Drought in ZambiaIn February of 2024, the president of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema, declared a national emergency due to significant drought and widespread hunger. The 2023-2024 rain season, which usually begins in September or October, instead began in January and lasted only one month. Since then, almost no rain has fallen. The United Nations (U.N.) estimates that the drought has destroyed more than two million hectares of crop fields and affects about 9 million people country-wide.

In response to the drought, which is considered Zambia’s worst drought in 20 years, the U.N. allocated $5.5 million in relief funding. In early May of 2024, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) submitted an appeal for another $228 million in funding. This additional aid, if approved, will bolster humanitarian efforts to address the drought in Zambia.

Rainfall and Crop Production

Zambia relies on rainfall for crop production and inconsistent rainfall means a serious lack of food. When subsistence farmers cannot harvest crops to feed their families, their only option is to purchase food. But even the commercial farmers who supply that food are struggling. As food production becomes more constrained, costs skyrocket, leaving millions hungry.

Alternative water collection methods, such as irrigation systems, are expensive and, therefore, not widely used in Zambia. Commercial farmers can sometimes obtain loans, which enable them to install such technology. However, subsistence farmers, without a consistent source of revenue, are often unable to receive such funding. The drought’s impact is felt most strongly among small-scale farmers who cannot water their crops, have no funding to install water technology and have limited means to purchase food.

Hydroelectricity

The drought in Zambia has extensive consequences beyond the food crisis. Zambia relies largely on hydroelectric power for its energy needs; about 80% of its total power is derived from hydroelectric sources. Low water supply has forced Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO), which supplies about 95% of the country’s energy needs, to limit power generation to only eight hours per day.

This widespread energy crisis has far-reaching consequences. According to the World Bank, “lack of reliable electricity severely restricts the country’s potential for improving per capita gross domestic product (GDP) and reducing poverty.” Furthermore, “increasing rural access to modern energy promotes social cohesion and assists the government in economic development initiatives.”

National Government’s Proposed Solutions

Zambia’s legislature has proposed realigning the national budget to allocate more funding toward drought relief. It also offers loans to subsistence farmers to install irrigation technology. For the most vulnerable people who simply have no access to food, Zambia plans to enhance its Social Cash Transfer Program (SCT), which aims to reduce extreme poverty.

To prevent future crises, Zambia plans to diversify its energy mix by adding other renewable sources, such as wind and solar. Relying less heavily on hydroelectric power will help mitigate the effects of future droughts on the nation’s farmers. The Zambian government has been in a debt restructuring process for three years, constraining its ability to give loans and direct cash aid to starving families. Hichilema is calling on the nation’s creditors to expedite the process, stating that “if this process does not close, it’s not just an indictment on Zambia but the global system.”

UN Initiatives

The World Food Programme (WFP), a branch of the United Nations, is working with Zambia to combat the current crisis. Its efforts include distributing food, using boreholes to find clean water and updating the country’s water technology systems. Cindy McCain, the executive director of the WFP, explains that the relief effort must focus on both long-term and short-term goals.

According to McCain, the short-term priority is increasing food availability. In contrast, long-term relief efforts would focus on preventative measures, such as installing irrigation systems and distributing drought-resilient seeds. The crucial first step is securing the additional $228 million in aid requested by OCHA. This funding infusion will greatly help the national government, the U.N. and other nongovernmental organizations meet the needs of the nation’s struggling farmers.

– Maren Fossum-Wernick

Maren is based in St. Paul, MN, USA and focuses on Technology and Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in TokelauTokelau, a Polynesian territory of New Zealand, boasts three small atolls fringed by crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral reefs. Despite this idyllic image, a hidden struggle with food security persists for many residents. While official reports indicate neither extreme poverty nor hunger on the island nation (data from 2014 shows no Tokelauans living below the basic needs poverty line), a 2016 census revealed a different story. About 22% of households reported feeling they have insufficient income. This discrepancy in hunger in Tokelau highlights the limitations of traditional poverty metrics. It underscores the importance of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2): Zero Hunger.

Life on the Remote Atolls

About 1,500 people live on the coast of the three atolls: Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo. The remote islands depend on boats and planes for transportation and trade. This makes it hard for them to get food from other places and limits their economic opportunities. Most people rely on fishing and subsistence farming for their livelihoods. However, these are threatened by changing weather patterns and environmental degradation.

Nutritional Challenges in Tokelau

Shifting weather patterns, a grim consequence of the changing climate, dramatically reshape Tokelau’s once-predictable island life. Rising sea levels fueled by warming waters threaten coastal areas with erosion and flooding. Droughts and storms, once infrequent visitors, have become unwelcome regulars, disrupting freshwater supplies and agricultural practices. Saltwater intrusion, a silent invader, contaminates freshwater sources and soils, jeopardizing food security and traditional livelihoods. 

Addressing the impact of changing weather patterns on Tokelau’s small atolls requires a multifaceted approach, including a shift in community mindsets and behavior. The island needs adaptation measures for essential service provision and increased capital investment to strengthen infrastructure against the changing climate.

Further, recent decades have witnessed a cultural shift that has contributed to hunger in Tokelau. Increased access to imported, processed foods has led to the gradual loss of traditional knowledge and skills for growing and preparing local fare. While often cheaper and more convenient, these imported options are laden with sugar, fat and salt, lacking essential vitamins and minerals.

This shift has fueled a rise in diet-related diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart problems, with children most susceptible due to their critical need for proper nutrition for growth and development. A United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) situation analysis of children in Tokelau found that obesity and related non-communicable diseases are major public health concerns. Data from 2010 suggests that 74% of the population aged more than 16 and 33% of children aged 0-15 were obese.

Initiatives To Fight Hunger in Tokelau

Despite the challenges, there is hope for Tokelau to overcome hunger and achieve food security. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) initiatives and programs address the problem from different angles. FAO has been partnering with Tokelau since 2011 as an Associate Member. The organization’s assistance to Tekolau has helped sustain natural resources and food security in the past few years.

FAO tailors its aid to Tokelau through the 2013-2017 Country Programming Framework. This framework addresses the regional needs of 14 Pacific Island Countries, including Tokelau, while focusing on five key areas: 

  • Strengthening policies and legislation 
  • Fostering sustainable agriculture 
  • Ensuring food safety
  • Boosting production and marketing
  • Protecting biodiversity 

In Tokelau specifically, FAO prioritizes building food security and climate resilience through two outcomes. The organization works to integrate environmental sustainability and adaptation to the changing climate into policies. Also, it wants to enhance environmental sustainability and resilience through improved coastal area management and sustainable land-use planning.

Tokelau’s Land Management Challenges and FAO’s Support

Tokelau’s low-lying atolls (three to five meters above sea level) face significant challenges due to coastal erosion. The limited land fertility and few natural resources further complicate food security and sustainable development.

Recognizing these challenges, FAO provided technical assistance to develop Tokelau’s first land-use plan. This plan, informed by land resource assessments and alternative scenarios, outlines sustainable land management practices and designates specific areas for various purposes, including tree planting, agriculture, infrastructure, housing, protected reserves and coastal development. 

The Future of Tokelau

Tokelau’s struggle with hunger exemplifies the global need to achieve SDG 2. By working towards this goal, the international community can support vulnerable communities like Tokelau in building a future free from hunger and malnutrition, ensuring a healthy and sustainable future for all.

– Adewumi Adewale
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Jamaica
Food crises disproportionately affect the poorest, who often resort to cheaper, less nutritious food options during such periods. This underscores the critical importance of ensuring food security, particularly for vulnerable segments of society like children. Failure to meet nutritional needs jeopardizes their physical health and impedes their ability to concentrate on academic pursuits. Jamaica, nestled in the Caribbean Sea, grapples with hunger as a pressing issue affecting its populace. According to findings by Food For The Poor (FFTP), a nonprofit organization, approximately 17.1% of the country’s population resides below the poverty line. More than 7% of children under the age of 5 endure stunting due to malnutrition, exacerbating the nation’s food insecurity.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Forbes article revealed that one in three survey respondents admitted to skipping meals or reducing food intake, with 1in 10 experiencing an entire day without sustenance. Additionally, global food prices have surged, partly attributed to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. As per the World Bank, Ukraine and Russia’s significant grain, oilseed and fertilizer production has led to supply shortages, resulting in price spikes for these commodities.

Food for the Poor

The intertwining of poverty and hunger underscores Jamaica’s ongoing efforts to seek support from various organizations dedicated to aiding impoverished families. Understanding hunger in Jamaica often hinges on the mission and focus of different organizations. FFTP is a prominent nonprofit that has been substantially impacted since its establishment in 1982. Jamaica holds the distinction of being the first country to receive assistance from this organization.

FFTP operates its office and warehouse complex in Spanish Town at the nexus of five highways spanning the island. Through its distribution centers, the organization provides life-saving food to approximately 350,000 Jamaicans each month, addressing the immediate needs of the most vulnerable populations.

Beyond food aid, FFTP endeavors to enhance the living conditions of numerous impoverished families by constructing homes island-wide. With an impressive track record, the organization has built 36,556 homes, addressing the pressing issue of homelessness in Jamaica.

Other Organizations Helping Jamaica and Political Actions

The World Food Program (WFP) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, extending its reach to the Caribbean to bolster food security efforts. Within the region, the WFP Caribbean endeavors to assist governments in developing mechanisms to connect local production with institutional markets, such as school meal programs and campaigns to stimulate demand for locally sourced food. Furthermore, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is steadfast in its commitment to reducing its food import expenditure to  25% by 2025, aligning with broader goals to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2030.

Jamaica, under the leadership of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, has celebrated significant milestones toward achieving a more sustainable economy. Notably, the country has witnessed a nearly 50% reduction in its unemployment rate. Holness highlighted this achievement: “When we assumed office in 2016, the unemployment rate stood at 13.7%. Today, it hovers around 7%. This remarkable progress signifies greater employment opportunities and increased household income for individuals across diverse backgrounds.”

Vision 2030 Jamaica

Understanding hunger in Jamaica revolves around the willingness to embrace change and accept necessary assistance. By acknowledging the need for change and embracing support, Jamaica can progress towards aiding the most vulnerable families. Getting help should not be seen as a sign of weakness or surrender but rather as a determination to persevere. As Jamaica approaches 2030, its national vision statement envisions the country as the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business. This vision includes ensuring that poverty does not persist due to insufficient support and fostering sustained growth and development. Consequently, Jamaican families hold an optimistic and confident belief that they can achieve future food security for all.

– Nevin Guler
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hunger in CubaA 2023 Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) report reveals that 78% of Cubans have stopped eating some meals, indicating undeniable hunger in Cuba. With nine in 10 Cubans barely earning “enough to survive,” and 62% struggling to buy essential goods. The Food Monitor Program and community projects address the crisis globally and provide on-the-ground support.

Ration Books to Market Choices

Since the 1962 Cuban Revolution, the government has subsidized a universal monthly food supply, which it distributes through libreta, a ration book. From 2021, more than 11 million Cubans are registered for this vital support.

Over time, the libreta has faced reductions, sustaining 85% of individuals in the OCDH report for 10 days or less. In December 2023, President Miguel Díaz-Canel expressed intentions to phase out staples like rice and sugar, redirecting support to the most vulnerable.

Other options include Freely Convertible Currency (MLC) stores, agricultural markets or the black market. In MLC stores, transactions must occur in foreign currency. The aim is to capture remittances from abroad to pay for food imports. However, this practice has widened the disparity between those with access to remittances — either from relatives abroad or through work in the COVID-19-impacted tourism sector — and those solely reliant on local salaries.

Nonetheless, MLC stores face shortages. The majority turn to the competitively priced black market, usually associated with illegal activity. In Cuba, this is where street vendors address the gaps in food and other household goods.

The Economic Impact

The Special Period” economic crisis followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, a significant supporter of Cuba. Historically, Cuba’s agricultural sector relied on large-scale monocultures, for the exports of sugar, tobacco, citrus and coffee. The Soviet Union supported Cuba by purchasing a share of its sugar and importing 63% of its food. After the Soviet Union’s collapse, an economic downturn resulted in drastic reductions in state-subsidized rations and triggered widespread hunger in Cuba.

To address this, Cuba imported rice from Vietnam and sold sugar to China. Subsequently, Cuba became heavily reliant on imports, constituting between 70% and 80% of its food supply in 2024, with minimal efforts to boost domestic production.

In 2024, the economy is in a decline reminiscent of the suffering, scarcity and hunger in Cuba during The Special Period. Sugar cane production in Cuba dropped from 816,000 tons in 2020-21 to 480,000 tons in 2021-22, with an overall 35% decrease between 2019 and 2023.

As of October 2023, food imports decreased to $1.6 billion. The current scenario reveals vulnerabilities in Cuba’s food security, as political relations and heavy reliance on food imports, including those for animals, expose the entire system to geopolitical challenges. Cuba is not producing or importing.

Substitutions, Shortages and Shifts in Daily Diet

The Food Monitor Program provides an analysis of the quality and availability of essential items in the Cuban diet, offering insight into the current culinary landscape of May-June 2023.

The government usually prioritizes milk for vulnerable groups, but it was recently removed from the libreta and replaced with concentrated milk powder. The increased price of beans has led households to consider excluding this vital protein. Coffee, integral to Cuban identity, has experienced setbacks in production. Rice, typically consumed in two meals a day and featured in various Cuban dishes, is experiencing shortages.

Many beloved food items in the daily Cuban diet have been substituted with cheaper but less nutritious alternatives. Sometimes, bread is used as a substitute for rice during lunch and dinner. However, the product has undergone substitutions with unpopular alternative flour like corn, pumpkin and sweet potato, according to the Food Monitor Program. Eggs, valued for versatility, affordability and availability, offer a protein alternative to meat but have become as inaccessible as pork or fish. The short supply of sunflower oil and other fats has impacted the ability to cook.

Resilience Amid Shortages

In response to the crises, individual and community-based mutual aid initiatives like the Quisicuaba project, a community-led soup kitchen in central Havana registered in 1992, are feeding the hungry. With the support of on-island cultural and community groups, foreign donations and private gifts, Quisicuaba Cabildo served breakfast, lunch and dinner daily to 4,000 people in January 2024.

The group’s leader emphasizes inclusivity: “We feed anyone who arrives … there are no conditions. We don’t ask how much they make, and we charge nothing,” Reuters reports. The project also provides a delivery service to those who cannot reach the kitchen.

Numerous smaller-scale projects and individual acts of aid have sprouted across the country. The Breath Of Life Humanitarian Project delivered Christmas dinners to 44 homeless individuals in Havana in 2023. Similarly, comedian Limay Blanco generously offered dinner to more than 300 people. In Guanabo, a bar owner organized a New Year’s Eve dinner for 180 low-income elderly and children.

These actions showcase the resilience and determination of Cuban communities in the face of food shortages. Acknowledging the vital need for global support in tackling hunger in Cuba, the demonstrated adaptability, solidarity, and resilience among Cubans offer compelling examples of collaborative assistance for shaping a more sustainable and food-secure future.

– Ben Miley-Smith
Photo: Flickr

Heart for AfricaIn Eswatini, hunger remains an urgent and pressing issue, with a significant portion of the population struggling to obtain reliable access to food. Recent reports indicate a persistent rise in hunger rates across the nation, with roughly 30% of the population affected by severe food insecurity.

Despite efforts to address this, the hunger challenge along with other health concerns continues to cast a shadow over the lives of many Eswatini citizens. However, amid these realities, nonprofits such as the Heart for Africa Organization have emerged as helpful allies committed to combating hunger and malnutrition through innovative and sustainable initiatives. Its unwavering dedication and support signal a potential turning point for the communities fighting hunger in Eswatini.

The Genesis of Heart for Africa

Janine and Ian Maxwell founded Heart for Africa in 2003, driven by a desire to find purpose following the September 11 attacks in the United States. Janine’s journey took her to Africa, where she confronted the harsh realities of hunger and illness.

Witnessing the daily battles of children, mothers and grandmothers for survival propelled Janine to use her corporate experience for a greater cause. Together, Janine and Ian established Heart for Africa, a nonprofit organization committed to tackling hunger, poverty and disease in Eswatini.

Addressing Eswatini’s Pressing Needs

Janine and her husband’s founding of Heart for Africa quickly positioned the organization as a critical player in addressing Eswatini’s severe challenges. Its focus on this particular nation stems from its acute hunger and health crises. Eswatini, home to just more than one million people, faces some of the world’s harshest conditions, with an average life expectancy of merely 29 years, a stark contrast to the United States (U.S.), where the life expectancy stands at 78 years for its 320 million inhabitants.

This dramatic difference underscores the health care disparities that contribute to nearly half of Eswatini’s population living below the poverty line. Given these dire statistics, Heart for Africa’s commitment to providing hunger and medical aid is both urgent and essential for improving the lives of Eswatini’s residents.

Addressing Child Hunger in Eswatini

In 2009, Heart for Africa launched a feeding program in partnership with rural churches in Eswatini, aiming to feed orphaned children within these communities. More than 350 churches sought support from this initiative, with selections favoring those in the country’s most remote areas. This marked a significant effort to combat child hunger and provide essential aid, laying the groundwork for sustainable development.

By its tenth anniversary in 2019, the organization had not only continued to feed hungry children but had also introduced “well-child check-ups” at its church partner sites to monitor health and wellness. Heart for Africa aims to eliminate malnutrition among the populations it serves through its network of 30 church partners. Additionally, there are plans to increase the feeding program from two to seven days per week at all partner churches, furthering its commitment to nurturing the well-being of Eswatini’s children.

Project Canaan: Combating Hunger

Heart for Africa has introduced initiatives like Project Canaan, focusing on long-term solutions to hunger in Eswatini. This comprehensive land development program introduces various approaches to teaching agriculture by utilizing outdoor and greenhouse crop production, dairy farming, livestock raising and fruit and crop production where feasible. The produce supports Eswatini’s populations, with participants working in sustainable communities.

In addition, Project Canaan aims to foster self-sufficiency and long-term resilience against food insecurity and poverty within local communities. It includes employment training and educational programs to equip community members with sustainable agricultural practices, empowering them with essential skills and knowledge for their future.

Agricultural Projects by Heart for Africa

At the core of this nonprofit is a deep-seated commitment to effect real change in the lives of people and communities throughout Eswatini. Heart for Africa is at the forefront of transformative change through its wide array of innovative programs and unwavering dedication, tackling crucial issues and driving sustainable development.

In addition, this commitment has led to significant infrastructure developments, including the construction of a greenhouse in 2015. This project is part of its ongoing efforts to enhance and diversify agricultural activities, signifying a move toward sustainable farming practices and the cultivation of high-value crops like vanilla. This venture not only promises future income but also creates numerous job opportunities, given its labor-intensive nature.

Food Security through Innovative Farming

Another development that benefits those struggling with hunger in Eswatini is the 30 acres of irrigated fields maintained by Heart for Africa where food is grown for local communities. This farming practice was recently incorporated into the organization’s strategic approach to addressing food insecurity and promoting sustainable agriculture. Since Eswatini currently imports 95% of its fruits and vegetables, the country’s population must shift toward growing food to reduce the reliance on and cost of importation.

In addition to the irrigation fields, Heart for Africa has developed 140 acres of dry fields for maize silage and hay production. This is also integral for fighting hunger in Eswatini since it ensures a sustainable resource for livestock, further contributing to food security and economic stability in the region.

– Caleb Ilayan
Photo: Unsplash

Technology Is Combating HungerThere is never a shortage of positive news across the globe when it comes to solutions and strategies to combat food insecurity. For a period, rising food prices seemed to be a worldwide dilemma, but the World Bank’s latest studies show a steady rise in the import and export of crops and grains. These numbers are projected to continue to grow and, in turn, decrease the costs of food prices. Although prices are returning to usual, other challenges still affect food security. Adverse weather is one of the top contributors to food insecurities. Fortunately, there is continued growth and expansion in the technological arena when it comes to helping predict and prepare for many of nature’s wiles. Here’s how satellite technology is combating hunger today.

On the Ground

Established in 1978, South-South Cooperation is a technical collaboration among developing countries in the Global South to foster effective communication to share skills and knowledge. This partnership has proven essential in facilitating technology transfer and quicker emergency responses, especially in times of disaster.

South-South has significantly influenced the current battle against hunger by focusing on new technology and its practices. The networking has proven monumental to the region and its contribution to the global economy. More than half of the world’s growth in recent times can be attributed to Southern countries. South-South leads the exchange of knowledge and expertise through diverse programs and projects to address specific issues in each country or region.

In the Air

Above the clouds lies an intricate satellite system with a program name as extensive as the day. The Global Agricultural Conditions Remote Sensing Early Reporting System (CropWatch) is the global leader in all remote monitoring systems. CropWatch currently covers six major grain-producing regions and 46 grain-producing and exporting countries.

CropWatch technology plays a crucial role in addressing hunger in various South-South regions by monitoring rainfall, temperatures and vegetation health. This comprehensive approach aids local farmers and growers prepare for diverse conditions, including El Niño. Established in 1998, CropWatch has become indispensable worldwide, contributing significantly to research and intuition and promoting healthy and sustainable crop growth.

Working Together

South-South and CropWatch share a longstanding collaboration, frequently joining forces on various projects and workshops. Their concerted efforts in disseminating theoretical knowledge and practical know-how play a vital role in the global fight against hunger through technology. Thus far, 11 African and Asian countries have benefitted from the assistance provided by these two collaborative programs.

Together, the programs implement effective warning systems for pest and plant diseases and help with action plans in the event of either. In August 2023, in efforts to combat crop growth issues, both programs hosted a workshop assisting farmers in the central regions of Africa to learn the CropWatch systems to manage irrigation.

What’s Next

The future looks promising, with technology firmly embedded in our lives and advancing rapidly. Each update and breakthrough brings us closer to a lasting solution for global hunger. Thanks to initiatives such as CropWatch and South-South, the trajectory toward sustainable food is already a reality. Notably, the impact of technology on combating hunger is evident, with food insecurity declining. As of 2023, more than 160 countries around the globe downloaded information about CropWatch, recognizing its pivotal role in each nation’s development.

– Ryan Johnson
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger and Poverty Among Small-Scale FarmersFarmers who cultivate our food often live in poverty and hunger. In rural areas, where 80% of the world’s impoverished reside, these individuals face a high risk of chronic food insecurity. Despite farmer’s crucial role in food production, agricultural workers endure exploitation, with 13% of adult forced labor and 70% of forced child labor occurring in this sector. Small-scale farmers work long hours with minimal social and labor protections, lacking fair wages and unemployment benefits.

Empowering Small-Scale Farmers

Small-scale farmers and rural residents often rank among the poorest, with a single poor harvest impacting their livelihoods for years. These farmers primarily produce basic goods, placing them low in the value chain and limiting their earnings.

Addressing rural poverty and ensuring the rights of small-scale farmers are essential for sustainable food systems. This article examines the Decent Work for Equitable Food Systems Coalition, a joint initiative by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), CARE International and the International Labour Organization (ILO), focusing on its role in combating rural poverty and supporting small-scale farmers.

The Coalition’s Impact on Rural Farmers

The Decent Work for Equitable Food Systems Coalition aims to ensure social and economic equity, along with access to adequate, nutritious food for all food system workers. It upholds human rights and labor laws, advocating for jobs in the agri-food industry that offer fair, livable wages.

In addition, the coalition concentrates on rural youth, addressing their specific challenges and fostering opportunities and promotes social inclusion to support small-scale farmers who may feel isolated and disempowered in rural areas. Through advocacy and the creation of knowledge, the coalition aims to solve these issues and move toward sustainable, equitable food systems.

Upholding Workers’ Rights

The coalition emphasizes creating better jobs in the agricultural sector to assist the rural poor. It targets an industry critical for the livelihoods of 4.5 billion people who depend on food systems, where 90% work in informal employment.

In fact, these workers, often among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, include indigenous peoples and impoverished women whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. The 2021 United Nations Food System Summit underscored “Advancing Equitable Livelihoods, Decent Work and Empowered Communities” as a critical area for action to support the Sustainable Development Goals.

Furthermore, to eliminate rural poverty, it’s essential that agricultural jobs offer fair wages and uphold the rights of workers. Although the Decent Work for Equitable Food Systems Coalition is relatively new and data on its impact is still emerging, its efforts in research and advocacy for fair wages and rights for small-scale farmers are available for review on its website.

Looking Ahead

The Decent Work for Equitable Food Systems Coalition represents a beacon of hope for small-scale farmers, promising a future where fair wages and labor rights are not just ideals but realities.

By focusing on the empowerment of rural youth and the inclusion of marginalized groups, this initiative is laying the groundwork for sustainable and equitable food systems. As efforts continue to unfold, the promise of a world where every agricultural worker receives just compensation and recognition for their invaluable contribution grows ever more tangible.

– Sara del Carmen Navarro Galvan
Photo: Pexels

WhyHungerAccording to the Global Hunger Index, over 828 million people go hungry daily. In addition, 29.6% of the world’s population (2.3 billion people) do not have adequate access to food. With these numbers showing that global hunger is a widespread and persistent issue, WhyHunger is committed to finding lasting solutions.

The Approach

WhyHunger identifies that hunger exists in our world because people can neither afford to buy food nor have access to the land, water and other resources necessary to produce their food. As a result, it is often decided that hunger is the problem; however, WhyHunger takes a different approach.

Instead of deciding that hunger is the problem, something that can limit solutions to food charity and distribution, WhyHunger looks at the root causes and defines hunger as a symptom. The organization believes that taking this approach is the first step to finding lasting solutions to the complex economic, social and environmental issues that lie at the source.

The Solutions

Among the many lasting solutions of WhyHunger, three have had incredibly tremendous impacts. First, growing grassroots power lies at the core of WhyHunger’s approach to building lasting solutions to hunger. By developing partnerships and allying with grassroots leaders and organizations, the initiative can support grassroots factors committed to ending global hunger.

Second, WhyHunger believes that lasting societal transformations occur when individuals, particularly those most vulnerable, work together towards common goals and visions for society. Therefore, social movements express this shared desire to address the injustices that lead to hunger and movements that WhyHunger supports in the quest for food justice.

Third, WhyHunger frames the solution to hunger as a human right. This framing acts as a catalyst for lasting, systemic change and thus holds institutions responsible for protecting and fulfilling the right to food for all people. As a member of the Global Network on the Right to Food, WhyHunger can actively protect this right to food as a human right across the globe.

The Impact

Due to the significant impact of WhyHunger, the Duke Sanford World Food Policy Center at Duke University singles out the organization as a leader in the movement to end hunger and advance the human right to nutritious food in the U.S. and in communities around the world.

Since its establishment in 1975, WhyHunger has supplied $1.2 million to support and train 103,999 farmers in 68 countries to grow nutritious food to feed themselves and their communities in need. WhyHunger also works in partnerships to connect children to free, healthy meals in the summer when childhood hunger spikes. The nonprofit has succeeded in connecting 2.4 million children to these meals. Finally, WhyHunger has granted $532,280 to 85 grassroots partners and social movements to help their communities develop lasting solutions to hunger.

Through these impacts, WhyHunger continues to lead the fight against hunger. Although this fight is ongoing, the good news is that much progress has already been made. The organization believes that a world without hunger is possible and is committed to finding lasting solutions until that world is realized.

– Olivia Pitrof
Photo: Unsplash

Home-Grown School Feeding ProgrammeGlobally, 244 million children and youth aged 6 to 18 remain without access to education. Nigeria, as Africa’s most populous and largest economy, contributes significantly, with 20 million of its young population currently out of school, with the threat of additional millions facing the risk of dropout looms large.

Among the complex factors hindering education, one stands out prominently – “Hunger.” Childhood malnutrition disorders affect more than 42% of school children in the country and are responsible for 49% of the absenteeism of primary school-age children.

Studies by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reveal a grim reality. Nigeria carries the world’s second-highest burden of stunted children under 5, with a prevalence rate of 32%. This widespread malnutrition not only impacts physical health but also hinders cognitive development, learning outcomes and future productivity.

The Vicious Cycle of Hunger and Education

Studies conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) demonstrate a strong correlation between malnutrition and educational outcomes. Specifically, research has shown that providing daily meals at school can have several positive effects, including:

  • Improved focus and concentration in children.
  • Increased enrollment and attendance rates.
  • Higher retention rates in educational programs. 
  • Enhanced cognitive abilities.

Data analysis indicates that such school meal programs can, on average, boost enrollment by 9%. This suggests that addressing hunger is a critical factor in removing barriers to education.

Enter the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme

In a 2016 attempt to tackle Nigeria’s out-of-school crisis, the Federal Government of Nigeria revived the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) in 22 states nationwide. This N70 (around $0.17) per child, per day initiative aimed to boost primary school enrollment, improving students’ health and nutrition, all within a social safety net framework. To achieve this, the program targeted multiple areas: increasing farmers’ income, empowering women, fostering collaboration among ministries of education, health, justice, agriculture and budget and planning. Additionally, it actively engaged state governments, school boards, community leaders, women’s groups and parents.

Beyond Nourishment

Sourcing ingredients from 150,000 smallholder farmers, the HGSFP creates a stable market for their produce and boosts their income, fostering agricultural development. This has spurred 106,000 jobs, especially for women cooks and food deliverers, directly combating Nigeria’s unemployment rate, which stood at 33.3% in Q4 2020.

Impact Quantified

Initially aiming to reach 12.8 million primary school children by July 2019, the program currently nourishes at least 9.4 million pupils in 46,000 public schools across 31 states. These children receive a nutritious meal every school day, with menus varying across regions from moi moi (beans pudding) to beans, porridge, rice and other local staples.

The impressive scale of the program is evident in the sheer volume of ingredients used. Each week, 594 cattle, 138,000 chickens, 6.8 million eggs and 83 metric tons of fish contribute to feeding the children. This not only nourishes young minds but also stimulates domestic agriculture and food production.

The program’s positive impact extends beyond plates. In 2019, the federal government acknowledged HGSFP’s significant contribution to a 20% increase in primary school enrollment nationwide since its launch in 2016. This increase demonstrates the program’s effectiveness in attracting and retaining children in school, paving the way for a brighter future for individuals and the nation.

Challenges and the Road Ahead

While the HGSFP boasts impressive achievements in feeding millions of children and boosting local agriculture, it faces several hurdles that threaten its full potential. Limited funding restricts meal quality and reach, while corruption involving some cooks necessitates stricter monitoring. Inefficient management, including the lack of regular reviews, leads to unmet demand and potential mismanagement. Additionally, discrepancies exist between reported successes and experiences in specific areas, raising concerns about uneven implementation.

A Tech Boost

WFP has declared Nigeria’s National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) the best in Africa. It is partnering with the government to enhance its impact further. WFP will provide tablets loaded with the PLUS Schools Menus app to promote better nutrition and dietary habits, empowering nutrition officers to design budget-friendly, nutritious meals for schools. This decision stems from a joint assessment to strengthen, scale and sustain the NHGSFP.

A Plateful of Potential

The HGSFP offers a powerful antidote to Nigerians’ struggle with hunger and unequal access to education. Nurturing both minds and bodies, it illuminates a path toward a more promising future for millions of children. With continued commitment and collaborative efforts, a plate of food can truly transform lives and reshape the educational ecosystem of Nigeria.

– Abraham Ikongshul
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in the BahamasPicture The Bahamas and its beautiful sunshine coupled with exotic beaches. Listen to its unique music while embracing the culture of the island. The country feels and operates similarly to the United States (U.S.), even officially adopting the language and dollar, and offers everything a tourist could want on a tropical getaway. However, weaved among the festivities and similarities is an ongoing issue affecting nearly 13% of The Bahamas and those native to or living along the archipelago. Here is everything you need to know about hunger in The Bahamas.

The Facts

Surprising. The Bahamas is a country that is currently unable to produce enough food for its residents and relies heavily on imports. One out of every 10 Bahamians lives below the poverty line and experiences severe food insecurity. Many accessible foods are less healthy choices and often lead to early signs of hypertension and high blood pressure. A dozen eggs cost $7.50 on average. Meanwhile, residents who fall below the poverty line have less than $4 per day to spend on food. Agriculture lends no mercy to hunger in The Bahamas, as the country is covered in rock and limestone. Salty waters and soils make farming and growing crops difficult or impossible in some areas. The country grows many exotic fruits quite well and is in the process of improving farming practices and increasing produce overall.

The Fix

Education. Many people affected by hunger in The Bahamas are residents who lack formal education. Studies revealed that when the head of household has no formal education, the incidence of poverty is 25%. That number is almost cut in half when the head of household has a primary education. Families that have a head with some college and are living in poverty are less than 1%. Agricultural education is also essential to improving crop production within the country and lowering the need for imports and the overall cost of goods. Alternative farming techniques and improving irrigation are a few ways the region is looking to grow its food production. Other solutions include creating raised garden beds with imported soil and various hydroponic practices.

The Future

Promising. Numerous NGOs are working around the clock to help the fight against hunger and food insecurities. One major contributor to the success of the region is the Bahamas Feeding Network (BFN). Since 2013, the Bahamas Feeding Network has faithfully served the country and continues to make great strides in its fight against hunger in The Bahamas. Partnering with Fidelity Insurance, BFN has hosted two ‘Tee-Off for Hunger Golf Tournaments.’ The tournament raised enough money to provide 750,000 meals in 2023. Royal Caribbean International joined forces with the Bahamas Feeding Network in 2019 and has since raised more than $500,000 and fed countless families during the holidays. Educating residents and farmers are programs like Convoy of Hope. Convoy of Hope recently teamed with the University of Missouri College of Agriculture and together assisted local farmers with training sessions where specialists trained local growers on various practices for growing produce. Those growers then carry valuable new information and skills back to the region to teach others.

Looking Ahead

Many locals struggle to afford food and the agriculture of the region makes it difficult for sustainable produce to grow. Many practices are currently in place to alleviate the food insecurity issues Bahmaians are facing. Formal education is the most vital resource in combating hunger in The Bahamas. Teaching alternative farming practices and techniques also plays a significant role. Organizations like the Bahamas Feeding Network are critical in providing meals and assistance, while programs like Convoy of Hope help educate the future growers of the region with knowledge and advanced farming practices. These programs assist with the push toward The Bahamas being a more self-sustaining region and eliminating hunger in The Bahamas for good.

– Ryan Johnson
Photo: Pixabay