Information and stories about food security news.

ColdHubsIn sub-Saharan countries, post-harvest crop loss is so high that nearly 50% of fresh food never reaches consumers. These losses not only diminish the economic potential of the agricultural industry, but they also aggravate food insecurity, malnourishment and stunting in young children. In turn, poor nourishment decreases productivity in individuals, which is reflected by a 2% to 3% loss in GDP. So far, many countries lack a solution to this serious problem. This is where Nigerian company ColdHubs comes in.

Post-Harvest Losses

The main culprit in post-harvest losses is spoilage, the natural process of decay and deterioration characteristic to perishable food items. While reduced temperatures can slow the pace of spoilage, sub-Saharan countries lack ample access to chilled storage spaces for produce. The small-scale farmers of sub-Saharan Africa who lack such storage face both financial and infrastructural barriers. While 62% of farmers cannot afford cooling technology, 36% do not have access to power in the first place.

In Nigeria, agriculture accounts for 22% of GDP and employs 36% of Nigerians. Nearly 90% of these Nigerians are small, family farmers. Yet large quantities of post-harvest losses pose a tremendous hurdle to their economic progress. For instance, Nigeria is home to the largest tomato production belt in West Africa. However, nearly half of the crop of tomatoes spoils each year. As of 2017, post-harvest losses in Nigeria cost up to $9 billion dollars annually. Meanwhile, more than 5 million people in Nigeria are food insecure. Two million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, and 45% of all child deaths are due to malnutrition.

Cabbage in Nigeria: A Case Study

One company is working to make a dent in those statistics. In 2013, a radio journalist specializing in agricultural news was following the journey of cabbage from farms to markets in Jos, Nigeria. What the journalist, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, hadn’t anticipated addressing was the story of the cabbage post-market. Farmers abandoned the cabbage that didn’t sell, leaving edible food to rot. Ikegwuonu tracked down the farmers, asking why they had left the cabbage and how to avoid such a situation.

In a recent interview with The Borgen Project, Ikegwuonu recounted, “They actually told me that if there was a form of storage inside the market, that it would be very useful to them to actually store their produce and then come back in the next week to pick up their produce [for sale] when there is less cabbage in that market.” It was this moment that inspired Ikegwuonu to develop ColdHubs. The idea: 100% solar-powered, walk-in cold rooms for food storage, installed in Nigerian markets and farms.

How ColdHubs Helps

The ColdHubs business model is simple. Farmers store perishable items in reusable crates provided by ColdHubs, using a flexible pay-as-you-store subscription. The crates then go into a ColdHub refrigerated room powered by solar panels. Each unit features enough solar panels to generate six kilowatts of energy every hour. However, the cold room itself uses up only 1.5 to 2 kilowatts per hour. This surplus allows for refrigeration to continue to run on rainy or cloudy days.

For a daily flat fee per crate stored, the solar-powered system allows farmers access to 24/7 chilled storage that operates entirely off the grid. This storage extends the shelf life of perishable foods from two days to 21 days. Importantly, this leads to an 80% reduction in post-harvest loss and a 25% increase in smallholder farmer income. For the 24 ColdHubs presently in use, some 3,517 smallholder farmers use the service. So far, ColdHubs has saved more than 20,000 tons of food from spoilage. Another 30 ColdHubs are currently under varying stages of construction. By the end of the year, the company hopes to have 50 ColdHubs fully operational throughout Nigeria.

Supporting Women and Farmers

ColdHubs looks not only to serve economic and renewable ends, but social ones as well. ColdHubs aims to employ women for its management and oversight operations. Thus far, the organization has created new jobs for 48 women. Additionally, ColdHubs is careful to maintain an affordable model ultimately aimed to support farmers over increasing profit.

“We designed Cold Hubs from a smallholder farmer from our perspective. I’m a smallholder farmer myself. The design was specifically suited so that the technology and service would be affordable,” Ikegwuonu explained. This manifests in the pay-as-you store model, as opposed to selling cold rooms outright. “We actually take up the risk of building in a cold room, and in three to four years we recover on that capital expenditure. It’s a slow, philanthropic process.”

Why It Matters Now

The proliferation of ColdHubs throughout Nigeria comes at a crucial moment, as farming seasons become more and more volatile. With prolonged heatwaves and an increasingly erratic rainy season, rain-reliant smallholder farmers struggle to raise  crops, predict growing seasons, and sell food before it rots.

“Once you harvest tomatoes, you have approximately 48 hours to sell it. With increased heat, it has actually reduced now to about 32 hours to sell that tomato.” Ikegwuonu added. With climate change in mind, ColdHubs operates with as much attention to its own climate footprint as possible. In addition to being entirely solar-powered, the cold rooms also use natural refrigerants. This reduces their contribution to atmospheric pollution.

Since approximately 54% of the working population in the continent of Africa relies on agriculture for income, ColdHubs could be a lifeline in the fight against hunger. The organization intends to bring its technology into other regions of Africa. As in Nigeria, it hopes to uplift smallholder farmers. “The future for us is to be running close to 10,000 ColdHubs in about five to 10 years, all across Africa,” Ikegwuonu shared. Once ColdHubs spreads throughout Africa, he hopes to bring the technology to developing countries across the globe.

Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in MexicoMexico struggles with multiple food-related health issues that range from malnutrition to obesity. Many families do not have access to the proper nutrients that their bodies need. However, this is not because of a lack of resources but rather because they cannot afford the food that is available. Approximately 7% of Mexico’s population survives on less than $2 a day, making it difficult to afford nutritious food. This makes hunger in Mexico a huge problem for the country since many simply cannot afford to meet their basic needs.

National Crusade Against Hunger

In January 2013, President Peña Nieto created the National Crusade Against Hunger (CNCH). President Nieto designed the program to not only fight poverty and hunger in Mexico but completely eradicate it. He centered the program around five main objectives. The five objectives were to achieve zero hunger through adequate food provisions, improve child nutrition rates, increase monetary income and food production for rural farmers, minimize food loss during transportation and promote internal community awareness. The CNCH allowed Mexicans in local communities to choose what objectives they wanted to focus on. The hope was for the program to address the diverse needs of varying regions.

The Struggle Remains

Unfortunately, Mexico continues to struggle with poverty and hunger. Of the 126 million inhabitants, over 20 million Mexican citizens still do not have access to food. Two years after the CNCH began, Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy observed that CNCH made no substantial progress towards the five listed goals. Additionally, the Federal Auditor’s Office found that the program only covered approximately 60% of the population. Moreover, those that the program did cover failed to report adequate data on the aid received. After advising that the program be shut down in 2018, the Federal Auditor’s Office labeled CNCH a failure.

Other Solutions

What has been done to improve poverty rates and hunger in Mexico since then? The Hunger Project (THP) has been a long-time supporter of the cause, having worked with the people of Mexico for over 30 years. By providing training, education and monetary support, THP aims to teach communities how to take care of themselves long-term.

In addition, food banks in the Mexican cities of Monterrey and Torreon also received grants from The Global FoodBanking Network in 2017. With this money, the Monterrey Food Bank was able to afford new equipment to store, process and sort fresh produce. Similarly, the Torreon Food Bank was able to purchase a large refrigerated truck, allowing for the transportation and protection of perishable food. Both food banks have since partnered with several companies and universities in order to help expand programs in order to assist more people.

The failure of a program such as CNCH can be disheartening. Even so, there are still many people and organizations that are actively working to make a difference. Hunger in Mexico is still a large problem but Mexico has immense potential to improve the situation. With the help of foreign aid, NGOs and a commitment from the Mexican government, hunger in Mexico can be alleviated.

Nicolette Schneiderman
Photo: Flickr

Farm to ForkRecently, the European Union Green Deal created a new food security strategy called the “Farm to Fork Strategy.” The European Union Green deal aims to make Europe the most climate-neutral continent and the Farm to Fork strategy is at the heart of this goal. Farm to Fork is a directive designed to “ensure food security, nutrition and public health, making sure that everyone has access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food.” The EU particularly noted that global food systems cannot be resilient during times of crisis such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, unless food systems are sustainable. The EU further noted that food systems need to be redesigned in order to reduce negative impacts on the environment.

The Farm to Fork Strategy

On June 2, 2020, The EU dedicated €10 billion towards developing the start of the program by donating towards “the research and innovation of food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture and the environment” along with developing new technology to find a nature-based solution for naturally grown food, that is also sustainable year-round and throughout multiple years, by growing annuals in the farms of European countries. This trial run, done exclusively in Europe, hopes to be a pioneer in agriculture, destined to help millions globally once the project receives more traction.

The Farm to Fork Strategy stands in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and not only plans to provide more sustainable food sources but will also provide aid to issues such as global warming, pollution, deforestation and overfishing. The overall goal is to “ensure food security and create a safe food environment” globally.

The Main Goals of Farm to Fork:

  • Ensuring sustainable food production;
  • Ensuring food security;
  • Stimulating sustainable food processing, wholesale, retail, hospitality and food services practices;
  • Promoting sustainable food consumption and facilitating the shift to healthy, sustainable diets;
  • Reducing food loss and waste;
  • Combating food fraud along the food supply chain.

This detailed plan, if executed properly, is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global food shortages. Targets that are essential to meet in order to reach the environmental and food safety goals of Farm to Fork are:

  • a reduction by 50% in the use of chemical and hazardous pesticides by 2030;
  • a reduction of nutrient losses by at least 50% while ensuring that there is no deterioration in soil fertility;
  • a reduction in the use of fertilizers by at least 20% by 2030;
  • a reduction of overall EU sales of antimicrobials for farmed animals and aquaculture of 50% by 2030;
  • reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming by 2030.

The Potential Impact of Farm to Fork

With the use of the Farm to Fork Strategy, the entire world could be more self-sustaining. The initiative could help millions around the world who struggle with food scarcity, making sustainable agriculture one of the most important fields in society. Farm to Fork helps not only food scarcity but the environment as a whole as well. Farm to Fork aims to do more than just curb global hunger, ultimately, aiming to make the planet a better place as a whole.

Alexis LeBaron
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in maldivesThe Maldives, a series of islands bordering both India and Sri Lanka, has faced increased obstacles with food security and hunger. With a population of 515,696 citizens, it is estimated that over 10.3% are battling with hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in the Maldives.

Problem in Numbers

With various scattered islands in the Maldives, it must be noted that a majority of citizens live in urban areas. However, despite this setting, 17.3% of children in the Maldives are underweight while 10.6% are wasted — a condition where a child’s muscle and fat tissues dissolve away to the bone.

It is also estimated that 36% of babies are not exclusively breastfed in their first six months of life, leading many to not receive the necessary nutrients to develop. This heavily contributes to serious health problems in the future.

In addition to the youth being affected by malnutrition, it must be noted that the adult population is also facing a malnutrition burden, with 42.6% of women of reproductive age having anemia.

Causes of Hunger and Poverty

Food insecurity in the Maldives points towards a variety of factors. A recent cause is resultant poverty caused by a lack of tourists. It is estimated that tourism accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s GDP. However, recent border closures due to COVID-19 have severely impacted citizens on a national scale. With one-third of adult males and a quarter of females engaged in tourism-related occupations, thousands have lost their jobs, making it harder for people to provide food and other basic necessities for their families.

Climate change, environmental degradation and declining ocean health severely threaten food security in the Maldives. Rapid changes in temperatures, flooding and drought, impact agricultural yields, reducing the ability to locally produce food.

Another factor that contributes to hardships is the decline of exports in the fish sector. With fishery accounting for another large portion of the nation’s GDP, many families who depend on fisheries as their main source of income have experienced serious financial impacts.

Road to Change

Despite the increased rates of hunger among the Maldivian population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which has dedicated itself to developing both fisheries and agriculture in the Maldives.

The main course of action for the FAO was to reassess the situation in the Maldives and open opportunities to grow the fishery and agriculture sector. Through promoting a stable framework, the organization enabled thousands to enter new jobs in the agriculture industry while accelerating demand for certain goods.

Another course of action was teaching sustainable practices to hundreds of Maldivian farmers. By helping with smaller-scale farms, FAO was able to heavily accelerate growth, boosting production in underprivileged communities. The FAO also helped equip farmers to thrive during climate change. The organization provided farmers with knowledge and methods to increase the productivity of their crops, livestock and fisheries in the face of adverse climatic conditions.

Despite great aid from the FAO, the Maldives continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. Organizations like the FAO can help in the short-term but the Maldives needs government assistance to see long-term change. For the Maldives to see a reduced hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to increase food security in the country. With the help of NGOs and the Maldivian government, the overall hunger rate in the Maldives can be reduced.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: UNDP

west african super grain
Fonio is a millet with small grains native to West Africa. It is a staple of many dishes in the Sahel region of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Mali. Also, it has been compared to quinoa and teff by several food scientists. The grain, which has a nutty flavor, can be roasted, pounded or boiled to make bread, couscous and porridge. Also, its swift maturity cycle of two months and its health benefits (gluten-free and fiber-rich) has skyrocketed the popularity of this West African super grain across the Atlantic to Western grocery shelves.

The rise of fonio will benefit the farmers in the Sahel struggling with food security and poverty. A semi-arid region, the 10 Sahel countries experience only 12–20 inches of rainfall per year, making it difficult to sustain agricultural prosperity. Additionally, the GDP in this area ranges between $900 to less than $3,000 per capita — with oil and minerals being the main sources of income. Importantly, due to these nations’ fragile, political environments, business relations tend to suffer. Financial experts are looking at crops like fonio already native to the region so citizens in these countries can help grow the economy. In this same vein, activities like farming will help. Here are some ways the West African super grain will bring prosperity to the region. 

Fonio: Loyal to the Homeland

For thousands of years, fonio has flourished in the arid soil of the Sahel region, just south of the Sahara Desert. Land that is not arable is beneficial for it, as the plant grows in poor soil with little to no need for fertilizers. Its long roots assist in providing topsoil and supplying the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. Farmers in the Sahel are familiar with its low-maintenance and use the crop’s ability to self-fertilize to grow other crops in conjunction. It is rotated with other crops to keep the desert land as fertile as possible. Since fonio favors dry, arid soil, the Sahel is one of the few regions in the world where mass production is possible. As the West African super grain continues to grow in popularity, its environmental selectiveness will be an advantage for Sahel farmers in monopolizing production and generating wealth in the region.

Fonio in the Culinary World

Pierre Thiam, an acclaimed Senegalese chef, restaurateur, author and culinary ambassador, founded Yolélé Foods to bring formerly unknown West African staples to the Western palate. In particularly, fonio. Earlier this year, Yolélé released a series of pre-seasoned fonio pilafs intended to be ready within minutes of opening. While the company focuses in the Brooklyn area, it imports fonio directly from the Sahel. To help farmers increase productivity, the company partnered with SOS Sahel, a nonprofit focused on improving conditions in the region. Additionally, Yolélé built the first industrial-scale mill in Dakar, the capital of Senegal (where Thiam is from). With the increased demand for the crop, hopes are high that farmers in the region will have a steady source of income for their labors.

Win-Win

If the popularity of the West African super grain is any indication, fonio could reach quinoa’s status in the culinary world. In Western homes, it is quickly becoming a key ingredient for those with celiac disease, as well as in gluten-free households. While citizens of these nations incorporate the grain into their salads, bread and cakes — farmers in the Sahel are working to ensure their way of life is not endangered by poverty and hunger.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr

improving food security in AfricaA severe food deficit plagues the African continent, as 20% of its inhabitants do not have enough food. To create a more sustainable, livable future for Africans, there needs to be a serious effort dedicated to improving food security in Africa. Agriculture’s significance for the African economy creates an excellent opportunity to help the economy while increasing the food supply with new technological advancements. Here is how ZeroFly Bags are improving food security in Africa.

Understanding Post-Harvest Loss

Recent efforts geared toward improving food security in Africa have revealed the key causes of food insecurity. In Kenya, perhaps most alarming is the country’s high rate of post-harvest food loss. While food waste refers to edible food that is thrown away, food loss refers to food that is not even edible for human consumption. In Kenya alone, 20% of grain cereals are lost after harvest. Specifically an estimated 12% of maize ends up as post-harvest loss. This is an astounding figure for a region that relies heavily on agriculture as a primary food source.

Furthermore, Kenya is a model for other countries in the region, which exposes the depth of food insecurity in Africa. While Kenya has begun to address this issue, post-harvest food loss still contributes to food insecurity throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Thirty-three million smallholder farms are responsible for producing up to 90% of the food supply in some Sub-Saharan African countries. Despite these millions of farmers, however, post-harvest losses lead to severe food shortages. While grain loss can equal up to 20% of supply, up to half of fruits and vegetables do not even make it to the marketplace.

Improving Food Security in Africa by Overcoming Food Loss

Post-harvest food losses result from a lack of food safety measures, inadequate sanitation and poor storage methods. The methods taken so far to combat these issues are expensive. These include regular pesticide treatments, which are time-consuming, dangerous and questionably successful. As such, sub-Saharan Africa still loses $4 billion a year as a result of post-harvest food losses. The ZeroFly Bag could drastically transform that number.

A recent technological invention, ZeroFly Storage Bags, works toward improving food security in Africa. Public health innovation company Vestergaard developed the product to ameliorate food storage methods. Embedded with FAO- and WHO-certified pesticide deltamethrin in its fibers, the ZeroFly Storage Bag protects the stored grain from insects. Because the bag slowly releases the pesticide over two years, it remains effective for at least that long. With pests unable to taint the quality of the food, these bags keep post-harvest food loss to a minimum.  

Impact on a Global Scale

While this innovation is improving food security in Africa, it also has the potential to reduce poverty worldwide. Only two-thirds of food produced for human consumption actually make it to the marketplace. As 12.5% of people worldwide are without food, limiting post-harvest food loss can improve food security around the globe.

The ZeroFly Storage Bag could be an essential part of bettering both food security and poverty. For example, the World Bank estimates that a 1% reduction in post-harvest food losses would save $40 million. This could directly benefit smallholder farms. While many people in Africa and elsewhere struggle to access food, the ZeroFly Storage Bag is a sustainable solution to improving food security in Africa and around the world.

– Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

u.n. eradicates povertyThe United Nations (U.N.) is an international organization designed for countries to work together on human rights issues, maintain peace and resolve conflicts. Currently, the U.N. consists of representatives from 193 countries. In the general assembly, nations have a platform for diplomatic relations. One of major missions of the U.N. is the eradication of global poverty. The U.N. eradicates poverty comprehensively and works to address current poverty levels and their resulting crises. Additionally, it works to prevent the causes of poverty from spreading on a global level.

What Is Poverty?

The U.N. defines poverty as “more than the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods.” The organization asserts that poverty affects people in many ways, including “hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.” Poorer countries that suffer from a lack of basic resources face all of these problems.

Around the world, more than 730 million people live below the poverty line. Many of these people live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. These poor countries also often suffer from internal violence that impacts their ability to address the needs and vulnerabilities of their citizens. As such, poverty and conflict have a reciprocal relationship, both contributing to the other.

The U.N. eradicates poverty through multiple commissions that address specific populations and the issues they face. For example, UNICEF, the U.N. children’s commission, works specifically to address children living in poverty globally. It does so by promoting education access and healthcare, as well mitigating the damaging effects of armed conflict. Through “fundraising, advocacy, and education,” this division of the U.N. eradicates poverty and helps children around the world.

Poverty and Human Rights

The U.N. outlines inalienable international human rights as the following: “the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.” One of the many detrimental effects of global poverty is high death rates. Poverty may cause death through water and food insecurity, as well as a lack of healthcare and medical access. This is why poverty is truly a human rights issue.

For someone to have a guarantee to life and liberty, they cannot be living in abject poverty. Education and the “right to work” are also rights affected by living in poverty. Education is sparse in many of the world’s poorest countries, which often suffer from high unemployment rates. This contributes to household income and citizens’ inability to provide for themselves and their families. Thus, poverty is a complex and multifaceted issue that affects all aspects of people’s lives, from their health and well-being to their futures.

The International Poverty Line

According to the U.N., as of 2015, there were “more than 736 million people liv[ing] below the international poverty line.” The international poverty line (IPL) quantifies people’s standard of living. This helps researchers, aid workers and governments assess people’s situation. It also allows these actors to assess their success in mitigating harm and promoting development. Foreign Policy explains that “The IPL is explicitly designed to reflect a staggeringly low standard of living, well below any reasonable conception of a life with dignity.”

The U.N. eradicates poverty by examining not only measures like the IPL but also the effects of extreme poverty. The number of people below the poverty line is important, but the U.N. focuses on what this means for people living in such poverty. For example, the U.N. notes that “[a]round 10 percent of the world population is living in extreme poverty and struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education.”

The Future of the U.N. and Poverty

The U.N. is likely to remain one of the leading forces in the eradication of poverty and the promotion of human rights. Its unique history, size and diverse commissions make it a powerful organization. In particular, the commissions that work with vulnerable populations will be essential to securing the safety and prosperity of those living in poverty. Importantly, the U.N. eradicates poverty with the support of its 193 member states, as it depends on their sponsorship and help in conflict resolution. Just as poverty has no borders, neither should the solutions we use to solve it.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

hunger in fijiFiji, a country bordering both Tonga and Futana, has faced increased obstacles with food security. It is estimated that amongst the population of 926,276 citizens, over 250,000 individuals are battling poverty and hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in Fiji.

Problem in Numbers

It is estimated that over 35% of Fiji’s population is below the national poverty line. With the income of households drastically declining, thousands of families do not have the proper resources to thrive.

Fiji children are also heavily impacted, further contributing to the increased rate of hunger in Fiji. It has been recently estimated that over 40% of Fiji’s children are malnourished. A majority of children in Fiji suffer from “protein-energy malnutrition”, meaning that they do not consume enough vital and nutritious foods for their bodies.

The Causes

The lack of food distribution in Fiji points towards a variety of factors. A primary cause is due to Fiji’s political instability and corruption. Additionally, with tourism making up a majority of Fiji’s GDP, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to decreased budgets and widespread unemployment.

Climate change has also affected hunger in Fiji. Cyclones have led to massive agricultural losses, resulting in widespread losses of income and the destruction of food that would be derived from the agricultural crops.

Another cause contributing to the hunger in Fiji is the increased dropout rates among children. With the majority of Fiji’s population battling poverty, children are often instructed to leave school in search of work. From grueling street work to harsh agricultural labor, children earn very little over the years.

In 2016 it was estimated that over 55% of children at primary school age were not attending school. This low schooling rate leaves many children uneducated, unskilled and closed off to stable job opportunities which in turn leaves them unable to afford basic necessities as adults.

The Road to Change

However, despite the increased rates of hunger among the Fiji population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is Moms Against Hunger, which has dedicated itself to providing food for the individuals battling poverty. Moms Against Hunger has recruited numerous volunteers and has delivered over 250,000 food packages to families in need. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of families received enough food to last several months.

Another impactful organization is HELP International, which looks to empower and educate individuals in need. HELP International focused its efforts in the nutrition sector, teaching individuals nutritional guidelines, financial literacy and the importance of schooling. Through these efforts, thousands of families can learn to manage a budget, eat well and pursue higher education.

Additionally, Aggie Global seeks to educate farmers on sustainable practices. Under a team of various volunteers, Aggie Global hosted workshops to teach farmers about crop control, production tricks and sustainable solutions. After conducting these workshops, hundreds of farmers were able to boost production, increasing the amount of food distributed to the public.

The Future

Despite organizations looking to aid those in need, Fiji continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. The efforts from nonprofit organizations provide short-term relief but Fiji is in great need of government assistance to see great and lasting change.

For Fiji to see an immense reduction in its hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to provide for families. In addition, the Fiji government must prioritize the youth and support and encourage the pursuit of higher education. With increased positive influence and support from Fiji’s government, poverty-stricken families all over Fiji would benefit, lowering the overall hunger rate.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in new caledonia
New Caledonia is a French territory off the east coast of Australia. Like many Pacific Island nations, its main food staples include fish, fruit and coconut. While food insecurity is not a prevalent issue in the territory as a whole, food deserts are certainly. Rising food prices drive the poorest citizens — most often, those of the Kanak community (New Caledonia’s indigenous Melanesian population) — to scrounge for their needed caloric intake. Cheap food products sacrifice nutrition for convenience and the prevalence of these food deserts in New Caledonia has prevented the entire population from enjoying the sustenance the island has to offer. These are the factors that are contributing to the problem of malnutrition in New Caledonia.

Growth in Both Prosperity and Food Prices?

Growth stunting and hunger levels are generally low in New Caledonia. However, as food prices rise, it becomes difficult for rural and tribal communities (which have been most affected by the country’s spike in poverty rates) to maintain healthy diets. These increases follow the nation’s growth in prosperity — derived from its lucrative nickel industry and payments from mainland France.

Malnutrition in New Caledonia arises from economic and geographical limitations. Despite how the territory seems to flourish, wealth is unequally distributed. This, in turn, leads to a significant portion of the population struggling with rising food prices. When markets lack competition, sellers can raise the price of goods without the risk of a competitor undercutting them. On top of wealth and wage disparities, the poorest populations in the country cannot afford nutritional food.

A Victim of Geography

Like most islands, New Caledonia operates under the constraints of its remoteness, which involves limited space and a smaller, local market. Food prices are about 33% higher in New Caledonia, with inflation having risen in the territory at a faster rate than it did in France. Those above the poverty line in New Caledonia spend only about a quarter of their income on food. Yet, for the 17% living below it — they might spend more than half of their income on food. In New Caledonia, 85% of adults eat fish at least once a week. Of the total amount fished, 92% is used for subsistence, which leaves the remaining 8% for the market.

While New Caledonia has several great agricultural staples, the reliance on agriculture has been decreasing due to a reduction in available land (as well as the increase of non-agricultural jobs). The distribution of available agricultural land parallels the disparity in wealth distribution and food security concerning the Kanak community and the rest of New Caledonia’s population. The predominantly European-settled Southern Province holds about 22% of New Caledonia’s limited farmland. Meanwhile, the native Kanak Northern Province holds only about 14%.

During 2004–2006, the prevalence of undernourishment in the population was at 9.6%. This rate decreased in the next decade, dropping to 8.2% during 2017–2019. For comparison, the rate of undernourishment in the U.S., one of the wealthiest nations in the world, is less than 2.5%.

Closing the Gaps

While hunger is not an issue for all of its citizens, malnutrition in New Caledonia tends to plague those who receive less of the territory’s wealth as compared with others. As food prices rise, many of those who do not receive proper nutrition fall into the lower-income bracket and thus, below the poverty line. Also, this unfortunately tends to include members of the Kanak community. This wealth disparity (and subsequent nutrition disparity) is exacerbated by lower rates of education and job training within the Kanak communities. This of course results in lower rates of employment among the Kanak. By first bridging the education and employment gap, closures on the wealth and nutritional gaps can then follow.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

HGSF Programs
At 310 million, nearly half the world’s schoolchildren in low- and middle-income countries eat a daily meal at school. The benefits of school feeding include increasing enrollment and course completion, as well as promoting a nutritious diet for children. Governments have since evolved this model into Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF), which integrates local smallholder farmers and community members. This added step secures local food systems, encourages economies and delivers fresh, diverse food to schoolchildren. In all, Home-Grown School Feeding is an intertwined, multifaceted approach to the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers

Smallholders produce roughly 80% of the food consumed in low- and middle-income countries. Yet, farmers in these areas still lack the educational opportunities and resources to bring them out of complete poverty. Two major obstacles they face include price volatility and unpredictable markets, both of which Home-Grown School Feeding programs help to alleviate.

HGSF programs provide a stable market demand. This aids farmers with the unpredictability of growing seasons, amounts of food needed and the type of product that is likely to sell. Through careful organization and planning, smallholder farmers can fully understand the needs of each school and thoroughly prepare beforehand. This means less wastage, reduced risk of investments and more opportunity for farmers to expand their capacities. When farmers receive a stable income following their initial investment into Home-Grown School Feeding programs, they can produce quality and more diversified products. In turn, this gives them access to additional markets.

Structured markets resulting from HGSF programs also encourage cooperative associations between smallholder farmers. This has the potential to reduce farmers’ reliance on local traders who may hold bargaining power over them. By creating an organization together, smallholder farmers are able to share knowledge, monitor food for quality and value and get access to credit. Social protection and promotion through established organizations is thus a major benefit of Home-Grown School Feeding.

Local Community Benefits

A strong HGSF program encompasses a whole community and food production process, from growing to preparing and eating food. Replacing school meals with the HGSF model can support a whole group of people along with the students.

Job creation is one particular benefit for local communities, from delivery drivers to cooks. However, there are also chances for rural businesses to provide nutritious products to schools. In addition, more people than farmers profit from the added access to markets, which increases income and prevents economic stress.

With careful planning and implementation, governments can also use HGSF programs to promote gender equality and decrease discrimination against vulnerable groups. This model can support different groups’ participation in farming and cooking and generally promote skill training and self-confidence. At first, compensation for their work might be food or services, but their work will evolve into paid positions.

Kenya’s Successful Use of HGSF Programs

Kenya’s Home-Grown School Feeding model reaches 1.5 million children every school day. The model benefits students, whose hot lunches provide the nutrients needed to focus in school. However, it also benefits the agricultural sector, who benefit from the predictable market demand.

To maintain a transparent, flexible model, Kenya uses a decentralized HGSF approach and incorporates multiple members of the local community. Once the government sends funds to schools, school meal committees carry out a public tender process and procure food from local farmers and traders. The committee, made up of parents, teachers and community members, assure the ministry of health checks the food for quality. Once it is cleared, the committee employs community cooks to prepare the food.

Kenya’s HGSF model has experienced some problems, particularly in arid and semi-arid rural regions. Among other obstacles, lack of infrastructure and water scarcity in rural communities mean that smallholder farmers don’t necessarily have the capacity to meet the demands of schools. This leads school committees to procure food from traders, who may not be local. In this way, rural smallholder farmers aren’t always receiving sufficient benefits from HGSF intended to alleviate poverty and meet the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Nonetheless, necessary adaptions and policy implementation to the HGSF model can be made by the government to include more smallholder farmers. Rural agriculture incentives and rural development policies would provide support for farmers, but these often cost a lot of time and money. Less costly strategies include linking smallholder farmers to schools and informing them of program requirements or preparing in-depth documents for schools, which outline procedures and implementations.

The Potential of HGSF

Home-Grown School Feeding programs have the potential to combine benefits in health, education, agriculture, economic development and social well-being. The model acts as a catch-all solution for preventing poverty. By taking the investment in school meals further by investing in HGSF programs, local economies thrive and food systems become sustainable. Ultimately, HGSF’s intertwined nature becomes a viable strategy to achieve the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Anastasia Clausen
Photo: Flickr