African Vegetable StaplesAfrica has millions of hectares of viable land for large-scale agricultural operations. Many large regions of Africa are the last locations on the planet with large plots of land rich in soil nutrients and water sufficiency. New government infrastructure, a global investment and advanced technology has allowed sub-Saharan African farmers to raise crop yield. The agriculture industry is the most viable way to feed families on a small scale in villages. African vegetable staples are important as they are the bulk of the famous nutritional African diet.

Approximately 65% of the African labor force involves itself in agriculture, with the agriculture industry accounting for 32% of the region’s GDP. Governments have attempted to increase crop yield by utilizing agriculture marketing boards in order to provide more stable and standardized prices, credit extension services, technology and improved seeds. Additionally, more companies in the private sector have improved rural marketing and supply lines. These advances in extension services improve land and water management, introduce new farming techniques and provide new, efficient technology.

Essential African Vegetable Staples

Essential African vegetable staples include yams, green bananas, plantains and cassava. There are a plethora of different and unique ways of preparing dishes particular to each region and culture. Vegetables such as beans and lentils accompany almost every meal in order to provide a balanced nutritious diet. People in Africa consider meat a side dish rather than the main dish, and vegetables the main dish. Typical African vegetable staples specific to a region are dependent on the location, land viability, soil richness and water availability. Rice is more common where there is more water whereas cash crops such as groundnut are common in every household.

Many African staple foods provide a base diet for African families. African vegetable staples provide the necessary proteins, vitamins and nutrients that combat the alarming, wide-scale malnutrition issues that run rampant in many small villages that are not connected to large cities. With no access to large-scale trade or industrial resources, villagers take care of each other with personal farms. Additionally, many African vegetables also double as medicinal uses as well, allowing improved community health and nutrition.

Many staple meals accompany African’s rich variety of culture and history. The thousands of various African cultures utilize varieties of spices to prepare the same ingredient to uphold their respective traditional values and ideas. Diverse food choices are unique in each region and can range from fermented beans, sweet potato greens, teff and varieties of dumplings, to corn-based porridges, millet, kenkey, fontou and fonio. The diverse sets of languages within each region also have their own unique menus specific to their culture and certain traditions.

Case Study: The Democratic Republic of Congo

Vegetables grown in the DRC include peanuts, yams, beans, peas and maize. The political instability of the DRC has led to problems of malnutrition and lack of food access for millions of people. However, vegetables are used as an efficient solution because of the mass remote lands DRC controls for horticulture. The agriculture industry supports more than half of the DRC population. Although farming provides less than 10% of DRC’s GDP, land use is minimal to only 3.5% of DRC’s land and accounts for over 50 tons of subsistence foodstuffs.

What Next?

African vegetables have been the bulk of the African diet for millennia. Not only is it an efficient and effective way of utilizing rich soil and plentiful land on the continent, but it is also one of the most viable ways to aid the economy while doing so. Vegetables in Africa are the staple food not just for the famous nutritious diets, but also because they are an important characteristic of African identity and culture. Many African recipes eaten today have passed down generation after generation in an effort to maintain and uphold tradition. The African vegetable staples are one of the most unique characteristics of African culture and are a testament to their devotion to their diverse ideas and traditions.

Aria Ma
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in El Salvador
El Salvador, home to more than 6.4 million people, is a middle-income country located in Central America. Despite El Salvador’s efforts to reduce poverty and food insecurity — hunger remains an issue for its citizens. Fortunately, several organizations, including the World Food Program (WFP) and Feed the Children, are stepping in to fight hunger in El Salvador.

Poverty, Agriculture and Hunger

The poverty rate in El Salvador dropped from 39% in 2007 to 29% in 2017. Throughout those 10 years, extreme poverty decreased by 6.5%. Half of the country’s youth live on just $1.25 or less a day. Reasons for continued poverty in El Salvador include high unemployment, natural disasters and crime. The World Bank predicts an increase in poverty for the year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has left millions worldwide unemployed and food insecure.

Although El Salvador produces coffee, sugar, corn, rice and more — threats to agriculture remain in the nation. These threats include deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution. Furthermore, natural disasters such as hurricanes and volcanic eruptions often leave El Salvador with food shortages. In this same vein, decreased agricultural production contributes to hunger and food insecurity in El Salvador.

Between 2008 and 2014, El Salvador made progress in reducing malnutrition and food insecurity. However, 14% of children younger than 5 years old still suffer from chronic malnutrition. Hunger in El Salvador contributes to health issues that range from low birth weights to increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, such as malaria and meningitis. Children who are malnourished often also have issues with their mental development — which can impact them for the rest of their lives.

The World Food Program (WFP)

The WFP is a U.S.-based, nonprofit organization that fights global hunger. Its mission includes working with U.S. policymakers, corporations, foundations and individuals to help eliminate hunger as an issue in several countries — including El Salvador.

Through advocacy, U.S. government funding and private sector fundraising — the WFP continues to work toward ending world hunger and food insecurity. The money raised goes towards delivering food to people in need, especially women, children and those who have experienced natural disasters. Natural disasters that have impacted El Salvador in 2020 include Tropical Storm Amanda and El Nino. Both contributed to hunger, as they affected crop production.

Feed the Children

Founded in 1979, Feed the Children has had a significant impact on hunger around the globe. The organization has distributed roughly 78 million pounds of food and essential items that have benefited more than 6.3 million people worldwide. Feed the Children began working in El Salvador in 1987 and currently works in 17 communities.

In addition to providing food, Feed the Children focuses on holistic development. This includes food and nutrition, health, water and education. Its funding allows the organization to continue supporting countries like El Salvador and implement livelihood activities. For example, one livelihood activity is tilapia farming — which helps increase food and income for families in need.

Moving Forward

Addressing hunger remains a challenge for El Salvador. Natural disasters and poverty are two of the leading causes of hunger in the country. Moving forward, it is essential that organizations like the WFP and Feed the Children continue to prioritize fighting hunger in El Salvador. With continued support, there is hope for continued, significant progress.

Amanda Cruz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Education Will Help End Poverty
Education is a luxury many people take for granted, but it is something poverty-ridden families often sacrifice to have. Globally, over 250 million children and young adults are not in school. As a result, around 617 million young children and adolescents around the world are unable to read or do mathematics within the minimum proficient level. Poverty is one of the main reasons for this tragedy and it often comes from generations prior that also lacked schooling. By properly educating new generations, poverty rates could reduce significantly. Here are some ways that proper education will help end poverty.

Health

Estimates have determined that in developing countries, one-eighth of all children are born malnourished and that about 47% of those in low-income countries will continue to experience malnourishment until they reach the age of 5. Poor nutrition is a direct result of poverty and often linked to insufficient knowledge of proper nutritional diets. A study that occurred in 13 different countries found that the standard yearly gain production increased with those with basic education by 8.7%, which in turn increased food security and helped lower rates of malnourishment in children.

Education will help end poverty because, with basic education, parents learn more about how to care for themselves and their families, which in turn leads their children towards healthier lifestyles. Health education gives families have a higher chance of survival and even reduces rates of HIV and AIDS.

Mortality Rate

Education will help end poverty because it is particularly powerful for girls. Education has many effects on girls and women, but a primary impact is that if all women in poverty finished primary school, then the child mortality rate would reduce by almost 17%. This adds up to about 1 million newborns saved every year, but how does saving lives help lower poverty rates?

If more children survive, then families would not feel the need to have more children, thus the size of families would be smaller. If the families were smaller, then families would have more income and resources to go around, thus reducing poverty. For example, sub-Saharan African women with no education have 6.7 births on average, but with access to schools, these women only have 5.8 births. And finally, those studied who had finished secondary education have 3.9 births on average.

With schooling, women could more easily recognize danger signs in pregnancy and be able to seek care faster. Women with more knowledge about their body, pregnancy and childbirth have a better chance of giving birth safely. Records have determined that a child with a mother who had basic education is 50% more likely to surpass their fifth birthday.

Income and Economic Growth

Income is, of course, a huge factor in poverty. Records have stated that if someone has basic education (that is, reading, writing and mathematical skills), this not only has a positive impact on their own income but can also “increase the rate of return on the economy.” Those with education have a much higher chance of getting better jobs with higher wages. Just one year of education can result in a 10% raise in pay. More pay means better, more nutritious food, better access to sanitation, better access to healthcare and better housing.

For example, Vietnam was one of the poorest economic countries in the world due to its 20-year war. However, since 1990, Vietnam transformed its poor and war-torn country into a GDP that grew to 3,303%. Its economic growth rate was the second fastest and the main strategy for this success was the improvement and modernization of its education system. Vietnam is only second to China, which also implemented a new education system, causing it to have the number one fastest GDP growth.

With children attending schools and developing both important skills and abilities, they will one day get better jobs. The more income they have, the more goods and products they consume which benefits the companies. This in turn increases the demand for the production of more products, thus giving jobs to more people and helping the economy grow. These changes and more will be key in eradicating poverty around the world.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Brands Fighting HungerAmerica is well known for its quick and easy businesses, from countless fast-food restaurants to convenience stores at every corner. However, while many items from these places are easily accessible and affordable for just about anyone, the nutritional value and healthiness of products available are not always sufficient for a person to thrive. Over thirty-seven million Americans have faced hunger and around fourteen million Americans have a restricted list of foods. Given the lack of healthy options, here are five American brands fighting hunger and making a mission to provide healthy choices for their consumers.

Dollar General

In 2018, Dollar General announced a plan to remodel around four hundred stores to include a refrigerated section that includes perishable merchandise. About four hundred and fifty stores also began to include healthier options such as fruits and vegetables in order to promote a healthier lifestyle to their customers at an affordable price point. Many stores have also pushed to include food options that contain less sodium and higher protein. Since the inclusion of refrigerated merchandise and healthier food options, a nearly seven percent increase in sales was seen compared to a couple of years before the new renovations.

Propel

Technology in the twentieth century surrounds everyone’s daily lives, and impoverished communities reap the benefits from tech as well. Propel is a company that focuses on bettering the financial health of low-income people by providing a technology service that easily allows people to budget and makes money. EBT balances can be checked right on the Fresh EBT app created by Propel, as well as countless useable coupons from many stores. Propel also aids people by providing job opportunities that are legit and safe. By creating a technological feature especially for those who are struggling, Propel has reached around forty million Americans and continues to benefit those who need help.

Daily Table

Daily Table was founded in 2012 by Trader Joe’s former president Doug Rauch. The products available from Daily Table are wholesome and healthy, and best of all, affordable to everyone as many of the products are also available through SNAP. Over forty thousand members utilize the two Daily Table stores to provide food for their families, saving around thirty percent on average when they checkout compared to other stores. Whether it is finding ingredients to make your own meal through learning from Daily Table’s cooking classes or grabbing something quick on the go, Daily Table makes it a priority to provide nutritious meals to low-income people.

Aramark

With public school being the most popular option for American families, nutrition in schools often gets forgotten and overlooked as other priorities get in the way. Aramark is a company that specializes in all things school-related, including providing affordable meals during school. All of the meals are sourced in local areas and pass USDA regulations by meeting nutrition goals. School districts that include Aramark’s food programs see an average of around eighteen percent increase of free and reduced meal applications from parents. By bringing awareness to their children’s affordable school meal options, parents are able to ensure their child of a meal during school hours regardless of the price.

Kellogg’s

Cereal is an American breakfast staple, and Kellogg’s is a popular brand that helps Americans get their days started. Better Days is a program founded by Kellogg’s that aims to aid with hunger by providing nearly four hundred and fifty million servings of food a year. Just in the past year, as hunger rates are at an all-time high due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Kellogg has donated over thirteen million U.S. dollars in cash as well as food to help relieve hunger in impoverished communities. In the next decade, Kellogg hopes to benefit three billion people by providing Better Days for those who need it. Kellogg’s is also partners with Feeding America to help provide nourishment to hungry Americans.

As the United States moves forward in providing food security for struggling Americans, these five brands fighting hunger are contributing to healthy and nourishing products to better the lives of many.

— Karina Wong

Photo: Pexels

Hunger in Egypt
With more than 98 million people, Egypt remains the most populated country in North Africa. More than 32.5% of citizens live below the poverty line, making malnutrition and hunger in Egypt pressing issues. The current influx of poverty leaves children and adults without proper education, left to partake in dangerous and under-compensated work such as mining, quarrying and cement production.

The Situation

Although marketplaces are bustling and full, Egypt relies on imported foods. As the world’s largest wheat producer, Egypt is at risk of any drastic changes in commodity pricing and economies. While markets have more than enough fruits, vegetables and bread, most of the population cannot purchase essential grocery items. Without the capacity to control possible economic fluctuations, Egypt’s vulnerability leaves its hungriest citizens without a safety net from their government, let alone their savings.

Egypt’s hunger crisis is an accumulation of many setbacks, including global financial crises, food shortages and disease. Yet another economic or social misfortune has followed each attempted effort towards success. As a result, more than 1.3% of Egypt’s population was living with less than $1.90 to spend per day in 2015; the average American spends $164.55 per day.

How Did This Happen?

Since the early 2000s, Egypt has faced a series of difficulties including the 2006 avian influenza, food and fuel crisis of 2007, economic despair through 2009 and most recently, COVID-19. As a country treading between minor stability and complete poverty, each challenge, both global and local, has severe implications for Egypt and its people.

Hunger in Egypt has roots in food costs; a majority of the Egyptian population can only afford minimally nutritious meals. A 2011 UN World Health Organization study found that 31% of Egyptian children less than 5 years old suffer from stunted growth in comparison to 23% in 2005. Malnutrition not only affects brain development but also contributes to a cycle that perpetuates and exacerbates Egypt’s weaknesses.

Malnourished children cannot perform well in school; malnourished workers are incapable of providing for themselves and their families, making financial and cultural growth seemingly impossible.

Solutions

The prominent changes in Egypt’s condition are a result of the Egypt Vision 2030. As a roadmap to Egypt’s eventual security, Egypt Vision 2030 emerged to increase employment rates, begin food security initiatives, increase clean water access and generate accessible screening and treatment for malnourished individuals.

The mission is that by 2030, Egypt will rank within the top 30 countries for economy size, market competitiveness, human development, life quality and anti-corruption. With such improvements, eradicating hunger in Egypt becomes possible.

Within the economic and social dimensions of the plan, the sixth pillar outlines that by 2030, improvements in health conditions will occur through “early intervention, preventative coverage,” guaranteed protection for the vulnerable and prioritizing the satisfaction of health sector employees.

These extensive efforts have led to program and policy implementation, propelling Egypt to meet its targets. For instance, at the onset of the plan in 2015, the malnourishment rate was 4.5%. By 2030, Egypt hoped the rate would be below 3%. With 10 years until the 2030 deadline, 3.2% of the Egyptian population is malnourished. It is evident that the strategy behind Vision 2030 is effective.

Feeding Children Through Education

A vital pillar of the Egypt Vision 2030 is the National Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education. The World Food Programme (WFP) is spearheading the plan to increase school meals’ nutritional value. Though it helps enrolled students, the plan does not benefit children not attending school. The school meals incentivize students to attend, serving as an aspect Egypt tactfully uses to increase pre-university enrollment rates.

The Pre-University Education Plan resulted from new investment and financing strategies to develop curriculum, financial aid, illiteracy and dropout elimination programs, technical teacher training and recurring student assessments to ensure the meeting of international standards. To execute these programs, The National Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education set a goal to spend 8% of GDP shares on pre-university education by 2030. Currently, that number is at 6%, double the initial percentage that Egypt spent in 2014. Additionally, Egypt’s Ministry of Finance reported an 82% spending increase in education and health. With increased pre-university education attendance, children receive nutritionally balanced meals every day. Health and education funding creates a domino effect, which will eventually lead to the elimination of hunger in Egypt.

The budget increase, in addition to malnourishment, serves Egypt’s education system. Classroom sizes decreased from an average of 42 students in 2015 to between 23 and 16 in 2019. The National Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education 2030 target was to have an average of 35 students per classroom. Egypt’s strategies prove to be highly successful, as its school attendance numbers are higher than its once-projected targets.

Higher enrollment, smaller classroom sizes and well-trained teachers have replaced Egypt’s dated culture of memorization. This new approach emphasizes individual learning, life principles, and modern technology. Repairing the education systems tears has an undeniable correlation to employment and hunger rates.  In changing the fundamentals of the educational experience, Egyptian students now have proper nourishment. As a result, they can have the brainpower to master skill sets that will earn them stable jobs with livable incomes, thus ending the cycle of poverty.

Aid from organizations like the UN and World Food Programme, in collaboration with the Egypt Vision 2030, can eradicate hunger in Egypt. In breaking the cycle of malnourishment and lack of education, Egypt will continue on its path towards growth, prosperity and stability.

– Maya Sulkin
Photo: Flickr

Benin's Health Care
The Republic of Benin is located in the western region of the African continent. The sub-Saharan country possesses a tropical climate and a population of approximately 12 million people. Benin’s economy highly relies on agriculture. Its production of cotton provides 40% of Benin’s GDP and 80% of its exports. Unfortunately, Benin is an impoverished nation with about one-third of the population living beneath the international poverty line. The citizens of Benin also experience many different issues regarding the handling of healthcare in Benin.

Lack of Resources

As of now, the government spends only 3.3% of the GDP on services relating to healthcare in Benin. The average life expectancy is around 60 years old. However, the infant mortality rate stands at 63 deaths per 1,000 births, while the maternal mortality rate stands at 500 deaths per 100,000 births.

Despite Benin’s relatively large size (about 110,000 square kilometers), there are only four hospitals within the national borders. A survey conducted in 1999 reported that for every 1,000 patients who arrived at hospitals to receive treatment, only 0.1 doctors and 0.2 beds were available. As a result, one of the primary methods to improve Benin’s health care is to hire and train more doctors.

Diseases

The Joint United Nations Program for HIV/AIDS states that anywhere from 38,000 and 120,000 individuals in Benin may be infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. These figures are comparatively lower than in other African countries, but the virus is still spreading among young adults. Waterborne diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera and meningitis have high risks and rates of infection. Typhoid Fever poses a highly dangerous threat in Benin, as only 23% of the population has access to adequate sanitation services. Further efforts need to emerge to improve the quality of drinking water. Until then, the citizens of Benin have to rely on boiling their water to remove bacteria.

Natural Disasters

In 2010, Benin experienced the worst series of flooding that it had seen in decades. The floods affected over 800,000 people and wiped away entire villages. Due to the lack of water clean-up and filtration, people were consuming water that overflowing latrines had contaminated. As a result, reports to hospitals determined that there were nearly 800 new cases of cholera. The disaster prompted the U.N. refugee agency to activate an emergency plan to help those the floods displaced.

Malnutrition

Despite Benin’s current progress in healthcare, child malnutrition still remains a critical marker of poverty and improper healthcare. Assumptions have also determined that over 25% of infants and children younger than 5-years-old suffer or die from malnutrition. However, the government of Benin has recently developed an innovative plan for improving child nutrition.

The new Early Years Nutrition and Child Development Project (EYNCDP) is the first step in a series of three operations that aim toward improving the delivery and quality of selected health and nutrition interventions throughout the country. This first project focuses on integrating early stimulation and learning, primary school feeding programs and policy improvement.

Nonprofit Aid

There is further hope toward improving the lives of the people in Benin. Since 1995, the nonprofit organization CARE has been working on projects to help families in Benin receive improved income and education. For example, CARE has organized programs to combat gender-based violence, provide access to better nutrition and improve Benin’s healthcare.

It also provides aid to communities plagued with frequent flooding. Additionally, CARE grants further assistance by helping local farmers in rural communities improve their income via loan associations. By aiding farmers with their loans and savings, CARE ensures that their families are able to make proper investments, and in turn, can buy better livestock, seeds and farming equipment.

Projects like CARE can go a long way to provide aid to people living in difficult conditions like those in Benin. Through its efforts to aid communities experiencing flooding, healthcare in Benin should improve.

Aditya Daita
Photo: Pixabay

Stunted Growth in Children
In 2019, 149 million children under the age of 5 around the world experienced stunted growth. Children that stunted growth affects are 33% less likely to evade generational poverty as adults. By continent, 36% of children in Africa under the age of 5 are malnourished. Around 40-45% of “all preventable child deaths” are due to undernutrition. In 2012, this meant that more than 6 million children died from stunted growth disorders.

Stunted Growth in Children

Malnutrition in the early stages of a child’s life causes stunted growth. Stunting correlates with impaired physical growth and cognitive development, a weakened immune system, higher mortality rates and overall poor health. Stunted growth is a chronic condition that appears within the first two years of a child’s life.

Children who experience stunting are more likely to be fatigued and less curious, which naturally lessens their psychosocial development. Additionally, they tend to face disciplinary challenges as well as possess less developed motor function and social skills. These challenges perpetuate the cycle of poverty, as stunted growth in children leads to higher dropout rates and a 22% reduced earning capacity in the workforce.

While the effects of stunted growth are largely irreversible, reducing malnutrition will lessen underdevelopment and other illnesses that stem from malnourishment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has plans in place to reduce the prevalence of this disease by 40% by the year 2025.

Physiological Explanation

Malnutrition causes diminished cognitive function and psychosocial adversity in children by altering neurological function. This, in turn, leads to reduced income as adults. Dendrites are neurons that communicate with nerve cells and pass on signals in the brain. Malnutrition in young children decreases the density of dendrites in the brain and therefore reduces the number of neurons. This process negatively affects critical brain development such as memory formation, locomotor skills and other neurological functions, which are critical to healthy brain development.

Links to GDP Growth

According to the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, malnutrition drains the global economy of approximately $3.5 trillion per year from lost productivity. Individuals often experience a lack of brain development during the first years of their lives from undernourishment. They later suffer from diminished productive capacities in their livelihoods. The Global Panel reports that a 3% to 16% annual GDP loss results from malnutrition. Simply put, better-nourished children grow into more productive adults.

Policy Changes and Solutions

As with many public health problems worldwide, foreign aid investments may be a critical starting point for reducing malnutrition and stunted growth in children in poor regions. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that if the U.S. invested $1.2 billion per year in the global fight against malnutrition, the decrease in deaths and an increase in “future earnings” (GDP income and relative economic benefits) would generate $15.3 billion for the U.S. per year. This calculation represents a thirteen to one benefit-to-cost analysis.

An Ethical Approach

Much more than an economic incentive, there is a moral imperative to improve nutrition globally. Eliminating malnutrition would increase the overall health of populations. Poor communities that lack consistent access to nutritious food and healthcare would particularly feel this effect.

Research shows that, while the impaired cognitive state is not necessarily permanent and can improve incrementally, there typically remains overall “cognitive dysfunction” in stunted children in comparison to healthy children. The FAO’s recommendations include dietary supplements, food fortification (the addition of nutrients to food to increase the nutrient content) and biofortification (agricultural practices that incorporate DNA recombination to augment nutritional content in primary crops).

Along with FAO dietary solutions, the WHO has developed policy aims to reduce stunted growth in children by 2025. Its policies include collaboration between organizations such as Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), which works to reduce global malnutrition and the health disorders that accompany malnourished children. SUN helps countries develop and implement government policies to improve nutrition during the critical period before a child’s second birthday. Through collective action efforts, SUN, WHO, governmental entities, the U.N. and individual stakeholders are joining forces to eliminate malnutrition.

Nye Day
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Global Maker Challenge
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity (the Global Prosperity Initiative) launched the second cohort of its Global Maker Challenge in late 2019, in Abu Dhabi. The challenge is an innovation-based contest that brings together entrepreneurs from around the world to present ideas and solutions for promoting global prosperity and improving living standards.

Global Maker Challenge 2019 Themes

The Global Prosperity Initiative partnered with 10 U.N. agencies as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Solve, a marketplace for social impact initiatives, to select four themes that Global Maker Challenge submissions must follow. This cohort’s themes are (1) Sustainable and Healthy Food for All, (2) Climate Change, (3) Innovation for Inclusive Trade and (4) Innovation for Peace and Justice. Nearly 3,400 participants submitted cutting-edge ideas — including web and mobile applications, machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence and cloud-based solutions.

The Finalists

In the end, 20 finalists (five from each section) were chosen by a select group of experts from U.N. agencies, global organizations, digital innovation companies, NGOs and academia. The final projects selected stood out among the rest because they were both affordable and scalable — two characteristics that are critical when working with disadvantaged communities. Limited infrastructure and resources  are often some of the greatest challenges that must be overcome.

Category Objectives and Finalist List

  1. Sustainable and Healthy Food for All: Ideas submitted to this category aim to address issues regarding access to sustainable and nutritious food among growing urban populations, as well as reducing hunger and malnutrition. Finalists presented solutions for storing fresh produce and extending the shelf life of foods. Finalists accomplished this using temperature control hubs and sustainable packaging that reduces waste. Another finalist introduced an idea for a social enterprise that makes affordable and nutritious food more accessible to low-income communities.
  2. Climate Change: Contestants focused on promoting sustainability and efficient resource use to lower carbon emission and eliminate waste. Several finalists addressed the textile industry and how to make its materials more sustainable. Submissions included technologies to create biodegradable textiles from plant-based materials, upcycled plastic and ethical sourcing. Other projects addressed the issue of climate change in different ways, such as generating electricity from wastewater and creating a circulation system to convert compost into fertilizer.
  3. Innovation for Inclusive Trade: This category aims to increase the market inclusivity of rural populations to promote global, economic growth. Finalists introduced several digital platforms that provide access to financial literacy tools and empower small business owners. Ideas included an application providing financial tools and market information to emerging enterprises. Also, platforms for connecting rural farmers to international markets and mapping tools — which increase the visibility of small retailers.
  4. Innovation for Peace and Justice: Contestants provided solutions for displaced populations and refugees seeking essential services and resources. Several finalists focused on making education more accessible. Ideas included virtual reality classrooms for students in underserved communities. Also, technology training and legal services for residents of refugee camps and solar-powered learning hubs. Other finalists presented solutions for improving the quality of life of displaced populations, such as user-managed identification and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) learning technology and games.

Final Pitch

Finalists will present their solutions in a series of virtual pitches, starting in late August 2020 and commencing in early September of the same year — during the Global Maker Challenge Award Ceremony. Prizes include project funding and mentorship worth up to $1 million.

Seeing the Big Picture

The second cohort of the Global Maker Challenge comes at a critical time. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, vulnerable groups lack humanitarian aid, social protection and stimulus packages. Unless action is taken, as many as 50 million people could fall into extreme poverty, as a result of the pandemic. Innovation and collaboration are powerful tools for developing solutions to unprecedented challenges. Today’s entrepreneurs and designers provide hope for overcoming setbacks caused by the pandemic and maintaining progress towards the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

international food tradeMalnutrition, the state of nutrient over-consumption or under-consumption, plagues every nation in the world. Every day, one out of every nine individuals around the world goes hungry, while one out of every three is overweight. What causes this problem? The growth of the international food trade has stoked the flames of a malnutrition crisis that already disproportionately impacts impoverished countries. Nevertheless, governments and major firms in the international food trade can take simple steps to transform markets and reduce malnutrition all over the globe. Here are three ways that rethinking the international food trade can help impoverished regions deal with malnutrition.

Rethink Pricing Policies

It’s simple economics that when products drop in price, they become more widely purchased and distributed throughout the world. Unfortunately, many of the foods priced lowest in the international food trade fall into the category of “ultra-processed.” Consumption of these nutrient-poor foods is increasing due to their low price. In October 2019, sugar was priced at around $0.13 per pound, and its consumption was set to increase by 1.4%. Comparatively, meat saw a 1% decrease in production from 2018 to 2019 when its prices increased moderately.

With reduced national wealth, impoverished countries must often resort to purchasing these cheaper, unhealthy commodities. Driven by lower sugar prices, the consumption of sugar is expected to grow in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean. Less wealthy countries will therefore continue to purchase “ultra-processed” foods linked to heart disease and diabetes. In doing so, they will provide their citizens with potentially harmful food that will only worsen the malnutrition crisis.

Rethinking trade policies can solve this issue of imbalanced prices. Many processed foods made with sugars or fatty oils have low international safety standards, which allows them to be sold within markets for low prices, whereas healthier fruits and vegetables have high international safety standards, which causes their prices to rise. This makes healthier foods less affordable for impoverished regions.

By applying high safety standards to sugar- and oil-based foods, the international food trade could equalize prices of healthy and unhealthy products. Healthy foods would then be more accessible to malnourished communities and help to reduce the impacts of malnutrition. Additionally, individual countries can redesign national trade policies to subsidize the production of healthier foods like fruits and vegetables so as to make them more affordable for impoverished countries.

Rethink Market Orientations

By 2022, the global fast food market is expected to grow by $188.4 billion. From 2018 to 2019, the international trade of oil crops reached an all-time high, and experts also expect the international market of sugar products to expand through 2020. Comparatively, the international market for healthier products like coarse grains may soon undergo a “sharp anticipated drop” in consumption and production.

The international food trade is therefore oriented toward distributing foods around the globe that contribute to the growth of obesity-related diseases and malnutrition. Given that the international food trade continues to prioritize markets for “ultra-processed foods,” it becomes even more likely that poor individuals will have to purchase and consume these foods. In turn, this will lead to poor regions eating increased amounts of refined foods linked to chronic diseases while consuming fewer natural foods that contain essential nutrients.

Such a market orientation stands to further deprive already starving individuals of the few nutrients remaining in their diet, thus worsening the global malnutrition crisis. In this case, governments and major food producers can help reduce malnutrition in impoverished countries by reorienting international food markets toward the production and consumption of healthier commodities like fruits, grains, vegetables and meats. These food groups currently make up only 11% of global food production.

By overhauling what gets sold within the international food trade and by emphasizing the commercialization of healthier foods, governments can work together to provide nutritious food to every country. These foods would help eliminate, not contribute to, cases of debilitating malnutrition.

Rethink Food System Investment

According to the WHO, 42 million children worldwide under the age of five are overweight or obese, while 50 million children are too thin for their height. Both of these conditions are associated with massive health risks as well as massive risks to the health of global economies. By 2030, the economic cost of diabetes, a disease linked to obesity and highly processed foods, could increase to $2.5 billion a year.

Through micro-financing and “multisectorial investments in nutrition,” governments and international food trade firms can grant increased buying power to communities with particularly high malnutrition levels. This type of investment could provide impoverished communities with food or direct cash grants that could help them reduce malnutrition and stimulate economic growth. Domestic financing has the potential to kickstart the economies of impoverished regions, which gives them the opportunity to purchase healthful foods crucial to reducing malnutrition rates.

Many current food systems lack any outside investment. For this reason, countries around the world would need $9 billion per year over the next five years to meet nutritional goals. By rethinking investment into international food markets and systems, the global community can come together to stimulate the economies of impoverished countries. This would give them a dignified way to access markets, purchase healthy foods and reduce malnutrition in the communities most in need.

Overall, although the current mechanisms of the international food trade foster malnutrition, countries can easily redesign them in ways that will actively help to reduce malnutrition worldwide. By rethinking trade policies, market orientations and community investments, governments and major firms in the international food trade can begin to address malnutrition and help provide impoverished individuals with the wholesome food crucial to lifelong health and happiness.

– Nolan McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is an East African country in the African Great Lakes region with a population of around 56.32 million people. Tanzania is a developing country and it struggles with widespread hunger and poverty. In 2019, the Global Hunger Index ranked Tanzania 95th out of 117 countries, with a level of hunger classified as serious. Here are five important facts about hunger in the United Republic of Tanzania.

5 Facts About Hunger in the United Republic of Tanzania

  1. Malnutrition: Malnutrition due to hunger is a serious and widespread health issue for those living with food insecurity. Studies show that around 3.3 million children in Tanzania suffer from chronic malnutrition and 58% of children are anemic. In addition to the lack of access to food, malnutrition is a result of poor water quality and sanitation services. A shortage of medical supplies and properly trained healthcare workers have also worsened this crisis, affecting children’s’ health and growth over the long-term. In order to help defeat the damage of malnutrition on vulnerable children, doctors and humanitarian aid groups, such as the World Food Program, have begun providing malnourished children with fortified food products to help them gain the nutrients they require to thrive. Additionally, pregnant women, new mothers and young children are receiving regular checkups to ensure that they remain healthy and that they can receive treatment for malnutrition in its earliest stages.
  2. Infant Mortality Rates: Lack of access to food and proper nutrition has an especially harmful impact on infant mortality rates and the health of pregnant mothers. It is vital for children to receive adequate nutrition within the first 1,000 days of life in order for them to grow up strong and healthy. The widespread prevalence of malnutrition in Tanzania creates a health crisis that affects young children and causes a third of all deaths of children under 5, in addition to the many health problems that can damage children who survive. Studies have shown that babies who suffer from malnutrition, even briefly, are often at a higher risk for mental and physical illnesses even into adulthood, as well as learning difficulties, stunted growth and weaker immune systems in childhood. Pregnant women are also susceptible to malnutrition in part because of cultural myths about motherhood, such as the widespread belief in Tanzania that eating less during pregnancy will cause a baby to be smaller and easier to deliver. This can cause dangerous health issues for mothers as well as making their newborns more prone to malnutrition. Women of childbearing age and children under 5-years-old are the most prone to health problems due to malnutrition such as iron and vitamin A deficiencies. In Tanzania, 58% of children and 45% of women are anemic, and 33% of children and 37% of women have vitamin A deficiencies.
  3. Rural Hunger: Hunger in Tanzania disproportionately affects rural families living in poverty. Over half of the country lives in rural areas and works in the agricultural sector, a population that contains almost three-quarters of Tanzanians suffering from undernourishment and 80% of the country’s hungry citizens. Hunger in these rural areas increases during Tanzania’s dry season, which lasts from June to October. Harvesting crops becomes especially difficult during these months and maintaining an adequate amount of food is an even greater challenge.
  4. Agriculture: Although many people living in Tanzania work in agriculture, the country’s agricultural output still lags behind much of Sub-Saharan Africa. There are a number of reasons for this poor performance, such as less agricultural research, the continued use of rudimentary and outdated farming technology, lack of access to seeds and fertilizers and the inaccessibility of financial assistance such as agricultural loans. The struggling agricultural sector leads to higher rates of poverty and hunger among those who work in this field and rely on farming as their main food source.
  5. Organizations: Several organizations are combatting hunger in Tanzania. Efforts to fight malnutrition from the World Food Program and other organizations have decreased the mortality rate of children under 5-years-old by two-thirds and the infant mortality rate by 6% since 1990. The humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger recently trained 229 health workers in Tanzania on how to provide proper treatment and management of acute malnutrition. It also provided technical support to 41 healthcare facilities and screened over 10,000 children for malnutrition.

These statistics paint a sobering, yet not an entirely hopeless picture of the hunger in the United Republic of Tanzania. Many are working to help combat this issue, though more progress is still necessary to ensure that no one in Tanzania goes hungry.

 – Allie Beutel
Photo: Flickr