020, locusts can damage the livelihood of a staggering 1/10 of the world’s population.

Locust migration occurs in a cycle of boom and bust. This biological uncertainty makes it hard for countries to garner the funding, political will, knowledge and capacity to proactively address the threat through long-term infrastructure. However, failure to detect and control locusts proactively can result in devastating plagues. These can require millions of dollars to address and have catastrophic effects on food security, particularly in East Africa. The experience of one Somalian farmer portrays the catastrophic impact these pests have. Abdirahman Hussein Mohamoud relies on his farm to support his family. In May, he lost his entire $5,000 investment in crops to locusts. In his own words, his hard work “has all come to nothing.”

Possible Solutions

The FAO tries to combat the threat of locusts through early detection and warning with its Desert Locusts Information Service. USAID works towards strengthening the government’s capacity to address the threat of locus proactively in addition to the $19 million of US humanitarian response to reduce the size and impact of swarms. However, there is still an overwhelming lack of policies addressing locusts in East African countries. For this reason, there is a heavy reliance on pesticides for rapid response.

The use of pesticides, while incredibly effective for killing locusts, can negatively impact the health of humans and the environment. In Uganda, desert locusts are a common food source and the people often consume them immediately after the use of harsh pesticides. A number of community health advocates are raising concerns with the lack of adequate training and information on the potential impact these pesticides can have on human health. Executive Director of the Mpala Research Centre in northern Kenya, Dino Martins, warns that mass spraying can harm biodiversity as well. Martins points to the need to create more sustainable alternatives to controlling locusts such as biopesticides of pheromones.

Impact of COVID-19

While locusts pose a major threat to food security in East Africa, COVID-19 has made poor communities even more vulnerable. Resources for aid are stretched thin with a high priority on coronavirus relief. Despite this, countries in East Africa have maintained the control and monitoring of desert locusts as a national priority.

However, the slowdown in the global supply chain and cross-border mobility is raising concerns about the difficulty of acquiring pesticides for controlling locusts and protecting food security in East Africa. In March, an order of pesticides from Somalia to Ethiopia was delayed due to cargo flights being cut back. This showcases the dangerous impact COVID-19 can have on controlling the epidemic of locusts. Cyril Ferrand, the FAO’s Resilience Team Leader for East Africa, states access to pesticides is the biggest challenge facing their ability to control the impact of these pests.

Governments are exempting restrictions on movement for locusts control groups, recognizing their need to continue work. The FAO has stated they have been able to continue their efforts despite restriction. For instance, they have been able to treat more than 240,000 hectares with pesticides in East Africa. FAO has also trained 740 people on how to conduct ground control operations for locusts. So far, FAO has raised half of the $300 million it expects to need for pesticides.

Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in BeninHunger in Benin affects thousands of people across the country. According to the World Food Programme, most of the Republic of Benin’s population of 11.2 million people live primarily in rural areas. Almost 10% of them struggle with food insecurity. However, Benin also exemplifies some of the successes that international organizations and state governments have had in collaborating with Benin’s leadership to create positive change. Two key players in Benin’s fight against hunger are the nonprofit The Hunger Project and USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Hunger in Benin specifically affects vulnerable groups like young children. The World Food Programme warns that chronic malnutrition is a major threat to Benin affecting the development of up to 32% percent of its children ages five and younger. Suffering from chronic malnutrition at this age can negatively affect children’s health later in life.

The Hunger Project in Benin

The Hunger Project has been working in Benin since 1997 and uses the ‘epicentre strategy’ to fight hunger. It works to organize around 138 villages (311,078 people) into 18 different epicenters for greater collective action. Using this strategy allows for villages in Benin to share resources and address hunger and food insecurity together. As a group, the villages learn and cultivate self-reliance.

The villages are able to capitalize on aid the Hunger Project provides initially and then, through developing community infrastructure, communities become self-reliant. This has proven successful in three epicenters already. Each epicenter focuses on four core phases for success: “Mobilization (I), Construction (II), Programme Implementation (III) and Transition to Self-reliance (IV).”

USAID’s Role in Helping Alleviate Hunger

The United States coordinates its international aid efforts through organizations like USAID. Specifically in Benin, USAID contributes to the “new alliance for food security and nutrition,” which organizes the G7 states with the Republic of Benin’s government to invest in the agricultural sector. The World Food Programme reported that agriculture makes up to 70% of the country’s employment. Furthermore, agriculture is responsible for 25% of Benin’s GDP. Increased investment will undoubtedly aid in hunger alleviation.

Additionally, USAID helps Benin fight off major food insecurity causes like pests in crops. One pest that USAID is addressing is the Fall Armyworm (FAW). FAW is particularly dangerous to African crops because it feeds on maize, a key food source for more than 300 million African families. Across the 12 main maize-producing countries in Africa, the Fall Armyworm can cause an annual loss of “between $3.6 and $6.2 billion.” That kind of loss can devastate farmers.

To combat FAW, USAID held a “Fall Armyworm Workshop” in Benin in 2018, bringing agricultural experts, plant protection experts and technical staff. The workshop was intended to educate farmers and other essential workers on how to locate, identify and exterminate the pests.

Looking Ahead

Hunger in Benin continues to be an obstacle for the country. Benin only scored a 51/100 on the 2019 Global Food Security Index. But with multilateral support from state governments and international organizations, Benin represents a model for successful collaborative efforts to address hunger and poverty collectively, as it has risen above the regional average score of 47.9/100 for food security.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

5 facts about hunger in SudanThe Republic of Sudan is a country located in Northeast Africa with a population of more than 45 million. Its capital city, Khartoum, is home to nearly six million people. For much of its post-independence history, Sudan has struggled with significant political instability ranging from civil war to intertribal strife. Further unrest unfolded after South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011; this resulted in a full-fledged war between the countries by 2012. All of these factors have contributed to widespread food insecurity and malnutrition among Sudanese people. To learn more about this issue, here are five key facts about hunger in Sudan.

5 Facts About Hunger in Sudan

  1. Rising food prices and high inflation levels increase the risk of hunger. According to the World Food Program (WFP), 5.8 million people in Sudan suffer from food insecurity. Low purchasing power means that Sudanese often cannot buy enough food. For example, an average local food basket costs at least three-fourths of a Sudanese household income.
  2. Sudan’s volatile economy exacerbates the problem of food insecurity. The volatility comes from weak infrastructure and the loss of a large share of oil production revenues after South Sudan’s secession. Sudan has been struggling to recover from these losses ever since.
  3. Malnutrition and stunting levels among Sudanese children are very high. Malnutrition and stunting, or decreased growth, both come from hunger. More than half a million children in Sudan are severely and acutely malnourished. In addition, more than a third of children under five, or 2.3 million, suffer from stunting. Sudan is one of 14 countries that have four-fifths of the world’s stunted children.
  4. Sudan depends heavily on the vulnerable agricultural sector. This decreases food security and increases hunger in Sudan, especially given that it is where 80% of the country’s labor force is employed. Many factors make agriculture unreliable. Sudan is exposed to environmental disruptions such as desertification and periodic droughts and floods. It also suffers from a lack of sufficient water supplies and water pollution.
  5. Many displaced persons in Sudan are at a high risk of hunger. Ongoing domestic conflicts in Sudan have led to the internal displacement of nearly two million Sudanese. Additionally, there has been an influx of more than a million refugees, most of whom are from South Sudan. These internally displaced persons and refugees often rely on food assistance. In addition to providing food vouchers, which enable Sudanese families to buy food locally, USAID has reportedly contributed more than 600,000 metric tons in food aid between 2013 and 2017.

Fortunately, many organizations are stepping up to diminish hunger in Sudan. USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP), in partnership with other organizations like the WFP and UNICEF, is conducting efforts to support food-insecure Sudanese families. As of 2020, FFP has donated $226.9 million to provide assistance and agricultural training. In addition, USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has also been a useful tool that monitors and evaluates the food security-related needs of Sudan. The network thus allows for earlier responses to potential crises.

Based on the above facts about hunger in Sudan, it is clear that the African nation continues to face crippling challenges ranging from a weak economic structure to poor child health. To satisfy the nutritional needs of its population, Sudan will continue to need the efforts and outreach of organizations such as the FFP and UNICEF.

– Oumaima Jaayfer
Photo: Flickr

BrexitJanuary 31, 2020, was a historic day for the European Union, for it marks the day the United Kingdom left the Union based on a public vote (referendum) held in June 2016. Seventeen point four million citizens opted for Brexit in 2016 and, after several negotiations and talks, the U.K. is now the first former member of the European Union. An important and large-scale decision such as this has the ability to distort economic stability greatly.

Trade

The EU is the world’s largest single market that allows free trade among all its members. It is also responsible for negotiating trade policies on behalf of its members, establishing a single, strong voice throughout various negotiations. Since Britain is no longer a member, it must create its own suitable trade policies with the countries it wishes to trade within the Union. Britain also needs to negotiate for its own demands. It was projected that the U.K. stood to lose $32 billion after Brexit, with no trade agreement in place between the U.K. and the EU. Losses incurred are more likely to increase as the EU accounts for nearly 46% of the U.K.’s exports. Researchers project that Ireland’s exports to Britain may drop by at least 10%. This creates a serious trade imbalance and hence contributes to the national deficit of the nation.

Food Poverty

British citizens consume a significant amount of imported food. Brexit could lead to a rise in food poverty, as about 30% of food is imported from the EU and 11% is from countries whose trade policies were negotiated by the EU. Since there is no trade policy in place, food insecurity is bound to rise. Food prices will likely rise 6% by June 2020, according to researchers. Overall, an increase in food poverty may be on the horizon.

Immigration

The U.K. had announced that post-Brexit only highly skilled immigrants will be able to secure jobs and the additional requirements have already created an impact on the economy. Immigrants mostly work low-skilled jobs and the implementation of this policy has already lead to shortages. At least one in 11 posts are vacant. Also, immigrants occupy nearly one-sixth (140,000) of the 840,000 care worker jobs. The new regulations will soon prompt vacancies and greatly affect people with disabilities and the elderly.

The Potential Solutions

Trade talks between the U.K. and the EU are taking place effectively. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed a “Canada-style free trade agreement” which the EU is prepared to accept, given the fact that the agreement would demand no tariffs or quotas from them. This shows that negotiations are productive and that the U.K. is trying to cause very little disturbance to the economy. Aware of its reliance on imports from the EU, the U.K. has opted for a mutually beneficial free trade agreement. As the cost of imports and exports are reduced, the trade imbalances are corrected. This in turn will influence food poverty as the general price levels will decrease and imported food will become affordable.

Additionally, there are multiple organizations and government schemes that help combat food poverty in the U.K. For example, The Trussell Trust and other independent foodbanks have distributed nearly 3 million food packages between 2018 and 2019. The organization Healthy Start allows the purchase of basic food necessities for pregnant women and mothers with infants.

What Are the Benefits of Brexit for the UK?

The U.K. is free to trade with other nations such as Japan, the U.S. and India without EU restrictions. This will stimulate growth in all nations involved in possible free trade and help tackle domestic issues, such as unemployment and hunger. Effective trading can lead to increased employment opportunities and better living standards.

The U.K. has given almost half a trillion pounds to the EU to be a member of the bloc. The amount the U.K. will save is significant enough to be directed at rising food insecurity, short-term deficit and unemployment. The U.K. is also able to craft specific policies to suit its needs instead of being subject to the ones crafted by the EU. The ability to do this helps the U.K. and other nations involved, as all policies will be tailored to be mutually beneficial and appropriate.

Overall, Brexit is a challenge. It is difficult to adjust to and likely poses serious threats to economic stability in the near future. However, this is only a short-term issue. Once the transition period is over, a structured agreement between the E.U. and the U.K. will help their economies regain stability.

 Mridula Divakar
Photo: Flickr