Green Cities InitiativeIn September 2020, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched the Green Cities Initiative, a program that aims to build more resilient urban and peri-urban communities throughout the world. The FAO is aiming for this initiative to improve social, economic and environmental resilience in 1,000 cities by 2030.

The Urban Boom

The World Bank reports that 4.4 billion people, more than half of the world’s population, currently live in cities, a number on track to more than double by 2050. In the coming years, urban and peri-urban areas will need to respond to increased pressures on infrastructure, affordable housing and transportation systems. These areas will also need to create employment opportunities for a broadening pool of job seekers. With conscious investments in green infrastructure, reforestation and sustainable food systems, cities can increase their resilience in the face of extreme weather while also creating jobs in the process.

An Airborne Warning

The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the already grim relationship between health and poverty in urban areas. The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (U.N.-Habitat) reports that health risks are already high for urban populations without access to basic necessities like clean air and water, adequate housing and waste management. These conditions aggravate existing inequalities, resulting in inequitable health and economic outcomes.

Globally, the pandemic and its associated economic devastation are increasing inequality and eroding the progress made on numerous Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to the FAO, supply chain disruptions, particularly in food systems, and unprecedented demands on hygiene-related resources and services expose the need for city stakeholders to reimagine and rethink the future of their urban systems.

Building Urban Resilience

The Green Cities Initiative is a unique opportunity to take action on hard lessons learned from these ongoing health and environmental crises. Through site-specific strategies that ensure access to green spaces and nutritious foods, strengthen urban and rural connectivity and provide investments in green infrastructure, the Green Cities Initiative takes a holistic approach to human and planetary wellness.

As of November 2022, 80 cities are participating in the Initiative, including Tunisia’s capital of Tunis, Italy’s Bologna, Kenya’s Nairobi and Sri Lanka’s Colombo city. Here are three examples of programs FAO implemented alongside non-governmental and governmental groups in partnership with the Green Cities Initiative:

  • The Initiative helped reforest at least 1.6 hectares of mangrove forests in Quelimane, Mozambique, a project that mitigated flooding risk in the coastal city.
  • In Nairobi, Kenya, an initiative tackled the city’s prevalent food waste, lowering the amount of rotten and unsold produce that vendors leave behind or that people otherwise lose between production and consumption. Some measures included introducing technology and techniques for composting and “biogas digesters,” which turn produce into fuel.
  • Training for women working as street food vendors in Kisumu, Kenya, gave participants business-generating skills and created a ripple effect of positive hygiene and business practices in the city.

A Focus on Poverty

While the Green Cities Initiative is most obviously environmentally focused, the Initiative works to address poverty in a few unique ways, including:

  • Strengthening urban and rural connectivity. Though most of the world’s impoverished populations reside in rural areas, the FAO focuses on the fact that the majority do not live far from a city. By strengthening connections between rural and urban communities, (particularly via food processing and distribution industries) the FAO aims to create jobs and bolster the overall economy of a given region, thereby reducing poverty and poverty-induced migration.
  • Mitigating environmental catastrophe. Environmental risks associated with extreme weather are elevated in high-density urban areas, manifesting in loss of life and economic shocks. Creating resiliency through green spaces and green infrastructure mitigates such risks and their disproportionate impacts on impoverished residents.
  • Building healthy, sustainable food systems. Impoverished residents of urban areas, particularly those living in congested areas or informal settlements, often lack access to clean air, running water and healthy, affordable food. To curb the resulting prevalence of “nutrition-related and non-communicable diseases,” the Initiative aims to increase the availability and affordability of nutritious and urban-grown foods. Tackling food, water and agricultural waste is also a focus, with the Initiative pushing for circular economies overall.

Supporting Local Governments

In February 2020, the World Economic Forum reported that Africa was home to the 15 fastest-growing cities in the world. Across many regions of the continent, the climate crisis already applies particular pressure, namely in the form of an influx of climate migrants in search of stable incomes. In the coming years, urban communities of all sizes will need systems in place to adapt to, prepare for and respond to economic, social and environmental shocks. The Green Cities Initiative, by supporting “local governments in mainstreaming agriculture, food systems and green spaces in local policy, planning and actions,” offers one pathway toward global stability and sustainability.

– Hannah Carrigan
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Somalia
Amid a drought, political conflicts and extreme food insecurity, Somalia is facing a severe humanitarian crisis. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification projected that between January and March 2023, 6.4 million Somalis would endure “crisis” or worse levels of food insecurity. Of these people, 1.9 million individuals would endure “emergency” levels of food insecurity and 322,00 would endure catastrophic levels of food insecurity. Further, through July 2023, about 1.8 million Somali children will suffer acute malnourishment. These statistics are likely to worsen as the year progresses. With the forecasted continuation of a dry spell, foreign aid to Somalia is critical.

Famine, Drought and Poverty

Somalia has faced humanitarian crises since the civil war broke out in the 1990s, continuing to materialize in the famines of 2008, 2011 and 2017.

Droughts and famine have only brought Somalis deeper into crisis as the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that 260,000 Somalis died on top of expected deaths between the years 2010 and 2012 alone. The population of the country is difficult to precisely calculate due to the mass movement of Somali refugees in response to food insecurity and conflict. In 2018, Somalia stood as the world’s fifth-highest source of refugees, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

According to 2014 data, Somalia had only about 0.02 doctors for every 1,000 citizens and a hospital bed density of 0.9 beds per 1,000 people as of 2017. Infectious diseases run rampant, such as hepatitis, typhoid, malaria and polio. Along with food insecurity, Somalia faces problems with water scarcity, deforestation, water contamination and improper waste disposal. Due to political instability and poor governance, terrorism and extremism are prevalent in Somalia. According to Somalia’s Voluntary National Review report of 2022, “Nearly seven out of 10 Somalis live in poverty, the sixth-highest rate in the region. Poverty averages at 69[%] among nomadic pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and [internally displaced persons]” while urban poverty stands at 60%.

US Foreign Aid to Somalia

The U.S. Department of State’s website has reported that U.S. foreign policy in Somalia strives “to promote political and economic stability, prevent the use of Somalia as a safe haven for international terrorism and alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by years of conflict, drought, flooding and poor governance.”

Since 2006, the U.S. has given more than $3 billion in humanitarian aid and $253 million in developmental aid since 2011. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) allocated $411 million in December 2022 to respond to the drought and prevent famine in Somalia. In total, the U.S. contributed $1.3 billion in 2022 alone.

More Action

The U.S. can still do more to aid in the Somali crisis. Stephen M. Schwartz, a foreign policy and diplomacy expert and “the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since 1991,” recommends the United States,  in an article published in the Foreign Policy Research Institute, “apply a whole-of-government approach” to alleviate tensions and extremism, something that could strengthen relations and national security.

He also urges the U.S. to support Somalia by improving corruption, establishing an economic connection between Somalis and U.S. citizens and businesses, accelerating and expanding developmental assistance and continuing efforts for military reform, which would improve quality of life and lessen conflicts.

In November 2022, the United Nations requested 25% more financial aid for 2023 to better aid and continue to fund humanitarian operations globally, highlighting that people in Somalia are already facing hunger-induced mortality.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has also warned about the growing gap between those suffering and response, reporting that it is working to increase its food assistance to benefit 4.5 million people per month, but required “$327 million until January 2023 to continue saving lives.”

In December 2022, UNICEF appealed for $10.3 billion to help more than 173 million people globally, including 110 million children, which would cover the millions of children impacted by famine in Somalia. By increasing funding for this appeal, UNICEF can send sufficient resources to fully meet the humanitarian needs of each struggling country. UNICEF projects that it requires $272.3 million to help the 7.7 million Somalis in need through nutrition, health, education and social protection. As countries continue and increase support financially, foreign aid to Somalia can save the lives of vulnerable people in the country.

– Audrey Gaines
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Eritrea
Eritrea is an African country between Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti on the coast of the Red Sea. It is part of the geopolitical region in East Africa called the Horn of Africa or the Somali Peninsula. With a population of 6.21 million, according to The World Factbook, Eritrea remains one of the poorest countries on the continent, with a GDP of $2.37 billion.

Since its 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia ended in 1993, the dictatorial president Isaias Afwerki has run Eritrea. The government has not recognized any other political parties besides the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, which elected Afwerki in 1993. Afwerki serves as the head of government and the head of state, making both the executive and legislative decisions for the country.

As a result of the country’s sizable poverty rate—69%—and its totalitarian government, the Eritrean people are starving. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that more than 60% of the population does not receive enough nourishment. The following six facts about hunger in Eritrea illustrate the expanse and provide background for the debilitating hunger crisis in Eritrea.

6 Facts About Hunger in Eritrea

  1. Army Over Agriculture: The Eritrean government prioritizes defense over agricultural development, despite the widespread famine. All Eritreans, men and women, between the ages of 18 and 40 must enter indefinite national service, including compulsory military conscription. Conscription often lasts decades and extends far beyond 40 years old, despite formal Eritrean law limiting it to 18 months, according to Human Rights Watch. Citizens who could be contributing to the agricultural industry of Eritrea instead end up in military service. The food supply in Eritrea is largely dependent on food imports and aid because, according to the FAO, the contribution of agriculture to the trade balance is negative.
  2. COVID-19 Travel Ban: Not only does the Eritrean government neglect agricultural development, but it also lacks foreign trade. First, the nationwide lockdown in March 2020 limited all imported food. Then, the Eritrean government banned all domestic travel in December 2020, making informal trading and market selling impossible and exacerbating starvation.
  3. Family Farm to Family Table: According to The World Factbook, more than 80% of Eritreans work in subsistence agriculture, which is the act of farming just enough to feed one’s own family and leaving a little surplus for selling. Agriculture has little effect on the country’s economy because so little is left over, accounting for just 8% of the country’s GDP.
  4. Rejecting Aid: “Aspiring to be self-reliant,” as stated by the LA Times, the Eritrean government has ushered out aid programs, including the U.K.’s ACCORD, the U.S.’s Mercy Corps and Ireland’s Concern Worldwide. According to The New Humanitarian, the Eritrean government requested for the three international NGOs to stop operations and exit the country in 2006, having already expelled USAID in 2005.
  5. Russia-Ukraine War Effects: The Eastern European conflict has impacted food prices in Eastern Africa. Eritrea is especially vulnerable because it relies entirely on imports from Russia and Ukraine for wheat, in addition to soybeans and barley, according to the FAO. A deficit of these significant food resources continues to fuel widespread hunger across Eritrea.
  6. Child Malnutrition: The World Bank reports that child malnutrition is a tragic result of rampant hunger in Eritrea. One can calculate malnutrition using four factors: underweight, wasting, stunting and overweight, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). About 39.4% of children younger than five years old in Eritrea are underweight. About 14.6% of Eritrean children younger than five years old are wasting, which is the most severe form of malnutrition and results in an extremely low weight-to-height ratio. These children suffer from extremely weak immune systems, making them susceptible to disease and death. Furthermore, 52% of children younger than five years old experience stunting, which is a result of malnutrition that occurs when UNICEF defines a child as a “low height-for-age.” This inhibits children from harnessing their fullest physical and cognitive capability. Finally, more than half of all deaths of children younger than five years old are related to malnutrition. These large figures demonstrate how hunger in Eritrea has a detrimental effect on the young.

The Good News

The six facts about hunger in Eritrea featured above illustrate the rampant starvation, but luckily international aid organizations have not abandoned their cause, despite the government requesting their departure. UNICEF, for example, has a plan for humanitarian action in 2023.

The organization is seeking $14.7 million from the U.S. government to provide humanitarian services to treat malnutrition, thirst, lack of access to education and poverty in Eritrea. UNICEF’s predicted impact will help 40,000 wasted children, administer health care for 600,000 women and children, grant learning supplies for 200,000 children and provide water access to 100,000 Eritreans.

Eritrea has struggled with extreme poverty and hunger ever since its liberation from Ethiopia in 1993. From travel restrictions and military conscription to child malnutrition and rejection of foreign aid, Eritrea has a long way to go. However, as COVID-19 transportation bans have loosened, there is an aspiration across the world to help the Eritrean people. Organizations like UNICEF have committed themselves to providing aid to Eritrea. Furthermore, the literacy rate is higher than ever at 76.6%, according to the U.N. – a huge leap from the 52% literacy rate in 2002. With great progress in education, there is hope for homegrown agents of change to further Eritrea’s development.

– Skye Connors
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in Angola
Angola is a country where 68% of the population lives below the poverty line despite being one of Africa’s biggest exporters of oil. Before its 27-year civil war, Angola used to be self-sustainable in key crops and even an exporter of a few cash crops. Angola’s civil war caused a mass exodus from rural farming areas and many of its citizens are wary of moving back because of weak infrastructure and the threat of unexploded landmines. Angola’s government, along with NGOs, nonprofits and international organizations, are finding innovative solutions to have agriculture in Angola blooming once again.

The Mines Advisory Group (MAG)

Angola’s biggest threat to economic and agricultural success is the landmine sites that are still active 11 years after their civil war. The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is an NGO working out of the U.K. that is actively removing Angola’s active landmine sites. MAG is the only all-woman weapons and ammunition management team, and so far, it has cleared 10 million square miles of Angola’s rural areas. MAG’s work is allowing people to move back to their hometowns, like the village of Lucusee, which was once deserted and is now home to more than 21,000 residents. The group is making it possible for land that was once treacherous and deserted to be safe and capable of being used for home building and developing agriculture in Angola.

Projects from the FAO

The Angolan government, because of the help from MAG and other NGOs, is now able to hit the ground running on development projects for its agricultural sector. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a sub-organization of the U.N., is implementing a project across multiple countries in Africa called Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems (CDAIS). CDAIS is being put to work in many countries, but specifically in Angola, the FAO is trying to make use of Angola’s resource-rich farmlands. Angola’s farmers have only cultivated 7% of the country’s arable lands.

The project has several target areas to help farmers develop the rest of these fertile lands. CDAIS aims to provide agricultural education, and pathways for communicative efforts between agricultural entrepreneurs and has its own system for sharing technical information called the Agricultural Innovation System (AIS-CDAIS). The FAO, through these methods, will improve the production of seeds, the integrity of rice crops and the Commonwealth of agricultural information and advancements.

The World Bank Angola 

The World Bank is funding big projects in Angola’s agricultural sector. The World Bank is one of many organizations to have realized Angola’s untapped agricultural power, but they have also realized the threats to a growing agricultural industry posed by the worst drought that Angola has seen in 40 years. The World Bank has tackled both of these issues by funding two key projects to develop agriculture in Angola. The World Bank in conjunction with the French Agency for Development has developed the Angola Commercial Agriculture Project (ACAP), which focuses on increasing productivity and access to foreign markets and commercialized farms.

ACAP aims to accomplish these goals by promoting agriculture in Angola to investors who will put money into agricultural development. So far, they have helped Angola’s farmers finalize 25 business plans which have amounted to a total of $7.7 million USD. The World Bank is also spearheading a project named the Smallholder Agricultural Transformation Project (SATP), which is trying to transition agriculture in Angola from smallholder sustenance farming to a more weather-resistant form of farming. SATP aims to accomplish this by:

  • Increasing Angolan farmers’ production rates so that they have excess crops to sell.
  • Expanding farmers’ access to agricultural information through established Farmer Field Schools.
  • Supporting smallholder farms financially so they can adopt more climate-resilient and nutrition-smart agriculture.
  • Increasing access to contemporary and improved production technologies.

The World Bank is just one of the many global organizations banding together to support growth in the agricultural sector of Angola.

Looking Ahead

Angola is a country that has faced colonization, civil war, a depressed economy and now the worst drought the country has seen in 40 years. The Angolan government is pooling its resources and working tirelessly with other organizations despite these despairing conditions. Farmers in Angola can ease their anxieties by seeing how hard their government and the international community are working to bring innovative solutions to transform their industry as they know it. Agriculture in Angola can count on a bright future because of the work that multiple supportive and creatively innovative groups of people are doing.

– Alexandra Curry
Photo: Flickr

Ways To Address World Hunger
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues to profoundly impact economies worldwide, with rising food prices and high supply chain shortages exacerbating global hunger. Africa is feeling the heaviest effects. Ukraine is one of the largest producers of wheat. Russia’s introduction of a naval blockade and attacks on the country’s energy grid resulted in a reduction in wheat exports from 5 to 7 million tons per month before the war to 3.5 million tons per month between March and November 2022. More than 345 million people are feeling the impact of the global food crisis, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). The International Monetary Fund (IMF) highlights that more than 48 countries that the global food crisis affected will require more than $4.1 billion in aid in 2023. However, there are initiatives and methods to help alleviate and provide solutions to address world hunger.

United Nations Year of Millets

The initiative began in 2021, a year before Russia invaded Ukraine, which caused an unprecedented global food crisis. Before expanding on the goals and outcomes the initiative hopes to achieve, it is essential to discuss what millets are and what are the ways to address world hunger in 2023. Millets are grains that come from small seed grasses and many around the world grow them in abundance. People have been consuming millet for more than 7,000 years and they are important in terms of contributing to multi-crop agriculture and establishing farming societies.

Developing countries like India, Niger and Nigeria (more than 97%) heavily produce millet and they continue to be a stable form of the crop in these regions today, Impakter reports. This is because millet can survive droughts and other environmental challenges, making it a sustainable form of nutrition. Furthermore, the efforts required to grow the crops are minimal as they are highly adaptable in the soils they grow in, be they poor or fertile. As a source of nutrition, millets have high protein, minerals, fiber and iron and are gluten-free. Therefore, these grains are an excellent source to help countries “increase self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on imported cereal grains,” according to Impakter.

Karnataka, India officially adopted the United Nations Year of Millets. Millet grows in abundance there and India spearheads the initiative. The primary objective of Year of Millets consists of generating international awareness of millets which will ultimately result in a solution to the global food crisis because millets not only have the ability to grow in adverse environments and are sources of high nutrition but they also are sources of new sustainable market opportunities. The greater generation of international awareness of millet could solve world hunger in 2023 or be a step towards solving world hunger.

Immediate International Action

Another one of the ways to address world hunger is through more significant international involvement and efforts to help generate a financial cushion to support initiatives that tackle the food crisis and ensure that there are alternatives in place to ensure food security. Organizations like WFP and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) also require adequate global funding to operate efficiently to help address world hunger and generate awareness regarding the consequences of food insecurity. Furthermore, organizations that conduct their programs in countries experiencing extreme food insecurity require a stable source of funding from donors and international organizations through grants and concessional financing to operate programs such as cash assistance programs for people that the global food crisis affected.

A way to address world hunger in 2023 is through a calculated and organized approach which people can achieve through international awareness and engagement to ensure maximized efficiency of the efforts and effective use of the resources to help address the global food crisis.

In addition, the IMF mentions that even with international support, more significant efforts are necessary to help address the global food crisis and hopefully address world hunger. This means aiming financing at the most vulnerable sections of populations suffering from the food crisis. The funding should come through humanitarian aid, grants and long-term concessional financing, according to IMF Notes. Furthermore, the IMF views debt financing as an exemplary method for addressing the food crisis. It will ensure that people can use the funds to spend on food and other necessities.

Nutrition the Way to Save Lives

According to the WFP’s Global Operational Response Plan, “prioritizing the nutrition of pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under 5 is key to saving lives and building resilient communities and economies.” This is because, statistically, the global food crisis is one of the most significant threats to children under 5, constituting one-fifth of children out of 60 million. In addition, children under 5 who suffer from acute and chronic malnutrition are at greater risk of death.

The WFP’s approach to addressing global food takes a targeted approach that can provide fruitful results in addressing world hunger in 2023. Therefore, the World Food Programme highlights that one of the ways to address world hunger in 2023 is the prioritization of nutrition for women and children under the age of 5 suffering from global food insecurity because access to nutritious diets is scarce.

To achieve this, Specialized Nutritious Foods (SNFs) are necessary in ensuring the proper nourishment of women and children. SNFs “help prevent and treat malnutrition and reduce mortality among children and pregnant and breastfeeding women by improving nutrient adequacy, strengthening immune systems and enabling proper weight gain.” Despite the high demand and prices for SNFs because of the war in Ukraine, the World Food Programme continues to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition at its core.

Addressing world hunger in 2023 along with rising inflation and greater demand for food appears complicated due to the disruption of global supply chains due to the war in Ukraine, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and environmental challenges. However, greater international cooperation between nonprofit organizations like the WFP, the IMF and the United Nations, alongside their partners and the international community, will make it possible to address world hunger in 2023.

– Arijit Joshi
Photo: Flickr

Rural Development in Rwanda
Rwanda’s agricultural sector is the main driving force behind its economic growth and development. About 70% of its population is directly involved in agriculture. With few natural resources and a small mining industry, the landlocked country relies heavily on agriculture. Despite the large involvement and employment of people in agriculture, Rwanda’s agricultural sector accounts for only 33% of its GDP. Smallholder farmers are responsible for producing 75% of Rwanda’s total agricultural production. Most of them are in rural areas, which constitute nearly 98% of the total land area. Although 61% of Rwanda’s soil is ideal for agriculture, several challenges have affected its agricultural sector. Here is some information about how a company called OX Delivers is aiding rural development in Rwanda and improving life for those in rural communities.

Challenges in the Agriculture Sector

Land degradation and soil erosion are existing challenges to Rwanda’s agricultural sector. Land degradation is largely due to human activity as farmers use land multiple times to cultivate different agricultural products. On the other hand, steep slopes partly create soil erosion. It is particularly challenging for Rwanda because 90% of the country’s territory comprises slopes, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Erosion displaces soil due to the heavy rain that carries away soil particles from one area to another. Large involvement and dependency on agriculture result in forests becoming farm fields. According to World Wildlife Fund (WFF), agricultural crops like coffee, soybeans and wheat that replace trees cannot hold onto the soil which increases soil erosion. Rwanda’s principal crops include coffee and wheat among many others. Most smallholder farmers also struggle to find and access markets for their goods. Rural areas often have poor infrastructure. Roads of poor quality present challenges in making markets more accessible to smallholder farmers. Changing its agrifood market structure is an important task for Rwanda as the country aims to transform its agricultural sector into a value-creating and market-oriented food sector.

Terrace Fields and Market Access

Rwanda has been able to solve its own challenges in the agricultural sector. An innovative solution to land degradation and soil erosion is changing the structure of fields. Instead of working on the steep hills and farmlands, farmers in Rwanda have adapted reverse slope bench terracing. It is a soil and water conservation measure that moves soil to build a reverse slope with bench-like structures. Stable soils characterize the terraces which reduce the risk of landslides. Smallholder farmers also use grass and small trees to stabilize the bench-like structures. Farmers have benefited from higher yields as a result of farming crops on steep slopes.

Delivery companies like OX Delivers are also transforming Rwanda’s agricultural sector. OX Delivers was established in 2020 to improve farmers’ access to rural markets in Rwanda. It uses fully-electric trucks to transport goods in rural areas where transportation is challenging due to rough terrain. OX trucks are reliable for their clean and affordable transport. The company has identified the high transportation costs associated with rural areas and thus, charges customers for only what they need.

Customers, most of whom are smallholder farmers, pay on a per kg per km basis. Customers book space on a truck with the drivers and make payments face-to-face. According to the founder, Simon Davis, OX Delivers is able to charge affordable prices as running on electricity costs 50% less per day compared to diesel engines. What makes OX Delivers unique is that it is solely focused on rural development in Rwanda. The company serves rural smallholder farmers and small-scale traders looking to access markets in Rwanda.

An Improved Agricultural Sector

Innovative solutions like the reverse slope bench terracing method and the electric truck services are transforming Rwanda into a nation with a rich market-oriented food sector. These solutions help to counter problems like soil erosion, land degradation and lack of access to markets in Rwanda. Rural smallholder farmers are able to contribute to rural development in Rwanda by not only farming for their own consumption but also by supplying to markets. Small-scale traders are able to increase their profits as electric trucks improve their access to markets. Farmers are also able to grow their production by successfully farming on steep slopes. With more participation in markets, they can increase production, profit from commercial activities and improve their household incomes.

– Hans Harelimana Hirwa
Photo: Flickr

plant health to reduce poverty
On May 12, 2022, the first International Day of Plant Health, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called on the international community to invest more in plant health to reduce poverty and food insecurity. This includes more usage of pesticides to eliminate diseases that harm 40% of food crops according to FAO. The loss of food crops contributes to food insecurity in countries that have economies that rely on agriculture. Furthermore, the loss of food crops will also impact the income of people who live in rural areas since they mostly rely on agricultural trade to stay above the poverty line.

The Idea of Tackling Plant Health

The idea of tackling plant health internationally may be a new concept for those who live in developed countries, but it is a daily struggle for those who live in developing countries. In fact, the International Day of Plant Health emerged after a U.N. General Assembly resolution advocated for it, which Zambia sponsored. It passed unanimously on March 29, 2022.

On May 12, 2022, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said that investing in plant health is to “transform agri-food systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable,” U.N. News reported. This highlights a hidden key factor that drives poverty and food insecurity in the developing world, especially in rural countries.

Countries Affected

Some countries, specifically ones that have agriculture-centric economies, rely on plant health to reduce poverty and food insecurity. For example, On May 21, 2015, FAO reported that 75% of citizens in Moldova depend on agriculture to make a living and to eat food. However, throughout early 2015, Moldova experienced a pest outbreak that impacted food production in the country, which “caused significant economic hardship” for Moldovans.

Similarly, in 2017, an armyworm outbreak wiped out 200,000 tonnes of maize in Zambia that affected agriculture in southern Africa. Zambians rely on agricultural trade for income as agriculture employs 50% of them.

Local Efforts

The grave threat that the armyworm outbreak posed prompted a swift response by countries whose economies are at risk because of the outbreak. On January 11, 2017, Zambia responded to the pest that eliminated around 200,000 tonnes of its maize by using its military to eradicate it. On the other hand, on January 17, 2017, Zimbabwe investigated the damage that the armyworms caused, which included wiping out 20% of the country’s maize, after spraying pesticides on the crops.

International Efforts

International organizations and agencies were instrumental in helping these countries eliminate the pests so they can protect plant health to reduce poverty and food insecurity. For example, On May 21, 2015, Moldova’s Ministry of Agriculture cooperated with the FAO on a two-year project that introduced an “Integrated Pest Management” program, according to FAO. This program entailed training farmers and implementing “measures to discourage the development of pest populations.”

Moreover, on April 5, 2022, the FAO convened the 16th session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures, which is the governing body of the International Plant Protection Convention that more than 180 countries signed. The goal of that session was to “set new plant health standards” and “preserve food security.”

History has shown that pests have been effective at destroying crops that are key to food security and poverty in the developing world. However, history is also showing that new and sophisticated methods to protect agriculture and food security are being developed every day. International institutions such as the FAO have been adept at helping developing countries such as Moldova stop the spread of pests. The unity of the international community in pursuing plant health shows that although the pest problem is dire, solving it is way easier. This makes global poverty reduction and preservation of food security even easier goals nowadays.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Pope Francis
Hunger is a “scandal” whose crime “violates basic human rights,” according to Pope Francis. In a recent United Nations (U.N.) meeting in Rome, the Pope argued that the world holds enough food for all yet sees prevalent hunger. The Pope’s message aligned with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s assertion that a third of greenhouse gas emissions is due to global food systems. Further, Guterres warned that an 80% loss of biodiversity serves as another drastic consequence of those food systems.

The Message

The Pope spoke during the July Pre-Summit of the U.N. Food Systems Summit that focused on scientific, evidence-based solutions to food systems transformation. Pope Francis noted that COVID-19 has underlined the “systemic injustices that undermine our unity as a human family.” Further, he pointed out the paradoxical nature of the technologies designed to increase food capacity as it “exploits nature to the point of sterilization.” He said that the poorest people suffer the most because we inflict damage “…through irresponsible use and abuse of the goods God has placed in it.”

In a similar July message that the Vatican published, the Pope spoke of the preventable nature of forced displacements, terrorism and wars. He contended that these are all precursors to hunger. In the message, Pope Francis also elaborated on the lack of solidarity plaguing humans that stunts resolutions to end malnutrition. He spoke of a desire not to promote “mere progress” or “development goals in theory.” He wrote, “All of us realize that the intention to provide everyone with his or her daily bread is not enough.”

The UN’s Call to Action

An early July U.N. report credited COVID-19 to the additional 161 million people facing hunger compared to 2019. It discussed that healthy diets are now out of reach of a staggering 3 billion people. This is due to the high cost of food, income inequality and poverty. The fact that the Agricultural Commodity Price Index rose by 30% from January 2020 supports this argument. Also, Guterres noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one in three people lacked adequate food sources.

Also recently, the U.N. agency International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) appealed to decision-makers to rectify the “failures in food systems.” IFAD suggested that food production should factor in protecting the environment, supporting biodiversity and fairly compensating laborers.

Finally, according to the chief economist of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), alleviating hunger for 100 million people would require $14 billion a year until 2030. Moreover, to triple that amount would see a goal of zero hunger across the globe by 2030.

Moving Forward

The calls to action by Pope Francis and the United Nations are loud and clear. Together, they should positively impact the fight against hunger by transforming the current global food systems.

Pope Francis specifically urged “bold local and international policies.” He said, “Therefore, it is everyone’s duty to root out this injustice through concrete actions and good practices.”

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: Flickr

Bees Reduce PovertyBees are an essential part of global agricultural systems. Additionally, bees reduce poverty around the world as they are responsible for pollinating 80% of the world’s plant species, including 90 different types of crops.

Study by the FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) studied 344 plots of land in parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia. The plots revealed a positive correlation between the number of bees that visited a particular plot of land and its agricultural productivity. For small farms with a landmass of fewer than two hectares, the study concluded that farmers could increase their crop production by an average of 24% by increasing pollinator traffic.

The results of the FAO study could affect approximately two billion farmers worldwide. Because of their importance to agricultural production, increasing the number of bees on agrarian lands could improve global food security. Bees also provide a valuable way to reduce rates of poverty. Bees can be especially valuable to people living in rural poverty, a very important issue to address as approximately 63% of people in poverty worldwide live in rural areas.

5 Ways Bees Reduce Poverty

  1. Beekeeping helps households increase their income. Rural families living in regions with poor agricultural yields may struggle to make ends meet. However, raising bees can help these families earn more money. In addition to potentially increasing their annual crop production, bees produce honey and beeswax which families can sell. For example, Bees Abroad and the Poverty Abroad for the Poor Initiative taught farmers living in extreme poverty how to run bee farms. As a result of this training, 30 of those farmers went on to run their own bee farms afterward, which helped increase their incomes.
  2. Beekeeping creates opportunities for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs use bee by-products to make commodities such as shoe polish, candles and ointments. More importantly, beekeeping presents opportunities for entrepreneurship, which helps people escape poverty and support themselves and their families. Entrepreneurs are finding ways they can use bees to reduce poverty and improve living conditions.
  3. Food insecurity and poverty are linked. Poverty is the main driving factor behind food insecurity worldwide. Across the world, roughly 80% of chronically undernourished people live in rural areas of developing countries, making food insecurity a particularly important aspect of ending rural poverty. Increasing bee populations can enhance food security by increasing crop yields. By improving food security, bees reduce poverty in a way that is especially beneficial to rural communities.
  4. Beekeeping is an effective form of occupational therapy. Occupational therapy helps people with disabilities accomplish goals such as working and attending school. People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by poverty, which makes addressing their needs critical to reducing poverty. Additionally, inaccessible work and education opportunities are major contributing factors to this problem, which occupational therapy can help address. Fortunately, beekeeping requires little capital and helps occupational therapy participants become financially independent, making it an effective form of occupational therapy.
  5. Protecting the global environment keeps people out of poverty. Environmental degradation can increase levels of poverty. For example, the loss of natural resources to environmental degradation leaves communities with fewer means to support themselves. However, bees are critical pollinators that support ecosystems and natural resources across the globe. Additionally, bees can even improve habitat restoration efforts. So, by preserving and restoring vital resources, bees reduce poverty.

Overall, bees provide unique benefits that have the potential to reduce global poverty. By garnering the help of pollinators, impoverished communities can rise out of poverty.

– Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr

drought in Southern MadagascarThe current drought in Southern Madagascar is the country’s worst since 1981. The food insecurity brought about by the drought has resulted in desperate families resorting to eating insects, ash, clay and even shoe leather. Desperate to fill their bellies, more than one million people are suffering from hunger. Furthermore, 16.5% of children younger than 5 meet the requirements of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM). Alarmingly, the GAM rate stands at 27% in the Ambovombe district, putting children in life-threatening conditions. Organizations aim to address these conditions, attempting to prevent a potential famine in Southern Madagascar.

The Impacts of Drought in Madagascar

Years of cyclones, soil depletion, locust plagues and a severe drought in Southern Madagascar have killed most crops, including “maize, manioc and beans,” leaving farmers without seeds for plants. The drought has also killed off local livestock.

Some Madagascans have cut down trees to make charcoal, although, this act contributes to aggravated drought conditions. The affected regions of Anosy, Androy and Atsimo-Andrefana are dependent on agriculture, livestock and fishing, which makes them particularly vulnerable to drought and storms.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation because it has prevented migrant workers from migrating in search of more work, escaping the drought in Southern Madagascar at the same time. The pandemic has also caused rising food prices since it began.

Famine Without Conflict

Madagascar is dealing with intensifying dust storms blanketing the region in thick dust and devastating crops. The World Bank predicts that droughts in this already drought-prone region will worsen in the coming years. The situation in Southern Madagascar is unusual because human conflict is not playing a role in the starvation of Madagascans, says David Beasley, World Food Programme chief. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, Madagascar is the only nation classified as facing a “famine humanitarian catastrophe” that is not involved in conflict.

FAO Recommendations

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says it needs $40.4 million to begin agricultural recovery from the drought in Southern Madagascar. A report by the FAO highlights the need for agriculture to move away from plants that need a lot of water, like maize, to plants that need less water, like sorghum. The FAO’s recommendations for recovery include:

  • Prioritizing replacing the livestock.
  • The “provision of inputs for cereal and vegetable production” as well as micro‑irrigation.
  • Cash transfers to support people during the off-season and high season.
  • Providing “fishing inputs and processing equipment.”
  • Implementing climate-smart agriculture.
  • Encouraging plant protection measures.
  • Implementing early warning systems.
  • Aiming to “promote large-scale quality seed multiplication at community level.”
  • Manage and eliminate diseases in animals as well as crop pests and diseases.

The US Assists Madagascar

In June 2021, the United States government invested almost $40 million in the recovery of Southern Madagascar through USAID. The funding will support the efforts of the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Support to the WFP will, from August to October 2021, “provide immediate food assistance for 465,000 people.” Supplementary nutrition to address acute malnutrition will be given to “19,800 pregnant women and new mothers as well as 63,400 children.” This funding will also support CRS in rebuilding wells, among many other efforts.

Looking to the Future

The United Nations declares that as weather patterns change, nations will face more humanitarian crises similar to the conditions Madagascar is facing now. Societies cannot depend on humanitarian aid to solve the problems of these crises, but must proactively prepare for the ways life on Earth must change in the future. The United Nations makes five specific recommendations:

  • Prepare for, respond to and prevent humanitarian crises by adapting and increasing community resiliency.
  • Invest in “resilience-building strategies” and preparedness.
  • Take advantage of scientific advances by using technology to predict and prepare for future disasters.
  • Aid the most vulnerable nations with improved access to finance and insurance.
  • Reflect “overlapping vulnerabilities” in the functionings “of international financial institutions.”

With the help of the international community, there is hope for Southern Madagascar to rebuild and recover. By implementing the guidelines of the FAO and the United Nations, Madagascar and other countries around the world can better prepare for future challenges.

– Hilary Brown
Photo: Flickr