Information and stories about food security news.

10 Disturbing Facts about Hunger
Hunger is not simply a lack of food. It is also the sustained physiological and psychological changes in a human body from the persistent unavailability of nutritious meals at least three times a day. Achieving zero hunger across the world by 2030 is the second of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Here are 10 disturbing facts about hunger.

10 Disturbing Facts about Hunger

  1. One in nine people around the world goes to sleep hungry every night. At present, 25,000 people die of hunger each day which translates to around 9 million deaths annually. This is equivalent to the number of people living in the state of Virginia. Most of these deaths are preventable.
  2. The number of people suffering from acute hunger rose from 80 million in 2016 to 120 million in 2018. The highest rates of hunger are in Africa and South Asia. Among the 119 countries that the Global Hunger Index scores, the Central African Republic ranks last with a GHI score of 53.7, which is alarming. The global average GHI is 20.9.
  3. Hunger is gender-biased in many food-insecure households. Most of this has to do with the fact that many societies around the world encourage paternalism. In such households, sons and other male members are better fed than daughters and other female members. This bias in food insecurity between both sexes most prominently exists in Africa, followed by Latin America and Asia.
  4. When listing 10 disturbing facts about hunger, it is important to discuss food waste. Humans waste roughly one-third of the total food the world produces. North America and Oceania together waste the highest amount of food. Estimates show that food wasted in rich countries is equal to the total food that sub-Saharan Africa produces. The amount of food wasted in a year can feed 2 billion people for a year. Hence, the problem of hunger is not due to inadequate food production but rather the inefficient distribution of food to the world’s population.
  5. Poverty is the biggest cause of hunger. Other causes of hunger include war and conflict, political instability, poor infrastructure and food policies, population increases, rising urbanization, unstable economic conditions and climate change.
  6. Changing weather patterns are destroying agricultural land through acidification, desertification, flooding and rising sea-levels. Climate change reduces the crop yield due to erratic rain and drought seasons, which cause an increase in crop diseases and extreme heat. Global warming and rising levels of carbon dioxide also reduce the nutritional quality of food, meaning that people have to eat more to gain optimum levels of nutrition.
  7. Hunger forces people (especially in countries like Haiti and Cameroon) to eat mud. Mud cakes are a delicacy for the poorest earthquake survivors of Haiti. People mix mud, salt and margarine together and dry it in the sun. It is the cheapest way to assuage hunger in children and pregnant women who also believe it to be a source of calcium to help their growing fetus. Experts have determined that this is not true and that mud cakes have no nutritional value.
  8. Poor health and hunger form a vicious cycle. People suffering from chronic hunger also suffer from debilitating health conditions, including severe malnutrition and anemia, lowered immunity causing recurring infections and chronic health conditions such as heart diseases and diabetes. People who cannot afford food are also unlikely to access any health services. Their circumstances render them unable to go out and work leading to continuous poverty, bad health and hunger situations.
  9. Hunger damages the health of children irreversibly. Children born to undernourished mothers have lower rates of survival beyond 5 years of age. Data from UNICEF attributes half of all under-5 deaths to malnutrition which means that around 3 million children die of malnutrition every year. Such kids lose the opportunity to go to school. Children suffering from malnourishment lose up to 160 days of school. Some 66 million children in primary schools go to school hungry.
  10. Unfortunately, 80 percent of the families that face hunger are farmers. This is because although these people produce food for the world, most of the time they do not own the land they work on. Those who do own land are often not able to earn profits from their yield due to high input costs such as fertilizers, seeds and machines. These farmers also often do not have the means to store and transport their products.

These 10 disturbing facts about hunger may paint a grim picture of the world but all is not lost. Countries can fight hunger by adopting climate-smart agricultural practices, empowering women, donating food through food banks and creating an efficient food distribution network. With consistent political will, the zero hunger goal of the United Nations is achievable.

Navjot Buttar
Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan‘s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Kore Lavi Ends, Yet Haitians Look to Future with Optimism

In Aug. 2019, a USAID food insecurity program in Haiti, known as Kore Lavi, ended after five years of providing nutritious meals to malnourished Haitians. This comes at a time when an estimated 2.6 million Haitians — about a quarter of the population — still face food insecurity. Yet, Haitians are optimistic about the future. The Haitian government looks to build on Kore Lavi’s successful model through MAST, the SIMAST vulnerability mapping system and CARE’s micro-loan system.

Background

Today, Haiti is the most poverty-stricken nation in the Western Hemisphere; almost 60 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line. Corruption, natural disasters and high inflation are seen are the most prevalent impediments to Haiti’s economic growth. After the devastating earthquake in Jan. 2010 that decimated much of Port-au-Prince, the country was in dire need of a food insecurity program.

Kore Lavi, meaning “supporting life” in Creole, began in Sept. 2013 and has benefited 18,000 households from 21 food-insecure communes in the Northeast, Southeast, Central Plateau and Artibonite regions of Haiti, as well as the Isle of La Gonave. The program was originally scheduled to end in 2017, but after Hurricane Matthew destroyed many of the nation’s homes and crops, USAID extended Kore Lavi for two more years. The consortium was administered by MAST, Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works and Social Affairs, along with the help of four NGOs: Action Against Hunger, World Vision, the World Food Programme and CARE International.

Kore Lavi’s Success

The initiative’s strategy for combating food insecurity involved promoting the consumption of fresh, locally-produced food such as meat, fish and vegetables, which could be purchased at vendors approved by the program. Laurore Antoine, the coordinator of the program, believes this was an innovative method at the time. “We wanted to divorce ourselves from the traditional approach. We wanted to kill two birds with one stone, so we boosted local production, as well,” Antoine told VOA.

Kore Lavi provided participants with monthly vouchers and the opportunity to participate in a formal market. This, according to CARE, provided Haitians with an increased sense of dignity by making their own food choices and gave local farmers the opportunity to participate in a stronger economy. In its first year alone, Kore Lavi provided 109,790 people access to locally produced foods. In its first four years, the program provided malnutrition treatment to 83,000 children under the age of 5.

Building on Progress

From the outset, Kore Lavi’s plan was to cultivate local ownership through collaboration with local officials at every level of program implementation. The vision was always for Kore Lavi to phase out and have the Haitian government take the reins, according to CARE. The program was designed to implement a sustainable social safety net and, in the future, to be “country-led and county-run.”

One objective of Kore Lavi was to implement an equitable and effective means of reaching the most at-risk households. To that end, MAST developed the SIMAST vulnerability mapping system, which allows the government to more effectively identify and target households most vulnerable to food insecurity. Alexis Barnes, acting senior development, outreach and communications officer for USAID in Port-au-Prince, explained to VOA that this mapping system is now “supported by other donors such as the European Union, and international NGOs working on activities serving the most vulnerable.”

CARE also implemented a micro-loan system to support the food program. Antoine believes this system will “motivate former participants to unite and borrow money to launch small businesses that can pick up where Kore Lavi left off.” Youri Latortue, a Haitian lawmaker and poultry farmer, believes it is time for the Haitian government “to step in to do its part.” By boosting national food production, Latortue is hopeful that Haiti can end the food insecurity crisis. “That’s the only way out of this crisis,” he said in an interview. Although, Antoine acknowledges that MAST must secure financial resources to continue funding the program.

Looking Towards the Future

Barnes is optimistic Haiti will continue the progress: “The program succeeded in demonstrating that the government of Haiti can manage a predictable social transfer activity to the most vulnerable in this country in a well-targeted and transparent manner.” Though Kori Lavi has officially ended, its food voucher-based safety net system remains in place. This system has changed the lives of many beneficiaries over the past five years, many of them among the most vulnerable. Kore Lavi has lifted many of those facing extreme hunger and malnutrition out of desperation and provided hope for the future.

Adam Bentz
Photo: USAID

No or Low-Power Refrigeration
A major issue in developing countries is preserving the effectiveness of vaccines to get them to people in rural areas. This is because of hot climates and the lack of refrigeration. Globally, 19.4 million infants are not adequately immunized and approximately 1.5 million children die annually from vaccine-preventable diseases. Lack of intermittent electricity not only makes transportation and storage of vaccines impossible but also makes constant refrigeration of perishable foods unattainable. This impacts not only consumers but also farmers who are unable to sell most of their products because they go bad during transit and storage. India grows 25 percent of global production but is only able to export 1.5 percent of its produce. Thirty-one percent of children under the age of 5 in developing countries are underweight due to malnourishment because they have no way of preserving the little food they have. However, there are a number of no or low-power refrigeration inventions that have been successful at providing refrigeration to rural areas, thereby improving overall health. Here are some no or low-power refrigeration inventions.

SureChill

People in hot, rural areas with little to no electricity, such as Africa, have limited access to vaccines. This is because vaccines require storage at a cool and constant temperature between 35.6 and 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 8 degrees Celsius) in order to remain effective. Due to the temperature requirements, vaccines have traditionally only been available to a main village on a particular day during a month. However, people remote to that village cannot always get the vaccine on that particular day. Compared to urban areas, vaccination in rural areas is around 11 percent lower. This enables pandemics to spread quickly through an area, resulting in more victims and casualties.

SureChill is a refrigerator solely to preserve vaccines up to 14 days without power to help more people receive vaccinations. When it has power, the water in SureChill cools and creates ice right above the vaccine compartment. When it does not have power, the water evaporates as the ice melts, which keeps the vaccines at 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).

Mitticool

Without refrigeration, the shelf life of food is around two days. Many rural areas do not have electricity, thus need an inexpensive method to preserve food for longer periods of time. The Mitticool fridge is made from terracotta clay which is better at retaining cold temperatures. It can store vegetables, fruit and dairy, and can cool water without any electricity or artificial energy. Like SureChill, it uses evaporation techniques. Condensation on the upper chambers (where it stores water) evaporates, cooling the inside. There is also a small faucet tap at the front lower end of the chamber for drinking.

Solar-Powered Refrigeration

Fridges can run on solar power rather than electricity. People usually use these fridges to transport vaccines but they can also store food. For example, Emily Cummins invented a device that can be made from ordinary materials like scrap metal, cardboard, sand, wool and soil. This device works by converting sunlight into energy that chills its storage compartment. Rather than using a motor to compress a refrigerant solution (like the ones in stores), solar fridges are absorptive, which means that they use thermal energy from sunlight to convert the refrigerant solution into liquid. This then produces energy that cools the items inside of the fridge. People are using solar fridges in Africa.

Thermal Chilling System

India’s Promethean Power Systems provides a modern thermal chilling system to chill dairy products. Indian dairy farmers were losing up to $13 billion annually due to a lack of refrigeration for perishables. To solve this problem, Promethean Power Systems developed a solar-powered milk chiller. Like other forms of solar-powered chilling techniques, it uses solar energy to power a 500-liter battery and cooling agent, which can chill up to 1,000 liters of milk. This has eradicated the Indian dairy farmer’s need for diesel, making it better for the environment while also more efficiently chilling milk and keeping it free of contaminants.

Initiatives

Some initiatives concerning no or low-power refrigeration are the Global LEAP Off-Grid Procurement Incentives Program and the Global LEAP Off-Grid Cold Chain Challenge. The former has received three orders to deploy 1,025 energy-efficient, off-grid appropriate refrigerators. Said orders are some of the world’s first large-scale, off-grid refrigerator procurement. The latter is part of the U.K. aid-funded Ideas to Impact Initiative. It starts investment and innovation in cold storage tech, mostly in regards to the transfer of dairy/produce from farms to markets.

No or low-power refrigeration inventions show that green power needs to be an integral part of the world’s future. These technologies bring inexpensive refrigeration to developing countries, providing access to life-saving vaccines, reducing the danger and spread of food-borne diseases, decreasing the manual labor and time of collecting or purchasing food and enabling farmers to store crops and dairy to preserve freshness and store goods longer in hopes of getting a better price a little later. These refrigeration options have already increased overall health and well-being, as well as improving the local economies.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Venezuela's Failing Economy
People know Venezuela as one of the most diverse environments in the world because of its natural features, landscape and wide range of wildlife. Venezuela has massive oil reserves and ranks in the top list among countries such as Saudia Arabia, Canada and Iran, making it the most urban country in Latin America. However, in only approximately six years, the country has seen a drastic economic decline. Venezuela’s failing economy has placed the country in headlines across the world. This article will highlight a few casualties resulting from Venezuela’s financial crisis, as well as evaluating its causes.

The Impacts of Venezuela’s Economic Crisis

The extended effects of Venezuela’s economic crisis are hitting those who choose to remain in the country the hardest. Venezuela’s failing economy has led to a severe shortage and rationing of resources, including food, water and electricity. Despite the country being oil-rich, many Venezuelan’s are questioning why they are struggling. “It’s so unfair; we are such a rich country. It’s not fair that this is happening,” Jakeline Moncada told the Washington Post.

Many turn to natural water reserves despite safety concerns as these reserves often come from sewage drains leading to the spread of preventable diseases. Meanwhile, frequent power outages have caused water sanitation facilities to cease proper function. Physicians have noticed an increase in illness that commonly results from contaminated water and food, such as amoebiasis.

Estimates determine that more than 60,000 Venezuelans who started treatment for HIV now lack access to antiretroviral medications as a result of Venezuela’s failing economy. Many Venezuelan’s that could afford medical services before, now experience challenges attempting to access medical and health services. As a result, those dependent on medications must make costly trips to neighboring countries or hope to find donated medicines from organizations outside of the government.

As Venezuela’s economy has drastically decreased, a survey that the country’s top universities conducted estimated that more than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line. As the country experiences hyperinflation of 1.7 million percent, many families cannot afford to feed themselves more than one meal a day. Various organizations have ceased publishing the statistics of the country after specific data showed significant negative changes. For example, The Health Ministry stopped reporting data in 2017 after reports indicated a high rise in infant mortality rates. After the inflation rates suddenly rose, Venezuela’s central Bank discontinued publishing its figures in 2016. In this instance, Venezuelan organizations stopped sharing information once the statistics showed unfavorable characteristics.

Accessibility

Venezuela’s failing economy has led to difficulty accessing resources like medicare, and as a result, nearly 10 percent of the Venezuelan population is emigrating to other countries. Although Venezuelans are having a few problems getting out of the country, there has been a more significant challenge getting resources in. The military has restricted many resources from passing through its borders or at least the areas where they have the right to. The Pemón community, which borders along Brazil, has spoken in support of permitting assistance through its territory. This region, known as La Gran Sabana, also contains the only paved crossing between the two countries.

When Nicolás Maduro became president in 2015, many nations did not consider him the country’s leader but rather Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader. As a result, Maduro severed the remaining diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the U.S. as well as ceasing the accessibility of aid into Venezuela. Maduro has resisted outside assistance, describing the efforts as the United States desiring to meddle in Latin American affairs. However, many believe that the sudden decline results from mismanagement of funds and corruption.

Venezuela has several countries willing to provide support as it endures this period of financial difficulty. It will only receive this aid if its government allows, though, as it regulates the resources that pass through its border. Once nations can establish a common interest and agree on how to address the issue, Venezuela’s reconciliation can begin.

Kimberly Debnam
Photo: Flickr

 

GreenFingers Mobile Aids in Food Insecurity
Agriculture is at the center of many African families. With over 70 percent of African families depending on agriculture as their main source of income, 90 percent of them live on less than $1 to $2 a day. GreenFingers Mobile aids the food insecure to attempt to change that. This app provides small and emerging South African farmers access to the growing market to help reduce poverty and make Africa food secure.

How GreenFingers Mobile Works

Initially piloted in 2013, GreenFingers Mobile did not fully establish until 2015. Prior to 2018, the mobile app served three countries and assisted more than 5,000 smallholder farmers. Today, it serves more than 8,700 farmers across three countries. The goal of the app is to provide small farmers with access to the agriculture market. GreenFingers Mobile aids the food insecure by replacing the inefficient pen and paper system and supplying farmers with real-time data. Instead, it provides farmers with a variety of services that range from improving the yield of their harvest to a virtual profile to build their credibility within the market.

In addition to informing farmers of the wellbeing of their fields, GreenFingers Mobile also aids the food insecure by registering over 12,500 farmers in training courses. These training courses provide farmers with knowledge of the agricultural market and ways to improve the yield of their cash crops. According to the World Bank, in 2016, nearly one out of nine people living in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and East Asia suffered from chronic hunger. That same year, 27.4 percent of Africa’s population suffered food insecurity. With food insecurity on the rise, the app presents many small African farmers with the ability to fight back. Through GreenFingers’ efforts to ensure food security in growing communities, it simultaneously reduces poverty. With the threat of hunger erased, communities and countries will become self-sustaining.

GreenFingers Mobile’s Funding and Investors

In 2018, GreenFingers Mobile was a finalist in Google’s Impact Challenge and received $125,000 in funding. That same year, Kiva, an international nonprofit organization with the mission to expand financial services to developing countries, approved a $15,000 loan for the company. Many expect the app to grow the sub-Saharan agricultural market to five times its current size in 2030, going from $200 billion to $1 trillion. Within the next two years, GreenFingers Mobile hopes to have more than 30,000 farmers utilizing the app. In May 2019, GreenFingers Mobile launched the GFM Tree Tracking module, which will provide the farmers with over a million trees.

Among many of the app’s investors is the Hivos Food & Lifestyle Fund, which Hivos provides. Hivos is an organization that focuses on “social change, digital activism and rural innovations in the sectors of sustainable food systems, renewable energy and governance,” as the GreenFingers Mobile website says. Natalie Miller, GreenFingers Mobile CEO, says the fund provided several cycles of seeds and helped lower the entry barrier, which assisted the app in cutting prices by two-thirds.

With nearly 60,000 commercial transactions completed, GreenFingers Mobile continues to grow. It is paving the way for technological innovation in Africa. Though it will take time for Africa to see an effect on its food security, GreenFingers Mobile is on its way to improving the lives of those in poverty.

– Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

Samoan fishing industry

Samoa is a small island that relies heavily on two main exports, coconut products and fish. Although the Samoan economy grew significantly from diverse agriculture products such as taro, its current focus shifted to fishing industry development. Since the majority of poor Samoans work within the fishing and agriculture industries, improving the fishing industry can help the livelihoods of poor Samoans. The Samoan government and the World Bank are seeing progress in the growing Samoan fishing industry. The poverty rate decreased from 26.9 percent in 2008 to 18.8 percent in 2013, in part due to investment in underappreciated industries, such as the fishing industry.

Current Aquaculture Status

The Strategy for Development of Samoa (SDS) views aquaculture as an important pre-requisite to effective fish farming. Since 2007, Tilapia culture in earthen ponds has been successful but there are several constraints to further development in the Samoan fishing industry. A lack of feeds, technology, skills and limited access to markets impedes faster development. Despite the low technology, aquaculture is viewed as a practical means of increasing fisheries production, providing an additional source of food to those in poverty and generating income to local communities.

Four Initiatives

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, created four main goals in 2017 to boost the fisheries sector. The four initiatives are Samoa’s Tuna Management and Development Plan 2017-2021, the revival of the Fish Aggregating Devices (F.A.Ds) Project, repair work on research vessel F.V. Ulimasao and delivery of 20 tablets to monitor deployed F.A.Ds. The 20 tablets are used to observe and assess the impact of the F.A.Ds on food security and the livelihoods of Samoans.

The F.V. Ulimasou research vessel was repaired through financial assistance from the World Bank. The vessel is used to train fishery personnel and test new technology and fishing gear. About 30 percent of exports derive from the fishing sector and over 90 percent of exported fish is tuna. For this reason, the minister targets the growing industry in order to further develop the economy and the Samoan fishing industry.

Assistance from the World Bank

Thousands of Samoan families and local producers plan to benefit from a $20 million grant from the World Bank. The Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project was created in 2019 and will include construction and rehabilitation of infrastructure, such as cold storage at fish markets. Samoa is frequently affected by hurricanes and part of the grant is directed towards constructing disaster-resilient fishery buildings.

The grant will also help grow Samoa’s capacity to export fish and fish products. Hon. Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, Samoa’s Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries said, “We look forward to working with the World Bank to achieve our goal of increased food, improved nutrition and more secure incomes for Samoans.” At least 30 percent of matching grants will go towards female farmers and fishers.

Future Outlooks

The poverty rate has continually declined thanks to efforts by the Samoan government, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank and various organizations. The Asian Development Bank supported Samoa since 1966 and committed $190 million in loans, $134 million in grants and $33 million in technical assistance in the small island country. ADB’s future assistance to Samoa will focus on energy investment, disaster-resilient roads, upgraded port facilities and job creation. With continued efforts from external organizations, the livelihood of Samoans will improve.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Food security for refugeesAround the world, a record number of people have become forcibly displaced due to violence, natural disasters or a variety of other reasons. According to the U.N. Human Rights Council, 70.8 million people are forcibly displaced, and 25.9 million of those are considered refugees. At the same time, millions of people lacked food security around the world. The Peace Corps defines food security as “when families are able to afford and obtain enough nutritious food.” In 2018, more than 700 million people faced severe food insecurity.

Food security and refugee issues are deeply intertwined, as refugees are particularly vulnerable to becoming food-insecure. Worldwide, millions of refugees face food insecurity. Thankfully, many organizations are using their resources to create innovative solutions to provide healthy food to refugees who are not able to afford or access it. Here are three organizations that are improving food security for refugees:

African Women Rising

The Palabek refugee camp in northern Uganda hosts more than 38,000 refugees who have fled the brutal civil war in South Sudan. Humanitarian organizations have been struggling to find a long-term solution to food insecurity in the camp. While the Ugandan government allocates plots of land for refugees to farm on, these plots of land are usually too small for traditional farming techniques to work. However, the NGO African Women Rising (AWR) thinks it has found an innovative solution to malnutrition among refugees. In 2017, AWR introduced the camp to 30 by 30-meter plots of land known as “permagardens”.

AWR’s permagardens are specially cultivated in a way that allows them to maximize the number of crops, trees and plants that can be grown in them. It can take anywhere from a few months to a year to teach someone permagarden farming techniques. The total cost of developing, training and supporting a permagarden is just $85. The gardens primarily grow various fruits and vegetables, which provide vital micronutrients and vitamins that are not present in their monthly World Food Programme portions. Many other organizations are already starting to replicate the microgarden approach in refugee settings, including the U.N., the Danish Refugee Council and USAID.

Sunrise-USA

Sunrise-USA was founded in 2011 by a group of Syrian-American professionals and claims to be one of the world’s leading humanitarian aid organizations focused on victims of war inside Syria and in refugee camps in neighboring countries. In addition, to providing food security for refugees, Sunrise-USA provides refugees with healthcare, orphan sponsoring services, education, water and sanitation. The organization also helps Syrian refugees, who are mostly Muslim, observe Islamic religious traditions such as Ramadan, Udhiya and Zakat.

Within Syria, Sunrise-USA works to deliver badly needed food baskets to besieged cities. These baskets typically contain chicken, eggs, dates, oils, margarine, tuna cans, sugar and powdered milk, and only cost $45 to produce. While the city of Aleppo was under siege, the organization delivered over 5,000 food baskets, as well as two containers of jackets, sweaters and mattresses. Sunrise-USA’s “Feed Them” campaign has delivered food aid to 30,000 families in need and has provided milk and baby formula to 20,000 vulnerable families with children.

Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger)

Action Contre La Faim (ACF) is a French organization that works in more than 45 countries to treat and prevent malnutrition. For more than 40 years, it has provided various forms of food aid where it is needed most. Its 7,500-member staff currently assists 21 million people worldwide. The organization has responded to various humanitarian crises that have generated large numbers of refugees, including the civil wars that have taken place in South Sudan and Syria, as well as the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

In Bangladesh, ACF works to increase food security for refugees who have escaped into the country from Myanmar. Every day, the organization provides 83,000 hot meals and 551,497 liters of water to Rohingya refugees. The organization has also conducted malnutrition screenings for 100,000 Rohingya children and has diagnosed over 11,000 malnourished children. These malnourished children were then referred to ACF’s emergency nutrition programs for treatment through mobile clinics.

As the global refugee crisis continues to intensify, more and more organizations will need to come together to provide both short-term and long-term solutions to food security for refugees. These organizations have shown they are more than willing to rise to this task and have each made a measurable impact on the wellbeing of refugees around the world.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

Effects of Desertification
Desertification poses many threats. In the fields of sustainable development and climate change, it is a serious problem mentioned in one of the 17 global goals for sustainable development. It is also a pertinent issue in the fields of herders in pastoral Africa and China with too many animals who overgraze the vegetation. Among the many preconceived notions and potential threats that it poses, there are several effects of desertification.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), desertification is defined as “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.” Defining and fixing desertification is a balancing act between human activity versus climatic activity. Environmental and social processes continue to stress the existing arable land still available. The resulting effect of desertification poses a threat to the condition of the land, the productivity of the agriculture and the health of the people, which all point to the larger issue of poverty in those areas.

Desertification’s Effect on Agriculture

Climatic change and human impact are the largest factors in desertification. Within the subcategory of climate change, one of the biggest causes includes climatic variation. Although desertification may intensify with a general climatic trend towards aridity, desertification itself can initiate change in local areas. As such, desertification has serious agricultural effects. When productive land becomes arid and useless, the absence of crop production on a local level has potential global effects. For example, in Jeffara, Tunisia, “desertification threatens around 52% of the land area suitable for agriculture, forestry and pasture farming.” Desertification in Jeffara has resulted in unusable forms of land with degrading soil, as well as salinization and water and wind erosion. These have all led to a loss of land productivity.

It would be natural to wonder what Tunisia has done to combat these contemporary issues. However, these issues are anything but contemporary. Tunisia has been on the search for solutions to desertification since ancient times since it contributes greatly to the country’s impoverished state. The first step to fighting these persistent issues is monitoring. With the use of monitoring initiatives, from field studies to high-resolution satellite images, The Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) developed an environmental monitoring program to set up dashboards and agendas for countries combating desertification through the lens of national policy and sustainable management of resources. With monitoring initiatives like these, people can track the effects of desertification and governments can respond with suitable measures that can not only aid in reducing negative agricultural effects but also subsequently alleviate the poverty in the area.

Desertification’s Effect on the Environment

Beyond the agricultural aspect, desertification has a significant impact on the environment. There is a strong interrelation between desertification and climate change. Desertification not only compromises food production and future food security, but it also releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. The decomposition of organic matter and biomass in desertified areas in the last 7,800 years has resulted in carbon dioxide emissions that compare to the total emissions from fossil fuel combustion so far.

The Mediterranean Basin has felt these environmental effects of desertification since Platonic times. Plato described forests transforming into rocky lands, resembling “the bones of a sick body.” Unfortunately, this imagery still exists today. Because desertification results in carbon dioxide emissions without replenishing biomass and drastically changes the water content in degraded soil, one of the primary solutions is to restore moisture in drylands with silvopasture and agroforestry. These processes aim to rehabilitate desertified areas by rebuilding carbon sinks, while also providing employment to local farmers. These methods are a win-win solution since they address both the reversal of environmental degradation and the economic concerns of farmers.

Initiatives such as Project Wadi Attir in Northern Negev, Israel are adopting such approaches. The project aims to sequester 10-20 million tons of carbon dioxide into recovering biomass while providing work to thousands. These solutions are promising because they address the environmental effects of desertification while also providing jobs, both which aim to help the state of poverty in the area.

Desertification’s Effect on Health

The effects of desertification on agriculture and the environment points to a larger issue; the health of the people. According to the World Health Organization, land degradation has a significant effect on the health of the land as well as the people that live in it. Desertification forces food production to halt, water sources to dry up and inhabitants to move. Additionally, there are higher chances of malnutrition from this lack of access to food and water, respiratory diseases from the dust produced by wind erosion and the spread of disease due to migratory populations. The case of respiratory disease is not as regional as it may seem. For example, dust storms affect not only neighboring countries, but the entire globe. A recent study by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population showed that there is a strong correlation between dust storms in China and mortality in Korea, specifically with the onset of cardiovascular disease in males under 65 years old.

One of the best measures for preventing these adverse effects, as suggested by the aforementioned study, is early warning systems. According to the UNCCD, it is the synergy of “meteorological networks, air quality monitoring stations, and use of satellite data” that can best prevent these health risks. Another approach that shares similar goals with alleviating environmental effects is source mitigation. Sustainable land management and restoration techniques can both help the degraded land itself and prevent the source from spreading these adverse health effects.

Desertification is a complex topic. The question of what the effects of desertification are is a difficult one to answer because it involves complicated interactions between natural and human activity. Desertification manifests in negative agricultural, environmental and health effects, which are all indicators of poverty. The hope is that the solutions to these individual effects can address the larger issue of poverty in those arid regions.

– Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Central AmericaThe ability to consistently access nourishment is vital for all people. In regions affected by poverty, like Central America, many families lack this ability. These 10 facts will provide a glimpse at food insecurity in Central America, how it affects the lives of the people who live there and what has been done to address it.

10 Facts About Food Insecurity in Central America

  1. More than 10 percent of Guatemalan children are underweight. About 46.5 percent of Guatemalan children suffer from stunted growth caused by malnutrition. Indigenous children are more likely to suffer from stunted growth; 58 percent of Guatemalan indigenous children under 5 suffer from this condition. Indigenous children are also more likely to suffer from anemia and vitamin deficiencies.
  2. Food insecurity fuels migration to the U.S. Severe droughts, crops destroyed by fungus and persistent poverty all play a role in preventing families from thriving in their home country. USAID and U.N. reports find that poverty and food insecurity in Central America motivates migration more than other factors.
  3. From 2015 to 2018, food insecurity in Central America increased annually. Indigenous populations and women were the groups most impacted by chronic hunger. Poor and rural communities were also likely to suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
  4. USAID’s response to food insecurity is focused on agriculture. USAID funds studies that create solutions to agricultural problems. USAID works with many groups, including governments, universities and American farmers, to bring agricultural solutions to regions affected by food insecurity. USAID also implements initiatives like Feed the Future that directly address food insecurity. Guatemala and Honduras are two of the 12 countries that receive specially targeted assistance through Feed the Future.
  5. Between 2013 and 2017, USAID’s initiative Feed the Future provided assistance to 215,000 Guatemalan children. During this period, Guatemalan agricultural production created $47.8 million worth of profits for the Guatemalan economy. Feed the Future worked to improve agriculture in Guatemala by providing resilient seedlings, higher-quality pesticides and training to prevent the spread of disease among crops. Guatemalan agriculture also became more diverse thanks to the introduction of new crops. In cooperation with USDA, Feed the Future helped Guatemalan farmers learn new methods of planting crops and tracking their growth electronically.
  6. In 2014, USAID implemented new programs in Honduras to fulfill the goals of the U.S. Global Food Security Strategy. In cooperation with the Honduran government, USAID works to decrease rates of stunted growth by 20 percent by 2020. USAID is also working to move 10,000 families out of extreme poverty by 2020. To combat food insecurity in Honduras, USAID is promoting crop diversity, improving infrastructure connecting rural areas to urban areas and improving child nutrition.
  7. The Dry Corridor is experiencing drought. The region referred to as the Central American “Dry Corridor” consists of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. During the summer of 2018, the Dry Corridor was hit by low levels of rainfall and above-average temperatures. The unusually severe drought of 2018 came after a previous two years of drought that lasted from 2014 to 2016, which required food relief for millions of people.
  8. Food insecurity in Central America has been worsened by severe droughts. For the past year, there has been a severe drought in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. 290,322 families in the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador were affected by the 2018 drought. $37 million worth of corn was destroyed in El Salvador alone due to lack of rain.
  9. The Central American drought was caused by the effects of the 2015-16 El Niño Event and by the results of global climate change. After the drought, about 3.6 million people required food-related aid. 50-90 percent of the region’s agricultural production was destroyed.
  10. After the 2014-15 droughts and the following spike in food insecurity, the Central American Dry Corridor received an influx of humanitarian aid. Efforts were made to conserve soil, more closely track data about nutrition and hunger and better prepare for future droughts. In the midst of the 2018 drought, data collection was prioritized in order to maintain stable food prices, combat food insecurity within particularly vulnerable populations and relocate rural families away from the regions most severely affected by the drought.

Central America, a region already affected by poverty, reached the brink of crisis after nearly 5 years of severe droughts. By 2018, food insecurity in Central America had spread throughout the countries of the Dry Corridor. But regional governments, with the assistance of relief agencies, implemented agriculture-based solutions to ensure that future droughts would not have the same disastrous consequences. These innovative solutions pave the way for a more secure future in Central America.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr