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

Hunger in Cuba
Cuba’s geographic position in the Caribbean leaves it vulnerable to annual natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and heavy rain. Natural disasters have cost Cuba more than 20 billion USD since 2011, a cost that greatly impacts Cuba’s overall food security. Despite this, Cuba has consistently scored “low” (less than 5) on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) since 2005. A GHI score of <5 indicates that less than 10% of the population suffers from hunger, calculated by national rates of undernourishment, child wasting and stunting and child mortality. Hunger in Cuba has stabilized at 2.50% since 2002.

While still under the 10% line and decreasing, Cuba’s child stunting indicators are much higher than its other indicators. In 2005, child stunting was 4.8% higher than the next-highest indicator, child wasting, and still 2.7% higher in 2019. According to Cuba’s Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System, 31.6% of two-year-olds suffered from anemia in 2015.

Social Programs in Cuba

Many social programs in Cuba rely heavily on food importation and foreign aid from Venezuela and the U.S. Up to 80% of Cuba’s food is imported. The majority of food importation, about 67%, goes toward government social programs. This leads to long distribution lines for basic food products like rice, vegetables, eggs and meat. These lines for individual food products can last up to five hours as people wait to purchase groceries with government-issued ration books. Waiting for one ingredient at a time leads to some households choosing certain food products over others and reducing their nutrient diversity.

Fortunately, international and local organizations are also stepping in to help. Here are four organizations working to addressing hunger in Cuba.

  1. The World Food Programme: The World Food Programme (WFP) is working hard to improve nutrient diversity and reduce Cuban reliance on international imports. The WFP provides nutritional and food safety education programs for pregnant and nursing women, children and seniors. The organization also helps local producers and processors of beans improve the competitive pricing of their products. Additionally, the WFP collaborates with the Cuban government to develop a food security analysis program in conjunction with Cuba’s natural disaster response plan.
  2. The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere: Smaller organizations strive to help Cuba improve its food security as well. The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), for instance, helps Cuban farmers revive farmland and establish sustainable food production practices, which will improve crop returns and overall food security over time.
  3. The West India Committee: Similar to CARE, the West India Committee provides education and training to farmers to help keep farmland productive and efficient over a longer period of time.
  4. The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba: The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHR Cuba) has a different approach. FHR Cuba focuses on creating economic incentives to start and maintain small businesses, including livestock and agricultural farms. FHR Cuba gives out microcredit loans between $100 and $600 to applicants for business supplies. Participants are then required to file a monthly report. So far, the initiative has funded 70 entrepreneurs. All have been able to successfully repay their loan as their businesses take off.

Political and Economic Context

Recent political fighting and economic hardships have led to food shortages and new government-issued rations. These go beyond the already-existing food rations allotted per family. Since 2000, Cuba has relied on Venezuelan oil, but economic collapse in Venezuela caused the aid in oil exports from that region to be cut in half. Cuba relied on selling Venezuelan oil for hard currency to trade internationally for products like food.

Additionally, after Cuba affirmed diplomatic support for Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, the U.S. imposed strict sanctions. The U.S. sanctions have caused food prices to soar as Cuba seeks new, more expensive suppliers. Additionally, the national production of food fell in response to the economic crisis, exacerbated by COVID-19 and plummeting tourism.

Improving Food Security

Cuba is seeking to improve its future food security by asking citizens to grow their own gardens and produce their own food. Due to how much of food is imported from abroad, very little food is produced in Cuba itself. For example, Cuba missed the mark of 5.7 million domestic demand for eggs by 900,000 eggs in March 2019, while Cuba’s main homegrown agricultural exports are luxuries like sugar and tobacco. Havana reportedly already produces 18% of its agricultural consumption, while other areas are only starting to begin farming and gardening initiatives. As agricultural supplies are also largely imported, Cubans must rely on organic farming techniques like “worm composting, soil conservation and the use of biopesticides.”

In conclusion, while Cuba has a long track record of preventing widespread hunger, the country needs to find new solutions to combat hunger in Cuba in the face of recent challenges like COVID-19 and faltering foreign aid. With the help of economic creativity like microloans and improving competitive bean prices, sustainable farming techniques taught by WFP, CARE and others and measures already in place to reduce Cuba’s reliance on food imports, Cuba has shown that it already has the infrastructure in place to meet these challenges.

Elizabeth Broderick
Photo: Flickr

cause of hungerThe COVID-19 pandemic is deemed a global health crisis that has resulted in an economic crisis and a hunger crisis too. In the Dominican Republic, Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger.

Unemployment Due to COVID-19

Cabarete, Dominican Republic, prides itself on being one of the watersports capitals of the world. Nearly two-thirds of Cabarete’s population depends on the local tourism industry for work and income. These jobs mostly fall under the informal economy.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 60% of the world’s working population were employed in the informal economy. The informal economy is defined by hourly jobs that offer neither a salary nor employee benefits. The pandemic left many people without a regular source of income and without health insurance.

Compared with the bailout packages that the governments of wealthy nations were able to provide to their citizens, the governments of impoverished nations were unable to provide citizens with such economic support. Around the world, NGOs have attempted to assist in providing the support that impoverished governments are unable to provide.

Cabarete Sostenible Addresses the Root Cause of Hunger

Moraima Capellán Pichardo, a citizen of Cabarete, is a supporter of the concept of food sovereignty. The Borgen Project spoke with Capellán Pichardo about the origins of Cabarete Sostenible and the organization’s long-term goals. Food sovereignty, the principle that individual self-actualization is dependent on having enough to eat, is at the heart of Cabarete Sostenible’s mission.

Capellán Pichardo told The Borgen Project that individual NGOs in Cabarete were working independently of each other when the COVID-19 pandemic began. These separate organizations had a common goal so they came together to form a coalition and increase their impact. This coalition became the nonprofit organization, Cabarete Sostenible. Everyone who works with Cabarete Sostenible is a volunteer. The organization works with local food distributors and organic farms and distributes the foodstuff that it receives to struggling families and individuals in Cabarete. This forms the organization’s first response to the hunger crisis.

Although it began as a method to address an acute crisis, Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger. Capellán Pichardo indicated that food sovereignty has been on the minds of Cabarete Sostenible’s volunteers and organizers since its inception. “Very early on, we sat down to discuss where we thought Cabarete Sostenible was going in the future. For us, we wanted to make sure that we did not just stick to giving out food because that does not really address the root problem.”

The Concept of Food Sovereignty

Food insecurity means being without reliable access to sufficient and nutritious supplies of food at any given time and is a common reality for citizens of Cabarete. On the other hand, food sovereignty, organizing society in such a manner that every individual has access to producing his or her own food, is a possible solution to food insecurity. “Food sovereignty is tied to land access,” Capellán Pichardo says. “For us, it is important that the first mission that Cabarete Sostenible focuses on is food sovereignty: access to healthy and appropriate food and using the native agricultural land to provide that.”

Food Sovereignty Addresses Food Insecurity

Since COVID-19, many factors have contributed to a rise in food insecurity and extreme poverty worldwide. Mass rates of unemployment have threatened access to food as even the poorest households spend close to three-fourths of their income on food.

Widespread unemployment, combined with unexpected drops in agricultural production, has created an unprecedented crisis. Because of supply line disruptions and trade barriers, often the result of increased health precautions, citizens of the world’s poorest nations are left without access to food. Some of the suffering caused by such disruptions can be mitigated by food sovereignty policies. Perhaps, a societal approach may be modeled after Cabarete Sostenible’s efforts to address the root causes of hunger.

Sustainable Community Solutions to Hunger

Capellán Pichardo is optimistic about the road ahead as she details how the organization has worked with local landowners to collaborate on solutions. The organization has opened the first community garden and is working to partner up to create a community-style farm. All this is work toward creating a social business model. Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger by helping to create a sustainable way of living, where food shortages are less likely and future hunger crises are averted.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Luxembourg
Many know Luxembourg for being the wealthiest country per capita in the European Union and for its high quality of living. For the past 20 years, the country has kept the percentage of the population below the minimum level of dietary energy consumption at 2.5%. While hunger in Luxembourg is no longer a pressing issue, it has directed its efforts toward helping other nations move towards eliminating hunger. Working closely with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) allowed for Luxembourg to share its success with struggling nations. Here is how Luxembourg is helping others fight hunger.

5 Ways Luxembourg is Helping Others Fight Hunger

  1. Luxembourg is one of the founding members of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Since hunger rates are low in Luxembourg, it helps other countries mainly through the advocacy of food security and agricultural development. The FAO emphasizes that water sanitation, food security and nutrition are vital to surviving crises such as natural disasters. Luxembourg promotes sustainability throughout all food systems in the hopes of eliminating world hunger and poverty. Luxembourg has specifically implemented a four-part strategy to combat hunger in other nations including improving access to basic social services, enhancing socio-economic incorporation of women and youth, promoting sustainable growth and strengthening inclusive governance.
  2. Between 2009-2019, Luxembourg donated $25.1 million to the organization. The country provided $5.4 million in voluntary contributions directed towards projects in Africa and Asia, donating around $3.3 million to Africa and around $2.1 million to Asia. Meanwhile, a little over $6 million were from voluntary contributions. Luxembourg’s donations primarily went toward reducing rural poverty, increasing the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises and enabling inclusive agricultural and food systems. It has since committed to supporting food security in Afghanistan through investment in rural livelihoods as well as assisting in the strengthening of preparedness in Senegal by implementing emergency plans for food security. About 100% of contributions went toward the development of sustainable food sources.
  3. Luxembourg placed emphasis on resourcing poor rural communities. One of the reasons hunger in Luxembourg is so low is because of the stress it places on reducing rural poverty. Luxembourg contributed $6.8 million to food-insecure households in low-resource rural areas between 2010 and 2020. Around 53% of Luxembourg’s donations went towards reducing rural poverty in order to help food security. The contributions allowed for the Household Food and Livelihood Security project to address extreme poverty and hunger amongst the impoverished households in rural Afghanistan. As a result, the contributions helped the FAO target the livelihoods of the poorest communities in Afghanistan through facilitating literacy and sanitation, providing services on demand and improving market linkages.
  4. FAO and Luxembourg promoted food safety emergency preparedness. Luxembourg encouraged the development of a food safety plan in case of emergency in Senegal. Being prepared for a food safety emergency such as illness is one of the reasons that hunger in Luxembourg is not a significant issue. By doing so, food safety risk communication improved in the country and food safety surveillance strengthened. Food safety emergencies are often costly and limit economic productivity, but Luxembourg’s provided expertise helped secure the first development of a national emergency response plan. Between 2015 and 2017, Luxembourg helped fund the development of PNRUSSA, the first emergency response plan for food safety in Senegal. By doing so, it set an example for the surrounding regions to focus on food safety work and stimulated initiatives.
  5. Both FAO and Luxembourg have committed to advocating for safe food for everyone. By constantly advocating for high standards surrounding the production and trade of food, the two are fighting for a more sustainable future. Increasing the sustainability of food promises a healthier future for both plants and animals, and therefore, higher quality products. Luxembourg also supported the International Plant Protection Convention in an effort to control the introduction and spread of pests that harm plants. Pests can reduce crop yield by destroying crops and yielding a lower profit for the farmer. In 1929, German authorities noted that pests destroyed 10% of their cereal crops; and without pest control, reports determined that the country would lose 70% of crops.

Luxembourg is helping others fight hunger and it plans to continue work with the FAO to explore new and innovative ways to strengthen sustainable food security and move towards a world with zero hunger. The contributions from countries where hunger is a limited issue allow for the FAO to elevate efforts in fighting hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping sustainability in mind.

– Jai Phillips
Photo: Flickr

Energy in BurundiRanked 185th out of 189 countries on the 2019 United Nations’ human development index, Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries. Approximately 65% of Burundians live below the poverty line. Furthermore, Burundi has the second lowest GDP in the world and the highest hunger score across the globe according to the 2018 World Food Security Report. This article will highlight challenges relating to accessing energy in Burundi and the early successes of some solutions.

An Unsustainable Lifestyle

Most Burundians live an agrarian lifestyle; approximately 80% of the population is employed in the agricultural sector and more than 87% of the population lives in rural areas. Of the 11.7 million people, only 3% have access to electricity, and 90% of energy access in Burundi is dependent on biogas via the burning of firewood. Unfortunately, 50% of the population remains food insecure, and the country’s total annual food production only covers 55 days per person each year. Burundian families spend on average four hours each day sourcing firewood for basic tasks like food preparation. However, this practice comes at the expense of:

  1. Education: Many children opt out of school to help source firewood. In fact, only 32% of Burundi’s children complete a lower secondary education.
  2. The Environment: Sourcing firewood contributes to deforestation and increases carbon dioxide levels. The resulting carbon emissions decrease air quality and damage the ozone layer, causing climate change.
  3. Family Health & Nutrition: Burundi has the highest level of malnutrition in the world. 56% of Burundian children are stunted and the median age of the population is 17.3 years. Preventing malnutrition in Burundi would cost $102 million per year.

The SAFE Initiative

Thankfully, the Burundian government joined with the World Food Program in 2017 as a part of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) initiative. The initiative introduces fuel-efficient stoves to over 18 countries in the region, promoting energy accessibility for impoverished communities in Burundi.

So far, this development has sparked great progress in Burundi:

  1. Currently, 485,000 persons have received and benefitted from fuel-efficient stoves.
  2. Institutional stoves that have reached 100,000 children and 147 primary schools.
  3. Fuel-efficient stoves have significantly reduced air pollution. The utility of each batch of firewood increase by up to fivefold, decreasing each family’s firewood intake by about 11.5kg per day.

However, the country is still primarily dependent on biogas from firewood. Fortunately, the location and climate of the country lend themselves to the renewable generation of energy in Burundi, mainly through hydroelectric and solar energy. The government of Burundi partners with energy investors to build its private sector. Hopefully, this partnership will boost Burundi’s economy, sparking expansion in the commerce, health, education, tourism, fisheries and transport sectors. Ultimately, expanding beyond an agrarian society will lift Burundians out of poverty.

Hydroelectric Power Energy in Burundi

Burundi has only utilized only 32 MW of its 1700 MW hydroelectric energy potential. The country is located in the heart of Africa’s Great Lakes Region and surrounded by potential energy sources such as the Malagarasi river (475 km). With only 29 of 159 potential hydropower sites already explored, hydroelectric power technologies only serve 9% of the population. But, Burundi is making strides with its new development projects:

  1. The Rusumo Falls Hydropower Project: This Run-of-the-River system has an 80MW capacity and three generating units. The Rusumo Power Company developed this system with financial support from multi-national developers and the governments of Burundi, Congo and Tanzania. The plant is located on the border of Rwanda and Tanzania with transmission lines interconnecting them with Burundi. Its production began in January 2017.
  2. Ruzizi III: With a capacity of 147 MW and an energy production goal of 675GWh, the Ruzizi III greenfield hydropower project is a part of an existing hydropower cascade fed by the Kivu Lake. Ruzizi III is one of the largest infrastructure development projects in the region; Burundi, DRC and Rwanda each have 10% ownership of this partnership with a private investor.
  3. Ruzizi IV: This project is another partnership with Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda. The Ruzizi Hydropower Plant Project IV will have a capacity of 287-MW. Additionally, the African Development Bank Group has approved an $8.9 million grant to support the development.

Access to Solar Power Energy in Burundi

Burundi also holds unique potential for solar power energy development. The country is located on the equator, with temperatures ranging from 17 to 23˚C, altitudes varying from 772 meters to 2,670 meters and extremely sunny weather. The Burundian authorities look forward to exploring this option soon.

With success, millions of households and industries will soon have accessible energy in Burundi. Reliable and widespread access to electricity is improving the quality of basic services including health, education and security services. Additionally, there will be a reduction in carbon emissions. Hopefully, with help, more Burundians will escape the cycle of poverty.

– Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

Food SystemsIn the next 30 years, the world population will grow by two billion: approximately 25% of the current population. Food demand will increase significantly during this time and international organizations are prioritizing the development of strategies to address this concern. Framing the future of food systems, which encompass producing, processing, transporting and consuming food, is key to continued efforts in reducing poverty and extreme hunger.

Population Growth in Africa

Global population growth does not imply an equal or even proportional increase in every region of the world. The population of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is estimated to double by 2050, from approximately one to two billion. This number accounts for half of the global population growth expected. Such substantial growth in a population already experiencing food insecurity, if not coupled with sustainable food system developments, will exacerbate the issue and make advancement more difficult.

Facets of Food Security

Increasing demand for food is not the only threat to the future of food systems around the world. The cultivability of land is changing with the climate, requiring workers in the agriculture sector to adjust crop selection and techniques. Instability in the industry detracts from the appeal of such an occupation and further strains the food supply.

Many producers of food are among the hardest hit by the effects of food insecurity. In India, 41% of the workforce falls under agriculture, yet the country is home to the largest number of people experiencing hunger in a single nation — approximately 189 million. With the food supply responsibility falling on some of the most at-risk populations, food systems are even more vulnerable when confronted with adversity.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of adversity faced by food systems. Limits put in place to prevent further spread of the virus weaken the agriculture sector of the workforce and economy. This stress on food systems extends to the global economy, education, peace efforts and human rights, among others.

The Decade of Action

Just 10 years remain to meet the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The second SDG necessitates improvements in food security, nutrition and agriculture across the globe, marking the next 10 years as the Decade of Action. The 2021 U.N. Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) has been planned to foster discussions of global challenges, priorities, opportunities and solutions in the food system sector, hopefully resulting in unified and inclusive efforts toward achieving the SDGs. In a lead up to the 2021 UNFSS, 13 organizations collaborated to host the two-day Bold Actions for Food as a Force for Good event in November 2020.

Food System Innovations

Along with the need to shift toward more sustainable consumption, gender-equity in food systems, agricultural innovations and financing for solutions, the Bold Actions for Food as a Force for Good event emphasized the importance of novel approaches to reducing extreme hunger with the Food Systems Innovation Challenge. In this challenge, teams of students from 20 universities proposed innovative ideas to transform the future of food systems. Solutions proposed by these teams include online systems connecting producers and consumers to keep all facets of the food market current on need and capacity. Apps and food labels to provide guidance on reducing food waste and making more sustainable dietary choices as well as food packaging that minimizes waste and carbon footprints formed part of these solutions.

A Sustainable Future

Projections for global population growth alongside new challenges stemming from climate change and COVID-19, make food security a top concern. By promoting the now-underway Decade of Action, the U.N. is leading unified efforts to establish sustainable and equitable food systems worldwide. Progress will depend on effective mobilization, collaboration and innovation— the backbones of development toward more stable food systems.

– Payton Unger
Photo: Flickr

the Amazon's River PeopleDeforestation is regularly spoken of on a global scale. Most people understand that deforestation, the removal of trees and plants, may seem beneficial to the global economy, but the positive effects disappear in the long term. Climate change is a looming negative externality. It also impacts our health directly. Deforestation correlates with an increase in disease and a decrease in immunity as natural remedies become scarce. One study found that around 30% of disease outbreaks were caused by deforestation of the surrounding areas. The impact of deforestation on a global scale may be hard to calculate. However, the effects of deforestation on the ribereño, the Amazon’s river people, puts deforestation in perspective.

Who Are the Ribereños?

The ribereños, also known as the river people or riverine peasants, live along the riverbanks of the Amazon. Their communities live apart from the rest of civilization in the forests of Peru and Brazil. The Amazon’s river people are self-dependent; they operate their own education, health, food supply and water supply systems. The ribereños are rather adaptable to the behaviors of the Amazon river and forest. Over the years, they have learned how to use their resources sustainably.

The Effects of Deforestation on Ribereños

Unfortunately, deforestation has increased hunger among the Amazon’s river people. These riverine communities rely primarily on fishing during lower tides and hunting during high-water seasons. Both of these resources have decreased over the last decade due to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The removal of the trees decreases natural resources, so hunting and food gathering have become less and less effective in supporting these populations. Furthermore, there is a link between deforestation and more frequent runoffs, baseflow reductions, erosion and pesticide-contaminated water.

Additionally, developers use forest fires for deforestation in Brazil. As a result, the air quality has worsened, putting the Amazon’s river people at higher risk of respiratory disease. In the time of COVID-19, this could be detrimental to the ribereños. Their only way to receive medical treatment is to travel by boat, for hours or even days. Therefore, any new disease or increase in illness has the potential to end in mass deaths.

Fighting Deforestation in Amazonia

The effects of deforestation of the Amazon have changed drastically in recent years. According to Professor Bratman, the author of Governing the Rainforest: Sustainable Development in the Brazilian Amazon, the ribereño population has been rather vocal about their struggles. “Deforestation went hand in hand with threats to their land and livelihood. Ranchers and loggers were moving onto the land on which the ribereños have lived on for generations, claiming that they actually have the right to take it,” explains Bratman. She saw how the Amazon’s river people united against deforestation and caused a spike in media attention. They are not helpless, but they do need the help of others. Bratman stated it is important to help the ribereños “keep the issue in the news. Support the organizations on the ground doing the work. It is important to be environmentally aware because it’s all of our future at stake.”

Thankfully, several organizations are working to help the riverside communities of Amazonia. The main actors are the WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature), Environmental Defense Fund and Green Peace. These organizations focus on generally fighting deforestation and on helping the ribereños survive their changing environment.

The Amazon’s river people are staying vocal and so are the organizations helping them. Brazilian deforestation has headlined numerous international newspapers, putting pressure on the Brazilian government. The main way to help the riverside communities of Amazonia is to continue the discussion.

Anna Synakh
Photo: flicker