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Haller Farmers AppThe agricultural industry is responsible for a large portion of the economies in Africa. This fact means that agriculture has the power to transform Africa by helping to eradicate poverty and hunger, increasing industrialization and creating jobs and prosperity among all people. The Haller Farmers app hopes to improve agriculture in Africa with the purpose of helping farmers rise out of poverty.

Agriculture in Africa

The independence of any given African nation is dependent on the agriculture sector. Productive agricultural methods allow nations to have food security. When nations face food insecurity and widespread hunger, it is easier for other powerful countries to undermine the sovereignty of that nation. Further, agriculture is also important for the prosperity of the African continent because it has the highest potential for mitigating inequality and creating opportunities for the most disadvantaged workers in society.

In order for agriculture in a nation to thrive and allow that nation to continue to grow, innovative techniques must be implemented. Farming innovations must not only meet the needs of producers but also consider the health of people and the environment.

The Problems Farmers in Africa Face

Most farmers in Africa are small farmers or subsistence farmers who farm merely to survive and not for profit. The majority of farmers also reside in rural settings and often lack access to quality and equitable education. The number one problem African farmers face is a lack of information regarding new and modernized ways to farm.

Other farmers in Africa have had the challenge of producing agricultural goods to feed an ever-growing population with the same unsustainable techniques. Training farmers on more productive and sustainable farming techniques would hold huge potential for a flourishing African agricultural sector. This would thus allow these farmers to successfully feed the growing continent.

The Haller Farmers App

In 2014, the Haller Foundation created the Haller Farmers app to give farmers in Africa widespread access to farming techniques and agricultural information. The app is free to download and has consolidated 60 years of readily available agricultural knowledge, with the mission of creating sustainable food security and prosperity in Africa. The Haller Farmers app covers information on soil health, urban farming, water conservation and plants and animals. The app also does not need data or WiFi for information to be accessed.

Africa has experienced a mobile phone revolution, with access to smartphones and the internet growing massively in the last decade. In Kenya, for example, 74.2% of internet penetration exists and more than two-thirds of all new phones that people purchase are smartphones. The Haller Farmers app has capitalized on this data to create an equitable and widespread way for farmers to gain knowledge.

Going Beyond Food Security

Beyond ensuring food security, the Haller Farmers app also strives to minimize the gender divide and empower women since 80% of smallholder farmers in Kenya are women. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that farm productivity can grow by 20% through women’s empowerment. Educating these women farmers gives them more opportunities for success, which helps economic growth as a whole. The Haller Foundation also recognizes the communal nature of many farming regions in Africa, so when a community has access to even one phone with the app, this small change could impact hundreds of others.

The Haller Farmers app also hopes to add more features in the future. This includes an e-commerce function, information on weather and the market, microloans, crop insurance as well as progress monitoring services. The e-commerce function would allow farmers to buy and sell tools and other farming supplies. The Haller Foundation is hopeful that these features will help to create sustainable agriculture in Africa. A second version of the app launched in 2020.

One particular success story is that of Patricia. The Haller Farmers app helped her to make her land farmable again. The financial gain from the success of her farming, therefore, enabled her to build a house with electricity and water access for her whole family. In the year 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture made Patricia Farmer of the Year.

The Future of Agriculture in Africa

A hopeful future for agricultural production in Africa rests on the ability of farmers to utilize sustainable technologies that help them to maximize production. The Haller Farmers app is, therefore, one step in the right direction of creating a self-sustaining and thriving agricultural sector in every nation of Africa.

Tatiana Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Fruits and Vegetables
The United Nations 74th General Assembly declared 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IFYV). Thus, the United Nations has four primary focus areas: Raising awareness of nutrition and health benefits, promoting balanced and healthy diets, reducing losses and waste and promoting consumption, sustainability, supply chains and capacity strengthening.

IFYV and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables is in congruence with three SDGs. It works towards achieving zero hunger ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being and promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns. Consequently, the initiative helps raise awareness about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables and hastens the 2030 Agenda’s attainment.

Cross-cutting Issues to Address

  • Small-Scale Production: Over 50% of fruits and vegetables grow on less than 20 hectares of land worldwide. Consequently, developing countries produce a significantly low volume of fruits and vegetables. Farmers in developing nations primarily practice subsistence farming for consumption. Thus, farmers sell the remaining fruits and vegetables to markets.
  • Technology and Innovation: To ensure quality and quantity output, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) hopes to improve its already-existing farming technologies in the fruit and vegetable sector. As a result, it targets high-yielding and disease-resistant cultivars, insect-breeding for pollination, pest control and conservation-agriculture techniques.
  • Gender and Youth: Although women play a significant role in the world’s fruit and vegetable sector, they still face disproportionate disadvantages such as lack of legal access to land, insufficient financing and low and unequal pay. Fostering innovations in this sector would open opportunities for women and the youth in this sector to gain economies of scale and improve its overall thriving.
  • Policy: In the past, fruits and vegetables have received less attention than staple crops in policy, research and funding. In 2021, however, thanks to FAO’s initiative, the Fruits and Vegetable sector potentially stand a chance of receiving financing both from governments and investors, which will, in turn, boost its productivity.
  • Losses: East and Southeast Asia and farms in sub-Saharan Africa lose about 50% of fruit and vegetables during storage. Technological advancements would help increase supply chains’ efficiency and reduce losses and waste.

Policies & Measures

The 2021 International Year of Fruits and Vegetables policies’ aim to attain sustainability, boost productivity and ensure profitability in this sector. Thus, it strives to nurture a healthy food environment for consumers to consume fresh produce. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of including fruits and vegetables in a balanced diet.

Furthermore, these policies explore opportunities for tax incentives and deductions in business activities. Additionally, it seeks new sources of funding for infrastructure development in developing countries. This enables smooth and timely transportation of the harvest to redistribution facilities and markets.

Policies aim to reduce food waste in developing countries by modifying market standards for fresh produce and facilitating food banks’ access to fruits and vegetables in the field for easy redistribution.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu launched the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. He remarked that promoting healthy diets is crucial for immune system strengthening. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this especially important. It is difficult to assess the project’s progress this early, but it has undoubtedly made progress.

– Divine Mbabazi
Photo: Flickr

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

5 Ways Luxembourg is Helping Others Fight Hunger

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

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

– Jai Phillips
Photo: Flickr

AI Increases Food SecurityArtificial Intelligence seems like a far-off concept reserved for science fiction. In truth, AI is present in modern life and the advancements in this technology are being used to combat global poverty. Most prominently, computer scientists and engineers are improving the ways that AI increases food security globally. The need for utilizing technology in food security is essential to protect more than 800 million people suffering from hunger worldwide.

Predicting Threats to Food Security

A vital step to protect food security is looking ahead and responding proactively to potential problems. The Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS) works by gathering massive amounts of data from vast sources to forecast developing situations affecting food supply. NEWS is a perfect example of how AI increases food security with constant improvements in its system to enhance response times to price changes, poor weather conditions for food development and other global crop issues.

The effectiveness of machine learning far surpasses human data collection and these types of technology have already seen success. Through the algorithms created by AI technology, a forecasted drought prevented many Colombian farmers from planting crops that would not have been fruitful. This prediction saved the farmers millions of dollars by avoiding crop loss during the dry spell. Preserving large amounts of money to spend during opportune times is another way AI increases food security and stabilizes supply.

AI Optimizes Agricultural Procedures and Production

People living in rural areas that work in farming communities are usually the most susceptible to extreme poverty. AI can improve working conditions and modernize agriculture to protect vulnerable populations and provide them with upward economic mobility through technology education and increased crop production.

AI robotics is revolutionizing agriculture and crop harvesting robots as well as AI-enhanced drones are increasing production and keeping workers safe. Robotic weed control allows for the proper and safe distribution of herbicides that can be harmful to humans. This also prevents herbicide resistance. In Argentina, drones inspect wheat crops for harmful infections and pests. AI increases food security by diagnosing soil conditions as well. This technology allows workers to implement the necessary strategies for correcting nutrient deficiencies.

The most important aspect of these technologies is that they provide benefits but will not reduce the need for actual workers. Though education in these fields can be expensive, the skills learned will add value and mobilize people out of extreme poverty.

The FAO AI Systems Used for Food Security

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has implemented two programs in which AI increases food security and improves agriculture sustainability; the FAO’s WaPOR portal and the Agriculture Stress Index System (ASIS). Both systems monitor water usage in agriculture in different ways.

  • The FAO’s WaPOR portal monitors water in the Near East and African regions. It does this through open-source technology that gathers massive amounts of data. Simultaneously, the AI analyzes the data to determine the best water use for different crops and regions and uploads the information in real-time.
  • ASIS works similarly to NEWS. It is a satellite system that works as an early detection system for droughts or other water shortages. ASIS breaks down the information from a global standpoint to each country and region. Doing this allows people to be proactive in their preparation for impending droughts by improving water usage and shoring up logistics of moving aid to an area troubled by food shortages, thereby preventing hunger.

The Future of Food Security

As time progresses, AI will improve and become more common, eventually becoming cheaper and more accessible worldwide. With the rapid advancement in this technology and what is already in place to sustain food security using AI, a hunger-free world is a closer reality.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in maldivesThe Maldives, a series of islands bordering both India and Sri Lanka, has faced increased obstacles with food security and hunger. With a population of 515,696 citizens, it is estimated that over 10.3% are battling with hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in the Maldives.

Problem in Numbers

With various scattered islands in the Maldives, it must be noted that a majority of citizens live in urban areas. However, despite this setting, 17.3% of children in the Maldives are underweight while 10.6% are wasted — a condition where a child’s muscle and fat tissues dissolve away to the bone.

It is also estimated that 36% of babies are not exclusively breastfed in their first six months of life, leading many to not receive the necessary nutrients to develop. This heavily contributes to serious health problems in the future.

In addition to the youth being affected by malnutrition, it must be noted that the adult population is also facing a malnutrition burden, with 42.6% of women of reproductive age having anemia.

Causes of Hunger and Poverty

Food insecurity in the Maldives points towards a variety of factors. A recent cause is resultant poverty caused by a lack of tourists. It is estimated that tourism accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s GDP. However, recent border closures due to COVID-19 have severely impacted citizens on a national scale. With one-third of adult males and a quarter of females engaged in tourism-related occupations, thousands have lost their jobs, making it harder for people to provide food and other basic necessities for their families.

Climate change, environmental degradation and declining ocean health severely threaten food security in the Maldives. Rapid changes in temperatures, flooding and drought, impact agricultural yields, reducing the ability to locally produce food.

Another factor that contributes to hardships is the decline of exports in the fish sector. With fishery accounting for another large portion of the nation’s GDP, many families who depend on fisheries as their main source of income have experienced serious financial impacts.

Road to Change

Despite the increased rates of hunger among the Maldivian population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which has dedicated itself to developing both fisheries and agriculture in the Maldives.

The main course of action for the FAO was to reassess the situation in the Maldives and open opportunities to grow the fishery and agriculture sector. Through promoting a stable framework, the organization enabled thousands to enter new jobs in the agriculture industry while accelerating demand for certain goods.

Another course of action was teaching sustainable practices to hundreds of Maldivian farmers. By helping with smaller-scale farms, FAO was able to heavily accelerate growth, boosting production in underprivileged communities. The FAO also helped equip farmers to thrive during climate change. The organization provided farmers with knowledge and methods to increase the productivity of their crops, livestock and fisheries in the face of adverse climatic conditions.

Despite great aid from the FAO, the Maldives continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. Organizations like the FAO can help in the short-term but the Maldives needs government assistance to see long-term change. For the Maldives to see a reduced hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to increase food security in the country. With the help of NGOs and the Maldivian government, the overall hunger rate in the Maldives can be reduced.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: UNDP

Hunger Crisis in Latin America
Latin American countries and the Caribbean are on the verge of confronting the deadly combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and a hunger crisis. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) report that an estimated 83.4 million people will live in extreme poverty in 2020, potentially leading to a hunger crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean. This number will be 16 million more people than in the previous year. Latin America and the Caribbean’s seven years of slow growth could experience a historic drop in regional GDP (-5.2%).

Ways to Prevent a Hunger Crisis in Latin American and the Caribbean

As part of an initiative, ECLAC and FAO suggest 10 measures to prevent a hunger crisis in both Latin America and the Caribbean. They are as follows:

  • Provide an anti-hunger grant which could take the form of cash transfers, food baskets or vouchers to the entire population living in extreme poverty for a six-month period. It would amount to an estimated cost of $23.5 billion.
  • Support school-based food programs for children and adolescents.
  • Support local and global humanitarian organizations like Action Against Hunger and World Food Program.
  • Financially support agricultural companies with credit and subsidies.
  • Enforce sanitary and health protocols for food production, transportation and food markets.
  • Expand and ensure the functioning of programs to support local production.
  • Support artisanal fishermen and family farmers who contribute a large portion of food in national markets with funding, technical assistance and access to inputs and labor.
  • Maintain and add agile mechanisms for consultation and public-private interaction within all aspects of the food system (production, supply, distribution and access to food).
  • Prevent wholesale and retail markets and agro-industries from closing or reducing their operations.
  • Continue with policies that until now have kept the world food trade open.

Food Prices and Imports

As food systems weaken and unemployment increases, domestic food prices rise and people resort to purchasing cheaper, less nutritional options. The most vulnerable populations are the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean, the Dry Corridor in Central America, Haiti and Venezuela.

The Caribbean depends heavily on food imports from the United States and the United Kingdom. The area is also at high risk of supply chain disruption and impacts from hurricane season. The ports in the Dominican Republic did not reopen until a month after Hurricane Maria, a category 5 storm, devastated the island in 2017. Anticipating the season in 2020, organizations are subject to balancing the impacts of storms and maintaining measures against COVID-19.

Challenges in Tourism

The pandemic has also placed a strain on tourism in the Caribbean islands as travelers from all around the world had to cancel their trips due to government-issued orders. The Bahamas alone generates 75% to 80% of its GDP from tourism. These small island economies that often find themselves at odds against natural disasters face a decline in tourism by 60% to 70% between April and December.

The Situation with Remittances

Mexico and Central America face high extreme poverty, and undernourishment, especially among decreases in remittances. El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are small countries with economies that rely on remittances. In 2016, the remittances that Salvadoreans received amounted to about 17% of the country’s GDP. During the worst of the pandemic, those countries suffered the most as people lost jobs globally, especially the U.S. where people send most remittances from. These countries are also at risk of border closures during the pandemic which is an obstacle for imports and exports.

Poverty and Food Insecurity

South America has a high proportion of poor, indigenous farming families who are already at a disadvantage from COVID-19, lacking proper treatment and medical equipment. In Peru, the country with the fifth-highest number of coronavirus cases, millions are struggling with food security. About 20% of the population lived in poverty and survived through informal employment before the pandemic. Now struggling to find work and afford food, many are going days without food or relying on “community pots” for food.

The global pandemic and hunger crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean could have serious implications if ignored. With a widespread hunger crisis, the world could experience “increased social unrest and protests, a rise in migration, deepening conflict and widespread under-nutrition,” said the U.N. World Food Program’s executive director, David Beasley.

 Understanding the severity of this situation, it is imperative to pass legislation aimed at protecting the International Affairs Budget and increase international funding in the next emergency supplemental. With no end to the COVID-19 pandemic in the near future, the most vulnerable populations need guaranteed access to food.

The ECLAC and FAO’s initiative and their 10 measures are crucial points in preventing a hunger crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean. The pandemic may have set these nations back, but the fight is not over. In fact, 83.4 million people are at risk and their future depends on these measures.

– Johana Vazquez
Photo: Flickr

SDG 2 in the Dominican Republic
The Sustainable Development Report states that despite the major challenges present in eradicating hunger, the Dominican Republic is moderately improving on its goal of reaching zero hunger. Here are some updates on SDG 2 in the Dominican Republic.

Poverty in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has reduced poverty from 10.4% to 9.5% in just a year from 2017 to 2018. In 2004, the rate was 24.4%. The decline in these figures shows that the malnourishment rate in the country has gone down continuously over 14 years and that the Dominican Republic can complete the Zero Hunger objective if it continues to sustain its current trend. The malnourishment situation in the Dominican Republic has harmed the children of the island. A joint report from FAO, IFAD, WHO, WFD and UNICEF stated that the delay in growth of children under 5 years old was 7.1% in 2019 while wasting or low weight for height in this age was 2.4%.

Approximately 10% of Dominicans are suffering from malnourishment and chronic malnutrition in kids in poverty-stricken homes. According to a report from the 2030 Agenda, 11.3% of kids in households in the lowest wealth quintile suffer from malnourishment in comparison to the less than 7% national average. The report also stated that “… there is evidence that the productivity and income from small agricultural growers are the lowest in the economy.”

Ways to Reach SDG 2 in the Dominican Republic

In order to accomplish the goal of eradicating hunger in the Dominican Republic, the government, along with the WFP, must “[strengthen] the design and implementation of legal frameworks related to food security, nutrition, sustainable agriculture and disaster risk reduction…” The plan intends that the country will use the “whole of society” method which means “… – involving national and provincial authorities, disaster management agencies, national non-governmental organizations, the International Red Cross and private sector and other institutions – where no one is left behind.”

The WFP has three goals to accomplish this:

  • The Dominican Republic must strengthen and coordinate the public and private sectors in order to eliminate hunger in the country’s most vulnerable population by 2023.
  • The WFP aims to improve the nutrition status of the most nutritionally vulnerable groups by 2023.
  • It also intends to set up national and local systems to improve and resilience to shocks, adapt to environmental challenges and reduce disaster risks among the vulnerable population by 2023.

Hunger in the Dominican Republic

In 2019, the Global Hunger Index ranked the Dominican Republic a 9.2. According to its rubric, this means the country’s level of hunger-related issues is low, an improvement from the turn of the century when the country received an 18.2. That score meant that hunger was a moderate problem on the border of escalating to a serious issue. The index also reported that the mortality rate decreased slightly. After a brief uptick from approximately 8% in 2000 to 11% in 2005, the prevalence of stunting in children under the age of 5 has decreased to approximately 6% in 2019.

In order to reach SDG 2 in the Dominican Republic, it must adapt to a post-pandemic world, where even the most developed countries are experiencing increased poverty and food disparity as the world struggles to adapt to the new reality.

–  Pedro Vega
Photo: Flickr

Food Security in Asia
Arriving for the first time in the U.S. in late 2019, Asian giant hornets are a concern for many due to their potential to massacre honeybee populations, which are significant in helping plants grow, breed and flower. However, while this worry is new in sweeping the nation, the U.S. is not the first nor only country to deal with the Asian giant hornets. The hornets originate in Asia, where countries like Sri Lanka and India struggle with food security and endure the Asian giant hornet populations. Developing nations do not offer the same guarantee regarding food security as these countries struggle to meet the production demands of the rest of the developed world, all the while supporting their own population’s infrastructural needs. Here is some information about Asian giant hornets and their impact on food security in Asia.

The Hornets

Asian giant hornets are the world’s largest hornet with a wingspan of 76 mm and a length of 50 mm, set with a 6 mm barb that can inject their potent venom into victims. Asian giant hornets generally do not sting people, although their sting is highly venomous and in rare cases, can be fatal. They tend to build their nests underground, placing them close to where they can wreak havoc on agricultural processes.

While food security has long since been a concern in the developing nations in Asia, organizations focused on fixing this issue seem undisturbed by the presence of these hornets, even concerning nations that are only a few poor harvests away from having a malnourished population. This is due to how honeybees in the area have coevolved with the Asian giant hornets, and as a result, have developed defenses to combat their attacks on the honeybee population.

For example, Japanese honeybees have taken to form a sort of ‘bee ball’ around the hornet, working their wing muscles to generate heat and raise carbon dioxide levels until it kills the offending hornet. The honeybees avoid succumbing to this increase in temperature since they can withstand temperatures up to 122°F whereas hornets start to die at temperatures that exceed 115°F.

Under circumstances where the honeybee population has not adapted to the Asian giant hornet, it only takes 15 to 30 hornets to massacre 30,000 to 50,000 worker bees in just a few hours. Moreover, hornets seek to siege hives and use the larvae they find to feed their own.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, one of the nation’s the hornets are native to, a significant amount of agriculture relies on bee pollination, while the country invests the majority of what it produces into its population.

As Sri Lanka recovers from a 30-year civil war that ended in 2009, the nation has come miles in improving education, maternal and child mortality and poverty levels. However, food security and improved nutrition are still major obstacles the country grapples with. Out of a population of 21 million, 22% of people experience undernourishment in Sri Lanka in comparison to 2.5% of the population of 328.2 million in the United States.

Honeybees and Coconuts

Much of Sri Lanka’s fruit and vegetable output, as well as their oilseed crops, are reliant on the honeybee population for pollination. For example, coconuts are heavily reliant on Sri Lanka’s honeybee population for the pollination process.

Coconuts are a substantial part of Sri Lanka’s life, not only integral for many employment opportunities and trade but also a valuable resource for cuisine, nutrition and rural income. About 20% of crop-suitable land in Sri Lanka goes toward the cultivation of coconuts and people consume about 63% of production domestically.

If Asian giant hornets were to overrun the honeybee population in Sri Lanka, the coconut harvests would suffer significantly at the hands of poor pollination, resulting in a major hit to Sri Lanka’s production. More specifically, its agriculture sector would suffer, which primarily goes toward domestic consumption. Additionally, the hunted honeybee population would become a protein-rich meal for Asian giant hornet larvae, nourishing a new generation of honeybee killers.

India

Asian giant hornets are also native to India, where food insecurity largely derives from unequal food distribution and a lack of agricultural diversity. Overall, honeybees are responsible for pollinating more than 70% of major crops around the world, and with the decline of the honeybee population due to insecticides and deforestation the global food supply is already threatened to reduce by a third.

With 195 million malnourished people, India holds a quarter of the world’s hunger burden. With chronic malnourishment stunting the growth of four out of 10 children in India, these children are more prone to performing poorly at school, meaning limited employment and earning opportunities in adulthood. Malnourished mothers are also more prone to giving birth to underweight infants, and a lifetime of stunting bodes poorly for an individual’s chances with non-communicable diseases throughout their life.

The Nationa Food Security Act (NFSA) and Malnourishment

In India, legislation like the Nation Food Security Act (NFSA) and the public distribution system ensures that virtually the entire Indian population has access to food, however, due to a lack of agricultural diversity, food security still remains a problem. As of 2019, 36% of children under the age of 5 were underweight and 75% of the total population was not getting enough vitamins from their food intake. The same study reported that 51% of women within the reproductive age were iron deficient.

India’s food insecurity issues have roots in issues of distribution and accessibility – things that India’s legislation has been combating throughout the years. However, with the further decline of the honeybee population, exacerbated by the Asian giant hornets, food supplies drop, further limiting accessibility and stretching distribution even thinner.

South Korea

South Korea has long maintained its ‘developing country’ label as a means of protecting its agricultural industry, despite boasting low maternal mortality rates, a high life expectancy and the world’s fourth-largest economy.

The nation maintains its food security and self-sufficiency through tariffs and high administrative prices within select agricultural markets. Like many of the other Asian nations that the hornets are native to, their honeybee populations have adapted to be more resilient to hornet attacks. This resilience is not the only attribute aiding in South Korea’s current food security though. Due to the country’s flourishing economy, the nation has been able to shift its position as a recipient of aid from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) to that of one of the top 15 contributors, in both financial aid and in terms of supplying interns.

South Korea is secure enough currently, that if the hornets were to massacre whatever remaining bee population exists in the country, South Korea would have a sound enough infrastructure to weather the poor resulting harvest. However, the issue still lies that South Korea’s bee population is suffering heavily, even if not necessarily at the hands of the hornets – and even if the low honeybee populations aren’t starving the people, that does not mean there are no consequences to neglecting this issue.

Challenges for the Honeybee Population

In 2010, a sacbrood virus outbreak ravaged Korea’s bee population and wiped out almost 90% of them. Years passed, and the country did not take measures to restore the population, as the country did not view bees as economically viable.

Honeybees, while valuable for the pollination of many crops, are also necessary for maintaining a balanced ecosystem. The obliterated bee population in South Korea not only posed a threat to the nation’s wildlife in failing to pollinate and spread seeds that would feed nonhuman species but would subsequently fail to pollinate crops reliant on animal-driven pollination if such species died out.

Despite the panic that has overtaken the U.S., the Asian honeybee populations have adapted to survive Asian giant hornet attacks. Despite this success, still developing production sectors that struggle to keep up with demand, a lack of agricultural diversity (and the resources to navigate this problem), as well as the political conflicts countries are perpetuating food insecurity in Asia. Hopefully, with continued efforts, food security in Asia should improve.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Food Insecurity in South Sudan
Since the country’s independence in 2011, South Sudan has been in a state of instability as it recovered from a six-year-long conflict with Sudan. This instability has had quite an effect on the nation’s nutrition, with 51% of the country’s total population reporting food shortages in 2020. Some of the main causes of the continued food insecurity in South Sudan include flooding due to poor land management, destruction of agriculture and businesses due to conflict, elevated food prices and lack of access to livestock products that would enable citizens to cultivate a reliable food source. Additionally, the ever-present conflict in the area often prevents people from being mobile, meaning they are unable to search for food, find better agricultural land or access markets that may be nearby.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

Despite this situation, many humanitarian organizations have allocated resources towards fighting food insecurity in South Sudan, including the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP). The effort provides direct food aid to roughly 5.32 million South Sudanese people. Each year, the WFP transports 325,000 metric tons of food into 50 warehouses across the country, helping to fill the large gaps in domestic agricultural production.

The U.N.’s program has also introduced a new means of efficiently and evenly distributing aid called SCOPE, a database in which individual aid recipients register by fingerprint. The database records who receives food and how much, and even tracks an individual’s health and nutrition levels, noting when signs of malnutrition cease or appear. So far, the SCOPE system alone has registered 1.4 million people. Since 2018, the U.N. has also administered over $30 million USD in vouchers that one can redeem in exchange for food through the SCOPE system.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Similarly, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been working with farmers to boost domestic crop production in hopes of reducing food insecurity in South Sudan. Due to constant displacement and poor land quality, creating a strong agricultural sector has proven to be challenging for the nation.

However, FAO’s program works to distribute seeds and hand tools. Moreover, it conducts land assessments across the nation to determine which plots might produce the highest yield. As a result, the cultivated land area increased by 15% from 2017 to 2018, and cereal production rose 10% from 2018 to 2019. In 2018, the program also began its seed distribution effort, administering 5,970 metric tons of seeds across the nation, benefiting 406,408 households.

Action Against Hunger

Nonprofit organization Action Against Hunger has also worked alongside the U.N.’s efforts to reduce food insecurity in South Sudan. The organization has worked with 7,215 farming families, with a focus on dyke and irrigation system construction to ensure farms are resistant to the region’s heavy flooding.

Additionally, volunteers and locals constructed and/or rehabilitated 5,000 water points, where people can easily access potable water and plumbing. In an effort to solve the issue of lack of mobility in the nation, Action Against Hunger also constructed 71 kilometers of roads, which allow the average South Sudanese person to access markets, clinics and other vital services.

Without intensive aid from humanitarian organizations, the state of food insecurity in South Sudan would be much worse than the recent statistics show. As the nation builds its foundations and recovers from its violent past, access to nutrition will undoubtedly become more widely available. However, with more than half the population unable to fill their stomachs each day, much work is still necessary.

– Jane Dangel
Photo: Flickr

Palestinian farmer's market Palestine is a region in the Middle East comprising the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with much of the territory currently under Israeli occupation. Palestine already experiences a number of humanitarian crises and restrictions on goods such as food and natural resources. However, the pandemic means the areas must now solve the problems with both COVID-19 and food security.

Food Insecurity Already a Problem

Currently, out of the 3 million Palestinians that reside in the West Bank and the 2 million in Gaza, about 1.7 million of them experienced food insecurity in 2019, prior to the effects of the pandemic. Additionally, many children across the territory were already malnourished and in desperate need of appropriate nutrition. About 63% of children under 5 in Palestine were consuming a minimally diverse diet, and about 7.4% of children under 5 appeared to be chronically malnourished. There is also a gender discrepancy as food insecurity is higher among women than men. While overall 32% of families in Palestine that are suffering from food poverty happen to be led by women, this is particularly a problem in the Gaza Strip where it’s 54% of families.

COVID-19 Measures Complicate Food Logistics

After the Palestinian prime minister declared a state of emergency in early March due to a rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the territory quickly entered into a lockdown. The subsequent effects of the pandemic and lock-down were drastic. It was extremely detrimental to the livelihoods of many Palestinians and impacted socio-economic development, employment and put many of them at an increased risk of experiencing poverty. It has put vulnerable communities who were already experiencing food and economic insecurity in an exponentially difficult position.

The outbreak has also affected food logistics, marketing and the production of certain commodities such as dairy, fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the implementation of social distancing measures and overall restricted movement has had a dire impact on farming and processing. Therefore, a major reason for heightened food insecurity in Palestine is the reduced availability of food. While experts are unsure of the full impact of COVID-19 on food security, it can be estimated that it will continue to ravage food systems in Palestine and those vulnerable populations will suffer the most. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it can be expected that up to 50% of the population might face severe food insecurity and this effect may be intensified if Israel follows through on its annexation plans. “The situation will be exacerbated if Israel proceeds with the plans to annex parts of the West Bank, further limiting access to core resources, like land and water, and agricultural livelihood opportunities.”

An Organization Working to Help

The issue of food insecurity persisted in Palestine long before the pandemic, and many organizations have been doing the work to address the problem within the region. One such organization is the World Food Programme (WFP). It has been providing food assistance to vulnerable populations in Palestine since 1991. The WFP focuses on areas such as the Gaza Strip and the southern parts of the West Bank – places where poverty and food insecurity are particularly pressing issues. As a response to the COVID-19 crisis, WFP has extended its efforts to the entirety of the West Bank and has also managed to provide “climate-smart agricultural assets”, such as hydroponics and wicking beds, to impoverished households.

Food poverty has been an all-consuming issue in occupied Palestine long before the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the pandemic has had disastrous effects on the socio-economic conditions of Palestinians – many of whom were already in vulnerable positions. While there are many troubling implications for how both COVID-19 and food security will continue to affect the livelihoods of socioeconomic development of Palestinians, organizations such as the World Food Programme continue to aid food insecure communities in getting the help they need.

Shreeya Sharma
Photo: Flickr