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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

Prickly PearThe opuntia, better known as the prickly pear, could be the key to food security in the world’s most arid countries, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This statement is born from the results of a five-year study conducted by the University of Nevada, Reno. The study sought to examine the potential benefits of cultivating the prickly pear on a mass scale. Many people who live in rural areas consider this cactus to be little more than a formidable and even dangerous weed. It proliferates easily, is difficult to uproot and poses a threat to livestock who can injure themselves and their digestive systems on the sharp spines. However, the FAO believes the benefits can outweigh the downsides. Here is why this international humanitarian organization thinks the prickly pear is fundamental in the fight for food security.

Resistance to Drought and Heat

The study states that the prickly pear requires up to 80% less water than crops such as corn, rice and soy. Additionally, those crops have upper-temperature limits, whereas the prickly pear is able to grow in extreme heat. Africa’s largest country, Algeria, is classified as being around 80% arid or semi-arid, which leaves its population of more than 43 million vulnerable to food insecurity. In 2013, the country formed a cooperative of farmers, scientists and traders to begin cultivating the prickly pear. For this project, they consulted with Mexico, whose people and ancestors have ample experience with the cactus.

The cooperative built its first processing factory in 2015. The factory produces oil that is exported to France, Germany and Qatar. Since then, the enterprise has steadily grown. The cooperative built another factory in 2018 and plans to begin exporting its goods to the United States.

Can be Used as a Biofuel

The primary crops grown for biofuels are corn, sugar cane, soybean and palm oil, which comprise 97% of the biofuel industry. Sugar cane and corn require three to six times more water than the prickly pear, though they produce the same amount of energy. When grown as biofuel, corn, sugar cane, soy and palm oil crops can only be used for that very purpose. In contrast, farmers can first harvest the prickly pear for food before its waste-product is converted into fuel. It’s a circular system versus a linear system. When it comes to the question of the prickly pear as the key to food security, this distinction makes all the difference.

Food for Humans and Livestock

The prickly pear borders on being a superfood. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. It contains antioxidants and is anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. For animals, the plant’s pads, or “nopales,” contain nearly 80% water, making them ideal feed for livestock. It can also be prepared in countless ways, though many people around the globe are unfamiliar with its myriad of uses.

Eritrea, a northeast African country is a prime example of this missed opportunity. Here, they sell the prickly pear on roadsides and in marketplaces alongside more popular fruits such as bananas, guavas and oranges. However, the Eritrean people, who regularly face food shortages, are largely unfamiliar with the number of ways the plant can be consumed. As a result, it has yet to be cultivated on a mass scale. Nearly all of the prickly pears that are brought to market are harvested from wild cacti.

Can Function as a Carbon Sink

One of the strongest arguments for the prickly pear as the key to food security is its function as a “carbon sink.” The fruit grows in areas where other plant life can not be established and then captures excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Cultivated on a mass scale, this could lead to lower temperatures and more rainfall, thus decreasing the number of droughts that threaten food security worldwide.

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

In 2015, Madagascar faced a drought-induced famine. The lack of rain laid waste to their chief crops, including rice, cassava and sweet potatoes. Desperate for nourishment, many turned to the prickly pear, which was then regarded as a weed. The FAO points to the plant’s usefulness during the direst conditions as proof of the potential benefits of cultivating it on a larger scale. Droughts have continued to plague the people of Madagascar, with approximately one million inhabitants living on the brink of famine. The continued suffering of those living in the world’s most precarious conditions underscores the need for attainable, wholesale solutions. The FAO believes one such solution, agriculture or “green gold,” is well within reach.

– Greg Fortier
Photo: Flickr

Desert Locust Control ActDue to a recent outbreak of desert locusts in East Africa, the 117th Congress has written and introduced the H.R 1079 – Desert Locust Control Act on February 15th, 2021. In general terms, this act would “develop a comprehensive, strategic plan to control locust outbreaks in the East African region and address future outbreaks in order to avert mass-scale food insecurity and potential political destabilization.”

The Act Explained

In more specific terms, the Desert Locust Control Act would create an interagency working group that comprises several representatives from varying federal departments and agencies carrying out the act’s requirements. These duties would include monitoring the effectiveness of regional efforts to mitigate the outbreak and finding opportunities for additional support. Furthermore, the act asks to ensure the delivery of necessary assets to control the outbreak and provide humanitarian assistance to those affected. Lastly, the act would improve coordination among the involved government agencies, relieve the impact of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and work to prevent future desert locusts as well as other potentially harmful outbreaks.

What Desert Locusts Cause

This act has become necessary for a variety of reasons. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization has reported that as of December 2020, there were 42 million people suffering from food insecurity in East Africa. This number will increase if the locust outbreak is not handled. It becomes especially disheartening when considering the highly destructive nature of the desert locust. A small swarm can eat enough food for 35,000 people in one day, while a larger swarm can devour enough to leave 81 million people starving. It’s important to note the urgency of the situation as well. By June of this year, the number of desert locusts could increase by 400 times, due to there currently being favorable weather conditions for their breeding and each locust generation increasing by 20 times on average.

Problems Amplifying the Crisis

Another concerning factor of this recent outbreak is the economic damage to these countries, with locust-related losses being estimated at $8.5 billion for livestock production and asset damages. Furthermore, COVID-19 regulations have already created unfavorable conditions for agricultural production by disrupting supply chains, transportation and access to services and labor. These conditions have consequently increased the chances for a potential food security crisis in the past months. The desert locust outbreak only compounds these issues and creates a crisis within a crisis, making a worse situation out of an already dire issue. Unfortunately, the desert locust will also place vulnerable citizens, including women and children, into further vulnerability, when accounting for the fact of the eventual increase in crime due to food shortages. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), has estimated that 5,000 households, especially those run by women, will need humanitarian assistance by August of 2021.

The immediacy of this outbreak, the drastic results and the economic and political difficulties present, have made it necessary for the U.S. and other foreign countries to involve themselves and provide assistance. As evidenced, the Desert Locust Control Act will be crucial for the well-being of several impacted African countries as the second wave is almost 20 times larger than the first one. Due to this, African communities will need foreign aid in order to safely and effectively nullify this issue.

– Juan Vargas
Photo: Flickr

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