Information and stories about food security news.

Agricultural Sustainability in the DRCDespite the Democratic Republic of the Congo harboring the second-largest cultivable land in the world at 80 million hectares, food insecurity and malnutrition are pressing issues in a country that ranks among the poorest in the world. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) characterizes almost 22 million of the 89.5 million residents as severely food insecure, despite 70% of the employed population working in the agricultural industry. Lack of infrastructure combined with prolonged national armed conflict has led to only 10 million hectares currently under cultivation, leaving enormous potential for agricultural and economic growth. Agricultural sustainability in the DRC is crucial to address food insecurity and poverty.

The Joint WFP-FAO Resilience Program in DRC

A combined effort from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) focuses on the optimization of agriculture production as well as market revisions and improvements to reduce food insecurity and bolster a declining national economy. Improving agricultural sustainability in the DRC could prove effective in stabilizing a region with enormous agricultural potential.

The Need for Agricultural Sustainability

Providing direct financial relief to the DRC has proven both necessary and effective, especially in the wake of nationwide flooding in 2019 and 2020 on top of widespread armed conflict and displacement. Since 2018, USAID reports that the DRC has received roughly $570 million worth of direct food relief. However, direct relief does not equal sustainability and is a relatively short-term solution. The joint program from the WFP and FAO implements successful strategies to provide much-needed agricultural sustainability in the DRC and creates an important foundation for further improvements.

The Benefits of Cooperation

Promoting organizational cooperation and improving managerial structure has allowed for combined agricultural improvements nationwide. Since 2017, this project has reached 30,000 small farm households and stimulated cooperation that has improved organizational structure and operational capacities. This cooperation has allowed for the distribution of newer agricultural technologies and concepts such as improved seeds and more advanced tools to optimize production.

Increased cooperation has also helped eliminate local conflicts between farmers and has increased the total area of land being cultivated. The program has also provided 7,000 local women with functional literacy education, allowing for more female community engagement as well as involvement in managerial duties in farming communities.

Addressing Nutrition in the DRC

At a local level, the joint program has implemented enhanced nutritional programs to utilize the increasing resources. Increased cooperation and education have allowed for the growth of crops with enhanced nutritional value. To promote long-term sustainability, in 2020, the project utilized direct aid to establish 300 vegetable gardens, reaching 13,510 residents. The program also held 150 culinary demonstrations regarding optimal cooking techniques that are both affordable and nutritious.

Developing the DRC’s Infrastructure

Large agricultural areas such as the DRC rely heavily on infrastructure for transportation and storage of goods. The joint program has fixed 193 kilometers of agricultural roads since implementation in 2017, with 65% of the road rehabilitators being women.

Not only has the program enhanced transportation capabilities but it has also constructed 20 different storage buildings as well as 75 community granaries, allowing for the long-term storage of agricultural products. This enhanced storage capacity reduces waste from spoilage and allows product to be sold during favorable selling seasons, allowing for advanced agricultural sustainability in the DRC.

The Joint WFP-FAO resilience program in the DRC has made significant accomplishments in the country. With further efforts, agricultural sustainability in the DRC can be further developed to improve poverty in the region.

Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

Flood-Tolerant Rice BenefitsRice farming and production impacts the lives of millions throughout the world. Rice is the staple food of three billion people globally and a source of income for many. The farming of rice also contributes significantly to the economic growth of many countries. Especially within developing countries, the success of rice production is crucial for feeding individuals and creating economic stability. Flood-tolerant rice benefits developing countries reliant upon rice for livelihoods, food security, and the economy’s stability.

Environmental Challenges Affect Rice Production in India

Recent changes in the climate have caused rice production volatility due to flooding and drought. As many as 4.8 million people in India are exposed to river flood risks each year. In India, environmental challenges have had an especially negative effect on rice crops as floods have overtaken many viable planting areas. This flooding has disproportionately affected low-income farmers. These farmers often work with less reliable plots of land that are more prone to flooding. Without the development of techniques to help combat extreme weather, both the livelihoods of low-income people within India and the general Indian economy will experience a significant socio-economic impact.

Swarna Sub-1 Rice

A strain of flood-tolerant rice called Swarna Sub-1 has been a major development that addresses crop damage due to flooding in India. As a mixture of two different rice varieties, this scientifically developed plant is able to withstand intense flooding. This type of rice has been on the market for use since around 2009; however, many farmers have not had access to the rice strain until recently. This is largely due to the lack of information about the existence of Swarna Sub-1 and a lack of accessibility to it.

Flood-Tolerant Rice Benefits

The introduction of flood-tolerant rice has allowed for an increase in rice production, as J-PAL studies have shown. J-PAL is an organization that researches innovative solutions to global poverty. The increased rice production throughout India has had an incredibly positive effect, both economically and socially, as there is a larger supply of rice boosting local economies. As impoverished farmers have seen more successful rice harvests, they have been keener to cultivate a greater amount of farmland and make riskier agricultural decisions. Farmers have also invested in fertilizers to further increase crop health as they are more sure of their ability to create a solid income through rice farming. Additionally, precautionary rice savings decreased, suggesting farmers have perceived lower risk of crop losses with the flood-tolerant rice.

Swarna Sub-1 seeds increased rice yields by about 10% over the course of two years, as seen in the study. Researchers stated that the productive behavior changes among farmers who planted Swarna Sub-1 accounted for 41% of the long-term increase in rice yields. The higher yields also increased the income of farmers by roughly $47 per hectare.

The Potential of Flood-Tolerant Rice

These flood-tolerant rice benefits have improved the livelihoods of impoverished farmers in India while also contributing to food security and local economies. Increased access to flood-tolerant rice varieties in developing countries has the potential to improve lives and lift people out of poverty.

– Olivia Bay 
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in WalesWales, one of the four scenic countries that comprise the United Kingdom, has 25% of its population facing poverty. Around 200,000 children live in poverty in the country too, with 90,000 of these children enduring extreme poverty. As Wales struggles with poverty on a daily basis and searches for improvement, NGOs in the country are doing their part to combat poverty.

5 NGOs Fighting Poverty in Wales

  1. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is an independent NGO working to solve poverty in the United Kingdom and Wales. Through research, policy, collaboration and practical solutions, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation aims to inspire action and change inside of the United Kingdom. By shining a light on poverty in Wales while offering solutions of potential change, poverty in the country can be clearly addressed and better managed.
  2. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD). CAFOD is an international NGO that reaches out to people living in poverty with practical help in the overall pursuit of campaigning for global justice. Through donations, campaigning and calling upon individuals to volunteer in both their local communities and internationally in Wales, CAFOD looks to immediately impact poverty with positive results. CAFOD is also a member of Caritas Internationalis, one of the largest humanitarian, development and social service networks in the world.
  3. The Trussell Trust. This is an NGO that supports a nationwide network of food banks that collectively provides emergency food and support to people locked in poverty. The Trussell Trust handed out 70,393 emergency food parcels in April through September through its 117 food banks that comprise the Welsh network of the NGO. Across the United Kingdom, more than 1.2 million emergency food parcels were distributed through the Trussell Trust’s network during the first six months of the pandemic.
  4. Save the Children. An NGO founded in 1919, Save the Children combats child poverty worldwide in the mission of keeping children safe, healthy and learning. The Wales sector of Save the Children works with education, social care and health partners to deliver a range of programs that directly benefit the livelihoods of children in Wales. Children growing up in poverty in Wales are deeply affected, and as they fall behind in school due to the limited income of their parents, the cycle of poverty continues. Save the Children directly combats this cycle in Wales, advocating to the Welsh government about the importance of childhood education.
  5. The Bevan Foundation. Located directly in Wales, this NGO is on the constant lookout to reduce poverty in the country through innovation and ideas. Working alongside the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to find new solutions to poverty, the Bevan Foundation has presented evidence to the Welsh Parliament’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee inquiry on the impact of COVID-19 on communities, poverty and housing. The evidence will be beneficial for implementing anti-poverty strategies in Wales. The Bevan Foundation has also advocated consistently for social security benefits that would alleviate poverty.

The Future of Wales

Wales, facing increasing poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finds its poverty worsening among children of the country more so than adults. Amid this poverty, organizations are working to address the situation in different ways. With the help of more NGOs, poverty in Wales can see even better results by addresing the very core and cycle of it.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

USAID in India
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is an independent body within the American federal government. This means that, though it receives funding from the federal government, it may operate virtually independently from the political will of any sitting presidential cabinet. Its focuses are international economic development, gender equality, health care and humanitarian aid. USAID works with over 100 governments all over the world. This article will focus specifically on USAID in India.

The Situation

As it has grown in terms of population, the Indian government has struggled to provide basic services for its people. USAID in India has played a not-insignificant role in overcoming socioeconomic challenges over the past few decades. American and international economic aid to India stems back to the 1950s with the creation of the World Bank and it underwent further formalization in the 1960s with the construction of USAID in 1961. Since its inception, USAID has worked to support the efforts of local grassroots organizations, community initiatives and various branches of the Indian government.

USAID and the Indian Government

The main point of cooperation between USAID and the Indian government in the past few decades has been the organization and creation of public-private partnerships that help fulfill the need for basic services within India. A public-private partnership (PPP) is an agreement between one or more private entities and one or more public bodies, generally established with the purpose of lessening the burden of development and provision of public services on the local government.

PPPs receive criticism as a form of covert privatization and are therefore harmful to the local community in the long-term. However, arguments have also determined that PPPs are a way of dragging private entities into the public(ally accountable) sector, as the government retains ownership over the entity, and is still largely responsible for the delivery of services. In recent decades, USAID in India has helped establish a minimum of 34 Indian PPPs, generating a combined total of close to $400 million in financial resources.

Triangular Cooperation

As per the 2016 U.S.-India Joint Statement, the American and Indian governments have made a commitment to working with partners throughout the whole of Asia as well as Africa for the purposes of poverty-reduction. This includes the pursuit of food security via public-private partnerships, farmer-training and the sharing of technological advances; and the promotion of clean energy. For example, USAID supports the Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI). This society has helped increase productivity for Indian farmers by providing them with more efficient agricultural equipment, which SRISTI hopes to also provide to struggling farmers in Kenya. USAID is also helping India become energy-secure by helping the Indian government provide citizens with access to clean energy sources. In the past four years alone, USAID has provided access to over 600 megawatts of power in India.

Grants and Awards for Indian Aid Organizations

USAID, among other branches of the American government, also provides various financial grants and awards to aid organizations in India and throughout the world. The major requirements to be eligible for USAID funding, as an Indian organization, are (among others) that the organization registers with the Indian government as a nonprofit organization, and that the organization is able to demonstrate a genuine impact on the demographic of focus. The purpose of these grants is to enable self-reliance within Indian communities, thereby lessening the overall need for international assistance. An example of an Indian nonprofit organization receiving USAID funding is Piramal Swasthya, who in 2019 received $30,000 USD and the “Inclusive Health Access Award” for providing health care to underprivileged Indian communities.

Transparency

All over the world, governmental and non-governmental aid organizations struggle with demands from citizens and government officials for increased transparency in terms of operations as well as funds. Because of this, every single year, USAID submits the “U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants” report, AKA the “Greenbook” to United States Congress for review. The annual Greenbook is also available to members of the public who are interested in how USAID conducts its operations. USAID also maintains a database of foreign aid, called the Foreign Aid Explorer, which, like the Greenbook, is open to members of the public. The USAID organization itself supports the International Aid Transparency Initiative and plays a significant role in helping the United States government pursue total transparency in foreign aid initiatives.

Closing Remarks

Over the past 60 years, USAID has worked alongside local Indian actors to unlock the infinite development potential of Indian civilians. USAID and American foreign policy initiatives have worked alongside local actors to improve Indian health care, promote gender equality, promote food security and strengthen international cooperative endeavors to end global poverty. During times of agricultural crises beginning in the 1960s, USAID organized food imports for India.

In the current COVID-19 crisis, USAID continues to work closely with the Indian government to provide health care for one of the world’s most populated countries. Additionally, both during and outside of times of crisis, USAID has tried to involve the Indian diaspora itself in India’s development, placing Indians at the forefront of social and economic change. Over the past 10 years alone, nearly 300 million Indians have escaped poverty. While one cannot understand the efforts and successes of grassroots Indian organizations when discussing India’s socio-economic development over the past six decades, the role that USAID in India has played in supporting these successes is worthy of note.

Olivia Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Food SystemsIn the next 30 years, the world population will grow by two billion: approximately 25% of the current population. Food demand will increase significantly during this time and international organizations are prioritizing the development of strategies to address this concern. Framing the future of food systems, which encompass producing, processing, transporting and consuming food, is key to continued efforts in reducing poverty and extreme hunger.

Population Growth in Africa

Global population growth does not imply an equal or even proportional increase in every region of the world. The population of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is estimated to double by 2050, from approximately one to two billion. This number accounts for half of the global population growth expected. Such substantial growth in a population already experiencing food insecurity, if not coupled with sustainable food system developments, will exacerbate the issue and make advancement more difficult.

Facets of Food Security

Increasing demand for food is not the only threat to the future of food systems around the world. The cultivability of land is changing with the climate, requiring workers in the agriculture sector to adjust crop selection and techniques. Instability in the industry detracts from the appeal of such an occupation and further strains the food supply.

Many producers of food are among the hardest hit by the effects of food insecurity. In India, 41% of the workforce falls under agriculture, yet the country is home to the largest number of people experiencing hunger in a single nation — approximately 189 million. With the food supply responsibility falling on some of the most at-risk populations, food systems are even more vulnerable when confronted with adversity.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of adversity faced by food systems. Limits put in place to prevent further spread of the virus weaken the agriculture sector of the workforce and economy. This stress on food systems extends to the global economy, education, peace efforts and human rights, among others.

The Decade of Action

Just 10 years remain to meet the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The second SDG necessitates improvements in food security, nutrition and agriculture across the globe, marking the next 10 years as the Decade of Action. The 2021 U.N. Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) has been planned to foster discussions of global challenges, priorities, opportunities and solutions in the food system sector, hopefully resulting in unified and inclusive efforts toward achieving the SDGs. In a lead up to the 2021 UNFSS, 13 organizations collaborated to host the two-day Bold Actions for Food as a Force for Good event in November 2020.

Food System Innovations

Along with the need to shift toward more sustainable consumption, gender-equity in food systems, agricultural innovations and financing for solutions, the Bold Actions for Food as a Force for Good event emphasized the importance of novel approaches to reducing extreme hunger with the Food Systems Innovation Challenge. In this challenge, teams of students from 20 universities proposed innovative ideas to transform the future of food systems. Solutions proposed by these teams include online systems connecting producers and consumers to keep all facets of the food market current on need and capacity. Apps and food labels to provide guidance on reducing food waste and making more sustainable dietary choices as well as food packaging that minimizes waste and carbon footprints formed part of these solutions.

A Sustainable Future

Projections for global population growth alongside new challenges stemming from climate change and COVID-19, make food security a top concern. By promoting the now-underway Decade of Action, the U.N. is leading unified efforts to establish sustainable and equitable food systems worldwide. Progress will depend on effective mobilization, collaboration and innovation— the backbones of development toward more stable food systems.

– Payton Unger
Photo: Flickr

AI Increases Food SecurityArtificial Intelligence seems like a far-off concept reserved for science fiction. In truth, AI is present in modern life and the advancements in this technology are being used to combat global poverty. Most prominently, computer scientists and engineers are improving the ways that AI increases food security globally. The need for utilizing technology in food security is essential to protect more than 800 million people suffering from hunger worldwide.

Predicting Threats to Food Security

A vital step to protect food security is looking ahead and responding proactively to potential problems. The Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS) works by gathering massive amounts of data from vast sources to forecast developing situations affecting food supply. NEWS is a perfect example of how AI increases food security with constant improvements in its system to enhance response times to price changes, poor weather conditions for food development and other global crop issues.

The effectiveness of machine learning far surpasses human data collection and these types of technology have already seen success. Through the algorithms created by AI technology, a forecasted drought prevented many Colombian farmers from planting crops that would not have been fruitful. This prediction saved the farmers millions of dollars by avoiding crop loss during the dry spell. Preserving large amounts of money to spend during opportune times is another way AI increases food security and stabilizes supply.

AI Optimizes Agricultural Procedures and Production

People living in rural areas that work in farming communities are usually the most susceptible to extreme poverty. AI can improve working conditions and modernize agriculture to protect vulnerable populations and provide them with upward economic mobility through technology education and increased crop production.

AI robotics is revolutionizing agriculture and crop harvesting robots as well as AI-enhanced drones are increasing production and keeping workers safe. Robotic weed control allows for the proper and safe distribution of herbicides that can be harmful to humans. This also prevents herbicide resistance. In Argentina, drones inspect wheat crops for harmful infections and pests. AI increases food security by diagnosing soil conditions as well. This technology allows workers to implement the necessary strategies for correcting nutrient deficiencies.

The most important aspect of these technologies is that they provide benefits but will not reduce the need for actual workers. Though education in these fields can be expensive, the skills learned will add value and mobilize people out of extreme poverty.

The FAO AI Systems Used for Food Security

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has implemented two programs in which AI increases food security and improves agriculture sustainability; the FAO’s WaPOR portal and the Agriculture Stress Index System (ASIS). Both systems monitor water usage in agriculture in different ways.

  • The FAO’s WaPOR portal monitors water in the Near East and African regions. It does this through open-source technology that gathers massive amounts of data. Simultaneously, the AI analyzes the data to determine the best water use for different crops and regions and uploads the information in real-time.
  • ASIS works similarly to NEWS. It is a satellite system that works as an early detection system for droughts or other water shortages. ASIS breaks down the information from a global standpoint to each country and region. Doing this allows people to be proactive in their preparation for impending droughts by improving water usage and shoring up logistics of moving aid to an area troubled by food shortages, thereby preventing hunger.

The Future of Food Security

As time progresses, AI will improve and become more common, eventually becoming cheaper and more accessible worldwide. With the rapid advancement in this technology and what is already in place to sustain food security using AI, a hunger-free world is a closer reality.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

hunger in swazilandIn 2017, it was recorded that 58.9% of people in Swaziland were living below the poverty line. Despite the country’s lower-middle-class status, the poverty rate continues to persist. Challenges such as low economic growth, severe weather patterns, high unemployment, high cases of HIV/AIDS and a high amount of malnutrition, the Swaziland population is struggling with an immense amount of poverty. A whole 42% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day. With people in Swaziland struggling to make ends meet, hunger in Swaziland continues to be prevalent.

Food Insecurity in Swaziland

Many Swazis are chronically food insecure. One out of three people face severe hunger, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, hunger is only increasing. With severe weather conditions, Swaziland faces poor harvest years, decreasing the amount of food that can be produced. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a tool used to improve food security, reported that 32% of the population will experience “high acute food insecurity” within the coming months due to the pandemic. COVID-19 has compounded the food insecurity situation, causing restrictions that disrupt the already limited food supply for Swazi households.

Rise Against Hunger

Humanitarian assistance programs have been a huge support system for the lack of food supplies in Swaziland during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rise Against Hunger is a movement that mobilizes resources to improve poverty and create solutions for hunger in Swaziland. This movement provides life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable, Swaziland being one of the most vulnerable countries. Rise Against Hunger now partners with Salesian Missions, a humanitarian organization that gives hope to millions of youth globally, to provide food and aid to those living in poverty in Swaziland. Together, these organizations provide meals for the hungry. Beginning in 2011, this partnership has been successful, providing food and life-saving aid to malnourished individuals in Swaziland.

USAID Food Relief

As the Swaziland government struggles to deliver aid and food relief, USAID has partnered with World Vision to provide emergency food assistance. USAID is making an effort to reach 45,000 food insecure people in Swaziland by providing monthly food rations. These food rations include cornmeal and beans and vegetable oil.  Not only are USAID and World Vision providing food rations to decrease the percentage of hunger in Swaziland, but they are also working to increase the agricultural production of families that need assistance in recovering from previous droughts. With USAID stepping in to provide as much relief as possible, these efforts will produce longer-term resilience.

Hunger in Swaziland has caused many to succumb to hunger at a faster rate since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, making hunger a widespread issue. Organizations and charities are working together to provide the necessary aid essential to eradicate hunger in Swaziland.

Kendra Anderson
Photo: Flickr

Aid to AfghanistanThe period of 2018 to 2020 brought with it a series of difficulties for the people of Afghanistan, including droughts, floods and pandemics. A severe drought in 2018 impacted 95% of the country’s farmland and dried up crucial water sources. More than 250,000 people were displaced and at least 1.4 million civilians required emergency aid. Following the drought, 2019 had the opposite occurrence: heavy rainfall activated widespread flooding in nine provinces, impacting more than 112,000 people. These crises continue to be felt in 2020 as both old and new challenges exacerbate conditions for the poorest Afghans. Countries all over the world are pledging to provide aid to Afghanistan.

Conditions Affecting Afghanistan

  • COVID-19: In November 2020, Afghanistan documented 44,133 coronavirus cases and 1,650 fatalities. The socio-economic impacts have been extensive. Average household debt rose by 36,486 AFS (US$474) and the poverty level increased from 54% to 70%. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s economy is predicted to contract by at least 5.5% due to the 2020 impact of COVID-19.
  • Displacement: Nearly 286,000 Afghans at home and 678,000 abroad suffered displacement in 2020, bringing the total displaced to approximately four million. Internal displacement camps are rife with insanitation, poor healthcare, unemployment, limited potable water and food insecurity. According to estimations by the 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview, one million displaced people will require aid by the end of 2020.
  • Political Uncertainty: Political instability has been a mainstay in Afghanistan for decades and continues to trouble both citizens and the international community. Despite ongoing 2020 peace negotiations with the Taliban, fighting continues in the region. As a result, desperately needed health clinics have suffered closures and 35,000 Afghans were displaced from the Helmand Province in October 2020 alone.
  • Women’s Rights: Conditions for Afghan women and children have improved in recent years, allowing 3.3 million girls to receive an education. Additionally, women have experienced expanding opportunities for political, economic and social engagement. However, government participation is still strictly limited and women are still at high risk of violence.
  • Food insecurity: Afghan farmers still had not fully recovered from the 2018 drought and 2019 flood before the impact of COVID-19 on the country raised food prices, and with it, further food insecurity. Estimates warn that one-third of the population have already exhausted their savings and are in crisis levels of food security, with 5.5 million of them in emergency levels. However, farmers are hopeful that improved climate conditions will alleviate some of the damage done in previous years of difficulties.

2020 Afghanistan Conference

International donations fund at least half of Afghanistan’s annual budget. This is unlikely to change anytime soon, especially as COVID-19’s toll on the country’s economy also decreases government revenues. There was concern that the 2020 Conference would see a diminished aid pledge from Afghanistan’s largest donors, but the meetings that took place on November 24 secured a minimum of US$3.3 billion annually for four years contingent upon a review of Afghanistan’s progress in areas of peace, political development, human rights and poverty reduction. The United States is one such donor, pledging $300 million for 2021 and promising another $300 million worth of aid to Afghanistan if the ongoing peace talks prove successful. To this end, the “Afghanistan Partnership Framework” details the principles and goals of Afghanistan’s growth in peace-building, state-building and market-building.

Rebuilding Afghanistan

While some have expressed concern that the donations for aid to Afghanistan are not enough to cover costs and that the contingency requirements will be very difficult for Afghanistan to implement without compromises, there nevertheless is hope that tighter restrictions will prevent fewer funds from being lost to corruption. Despite the future challenges ahead of Afghanistan, Afghan leaders reiterated their commitment to “finding a political settlement that can not only bring an end to the suffering of the Afghan people but strengthen, safeguard and preserve the gains of the past 19 years.”

– Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing global economic downturns, food insecurity and unemployment, many communities in developing countries have turned to small-scale farming and home gardening as a solution. When the pandemic took full effect in March 2020, an upward trend in gardening around the world followed. In developing countries where access to food was dangerously inhibited by the pandemic’s economic effects, embracing small-scale gardening became crucial. To navigate a food crisis, residents of various developing countries embraced gardening and its many benefits, plotting gardens wherever they could find land. In addition to helping communities survive a food crisis by staving off hunger and providing necessary nutrients, gardening also supports struggling local economies and improves mental health. Gardening is helping people survive a pandemic and has taken root to assist communities to cope with the crisis.

3 Places Where Gardening is Helping People

    1. Palestine: In Palestine, the recent farming initiative began when a municipality near Bethlehem reacted to surging unemployment and poverty rates by distributing various herb and vegetable seedlings for residents to plant in their yards. By June 2020, some produce was already ripe for picking. Noting the success of this effort, the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry distributed over one million seedlings and the Applied Research Institute in Bethlehem (ARIJ) contributed 40,000 seedlings. Residents that lack land are encouraged to move their gardening efforts to the roof and the ARIJ is instructing them on how to construct gardens with easily attainable equipment like water pipes. The ARIJ has also brought these gardening initiatives to refugee camps, helping them build planting boxes and even greenhouses so crops can be grown all year. By increasing home gardens, residents have been able to better sustain themselves and benefit from the satisfaction of harvesting from their own gardens.
    2. Lebanon: Prior to the pandemic, the Lebanese economy was already struggling and the added hardship of COVID-19 led to empty supermarket shelves. Since 2019, Lebanon’s currency has decreased in value by 80% and poverty has risen to over 50%. Following a massive explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020, that destroyed Lebanon’s largest port, imports, which make up the majority of Lebanon’s food supply, are even harder to come by. However, similar to Palestine, officials have urged residents to take up gardening as a means to survive. Residents are utilizing plentiful family land or backyard spaces to plant vegetables and raise chicken and sheep and many are freezing food to prepare for a tough winter. In March 2020, the Ghaletna initiative was created to connect people to their land by teaching farming techniques and helping disperse surplus yield to families most in need. Beyond supplementing Lebanon’s food stocks, these gardens provide residents with a sense of comfort knowing that they no longer have to rely solely on imports. Likewise, this transition is prompting Lebanese people to embrace traditional, local foods.
    3. South Africa: In South Africa, gardening is helping people as well. A local farming initiative is not only helping its community by providing produce but is also helping the area’s economic recovery.  In the Uitenhage region, a small-scale farming effort called the Lima Gardening Initiative began when three men with no gardening or farming experience bought a plot of land just as lockdown took effect. Gardening efforts began with spinach, cabbage and beetroot but has expanded since March and locals are now able to purchase produce at affordable prices. In addition to supplying the community with easily accessible food, a primary goal of the Initiative is to encourage youth participation and change the idea that gardening is for the elderly. Once the produce is harvestable, the Initiative plans to employ the youth and help correct rising unemployment. Additionally, the group hopes to use the profit they attain from selling produce at affordable prices to open a soup kitchen and further give back to the community. Through these efforts, the Lima Gardening Initiative is helping a South African community adjust to the economic effects of the pandemic.

    Although these farming initiatives began out of necessity, people in Palestine, Lebanon, South Africa and other countries around the world are learning the benefits of gardening. Beyond coming into use in a time of economic crisis and food shortage, residential and small-scale gardening is helping to support local economies, employing those in need and providing gardeners with a sense of satisfaction and a safe haven.

    –  Angelica Smyrnios
    Photo: Flickr

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

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

1. Bobo’s

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

2. This Saves Lives

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

3. Barnana

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

4. Project 7

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

5. Beanfields

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

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

Anna Synakh
Photo: Flickr