Information and stories about food security news.

Arab Spatial Tracks Food SecurityA new web-based tool called Arab Spatial has recently launched and will provide aid workers and researchers access to valuable data relating to food security and malnutrition information throughout the Middle East. Previously, aid workers and activists noticed a lack of data on resources including food and water – data that is typically used in important policy and resource distribution decisions. Even if a country did have relevant information on these issues, the data was not efficiently being shared between countries and regions.

Now, researchers and aid workers can turn to Arab Spatial, an online tool developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) that should house all food security information for the Arab world in one easily-accessible location.

Food security is an enormous issue in the region, where many countries must import many of their basic food staples, and where war and fighting have exacerbated hunger and perpetuated poverty. Abeer Etafa, the representative of the World Food Program, said that “millions of families” throughout the region were having difficulties obtaining food, and with the events surrounding the Arab Spring and other civil unrest and upheaval, have had to face rising instability and lost wages as well.

Although the struggle of millions to obtain the food necessary to survive is known, it has been very difficult for researchers and aid organizations to quantify; IFPRI says that not many countries in the Middle East have poverty figures widely available, and even when they do, it is unclear how accurate said figures are.

To combat this issue, Arab Spatial will aggregate data on food based on national, regional, and local areas, and the data can be used to create maps showing “more than 150 food security and development-related indicators related to poverty, malnutrition, disease, production and prices, public finances, exports and imports.”

IFPRI also asserted that economic development and proper nutrition and food security are vital to each other, and one cannot be successful without the other. It is clear that eradicating the challenges to make food accessible will create sustained economic growth and development throughout the Middle East.

IFPRI hopes that Arab Spatial will be used by government officials, researchers, humanitarian aid workers, and journalists, and most importantly, decision-makers in addressing food security.

Christina Kindlon

Source: IRIN

    Arab spatial
    A new tracking tool to measure levels of food security in the Middle East was launched in February. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) created the tool, known as Arab Spatial, with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

    The Middle East has long struggled with food security, and researchers, officials, and activists have had a difficult time addressing the problem due to a lack of information. Now, humanitarian aid workers and policymakers working to address food security issues in the region can turn to Arab Spatial for the most up-to-date information on malnutrition, rainfall, crop yields, and much more.

    Recent political upheaval has amplified food insecurity in the region. Many Middle Eastern countries depend on foreign imports of staples such as wheat flour. Political and social turmoil has disrupted commerce and economies, leading to lost jobs and even greater struggles for everyday people to put enough food on the table. Statistics on poverty in the Middle East are infrequent and often inaccurate; only about half of the countries provide public access to the numbers.

    But Arab Spatial will contribute to more open communication about how best to meet basic human needs in one of the least stable areas of the globe. Perrhian al-Riffai, a senior research analyst with IFPRI, said of Arab Spatial, “High quality and freely accessible knowledge is power, especially for evidence-based research for effective and efficient policy design and implementation throughout the Arab world.”

    Arab Spatial measures food security at the national, regional, and local level. More than 150 food security indicators, including information related to poverty, malnutrition, climate, crop production and prices, disease, and trade, can be used to create maps and data. This valuable information should give governments, NGOs, and non-profit organizations working to end food insecurity in the region more power to do so.

    – Kat Henrichs

    Source: IRN Middle East
    Photo: IRN

Celebrity Chefs Participate in Live Below the Line CampaignThe Australian-based Live Below the Line campaign, sponsored by the Global Poverty Project, is slated to begin its 2013 campaign this April. The campaign, which challenges people worldwide to live on just $1.50 per day for five days, was started in 2009 by Australian Richard Fleming, in an attempt to raise awareness and to fundraise for some 1.4 billion people around the world who live in extreme poverty. Now in its third year, Live Below the Line raised $2 million last year for global poverty.

This year, many of the UK’s most well-known chefs are taking part in the challenge to create meals for $1.50, which is the accepted global figure that defines extreme poverty. Award-winning chef Kevin Tew said, “It really makes you think about waste, you have to make things as simple as possible while making sure you get the right balance.”

Other celebrity chefs, including Gordon Ramsey, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the Fabulous Baker Brothers, Bill Granger and Jean-Christophe Novelli will participate in the campaign and create recipes that will maximize the little amount of food allotted in five days’ time.

Since people find $1.50 is usually not enough money to purchase meat, the chefs will come up with other recipes using cost-effective staples such as rice, oats, beans, and a few vegetables. Besides raising awareness for global poverty and food insecurity, Live Below the Line also hopes to create changes in participant’s everyday lives after completing the 5-day challenge.

The campaign also has other famous supporters, such as actor Hugh Jackman, and this year will be operating in the UK, the United States, Australia, with over 20,000 participants expected.

Christina Kindlon

Source: 4 News

USDA Invests Heavily in Global Food SecurityIn an effort to both invest in America’s rapidly advancing growing technologies as well as solidify the nation’s status as an agricultural superpower, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they will be allocating 75 million dollars for grants and educational funding towards global food security.

This amazing opportunity towards bolstering global food security is also, in part, thanks to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) as well as the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Food Security program. Recently, much interest has been shown in developing the United States’ wonderfully rich topsoil and varied growing climates in order to maximize yields while maintaining the soil’s nutritional efficacy. Considering that many countries around the globe are continuing to experience severe shortages and food insecurity, the US has adopted a mutually-beneficial policy that will attempt to ameliorate any and all future global food security challenges.

Agricultural Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan was on hand to present the good news to Biological Sciences faculty members at South Dakota State University’s Brookings campus. After announcing the exciting news, Deputy Secretary Merrigan remarked that “The grants announced today will help policymakers and others better recognize the food and nutrition needs of low-income communities in our country, while improving the productivity of our nation’s agriculture to meet those needs.”
Thanks to the $75 million pledged towards finding realistic solutions for the continuing battle against world hunger, global food security might actually be attainable in the present generation.
– Brian Turner

Source Agri-Pulse
Photo University of California

This video of environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva explains how a seed monopoly in India creates poverty and destroys farming’s previous self-reliance on seeds.

First, a big corporation comes into a community and tells the local farmers that their seed is no good, “primitive,” and that they offer a better option. Companies even pay farmers to try the new seed – thus seed replacement starts. Gradually they go to every farmer in the area and do the same. The farmer no longer uses their own seed, the local small companies that did sell seed no longer have customers and go out of business, and now the corporation has a monopoly on providing seeds for an entire region.

Monsanto, the cotton seed supplier in this one case, then increases the cost of the seed by 8,000%. Of course a small farmer cannot afford these prices. The corporation then promises to provide seed that will make the farmer rich by producing huge harvests. The farmer barrows the money from the corporation to buy this new seed, mortgaging their land against the loan. And when the crop does not produce as promised, the farmer goes into debt and eventually loses her/his land – no income, no assets, no home, extreme poverty.

This is why Dr. Shiva started Navdanya, a network of seed keepers and organic producers, spread across 17 states in India. They have set up 111 community seed banks, trained over 5,000,000 farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades. They have helped set up the largest direct marketing, fair trade organic network in the country, and run a learning center on biodiversity conservation. Navdanya is a women-centered movement actively involved in the rejuvenation of indigenous knowledge and culture. They keep the power of self-reliance in the hands of the farmer.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Vimeo, Navdanya


Dupont Invents Life Saving Packaging
DuPont, in collaboration with Simonalbag, recently launched “MixPack,” the first flexible package in Mexico capable of combining high-and-low resistance seals. This new technology is proving to be a life saving solution to malnutrition in rural communities.

Between 1,000 and 3,000 Tarahumaras indigenous people live in the remote caves of Chihuahua, Mexico. They are isolated and poor, when droughts come they have no access to drinkable water, and no water for farming – thus unable to feed themselves.

The MixPack product is a bag with two compartments, which are separated by an internal seal made of DuPont Surlyn®. This solution prevents the mixing of the milk powder with the purified water that is contained within the same packaging unit. Then, when needed, by squeezing the package, the inner seal breaks mixing the ingredients – resulting in a nutritious and healthy drink for children.

Dupont has started a program that provides milk for children living in these areas. CEO Alvaro Navarro states that MixPack was the result of a dream to help people nourish their children but have no way to refrigerate baby milk or do not have a source of drinking water. He projects MixPack will revolutionize flexible packaging around the world.

“I have a dream and a mission to alleviate hunger through science and innovation,” said Navarro

– Mary Purcell

Africa Solidarity Trust Fund
On February 25, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea helped bring Africa one step closer to food security by donating $30 million, the very first contribution, to the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund. Originated during the April 2012 regional conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization in the Republic of the Congo, the goal of the trust fund is to assemble resources and funds from the wealthiest African countries and use them to strengthen and support food security efforts across the continent.

The $30 million donations was made during an official ceremony at the third annual Africa-South America Summit in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. FAO Director Jose Graziano da Silva, who attended the ceremony, commended the country’s commitment to ending hunger in Africa. FAO African regional representative Maria Semedo invited other African countries to lend financial support commenting that “This generous contribution by Equatorial Guinea helps transform political will to end hunger into concrete action.”

Intended to complement international development aid, not replace it, the Fund will primarily support Africa-directed initiatives and programs that will improve food security and agricultural productivity. One example is the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, which works to reduce poverty through environmentally sound agricultural and land management practices, as well as improved food supply and market access.  Its first efforts will focus on improving regional responses to recurring droughts and other environmental crises that cause food insecurity.

Founded in 1945, the Food and Agriculture Organization works to improve nutrition and standard of living in rural communities by increasing agricultural productivity. With 180 member nations, it is the largest autonomous UN agency. It is the FAO’s hope that other African countries, international organizations, and private sector establishments will follow the example set by Equatorial Guinea and donate to the fund. Working on national, regional, and community levels, the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund is bringing Africa closer to achieving food security.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: FAO
Photo: Skoll World Forum

Avian Flu Outbreak in MexicoGuanajuato, a state in the center of Mexico, is proud of its agricultural sector. However, a recent outbreak of avian flu has forced the Mexican Government to slaughter nearly 500,000 fowl to prevent further damage.

Senasica, Mexico’s National Food Health, Safety, and Quality Service, has vaccinated nearly 200,000 other birds to protect them from infection. This strain of avian flu was called “highly pathogenic” by Mexican health authorities. As a result, intense inspections are being carried out in nearby areas, with experts analyzing over 2,500 recently taken samples from more than 20 farms.

Mexico has seen a few outbreaks of avian flu over the past few years. In March 2012, 22 million hens had to be slaughtered, which resulted in economic instability due to the shortage of some staple goods like chicken and eggs.

This strain of avian flu is called AH7N, a different type of the disease than the one which has received much world attention in recent years (H5N1). Senasica will continue to provide vaccinations, even for “areas with no presence of the virus in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Jake Simon

Sources: Global Post, Washington Post
Photo: HowStuffWorks

UN Declares 2013 "International Year of Quinoa"

Bolivian President Evo Morales recently appeared before the UN to promote the unusual resilience of the quinoa crop to the international community. Fittingly, President Morales-himself a quinoa farmer-was appointed Special Ambassador by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) following their declaration of 2013  as the “International Year of Quinoa.”

Pronounced correctly as keen-wah, quinoa-a staple in Bolivian and Peruvian diets for years-has the unique ability to grow under the most challenging of conditions; including high altitude, poor soil quality, and low annual rainfall. A distant cousin of both beets and spinach, quinoa has been thrust into the limelight lately as a realistic solution to the chronic food security problems faced by many developing nations. Thus, the FAO hopes to increase awareness and production of the crop by calling for 2013 to be known as “International Year of Quinoa.” Additionally, the high nutrient value and relatively low production costs make even Western European nations such as Italy and the Netherlands keen to make full use of their limited amounts of farmland.

The crop, with more than 120 variations, has been modified and researched for years in an attempt to develop seeds that are best suited for the particular climates and soil characteristics they will encounter abroad. Furthermore, by utilizing these growing technologies the output of a single hectare of quinoa can increase from the traditional 600 kg to over a ton, opening the door to limitless possibilities in regards to global food security and ending word hunger. The quinoa truly is a miracle crop, and deserves the title of having 2013 known as the “International Year of Quinoa.”
Brian Turner

Source UN News

Genetically Modified Crops Proposed For Food Security in India
In the wake of harsh criticisms for his recent comments, Agricultural Minister Sharad Pawar again reiterated his support for field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops as a possible solution for food security in India. In his address to the ICAR general meeting, Pawar remarked that due to constraints on limited access to natural resources, “[India does] not have any option but to achieve major [breakthroughs] in productivity to ensure food security of 1.2 billion-plus population.”

Genetically Modified crops – with the exception of Bt cotton – have been a controversial subject in India for some time. However, recent actions taken by the Indian Parliament proposing the banning of all GM field tests prompted Pawar to take a stronger position in the matter, arguing that the prospects of future food security in India are dim without them. Pawar wrote to all chief ministers, outlining the possible deployment of an investigative team of scientists in order to determine the efficacy of GM crops in India.

India has been dealing with hunger problems for generations and without any sort of intervention, will be dealing with even worse problems in the future. However, GM crops – despite their understandable concerns – provide a reason to be optimistic based upon their ability to withstand harsh climates and unfavorable soil conditions. Furthermore, by exploring all options on the table, scientists hope to find an answer to the imperative question of food security in India.

Brian Turner

Source: Zee News
Photo: The Times of India