Food Insecurity in Chad
Citizens of Chad suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition. This is due to a number of reasons such as geographical location. Humanitarian crises and poverty have impacted approximately 6.3 million Chadians. However, three notable organizations are working to fight food insecurity in Chad including Action Against Hunger, CARE and the World Food Program U.S.A. (WFP). These groups are working to ensure a direct solution, by providing food to Chad’s citizens. Moreover, these programs are attempting to implement long-term solutions, such as creating more fiscal opportunities and supplying clean water.

Food Insecurity in Chad

The country’s geographical location does not provide a reliable agricultural system. Chad is a landlocked country without any bodies of water. The country’s location also entails a hot, dry climate and the country experiences periods of drought. This has led to a lack of water for drinking and producing food. Moreover, conflict with bordering countries has applied further pressure to Chad’s limited resources. This has led to political instability, social unrest and a great influx of refugees. The country has accepted around 465,000 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic. Lack of food supply has resulted in over 317,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition in 2019. An estimated 790,000 inhabitants in Chad live with food insecurity.

Action Against Hunger

In 2019, Action Against Hunger helped 579,092 Chadians combat food insecurity. The organization reached those in need with programs focusing on nutrition and health, sanitation and hygiene and food security and livelihood. Action Against Hunger has worked to create solutions for the long term. For example, it initiated health and nutrition courses in Kanem, Bar El Gazal and Logone Oriental. Moreover, to promote behavioral change, the organization implemented husbands’ schools and care groups.

Action Against Hunger has also provided emergency, short-term and long-term solutions directly related to food. This includes supplying food, teaching new agricultural techniques (solar-powered irrigation systems and farmers’ field schools) and providing job opportunities to young people and women.

CARE

Although CARE does not directly focus on food relief, it offers a number of programs to improve the well-being of Chadians into the future. This includes initiatives such as natural resource management, farming classes and education on water and sanitation.

World Food Program USA (WFP)

WFP has partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Food for Peace to provide nourishment to underserved Chadians. The organizations collect food from producers in the United States and local markets. They also distribute food vouchers, cash transfers and specialized nutrition products to struggling Chadians.

WFP has three other initiatives that it focuses on titled Emergency Operation, the School Meals Program and Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation.

  • Emergency Operation: This program focuses on those seeking refuge in southern Chad. WFP provides them with nourishment, food vouchers and e-cards, and gives nutrition support for mothers and children.
  • School Meals Program: This initiative seeks to increase school attendance, specifically amongst girls. The school meals program reaches approximately 265,000 elementary school children. All students in attendance receive a hot meal and girls can take a monthly ration of oil home to their families. This in turn encourages parents to send their daughters to school, and thus increases the rate of educated females.
  • Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation: This program can assist up to 2.2 million Chadians and refugees in need. Health centers and clinics provide supplementary feeding to local and conflicted populations.

Despite food insecurity in Chad, the country is benefitting from significant aid from prominent organizations. Through these organization’s continued support, Chad should be able to improve nutrition for its entire population in time.

– Ella Kaplun
Photo: Flickr

Organizations Tackling COVID-19 in Africa
Since its start, COVID-19 has impacted countries worldwide. Citizens have lost jobs, and countries have taken an economic nosedive. Regions already suffering from poverty prior to the pandemic feel the ramifications of COVID-19 most severely. One particular region is Africa. Several organizations are dedicating efforts to providing aid in Africa amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger has been providing aid to Africa for more than 40 years to fight hunger and malnutrition. Additionally, the organization works to improve nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene, mental healthcare and support and emergency response. In 2019 alone, the organization reached 17 million people in need. In the previous year, Action Against Hunger joined the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) as one of the 14 charities committed to providing aid during major humanitarian disasters.

Meril Cullinan, senior communications officer at Action Against Hunger, describes the motivation behind the continued aid in Africa throughout the pandemic: “According to the United Nations, the number of people globally suffering from acute food shortages could nearly double in the next year due to COVID-19 and its economic impacts; in East Africa, food insecurity could double in just the next three months.” In addition to Africa, Action Against Hunger has provided support to the only hospital for those in quarantine in Somalia and has treated 31,000 people suffering from malnutrition across 60 healthcare facilities in Yemen.

Amref Health Africa

Amref Health Africa originated in 1957 under the name “Flying Doctors of East Africa.” At the time, the nonprofit used airplanes to deliver healthcare to communities in need. Over time, Amref Health Africa expanded into what it is today—an aid and advocacy organization with a devotion to providing West, East and southern African citizens, particularly women and girls, with quality health services and training for healthcare workers. Services include maternal healthcare, newborn and child healthcare, and information on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

In 2019, the nonprofit reached five million people in need across 40 countries in Africa. Amref has assisted in stopping deadly outbreaks within Africa, such as Ebola and cholera; “The whole Amref Health Africa family is working towards [sic] the ambitious goal of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030.” The focus of Amref Health Africa’s response to COVID-19 has been training healthcare workers, providing access to clean water and proper sanitation, strengthening testing and laboratories and mitigating the secondary impacts of the pandemic.

Successes so far include building water and sanitation infrastructure in six African countries, training 3,000 healthcare workers through the mobile phone application LEAP, expanding COVID-19 testing throughout Africa and advocating for access to crucial services during the lockdown. Camilla Knox-Peebles, chief executive of Amref Health Africa, describes the response to providing aid during COVID-19: “As well as launching new initiatives to support communities affected by COVID-19, we have adapted our existing programmes to ensure they can continue.”

Motivation

Motivation began in 1989 after two students, David Constantine and Simon Gue, entered a competition to design a wheelchair for people with disabilities in developing countries. After their prototype won, they went on to build an actual wheelchair, and the rest is history. Motivation has been building wheelchairs fit for various terrains and conditions in developing countries, particularly East Africa, ever since. The organization also provides training to technicians and clinicians on how to select the proper equipment for particular needs and geographic areas. The 2019-2020 impact report has revealed that the organization serviced 6,918 people, trained 312 families and facilitators, supported 68 wheelchair and outreach services and gave 8,816 people an assistive technology product.

Motivation’s aid in Africa has had to adapt to the COVID-19 climate and its safety precautions. Virtual support has replaced face-to-face programs. The organization has also found ways to deliver food, medical supplies and hygiene products to those in need. Anna Reeve, communications manager at Motivation, says that “We are finding ways to offer training and support remotely as much as we can. And we’re are working to ensure that disabled people’s needs are not forgotten in this crisis. Our teams are in touch with beneficiaries and partners by phone and text messages to share advice.”

Looking Ahead

The entire world has felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many parts of the world are in lockdowns, many people are without food, supplies, medical services and other crucial resources. Thankfully, organizations exist that have a dedication to using modern technological advances to continue supporting developing regions. COVID-19 aid in Africa is essential in order to keep up the progress that has taken decades to achieve. Organizations like Action Against Hunger, Amref Health Africa and Motivation are demonstrating the ways the world’s citizens can continue to help each other in times of need.

– Sage Ahrens-Nichols
Photo: Flickr

Can Vegetarianism Help Feed the Hungry?
Vegetarianism is more than just a fad diet. Plant-based foods typically have high levels of nutrients and are cheaper and more accessible than other foods. Pivoting agricultural preferences to focus on plant-based foods has many provable benefits. But can vegetarianism help feed the hungry? The answer is yes.

Meat is Inefficient

A very high demand exists for meat currently. In the Amazon, approximately 60% of deforested land is pasture. Animals that farmers raise for consumption on this land eat various types of cereals, which provide very little nutritional return for humans. Meat is also calorically insufficient. As of 2013, 36% of the calories from crops worldwide go toward feeding animals, but only 12% of those calories contribute to the human diet as meat and other animal products. Therefore, land and resources going towards an inefficient nutrition source.

The demand for meat means there is less farmland for plant-based crops—crops that can feed more people at a lower cost. The way vegetarianism can feed the hungry is by freeing up resources for plant-based crops. Switching to plant-based foods could recover 70% of calories that frequently go toward animal protein.

Going Vegetarian is Globally Sustainable

It is no secret that animal diets also have severe environmental consequences. Greenhouse gases from livestock farming contribute to environmental damage that disproportionately affects impoverished areas. Moreover, it eats up money that could go toward improving living conditions for those living in poverty. In this way, a vegetarian diet can help the world’s hungry; it frees up resources that countries can instead allocate to distributing plant-based foods. Research at Oxford University has shown that widespread adoption of vegetarian diets can save trillions of dollars globally each year. After assessing different scenarios, researchers concluded that widespread veganism could avoid more than eight million deaths by the year 2050, and a vegetarian diet could save 7.3 million lives.

Not Ready? Go Flexitarian

One does not have to give up all animal products in order to reap the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. The fact is that current agricultural methods induce environmental challenges that disrupt both the natural and man-made food chain. Simply reducing the number of animal products consumed can help. Going “flexitarian,” or plant-based except for special occasions, makes a difference too. Whether it is one vegan day a week or one meat-based meal a day, a flexitarian plan exists for everyone. In addition, the planning ahead this would require helps minimize food waste.

The health benefits of adopting a flexitarian diet include better cognitive function, lower body composition, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and longer life expectancy. Plants comprise vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, minerals and polyphenols that work to protect the brain and body from various factors that accelerate aging, disease and mood disorders.

Giving up meats and dairy products may seem daunting. However, not only are animal products ineffective in feeding the world but such products consume more calories than they provide. In essence, it is true that vegetarianism can feed the hungry. Adopting vegetarian diets would not only help the world’s hungry but also make individuals healthier and the environment stronger.

– Maddey Bussmann
Photo: Flickr

How Japan Can Solve Its Own Hunger Crisis
Japan has the third-largest economy in the world. However, the nation’s poverty rate is 15% and continues to worsen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Japan’s hunger crisis has notably risen because efforts to provide consistent meals to children stopped after schools closed. The nation has enough rice and resources to feed its citizens. However, organizations and communities urge the government to take action in acknowledging the lack of infrastructure around federally-mandated food security.

The Role of Kodomo Shokudo

Nonprofit organizations and communities have provided food welfare in Japan through Kodomo Shokudo. Kodomo Shokudo is a series of programs that provide students with a space to eat and socialize. Hiroko Kondo is a restaurant owner who coined the term. She kickstarted the movement when she heard that a student only had one banana to eat for one week. Kondo established the first Kodomo Shokudo so young adolescents could eat affordably. As a result, a network of restaurants and community members participated to help eliminate Japan’s hunger crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted Kodomo Shokudo. There has been a 33% increase in people who rely on food pantries and services. Furthermore, a survey revealed that half of the people had concerns about exposing themselves to the virus at these eating spaces. As a result, many locations and vendors have recoursed to alternative solutions such as donating bento boxes. Moreover, some organizations are working towards community-based solutions to simultaneously improve food distribution and aid struggling businesses.

How the Government Could Help

The Japanese government has struggled to distribute food for a long time. Japan holds an emergency supply of rice to prepare itself for potential famines. These reserves currently hold a million tons. Furthermore, it has assisted Kodomo Shokudo vendors in the past. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) set a precedent that rice handouts for students receive categorization as food education. However, welfare efforts are strictly dissociated from it. Yet, the demand for food handouts has doubled within the past year. As such, recent challenges suggest the government should implement radical changes.

The government continues to practice extreme budgetary caution. The nation allowed charities to take a limited amount of cooked rice at the beginning of the pandemic. It was careful to eliminate any chances of scheming the system and distributed 10 tons of rice. Additionally, food banks are frustrated with the slow-moving bureaucracy of feeding the hungry and continue to lobby for more generous rations.

The government could resolve Japan’s hunger crisis. However, the government must find it economically and politically beneficial. Fortunately, there are potential avenues to improve government assistance such as nonprofit organizations and Kodomo Shokudo. Although the food crisis in Japan remains largely unrecognized, the need for improved general governmental welfare has not gone unnoticed. Only 40 food pantries exist in Tokyo to support 14 million residents. In addition, the pandemic has eroded the prospects of economic security. Furthermore, unemployment rates are steadily rising. Addressing Japan’s hunger crisis is the first step in alleviating poverty within the nation.

– Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Mexico
When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck in March 2020, a group of college students came together to start The Farmlink Project, a nonprofit organization that works to alleviate food insecurity among poor people. Now, nearly a year later, Farmlink is making its mission an international one with The Farmlink Project: Mexico, which will fight food insecurity in Mexico. At the same time that Farmlink was forming, Mexicans living in poverty were experiencing the same disproportionate effects that the pandemic has had on the world’s poor communities.

Food Insecurity in Mexico

The pandemic hit Mexico early. The country had the fourth-highest death toll in the world by June 2020. As a result, impoverished communities suffered the brunt of the consequences. A government agency estimated that about 10 million people in Mexico fell into extreme poverty due to the economic effects of the pandemic. Food insecurity in Mexico became an immediate problem in many communities. Moreover, the government did little to support its citizens. Mexico did not provide stimulus checks or similar measures. Essentially, citizens ended up fending for themselves.

The Farmlink Project has been incredibly successful in its mission to deliver unused food to communities in need. This organization’s strategy is simple, straightforward and effective. It finds inefficiencies in the food distribution system that leads to food waste. Thus, the nonprofit implements measures to prevent that waste. Additionally, it receives donations for supporters. The nonprofit facilitates the transfer of that food directly to impoverished communities through food banks.

Food insecurity in Mexico is a prominent problem. However, the nation produces enough food to feed its citizens. Yet, the infrastructure necessary to feed everyone does not yet exist. Thus, The Farmlink Project is leaving a big impact on citizens by addressing food waste. This is more important now as Mexicans continue to sink into extreme poverty.

The Farmlink Project

The Farmlink Project’s Data Analytics lead Jake Landry talked to The Borgen Project about how it is approaching the unique challenges and opportunities of fighting hunger in Mexico. He stated that the nonprofit’s transfer into Mexico has started positively. It has delivered 112,160 kilograms of produce to Mexico since the beginning of the mission. Additionally, it has prevented 113,464 kilograms of carbon emissions in Mexico. Furthermore, it has begun working with GrupoPaisano, a fair trade organization that supports Mexican farmers. Together the organizations are creating media collaborations and promotional videos to raise awareness of The Farmlink Project’s mission.

This organization has been successful in the United States and is now providing hope to Mexicans during the pandemic. The Farmlink Project’s goal is to lay the groundwork for new infrastructure in the food distribution network in Mexico. It hopes to eliminate the large amount of food waste that Mexico generates every year.

– Leo Ratté
Photo: Flickr

Combating Food WasteThe British Government has led successful campaigns to get citizens to rethink the food they throw away. The British charity, Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), works with larger businesses and local communities to use resources efficiently and sustainably. Charities like FareShare are combating food waste by redistributing food to hungry people in the U.K. For about 25 years, the organization has been keeping communities fed by providing millions of meals to those in need.

The Facts on Food Waste

Since World War I, the U.K. has struggled with food waste. The country implemented rationing methods in both World Wars to combat excess waste in times of crisis. These methods have undergone adaptation to address modern food waste issues.

Several campaigns target the impact of domestic food waste in the U.K. There has been a great success, with household waste falling 6% in a three-year span. Still, an estimated 4.5 million tons of food goes to waste. Meal planning and using food within the home reduce domestic food waste. Small and simple actions on the individual level lead to large change across the nation.

The exact amounts of waste in the food industry are not clear, however, estimates are concerning. Food services waste roughly one million tons, “equivalent to throwing away one in six meals served.” Surplus food is responsible for much of this waste. Food producers produce food in quantities too large to match consumption. Additionally, while some of the food remains edible, it may be undesirable due to its appearance. In 2018, 20-40% of supermarket produce underwent disposal for failing to meet cosmetic standards.

Food waste comes with a price tag for individual households and the food services sector. Industries lose £2 billion due to excess food. Meanwhile households, manufacturing, retail and food services waste an estimated £19 billion worth of food annually. Solving the matter of food waste is not only of humanitarian interest but of economic value too.

The Role of WRAP

WRAP came about in 2000. It has successfully brokered agreements with several industries to reduce waste, including food retail. With the United Kingdom’s population expected to grow in coming years, there will be an increased need for food, resulting in possible excess waste. WRAP’s 2025 Food Vision tackles seven aspects of food waste:

  • Food production
  • Food packaging
  • Supply chain wastage
  • Role of consumers
  • Food waste collections
  • Waste management infrastructure
  • Energy conversion

Each focus point works in tandem. Improving efforts in one sector will benefit the others. Therefore, food waste reduction initiatives must address each aspect to ensure optimal success.

WRAP works with businesses and provides a roadmap and toolkit to guide parties interested in reducing food waste. The organization encourages businesses to set a target goal for reduction, to measure appropriately and to effectively act. The initiative aims to ensure the U.K. meets its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

WRAP began the Love Food Hate Waste campaign in 2007. The campaign raises awareness and teaches simple steps to reduce waste on an individual level. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign also offers recipes to ensure that each food item goes to use.

FareShare: Combating Food Waste

The longest-running food redistribution charity in the United Kingdom, FareShare, has been giving back to communities since 1994 by ensuring that no food goes to waste. The organization solves two problems with one solution: reduce waste and solve hunger by putting surplus food to good use. Powered by volunteers and fueled by charities, FareShare has provided millions of meals to vulnerable populations.

The process is simple: retailers supply FareShare with their surplus food and FareShare redistributes the goods to local charities. FareShare supports almost a million people every week. The U.K. economy also benefits by saving £51 million each year.

FareShare does not tackle its grand mission alone. The Borgen Project spoke with James Persad of FareShare who says, “There are still tons of food going to waste, enough for millions of meals. Our mission is not possible without our partners.” Businesses both big and small have committed to the cause. Nestlé is one of FareShare’s longest ongoing partnerships. From 2005 to 2016, they redistributed “roughly six million meals worth of food” to those in need.

Efforts have led to creative innovations. One such success is FareShare Go, a service that allows local supermarkets to donate surplus food to charities through text messages. The initiative received recognition from the World Food Innovation Awards in 2018.

Addressing Dual Issues

Food redistribution efforts are successfully combating food waste. Hunger and food waste are two dire problems society faces, but thankfully, solutions have emerged that address both. These food rescue solutions combat hunger by ensuring that no food goes to waste.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in IsraelIt is an indisputable fact that everyone needs food for survival. Even further, everyone needs enough nutritious food to truly thrive. That being true, the reality is that not everyone gets enough high-quality, nutritious food yet significant amounts of food are thrown away daily. This dilemma is present globally and Israel is no exception. Food waste and food insecurity in Israel is a growing problem, but one organization, Leket Israel, is working to address both.

Israel’s Food Dilemma

Food waste is an excess of food that usually gets thrown into landfills instead of being consumed. The amount of food wasted in Israel is striking, but possibly more striking is the economic impacts it has on individual and infrastructural levels.

The Environmental Protection Ministry in Israel cited that Israeli families throw away about $1,000 worth of food per year. This equates to $352 million in waste treatment and a month and a half of average household food expenses.

Food waste is present not only on the household level but also prominently in the restaurant and agricultural sectors. Remedying food waste would likely lift a considerable economic weight from the shoulders of many Israeli individuals and communities.

Remedying food insecurity in Israel would do the same. Food insecurity is widely considered as a lack of consistent access to balanced, nutritious food sources. Many in Israel suffer from food insecurity and the number continues to climb.

The Latet organization’s yearly Alternative Poverty Report revealed that the 20.1% of Israeli households in poverty grew to 29.3% in 2020 due to COVID-19.

So naturally, food insecurity has worsened because of the pandemic. The number of food-insecure households in Israel grew from 17.8% before the pandemic to 22.6% in December 2020. Further, the number of households in extreme food insecurity increased by 34,000 during the pandemic, per the National Insurance Institute of Israel.

There is a great need to address the dilemma of food waste and food insecurity in Israel.

Leket Israel

Leket Israel is an organization that recognizes the importance of addressing the increased need for more accessible food sources and reducing food waste. Joseph Gitler started an organization in 2003 that would become Leket Israel, a food bank and the largest food rescue chain in the country.

Specifically, Leket takes nutritional food excesses and distributes them to thousands of Israelis who need them. The food provided mostly consists of agricultural surpluses and gathered cooked meals that would become food waste, with special focus on the quality and nutritional value of the food distributed to beneficiaries across Israel.

Nutritional Education

Within food insecure populations that do not have access to reliable nutritious food, there can also be a lack of knowledge about balanced nutrition. For this reason, Leket Israel implements multiple nutrition workshops to make its impact and fight to promote food security more lasting. Nutritional workshops involve lessons on how to select and prepare diverse, healthy meals on a restricted budget. They are given in Hebrew, Amharic, Arabic and Russian to increase accessibility.

There is a greater demand for the work that Leket Israel is doing because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in food insecurity across Israel. The organization’s affirmative response to this demand is undeniable. Take, for example, the experience of Natalie Digora. During the pandemic, Leket Israel is helping people like Natalie Digora in Ramat Gan, Israel, who turned to the organization after being sent home from her occupation as an opera singer in March 2020. They have continued serving her.

Turning Food Trash into Food Treasure

Digora’s story is one of thousands. To date, Leket Israel has served more than 2,300,000 cooked meals to more than 200,000 individuals. As it continues this, turning one person’s trash into another’s treasure, Leket gives hope to people struggling with food insecurity in Israel.

– Claire Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in IrelandIreland is mostly known for its lush greens, beautiful castles and vibrant culture. However, hunger in Ireland is a persistent problem that is not often discussed. While the Great Famine in the 1800s comes to mind for those thinking of Ireland’s hunger crisis, it is imperative to note that hunger still exists in the nation. Here are three things to know about hunger in Ireland.

3 Things to Know About Hunger in Ireland

  1.  In Ireland, 2.50% of the population lives in hunger. Though this is a small percentage, there hasn’t been a decrease for at least 20 years. While it is a good sign that hunger has not grown in the country, this number suggests that there still is a portion of the population struggling to access food. Unfortunately, living in a first-world country, issues such as hunger are not always prioritized.
  2. Poverty rates in Ireland are still high. In 2019, there were more than 680,000 people living in hunger. About 200,000 of that number were children. Poverty and hunger often go hand-in-hand; it can be extremely difficult for the impoverished to provide food for themselves and their families. Addressing hunger in Ireland, therefore, will also require poverty reduction efforts.
  3. COVID-19 in Ireland: COVID-19 cases in Ireland skyrocketed and peaked in mid-April, but are slowly trending upward today. Due to the nature of the virus, everyone can be affected, but even more so if a person is unable to find proper protection and care to try to stave off the virus. Due to this, health problems are a concern. This issue can be linked to the poverty levels, in turn leading to more hunger as those affected are trying to pay for medical bills and the necessities that come with proper medical care. It is still not clear if poverty and hunger in Ireland can be inextricably linked to the coronavirus. However, with trends around the world showing this is the case, it is simply food for thought.

Turn2us

One organization that has raised the bar in helping those in poverty throughout the country is Turn2us. This organization focuses specifically on the financially needy in Ireland and looks to help those people in multiple ways. Their current campaign is called #LivingWithout. While poverty and hunger often calls to mind a country in the depths of financial despair, helping those in need in a modern country may look very different. #LivingWithout was made specifically to help families or individuals in Ireland to obtain the necessary household appliances that are needed to function well each day.

Turn2us focuses specifically on welfare benefits, charitable grants and other support in order to uplift countless lives. Their focus on practical programs, like #LivingWithout, shows that poverty in a modern setting needs much different help than a developing country. The strategy differs, and Turn2us highlights this fact by targeting the UK and its citizens.

During a time of such need around the world, it is important to look at even the most developed places for signs of hunger and needed aid. In order to see a downfall in the 2.50% hunger rate in Ireland, it is necessary to bring awareness around the subject.

Natalie Belford
Photo: Flickr

Lab-Grown MeatIn the effort to reduce poverty around the world, scientific innovations and technological solutions are welcomed. Developments in technological capabilities provide new potential approaches to reducing poverty. One such development that has received increased attention is the emergence of lab-grown meat as an alternative source of food for populations in developing countries. Lab-grown meat has only emerged as a potential solution quite recently, and even at this young stage of development, there are many who argue both for and against its potential effectiveness and applicability in the effort to reduce poverty.

Lab-Grown Meat

Lab-grown meat, known alternatively as cultured meat, is an alternative application of stem cell technology typically used in medicine. Stem cells are extracted from an animal and converted to muscle cells. The cells are then cultured on a scaffold with nutrients and essential vitamins. From this point, they grow and can eventually be shaped into any desired form, such as sausages, hamburgers, steaks or mince. Lab-grown meat is being considered as a potential solution to food insecurity in impoverished countries as it takes much less time to grow, uses fewer of the planet’s resources and no animals need to be farmed or slaughtered.

The Arguments Against Cultured Meat

Those against the implementation of cultured meat as a tool in the struggle against world poverty point firstly to the impracticality of current production. The world’s first cultured burger, cooked on live TV in 2013, cost $330,000 to produce and more of its kind might not be commercially available for decades.

In addition to the practicality issue, critics also argue that providing meat grown in foreign labs to developing countries is not ultimately constructive. It creates a dependence on exports for food when most developing countries have the capabilities to produce their own food.

Most African and Asian countries used to be self-sufficient with regard to food production but this has changed over the last 30 years. Subsidized western-grown crops have been pushed on developing countries and barriers to markets have been lowered, allowing U.S. and European firms to export crops to developing countries.

Poverty Reduction Applicability

Kanayo Nwanze former president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), presented an argument in 2013 which has maintained support today. The argument is that the decline of agriculture in developing countries has been an effect of underinvestment as a result of structural adjustment programs pushed by the World Bank. The World Bank has funded numerous investment programs in recent years that aim to provide developing nations with western food as a means of poverty alleviation. Some argue that this is not a sustainable solution and will only lead developing nations to be dependent in the future. Instead of investing in big science, those looking to reduce global poverty should focus on supporting rural regions and small farmers.

Eat Just: Cultured Meat

Despite the existing criticism of cultured meat, supporters of this developing technology have reason to be optimistic. In December 2020, U.S. startup, Eat Just, became the first in the world to gain government approval to sell its product to the public. This approval came from the government of Singapore, which means cultured chicken will soon be available at an unnamed restaurant in Singapore. This is a landmark development for the cultured meat business. Following this gain of approval, more governments around the world may follow suit. According to Eat Just, cultured chicken nuggets will be available at “price parity for premium chicken you’d enjoy at a restaurant.”

The Potential of Lab-Grown Meat

The debate around the effectiveness of cultured meat as a tool in poverty reduction is justified and indeed necessary. Only after serious consideration and scrutiny does any new idea earn approval and the right to be implemented. Though right now it may seem that there are more arguments against its implementation than for, this is largely due to the novelty surrounding the idea. The technology and industry with regards to lab-grown meat as a whole are still in the early stages of development. The idea of lab-grown meat as a potential solution to hunger and poverty is being followed eagerly by supporters and skeptically by critics. Only time will tell whether this novel idea succeeds or falls short.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr

Central African RepublicOne year after repatriation efforts began, refugees from the Central African Republic are returning home. Although repatriation operations began in November 2019, the return of refugees from the Central African Republic was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Enhanced health and safety precautions made their return possible. The United Nations Refugee Agency, a U.N. agency responsible for protecting refugees, organized the implementation of health and safety precautions. Measures included the use of masks and temperature screening. Handwashing stations were also installed to prevent the spread of disease.

Central African Republic Refugees

Repatriation efforts began after security conditions in the Central African Republic improved. Stability in the country has developed at a slow pace. Less violence in regions of the Central African Republic known for volatile shifts prompted the voluntary return of refugees.

Beginning in 2012, violent confrontations between armed factions throughout the Central African Republic forced more than 500,000 people to flee. Thousands more went into hiding, often in the wilderness, where access to food and clean water is scarce. A staggering rate of poverty among citizens of the Central African Republic reflects years of political instability.

Poverty in the Central African Republic

Both domestically and abroad, refugees from the Central African Republic experience rates of extreme poverty and hunger. The Central African Republic was one of the last two countries on the 2018 Human Development Index ranking. Combined with the political instability of the nation, the Central African Republic’s low development score contributes to the nation’s high rate of poverty.

With a population of a little less than five million people, almost 80% of the country’s people live in poverty. While political instability is a major factor that contributes to the high rate of poverty in the country, meager production rates, insufficient markets and pronounced gender inequality also contribute to the high rate of poverty. Additionally, it is estimated that nearly half of the population of the country experiences food insecurity.

Alarmingly, almost 90% of food insecure individuals in the country are classed as severely food insecure, which is nearly two million people. This has particularly devastating effects for children aged between 6 months and 5 years old. More than one-third of all children within that age range are stunted due to lack of appropriate dietary nutrition.

The World Food Programme Alliance

In partnership with the government of the Central African Republic and other humanitarian organizations, the World Food Programme (WFP) provided emergency food and nutritional assistance to nearly 100,000 people, in 2018. This assistance was delivered to individuals who were affected by the violence that resulted from the coup in 2013, the civil violence that was unleashed by competing factions after the coup and the violence that continued through 2017, as hostility between armed groups was reignited. This method of the WFP’s humanitarian aid involves the distribution of food packages and the implementation of nutrition activities for children and pregnant mothers.

Time will tell whether refugees are returning to a country that will eventually provide for them. Through various initiatives, including Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress, the WFP hopes to turn civic, humanitarian functions over to the country’s government.

Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress

Both the Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress initiatives were designed by the United Nations to help partner nations achieve objectives set by the ‘Zero Hunger’ Sustainable Development Goal. Food Assistance for Assets “addresses immediate food needs through cash, voucher or food transfers.” Its response to immediate needs is paired with a long-term approach. Food Assistance for Assets “promotes the building or rehabilitation of assets that will improve long-term food security and resilience.”

Purchase for Progress works in tandem with Food Assistance for Assets. It is a food purchase initiative, whereby the WFP purchases more than $1 billion worth of staple food annually from smallholder farms. This food is used by the WFP in its global humanitarian efforts. Meanwhile, its ongoing investment in smallholder farms contributes to national economies.

Through the initiatives of the World Food Programme and its dedicated efforts for humanitarian assistance and hunger eradication, the Central African Republic will hopefully reach a point where its citizens never again have to flee the country they call home.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr