Sweet-Potato‘Alafie Wuljo’ – otherwise known as healthy potato – has recently become one of Ghana’s most famous crops. This sweet potato variety was introduced in a USAID project in order to counter vitamin A deficiency, a condition that weakens the immune system and can lead to blindness. The project’s main goal is to improve the livelihood and nutritional status of Ghana’s most vulnerable populations.

Sweet potatoes are primarily beneficial to children, whose vitamin A requirements can be met simply by eating the healthy potato. Notably, the 2008 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey states that “28 percent of Ghanaian children under the age 5 are stunted, 7.5 percent are wasted, and 13.9 percent are underweight.” Therefore, the emerging sweet potato is necessary to improve the health of starving and malnourished children.

The International Potato Center (CIP) plans to reach 15 million households in the next 10 years by responding to the demand for the orange-fleshed sweet potato. The CIP director states, “We can soon claim to have reached a milestone in our history by reaching one million households in Africa with sweet potato – preventing blindness and stunting in children along the way.”

The little orange potato has assisted Ghana’s vulnerable communities while also bringing camaraderie to villages. At one of the communities’ harvest celebrations, young children were taught how to cook the potatoes and now everyone wants to grow these crops.

The expansion of crops in Ghana, however, is not the only focus of USAID’s project to diminish malnutrition in Ghana. Aside from agricultural initiatives, efforts to improve the lives of villagers include areas such as clean water, sanitation and hygiene. All of these factors are interrelated and can work together to improve standards of living.

Through the use of new crops in Ghana, USAID aims to decrease chronic malnutrition, measured by stunting, by 20 percent through the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Initiative and Global Health Initiative, the Office of Food for Peace development programs, resilience efforts and other nutrition investments.

Megan Hadley

Sources: USAID 1, USAID 2, JSI, The World’s Healthiest Foods, My Joy Online
Photo: Google Images

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and has been on the rise for many years. Along with a rise in overall GDP and standard of living, experts have found a rise in obesity levels. This trend has come to be associated with countries that are rapidly developing as snack foods have become a symbol of wealth and locally grown produce is seen as cheap and unrefined. Bela Gil, daughter of one of Brazil’s most famous singers, Gilbert Gil, recently posted a photo of her daughters’ lunchbox, and this created an uproar.

The young girls’ lunchbox contained fresh food, yams, bananas and more, all locally grown and in proper portion size, her daughter was being fed well and with Brazil recently being named the nation with the best health reforms, it would usually be something worthy of praise. Instead, the internet reprimanded Gil, saying that she was not feeding her daughter enough and making jokes about how little food there was and how unrefined it was. The truth is that was a great meal because it was so unrefined, in the processed sense of the word.

This healthy farm to table style of eating has only recently gained popularity, and with more and more celebrities jumping on board to endorse healthy eating, it is a wonder it has not been more popular. By posting pictures of her daughters’ healthy meal and various other meals, Gil is using her position of influence to proposition the public to really watch what they are eating. While fast food and highly processed snacks with name brands may be a sign of wealth they are also the cause of Brazil‘s increased obesity rate which has nearly doubled in the past decade.

While we often associate poverty with a complete lack of food, we must also begin to connect it to an abundance of unhealthy food. Overall health can be an indicator of a country’s poverty levels and Brazil’s is on the steep decline. In order to remedy this, individuals of influence must begin to associate wealth with healthy eating and good health habits. By posting pictures of this and promoting healthy portion size and control we are promoting healthy living, saying that class can be found in the food choices we make. Essentially, in order to take away the stigma of wealth and junk food we must reassociate it to wealth and health food.

While many other celebrities are joining this bandwagon, some coming under similar scrutiny for their choices, it may take some time for this new idea of healthy living to really take hold in nations that are just reaching the peak of their development, such as Brazil. These healthy meals are grown in the farms of Brazil, supporting local business and people in the neighborhood, and these choices will not only make for a better person, but a better community as a whole.

Sumita Tellakat

Sources: NPR, CNN
Photo: NPR

Interview With Anthropologist on Malnutrition in Kenya
In Kenya, over 1.5 million people are facing food shortages and high levels of malnutrition. Most of these people live in rural areas, particularly in northern Kenya. The fact that these people are so far away from the more industrialized areas of Nairobi and Mombasa means that they are both more difficult to reach and easier for a country to ignore. Some people live away from areas that are accessible by any sort of road and many people are only reachable by dirt roads, which are often treacherous.

When some people are reached the food is often things such as beans and corn, which do not offer all of the nutrients that people need.

To find out more, I talked to anthropologist Professor Jon Holtzman about his research regarding nutrition in Northern Kenya.

Q: What nutritional research have you done in Kenya?

A: I studied the Samburu in Nothern Kenya. They are pastoralists. They traditionally rely on their herds.

Q: What did you find in the gender differences in nutrition?

A: Both men and women were less well off as they aged, but men tended to be more adversely affected by aging. They tended to get more malnourished as they aged.

Q: Why do you think these differences occur?

A: There’re generally food shortages among the Samburu and although men have more political power, women control the distribution of food in the house. The food is sometimes scarce.

Q: How has the rising population changed the nutrition of the Samburu?

A: They no longer have enough cows to rely on the products of their herds, particularly milk. In 1950 there were probably about 50,000 Samburu and they had about 350,000 cows, so each person could get enough milk. Now there are about 200,000 Samburu and about 200,000 cows, so it isn’t possible to get enough milk. They just sell livestock to buy things like maize meal, which aren’t very nutritious and are low in key nutrients, such as protein.

Q: How is this affecting the health of the Samburu?

A: Generally they are very thin and their growth rate is reduced. They are very vulnerable to diseases associated with poor nutrition, such as tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

Q: What sort of assistance would be best to help this population?

A: It isn’t an easy problem to solve. More support for health care and programs that bring new and sustainable economic activities to remote areas could be the best hope.

Groups like UNICEF and USAID are doing work to try to help people with low access to nutritious foods and potable water. But without the necessary funding, there is only so much that can be done.

Clare Holtzman

Sources: UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

You’ve probably heard of Clif bars. Whether you are leaving for work or school, running to the gym or caught up in the daily rush, Clif bars provide sustainable, long-term energy and doesn’t sacrifice taste or nutrition.

But beyond helping you attain a more sustainable body and mind, Clif Bar is also working to build a more resilient world. It is built on a bottom line of five “aspirations”: strengthening the company through long-term investment, creating a brand that is sustainable in its ethics, quality and authenticity, forming the company around the best interests of its employees’ creating strong, healthy communities, both locally and globally and forwarding conservation and restorative environmental practices. One way Clif Bar does this is through continual work toward a 100 percent organic brand.

“We start every recipe with the goal of [fully] organic products, but we don’t always get there depending on supply,” says Sue Hearn, senior director of communications. In pursuance of increasing the availability of organic crops, the company has invested in research, creating the nation’s first endowed research position focusing on plant breeding for organic crops at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“It is critically important that our young people know the benefits of organics and leverages them to develop solutions for all of agriculture. We deeply believe that healthy seeds and healthy soils are key to healthy plants and animals,” commented funder George Siemon.

The company’s headquarters — a former World War II valve factory that was remodeled using reclaimed materials primarily from railroad construction — is also a model of responsible development. It boasts soundproofing technology made from recycled jeans and one of the largest solar panel conglomerations in the United States. Despite its innovative, high-tech design, the company headquarters retains a utilitarian feel, much like Clif Bars themselves do. As further confirmation of the company’s environmental initiatives, its headquarters received LEED Platinum certification for the utmost environmentally-conscious design.

The company also encouraged employees to pursue a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer time a year, amounting to a massive 10,000 hours of community service logged in one year. Beyond building sustainably, the company is working to actively encourage growth in communities and impoverished areas all over the world through service work and research initiatives, such as its agricultural funding. Each year, employees participate in a company-wide bike ride to commemorate the company’s commitment to low-impact development and healthy living.

As a further example of encouraging sustainable, healthy living, the company pays its 320 employees to use its in-house gym for 30 minutes per day, take part in fitness classes and get nutrition counseling and subsidized meals. Rather than trying to balance work and life, founder and former CEO Kevin Cleary works toward integrating the two, providing payment for employees to do their dog-walking and dry-cleaning while on the clock, as well as daycare services alongside the company gym. Its commitment to the wellness of its employees, as well as its customers, has helped it become a reputable brand for empowering and supporting its workers.

This commitment has paid off. Clif Bar has a voluntary turnover rate of around 5 percent. Beyond worker benefits, it offers employees 20 percent shares in the company, increasing shareholder value and encouraging workers to lead initiatives in creating a more sustainable, productive brand. The worker engagement that has resulted, Cleary says, is remarkable.

So next time you need some fuel for a workout, workday or work-in-progress, consider a brand that is derived from and promotes healthy, sustainable ideas and projects to build a more responsible global community.

– Jenny Wheeler

Sources: TriplePundit, Clif Bar
Photo: TriplePundit

World Bank Funding
In an effort to improve conditions for the Lao governments’ maternal and health services, The World Bank Funding has gone to Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s (PDR) Health Governance and Nutrition Development Project on June 23. The International Development Association gave $26.4 million to Lao PDR with the approval of the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. The World Bank expects the fund to affect 1 million women and children in the next 5 years.

Free maternal health was initiated in Lao PDR to open financial gateways. Around 60% of women are not inclined to have more children. Now, with the project’s increase in funding, the number of women receiving family planning, care visits, and birth attendants is likely to increase.

Women need to be educated and consult healthcare workers in order to protect their bodies from disease and diminish the probability of birth mortality or miscarriages. With Lao PDR’s Health Governance and Nutrition Development Project funded by World Bank, health care services will be made more available and survival rates are expected to excel.

A report by Lancet Commission on Women and Health has tracked the consequences of women’s low socioeconomic status. With the input of social science professionals, program managers, policy innovators and advocates, connections between the role of women in systems, homes and communities have been founded to be most beneficial when they are given value and proper compensation. Women create sustainable nations when they are inclined to contribute to the well-being of all.

Additionally, the development of nutritional strategies is underway. Almost half of the children in the country, under the age of 5, are underweight. The Health Governance and Nutrition Development Project is determined to utilize its funding in services to children under the age of 14 by providing adequate nutrition and target infant feeding practices to improve behaviors in regards to nutritional intake.

The country’s economy has experienced vast progress thanks to foreign aid. In addition to $26.4 million, $11.6 million was also implemented into Lao PDR’s Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF) on June 23.

In financing PRF, a program started by Lao PDR in 2002, about 200 particular plans are in place to enhance education and health. The additional funding approved by The Word Bank helps prolong nutritional pilot projects and governmental sanitation programs.

PRF’s overall goal is to improve mobility and the use of public services among poverty-stricken populations in Lao PDR. The further development of roads and water resources is also a focus.

The poverty rates for Lao PDR fell from 46% in 1992 to 27.6% in 2008. This is a drastic feat towards satisfying the millennium goal of halving poverty by 2015. Life expectancy has also increased by 19 years. Since October 2011, PRF has improved conditions for 450 thousand Lao PDR residents. PRF has also improved the use of healthcare and safe water systems.

Following the millennium goals according to the 8th draft of the National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) will hopefully result in the improvement of the country’s status by 2020.

– Katie Groe

Sources: World Bank 1, World Bank 2 WHO, UNDP Impatient Optimist
Photo: Swiss Cooperation


Three and a half billion people are affected worldwide, a disease that affects people of all levels of income and the cause of $70 billion lost in overall GDP: anemia.

Anemia is a disease that results from the lack of iron in the human body. It can cause weakness, shortness of breath, headaches and dizziness and can prevent growth in children; however, it can also be cured with a simple little fish. This Lucky Fish is being used in Cambodia and has cut the rates of anemia in half. After a trip to Cambodia, Dr. Christopher Charles saw first-hand how terribly anemia was affecting the lives of children and women in the region, inspiring the development of the Lucky Iron Fish, which has been introduced to several villages within it.

The fish has always been an auspicious symbol in Cambodian culture, and it looks like this fish might just save their lives. Appearing as a smiling fish, about 7.5 centimeters and weighing no more than 200 grams, all one has to do is boil it in a saucepan along with food, add a dash of lemon to increase iron absorption, and they are all set. These fish are chemically designed to release 75 percent of a person’s daily need for iron and last a family for up to 5 years.

After having distributed several iron fish to Cambodian communities, the Lucky Iron Fish Project has seen a 50 percent decrease in the rates of anemia in just 9 months. This is a vast improvement from previous attempts at curing anemia with iron supplement pills; these proved to be too much of a hassle for many of the villagers. This fish is simple, convenient and easy to use. One woman spoke to the BBC and stated that she was “happy, the blood test results show that [she has] the iron deficiency problem, so [she hopes she] will be cured and will be healthy soon. [She thinks] all the people in Sekeroung village will like the fish, because fish is [their] everyday food.” Many NGOs face a lot of push-back from the communities they seek to help, so this kind of reaction is very promising.

When people do not have to worry about meals and nutrients, and no longer feel weak and tired all the time, a lot more innovation can occur. By focusing on the root of the issue and providing stable diets to these communities, they are being primed to become hubs of success. A developing country can develop faster when all of its citizens are able to put their best foot forward and think clearly. A lot of change can come from one little fish, and with countless people affected with anemia worldwide purchasing these fish, and “schools of fish” for Cambodia, it looks like a big difference can be made. This one little fish can really help the world to “just keep swimming.”

– Sumita Tellakat

Sources: The Lucky Iron Fish, BC Corporation, Science Alert, BBC
Photo: The Lucky Iron Fish

Nutrition ProjectsThe World Bank highlighted three award-winning anti-poverty projects at a global event broadcasted at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 19. The winning projects incorporate agriculture, food security and nutrition in a single development program.

The contest, known as Harvest Nutrition, was launched jointly by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, or GAIN, the SecureNutrition Knowledge Platform—which is funded by the World Bank Group—and Save the Children UK.

In hosting the contest, the three organizations aimed to showcase projects that “showed the linkages between agriculture, nutrition, and food security,” and that addressed “the principal challenges of integrating a nutrition sensitive approach to agriculture and food security programs.” The awards were granted in three main categories: most scalable approach, most innovative approach and most impact on nutrition.

The three winning projects were awarded $5,000 each in grant funding and are listed as follows:

1. Impact on Nutrition (Zambia): Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN)

“Aiming to increase year-round availability of and access to high-quality foods at the household level, data from RAIN show encouraging results, with increased production of various micronutrient-rich crops, such as leafy green vegetables, and increased dietary diversity during both the hunger and post-harvest seasons. Rigorous data collection and analysis, conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is integrated into the program design. Implemented by Concern Worldwide.” – World Bank

2. Innovation (Kenya): Shamba Shape Up

“A ‘make-over’ style reality television show targeting rural smallholder farmers, Shamba Shape Up is a clear standout as an innovative platform for presenting and disseminating nutrition messages. Shamba Shape Up, which is implemented by The Mediae Company, reaches more than 10 million farmers in East Africa with tools and information to improve productivity and income on their farms.” – World Bank

3. Scalability (West, Central, and East Africa Regions): N2Africa

“This large-scale multi-country ‘research to development’ project is promoting new technologies for improving productivity of legumes such as groundnut, cowpea and common bean—commonly regarded as women’s crops. N2Africa, which is implemented by Wageningen University, works with a wide variety of stakeholders across the value chain from seed to fork, and from field to market. A strong evaluation system provides the basis for ongoing feedback and learning.” – World Bank

– Katrina Beedy

Sources: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,  World Bank
Photo: Flickr


In the past, Nepal has been regarded as one of the poorest countries in the world. Poverty in Nepal is caused by poor infrastructure, health, education and economy. The country is also susceptible to natural disasters due to its location. However, thanks to the people who have been dedicated to improving conditions in Nepal, there is good news: extreme poverty have been reduced by 50 percent in the last 20 years.

How did this happen? Innovative developments are being introduced to the country, and Nepal is already benefiting from them.  The newborn mortality rate has already dropped 34 percent since a disinfectant gel to rub on the umbilical cord—rather than the traditional usage of oil, ash and even animal droppings—was presented to Nepalese mothers.

Other strides are being made by implementing different programs for the Nepalese people, like a nutrition program called “Suaahara” that educates families on proper farming and hygiene. Another program prioritizes improving the literacy rate of children. If the population of Nepal becomes 10 percent more literate, this can boost their economy by 0.3 percent.

Important changes are being made in Nepal’s legal system and government, too.  Organ selling has only recently become illegal and efforts are being made to help and protect a large number of human trafficking victims. According to USAID, 15,000 Nepali women and girls are trafficked out of the country per year, while 7,500 are trafficked domestically for sexual exploitation.

One of these efforts is the Combating Trafficking in Persons Project, carried out in Nepal to prevent, protect and provide justice for human trafficking victims. Now that the victims are a focus, traffickers are beginning to face legal consequences.

Nepal is also still working on becoming a democracy after having been a monarchy for so many years. This means that citizens of Nepal will get the chance to vote for the first time in 16 years.  At this rate, the country is expected to be rid of extreme poverty by 2030. What was once a country full of people living on one dollar a day is now a country with a bright future.

Melissa Binns

Sources: U.S. Department of State,  USAID 1,  USAID 2

Photo: Flickr

world cancer day 2015
February 4 was World Cancer Day 2015, taking place under the tagline “Not beyond us.” The campaign had four key areas of focus: choosing healthy lives, delivering early detection, achieving treatment for all and maximizing quality of life.

There were 690 official events planned for World Cancer Day this year across the globe, ranging from a university awareness event in Israel to a World Cancer Day Walk in Ohio to a free cancer screening for women event in Lagos, Nigeria.

World Cancer Day is observed each year to “unite the world in the fight against the disease through raising awareness, educating the public and lobbying for change.”

Cancer is not just one disease but a collective name for many diseases; there are more than 100 types of cancer. Cancer is the term given to a disease characterized by the uncontrollable division of abnormal cells, which can spread throughout the body. There are five broad categories of cancer types: carcinoma, sarcoma, leukemia, lymphoma and melanoma and central nervous center cancers.

Worldwide, cancer is a leading cause of mortality with about 14 million cases and 8.2 million deaths in 2012. Globally, the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise almost 70 percent in the next 20 years. More than 60 percent of these new cases and 70 percent of cancer-related deaths occur in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Risk factors for cancer include tobacco use, alcohol use, infection by Hepatitis B, sexually transmitted HPV-infection, urban air pollution, ionizing and nonionizing radiation, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, indoor smoke from use of solid fuels and being overweight or obese. By modifying or avoiding these risk factors, 30 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented.

Cancer detection and treatment are expensive and often unavailable to poor communities, especially in developing countries. Although fewer cancer cases occur in developing countries, there is a higher mortality rate. This shows that detection and treatment options are severely lacking. Because governments’ health budgets are usually constrained, difficult decisions have to be made about expenditures. Generally, infectious diseases get a higher percentage of the budget, leaving cancer and other non-communicable diseases to continue to wreak havoc.

Cancer is part of a larger group of diseases called non-communicable diseases, or NCDs. NCDs include cancer, heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases and cannot be passed from one person to another directly. NCDs have been on the rise in developing countries but still receive little funding or treatment. The World Health Organization launched a campaign called the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases 2013 – 2020, which aims to reduce premature mortality caused by NCDs by 25 percent by 2025.

– Caitlin Huber

Sources: Union for International Cancer Control, National Cancer Institute, World Health Organization, International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research
Photo: Post Media Canada


October 2014 will see the second annual Aid & International Development Forum (AIDF) Food Security Summit in Jakarta.

The summit will address the food security crisis that parts of Southeast Asia are facing. The event will primarily focus on food security with respect to the agricultural and nutrition sectors.

AIDF said that the Food Security Summit will provoke “robust debate and frank information sharing and will provide a platform for the formation of strategic partnerships and collaborations.”

According to AIDF, the event will feature attendees from more than 300 Asian governments, NGOs, U.N. and intergovernmental agencies, investors, research institutes and private sector companies.

Last year’s summit, held at the U.N. Conference Center in Bangkok, featured over 200 attendees from more than 20 countries. Some of the event’s speakers included the Director General of the Asian Development Bank, an advisor from Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment and a Regional Representative Assistant Director-General of FAO’s Asia-Pacific branch.

The organization’s press release noted that 700 million people in Asia and the Pacific live in a state of poverty where they subsist on less than $1.25 a day. Since the middle of the twentieth century, the world’s population has grown by more than 280 percent.

The significant increase in the world’s population in the preceding decades “has had profound implications for development, with effects on sustainability, urbanization, and access to youth services and empowerment.” AIDF’s press release said.

In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated that the global demand for food is expected to increase by 60 percent by 2050. Between 2011 and 2013, 827 million people in developing regions were underfed. However, the number has fallen by 17 percent since 1990 through 1992.

AIDF maintains a number of strategic, media and international partners support the event. These include Kubota, the Agricultural Research Communication Center and SWITCH-Asia, respectively.

Ethan Safran

Sources: Aid & International Development Forum 1, Aid & International Development Forum 2, YouTube, Food and Agriculture Organization
Photo: Aid & International Development Forum