Fighting world hunger is one of the most prominent issues activists tackle in the fight against global poverty. While famine and food shortages are a major contributor to hunger in impoverished places, they are not the only contributors. In working to lift themselves out of poverty, nations do not only lack funding, but also resources and opportunities.
If an impoverished nation has a limited set of food, it often has the dilemma of choosing between using its limited amount of food to guarantee its population meals or to export it in the hopes of generating capital and improving the country’s overall situation longterm. On the other hand, it is often difficult for a nation to maintain a healthy economy when the workers are too busy focusing on meeting their necessities.
Malnourishment in Eastern Africa
While the number of starving people decreased in the world overall in the past few years, eastern Sub-Saharan Africa still holds most of the world’s undernourished population. In this region, 30.8 percent of the population still suffers from a food shortage.
Eastern African countries like Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sedan and Tanzania have a primarily agriculture driven economy with coffee, cut flowers, tea, tobacco, fish and vegetables being its main exports.
In the East African Community (EAC), up to 44 percent of the GDP comes from agriculture, with 80 percent of the region’s population relying on agriculture for their livelihoods.
Producing food is not the problem itself, as having an agriculture-centered economy means that there is enough food to sustain an economy. However, when a bad season destroys a harvest, food prices suddenly soar as a result. This happened to Kenya in 1984 when a drought caused a food shortage. It previously grew food both for consumption and export, keeping pace with a growing population. When this happens, the people who are more reliant on this harvest as an accessible food source cannot afford it. Developed countries can afford to purchase these exports at inflated prices, though they are not reliant on them as their main food source.
The Weight of the Developed World
The developed countries are not ignorant of developing country’s food stability or quality of life and will often try to send direct food aid to assist hungry nations. When wealthier countries do try to help in the form of sending food aid, though, sometimes they wind up unintentionally causing more damage in the longterm.
Sending food aid to malnourished countries to help with fighting world hunger might help the starving population in the short term, but it does nothing to triage the bleeding infrastructure that exacerbated the food shortage to begin with. Reliance on food aid can depress the prices at which farmers sell locally grown crops, hampering production if no one buys what they are producing, which can further cripple the local economy in the long run.
While there are some drawbacks with direct food aid, there are other means of aid that developed countries can send in addition to food. Investing in the country’s infrastructure so that farmers know how to grow more food more effectively can help protect them from food shortages if a poor growing season hits. Providing resources for impoverished countries to set up schools can allow the population to move away from a purely agricultural economy, and allow it to cultivate a more diverse one. This can, in turn, create more jobs for the people to earn an income with.
World Vision works to end global poverty and improve the welfare of families, women and children through long term programs and education. In Burundi and Rwanda, World Vision has been fighting world hunger by providing improved seeds and fertilizers to farmers, while also connecting them with markets to encourage turning a surplus of food into an income.
In providing individuals with access to credit and loans via Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), the community can meet day-to-day needs while also supplementing other income-generating projects.
World Vision institutes and trains savings groups, who strive to help families within the community save money. World Vision also creates non-agricultural job opportunities.
As of 2017, more than 1,600 VSLAs’ stabilized the lives of 100,000 children. This means that 7,385 hungry children gained more than 400 grams due to health programs. Around 4,560 farmers trained in agricultural sustainability in Burundi whereas 20,244 did in Rwanda in both 2016 and 2017. In 2017, 22,522 farmers had the resources they needed to grow their crops while 14,611 farmers did in 2016 and 2017. The number of World Vision-created savings groups grew to 6,831 with 107,159 members, while the organization created 2,230 non-agricultural jobs.
As a result of World Vision’s work in Rwanda, families went from making $15.01 per month to $42.20 from non-agricultural endeavors. Around 73.5 percent of adolescents reported having sufficient food, which was a 32 percent increase from 55.5 percent in 2014.
In Kenya, World Vision works closely with the government, abiding by the Kenya Health Policy and the National Food and Nutritional Security Policy to encourage maternal, infant and young child nutrition, agricultural and livestock nutrition and education in nutrition.
A focus on productivity, sustainability and education can help a lucrative economy take root, and the proper guidance on how to maintain it can create a solid foothold for the nation to maneuver out of starvation and poverty.
– Catherine Lin