Information and stories about food security news.

Innovations Addressing Food ScarcityFood scarcity is a major problem in the world today. Roughly 795 million people (this equates to one in 9 people) do not have enough food to survive. Specifically, developing countries face the highest levels of food scarcity These statistics, paired with the fact that 1.3 billion tons of food go to waste annually, necessitates reformation. Around the world, people have been working to help resolve this crisis and ensure that the hungry do not starve. These are five modern innovations addressing food scarcity.

5 Modern Innovations Addressing Food Scarcity

  1. SAP Digital Farming: SAP is a company that is working to combat global food shortages through revolutionary technology. After implementing state of the art sensors in crop fields, farmers would download SAP’s digital farm app. Then, the app would relay necessary information to the farmer. This information includes the supply of fertilizer, water needs, soil moisture and crop growth. Importantly, this information makes the agricultural process more efficient by helping the farmer realize optimal harvesting and planting times. Further, these additional benefits will maximize yield while minimizing costs.
  2. M-Farm: M-Farm serves as a tool to help farmers in Kenya. Often, in the case of farmers in developing countries, intermediaries between the producer and consumer will reap the rewards for a task they had very minimal involvement in. Further, the farmers will have a vast amount of their earnings usurped and will be charged ridiculous prices for necessities, carrying on the cycle of poverty. M-Farm enables Kenyan farmers to SMS the number 3555 to get relevant information. This information includes the price of their products and the ability to purchase the necessary equipment for affordable prices. Additionally, M-Farm also relays crucial trends in the local market for farmers to enhance their judgment. The app collects this information independently through location services and analysis.
  3. Share the Meal App: Developed by the World Food Program, the Share the Meal application on iOS and Android phones works to combat starvation across the world. In 2015, four years after the start of the Syrian Civil War, the organization sought to mobilize technology to feed starving children in refugee camps in Jordan. Additionally, the app enables people to donate 50 cents that will go toward securing meals for these children. Currently, the app has enabled over 48 million meals to be distributed to those in need.
  4. Plantwise: Launched in 2011 by the global nonprofit, CABI, Plantwise is a program that helps farmers understand tactics to increase efficiency and yield. CABI established a global plant clinic network that provides farmers with information about plant health. Qualified plant doctors advise farmers on techniques that will reduce the number of pests and diseases that afflict their crops. Plantwise works to disseminate information to farmers in rural areas that have little access to useful information regarding their agriculture. The goal is to emphasize healthy plant habits so farmers lose less yield and are effectively able to produce more food.
  5. Digital Green: The last of these five modern innovations addressing food scarcity, Digital Green uses modern technological advancements to uplift impoverished farmers. The project began in 2008 in India, where workers trained credible officials in villages to use video technology to convey crucial information, including agriculture techniques and market conditions. This effort was widely successful, as Digital Green reached a total of 1.8 million farmers in over 15,000 villages. In addition, this prompted the organization to expand into Ethiopia. There, almost 375,000 farmers were reached, which led to the commencement of initiatives to help farmers in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Niger and Tanzania.

Finally, it is undeniable that technology plays a very prominent role in society today. Technological innovations have revolutionized the lives of people across the world. Further, these innovations addressing food scarcity are prime examples of this rapid paradigm shift. Progress necessitates change and change is only possible through people working together to absolve adversity in the most effective way possible.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

What is Global Fragility

Global fragility is a compelling global phenomenon. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has defined it as, “the combination of exposure to risk and insufficient coping capacity of the state, system and/or communities to manage, absorb or mitigate those risks. Fragility can lead to negative outcomes including violence, the breakdown of institutions, displacement, humanitarian crises or other emergencies.”

The 2030 Agenda

Rising global challenges such as climate change, global inequality, the development of new technologies and illegal financial flows, are all aggravating global fragility. Now more than ever before, these challenges most severely affect low and middle-income countries. Global fragility is a pressing issue as poverty is increasingly present in fragile areas and those affected by conflict. It is estimated that by 2030, as much as 80 percent of the world’s extreme poor will be living in fragile areas, becoming both a threat to global security and a prominent barrier to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

Within the 2030 Agenda, SDG 16 outlines achieving peaceful, just and equitable societies. Additionally, this SDG emphasizes the importance of sustaining peace and conflict prevention. Peace and conflict prevention are not achievable with increasing global fragility risks and inefficient responses. Indeed, 2016 was the year affected the most by violence and conflict in the past 30 years, killing 560,000 people and displacing the highest number of people in the world since World War II. Moreover, countries that are part of the 2030 development agenda all committed to leaving no-one behind, stressing the need to address fragile areas.

Addressing Global Fragility

Taking into account the elements mentioned above and the existing consensus on the matter, it is fundamental for countries and international organizations to address global fragility and take action by joining efforts. International institutions faced some blame for inadequate performance in fragile states. Recently, efforts began focusing on developing frameworks and tools to address fragility more efficiently. At the core of the solution to global fragility lies resilience. Additionally, this comprises of assisting states to build the capacity to deal with fragility risks and stabilize the country.

For example, the World Bank launched the Humanitarian Development Peace Initiative (HDPI) in partnership with the U.N. to develop new strategies to assist fragile countries. Under this initiative, the U.N. and World Bank will collaborate through data sharing, joint frameworks and analysis, etc. Additionally, the European Commission changed the way it approaches fragility, now concentrating more on the strengths of fragile states rather than their weakness, to assist them in resilience building and empowering them to do so.

All these efforts revolve around a set of core principles, stemming from lessons learned from the past. These mainly include empowering local governments and helping them escape the fragility trap. Another principle revolves around achievements in the long-term. Long-term achievements will ensure sustainability, as transforming deep-rooted governance takes time for effective implementation. Inclusive peace processes prioritizing the security of citizens, along with inclusive politics, are essential in the transformation of fragile states.

The Global Fragility Act

On December 20, the Global Fragility Act was passed as a part of the United States’ FY 2020 foreign affairs spending package, to address fragility more effectively. The Act emphasizes interagency coordination regarding development, security and democracy. In addition, the Act also highlights a more efficient alignment of multilateral and international organizations. As the first comprehensive, whole-of-government approach established by the United States, the efforts plan to prevent global conflict and instability.

The numerous actions and initiatives launched recently illustrate a significant step forward in addressing the threat of fragility. The common consensus between donor countries, multilateral and international institutions must now be translated into concrete actions.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Land Grabbing and PovertyLand grabbing is not a new concept and it is not an isolated event. However, land grabbing and poverty have recently been linked together. While companies around the globe participate in this harmful process that drives farmers off their lands, farmers in industrial countries are especially susceptible to losing their lands, and therefore, their source of income. The act of industrial companies land grabbing not only costs a person their home but also their food and money. In countries such as Africa and South America, many people have fallen below the poverty line and suffer from displacement.

The Actions of Large Companies

The link between land grabbing and poverty is growing and has become a big issue. Major companies, such as the Teacher’s Insurance and Annuity Association of America College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF or TIAA), are buying multiple acres of land at exceedingly high prices. This, in turn, raises the prices of rent above what nearby family farmers can afford to pay. In Brazil, the TIAA has ownership of over 600,000 acres of land. The company also has a stake of over $400 million in Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil, which has displaced established communities of indigenous people in addition to several endangered species.

Who Owns the Land?

Land grabbing hugely contributes to the loss of property which advances poverty levels. Indigenous people claim and manage about 50 percent of the world’s land. However, of that 50 percent, people who depend on it only legally own 10 percent. Big companies can easily buy out the remaining 40 percent of the land and repurpose it to maximize industrial gains. Most of this land goes towards fossil-fuels projects, tourism and even conservation. Because of this, many families become displaced and left without a source of income and experience a lack of food security. Companies, such as TIAA, have led directly to malnutrition in industrial countries where they held land.

Initiating Change

There have been many demonstrations to try and combat the act of land grabbing. Grassroots International has started a petition to end land grabbing. There are also The Tenure Guidelines that have the intention of ending global poverty through tenure rights and land access. Policies within these guidelines would give land rights to the person who has owned the land the longest, ensuring that those who depend on the land for their livelihoods can continue to use it. In Africa, 29 women farmers climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the country’s tallest mountain, to raise awareness about the issue. The climbers met 400 fellow women farmers at the base of the mountain to help raise awareness about secure land rights and guarantee the farmers access to local and global markets.

Land grabbing and poverty reduction will give the people of the land a place to live as well as a food source and a dependable income. Crop sales will increase and farmers will have a more reliable income if others do not drive them from their land. The decrease of land grabbing will also increase access to both local and global markets, providing farmers with more ways to sell their food. Overall, restricting land grabbing, honoring tenure and giving land access to those who need it will lead to a decline in global poverty.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

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