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Kelvin Beachum

As an offensive tackle in American Football, Kelvin Beachum is accustomed to being in tough circumstances. But as a child, he remained unaware of the harsh reality of food insecurity that his hardworking parents struggled with. His family grew up poor but his parents always found a way to provide, sometimes having to rely on government programs like food stamps or WIC (Women, Infants and Children) to put food on the table. Now, the football player does his part by giving back to ensure that fewer families have to worry about where their next meal will come from.

Beachum and World Vision

There are 795 million hungry people throughout the world, and malnutrition is the cause of almost half of all deaths of children under the age of 5. These sobering facts have inspired Beachum to take his cause for food security international. In the summer of 2016, he traveled to Honduras with World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organization, to witness how another country deals with the issue of childhood hunger. He was surprised to discover that finding a source of clean water is just as difficult as finding food within the country.

During his travels, he visited a rural school where he witnessed a water tank system that is part of a World Vision water project and will eventually provide access to clean water for more than 200,000 people. In another community he visited, World Vision facilitated the growth of an economic empowerment project, which provides clean drinking water for the entire community as well as water for agricultural irrigation.

Beachum and World Food Day

Beachum also advocates for World Food Day, which is celebrated every year on October 16th to honor the founding of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. For World Food Day 2018, he created a match challenge for five food banks throughout the U.S. His plan entailed donating $5,000 to each food bank and doubling his donation if members of the community matched his contribution.  Eventually, he reached his goal of $70,000, which provided 327,000 meals for hungry individuals throughout the U.S.

“It allows me to keep things in perspective,” Beachum states. “I was…on food stamps growing up…We had people who helped us out. So, for me, that keeps me grounded, honestly, because I was there.”

Kelvin Beachum and Feed the Future

His advocacy extends Feed the Future (FTF), the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. FTF works with partner countries to break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger by developing their agricultural sectors and working to sustainably grow enough food to feed their people. They are also leading the implementation of the Global Food Security Act of 2016, which promotes global food security, resilience and nutrition. FTF draws on resources and expertise from multiple U.S. federal departments and agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The progress speaks for itself; it is projected that 23.4 million more people are living above the poverty line, 3.4 million more children are living free of stunting, and 5.2 million more families do not go hungry within the countries that FTF partners with. The Global Food Reauthorization Act, signed by President Donald J. Trump in 2018, ensures that funding continues for FTF so the assistance they provide for hungry individuals around the world will persist.

Conclusion

Through his advocacy and partnership with organizations such as FTF, Kelvin Beachum is breaking the mold of the stereotypical football player. His interest in humanitarian issues all started with a canned food drive in college and has blossomed into global efforts that are making real change. His hope is to inspire others to take action through advocacy, donations, and volunteering. “The world is going through a lot right now,” Beachum writes. “Anything [one] can do to bring light to it—that’s impactful.”

– Rachel Baum
Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan‘s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

U.S. Food Policy
The U.S. produces around 38.7 percent of all corn grown globally and around 35 percent of all soybeans. With such a large stake in global markets, it is not surprising that when U.S. food policy changes occur, many and often poorer places feel their effects throughout the globe.

Over 1 billion people work in world agriculture, and in poorer regions, a majority of the workforce population works in agriculture. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, over 60 percent of the workforce is involved in agriculture. With such a dependence on agriculture, changes in global markets and farming policies can severely affect these poorer populations. U.S. food policy may impact foreign farmers negatively in four principal ways: restricting imports in which developing countries have a comparative advantage; stimulating an overproduction of commodities in the U.S., that when the U.S. exports lowers the international price of goods from which low-income country farmers derive their income; distorting food markets in developing countries by the provision of in-kind food aid; and reducing official development assistance for agricultural and rural development.

Subsidies

Subsidies are a long-standing agricultural policy in the United States. Originating during the Great Depression, farming subsidies are payments and other support that the U.S. federal government gives to certain farmers. Today, the U.S. distributes around $20 billion to farming businesses annually. In 1930, when the stock market crashed, around 25 percent of Americans lived on farms and ranches and the government intended subsidies to help support these smaller family-run farms. Today, the largest 15 percent of farm businesses receive 85 percent of government subsidies that protect them from price fluctuations and unexpected decreased crop production.

Because of the U.S. subsidy system, it is cheaper for U.S. farmers to produce certain crops and thus it is cheaper for many poor nations to import crops such as wheat, barley and corn, instead of buying and growing locally. As one of the world’s largest cotton producers, subsidies can cause severe global price depression. In 2004, Brazil challenged the U.S. cotton subsidies with the support of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO found that U.S. cotton subsidies were responsible for distorted international markets. In winning the dispute, Brazil could impose $830 million in product sanctions and the U.S. paid $300 million to the Brazil Cotton Institute as reparations.

Subsidies are also the main cause of more market distortion for corn, one of the U.S.’s most lucrative crops. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S. exports highly subsidized crops that compete with Mexican products. The exported corn contributed to a 413 percent increase in U.S. exports and a 66 percent decline in Mexican producer prices from the 1990s to 2005.

Cargo Preference

Cargo preference is another policy interfering in international relations between the U.S. and its beneficiaries. The Cargo Preference Act of 1954 ensures that ships operated by U.S.-based companies must transport at least 50 percent of overseas-bound food aid. Because of this regulation, 35-40 cents of each dollar spent on food aid goes toward transportation rather than the food itself.

The United States established Cargo Preference to protect U.S.-flag maritime companies and unions from competing for foreign cargo ships. These companies may increase or decrease the cost of transportation. The disparity between foreign-flag and U.S.-flag ships is very costly to the food aid effort. U.S.-flag ships can cost around $100-135 per metric ton while foreign-flag ships cost around $65 per metric ton. By matching foreign pricing, the country could use the $23.8 million that the country that it would have spent on shipping towards feeding the poor.

If the U.S. were to eradicate cargo preference, there would be an additional $300 million to feed another 9.5 million people each year.

Biofuel Mandates

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) emerged with the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This federal policy requires transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel, namely ethanol from corn or soybeans. This policy was to help American farmers and decrease dependency on foreign oil.

The policy has, however, had a negative effect on global food prices. According to the Resources for the Future, estimates determine that the RFS in the U.S. and the E.U.’s own biofuel mandate will increase global food prices by 15 percent by 2022. Because the RFS demands more corn for ethanol production and because the U.S. produces 40 percent of the world’s corn crops, the policy has had a critical impact on global corn markets. An Iowa State University study estimates that the RFS has diverted a third of U.S. corn crops (10.8 percent of the global corn market) towards production of ethanol and biofuel and has caused an increase in global corn prices from 8-34 percent.

Proactive Policy

The U.S. government has taken major steps toward improving the food security of poor nations. While many food policies focus on farmers and exporting goods, the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act (GSRA) targets farmers in developing countries. Signed into law in 2018, the GSRA ensures funding and support for the Feed the Future initiative. Feed the Future works with local agriculture sectors in developing countries to help build up strong farming techniques and give them the tools to ensure their food security. Thanks to Feed the Future, estimates state that 23.4 million people now live above the poverty line and that farmers have generated $12 billion in new agricultural sales from 2011 to 2017.

Due to the size and volume of exported crops and resources, the U.S. food policy has a strong pull on global markets. Developing and poor nations can feel the effects of rising and falling global food prices most keenly. Therefore, it is important for U.S. policymakers to assess the impact of these policies and others like them. Luckily, initiatives like Feed the Future are working hard to help build stable agricultural communities in developing countries. With such size and resources, the U.S. has the power to create positive change in global markets.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mali
In 2020, the country of Mali will celebrate its 60th anniversary of independence from French colonial rule. However, since 1960, Mali has had a tumultuous history filled with numerous civil wars, coups and failed revolutions. Despite these setbacks, Mali is making strides to improve the quality of life for its citizens. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mali

  1. According to the CIA World Factbook, the life expectancy of a citizen of Mali is 60.8 years on average or 58.6 years for males and 63 years for females. This puts Mali at a rank of 206 out of 223 countries for life expectancy. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali will explain why.
  2. Mali reported 43 births per 1,000 people in 2018, the third-largest figure in the world. Many expect the country’s population to double by 2035. This has led to overcrowding in the capital city of Bamako. In response, the World Bank has begun to invest in the infrastructure of Malian cities via performance-based grants for communities.
  3. Despite this massive population growth, Mali suffers from extreme infant and child mortality, which adversely affects life expectancy in Mali. In 2015, 114 out of 1,000 Malian children died by the age of 5. Recently, organizations like WHO and UNICEF have begun to sponsor community case management initiatives that focus on improving health conditions in impoverished areas. Areas where these initiatives occurred, such as Bamako’s Yirimadio district, have been able to reduce child mortality rates to up to 28 deaths per 1,000, about a quarter of the national rate.
  4. In Mali, the maternal mortality rate is very high. The U.N. estimates that there are 630 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This is partly because only one in four births in Mali have someone with proper birthing training, but deep-rooted societal attitudes that restrict women’s rights may also be a cause. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization fighting against maternal mortality in Mali, child marriage and female genital mutilation are both common in Mali, which both cause higher risks to the mother during birth. The organization has called upon the Malian government to “meet its national and international commitments and take the necessary steps to reduce maternal mortality.”
  5. The leading cause of death in Mali is malaria, which accounts for 24 percent of deaths in the country. To address this, the Malian government has partnered with global organizations such as the CDC to distribute anti-malarial medications during the country’s late autumn rainy season, in which most cases of malaria appear. This partnership was established in 1995 as part of the CDC’s global initiative to stop diseases in other countries before they can reach the U.S.
  6. Illnesses that often stem from a lack of access to clean water, such as meningitis and diarrheal diseases, cause a significant number of deaths in Mali. Twenty-three percent of the population of Mali overall and 35.9 percent of the rural population lacks access to clean drinking water, and 78.5 percent of rural Malians lack access to proper sanitation. This leads to the spread of the diseases mentioned above. An organization called Charity Water has invested over $9 million to give rural Malians access to clean water and sanitation by building wells and pipe systems, allowing Malians to tap into the country’s rich aquifers for clean drinking water.
  7. Malnutrition causes 5 percent of deaths in Mali. According to the World Food Program, 44.9 percent of the country live in poverty, which is a significant cause of food insecurity. To combat this, programs like the World Food Program have been working on distributing nutritious meals to Malian families, as well as setting up long-term programs to create infrastructures such as roads and dams.
  8. HIV and AIDS cause 3 percent of deaths in Mali. Although HIV infections in the country have risen by 11 percent since 2010, deaths from the disease have gone down by 11 percent in the same period. Efforts by the CDC and other organizations have focused on treating HIV to prevent victims of the disease from going on to develop AIDS, as well as improving blood safety measures.
  9. Mali suffers from a significant shortage of physicians, with 0.14 physicians and 0.1 hospital beds per 1,000 people, compared to 2.59 physicians and 2.9 beds in the U.S. Despite that, the country has recently taken significant steps forward on providing universal health coverage via a $120 million initiative from the government, which will focus on training more doctors, broadening access to contraceptives and improving care for the elderly.
  10. Eighty percent of Mali relies on agriculture for a living. Although Malian farmers have been fighting soil degradation and lack of access to modern equipment, initiatives like Feed the Future have been working to improve conditions for Malian farmers. As a result, Mali poured $47.34 million into its agriculture industry in 2017.

As these 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali show, life expectancy in Mali is significantly lower than in other parts of the world, but the country is making strides forward to combat illness and poverty. With help from the global community, Mali is moving forwards towards a brighter future.

– Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr

foreign policy platforms
As the United States approaches 2020, the fight amongst the democratic presidential candidates to secure the primary is heating up. The foreign policy platform of these candidates is an important consideration moving forward. Although there is still plenty of time, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have taken a significant lead. After the first round of debates, approximately 70 percent of polled voters favored one of these four candidates.

Here is what foreign policy would look like under Biden, Sanders, Warren and Harris:

Joe Biden

Joe Biden, the Vice President of Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017, has extensive experience with foreign policy, arguably the most out of any presidential candidate. His foreign policy platform focuses on foreign aid investment and diplomacy, which he believes will best achieve the goals of creating a stable global economy, promoting human rights and democracy and advancing the United States’ national security interests. During his time as Vice President, Biden helped create the Feed the Future initiative—a government-funded program to end global hunger and promote food security in order to encourage development in impoverished countries. Biden has also discussed the importance of investing foreign aid in Central America because, according to Biden, “the most significant and urgent challenges for the Western Hemisphere” relates to the poverty and violence that exists in Central America. For that reason, Biden wants to invest in Central America in order to promote security and stability. Since stability is one of Biden’s primary goals, Biden plans to host a global summit in his first year as President. His main goal for this summit would be to promote human rights and combat corruption. Ultimately, Biden’s foreign policy platform rests on the goal of bringing nations together to promote the values of democracy.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy goals revolve around promoting international cooperation in order to address global issues and promote universal interests. The main issue that Sanders has run on is addressing environmental issues. Sanders not only believes that the U.S. must significantly reduce its carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy, but also that the U.S. must assist the developing world in achieving environmental and economic sustainability. When discussing environmental initiatives, Sanders stated, “The United States should lead the international community in funding technology development and deployment solutions for the most vulnerable developing countries as part of any international agreement.” In addition to these environmental issues, Sanders has greatly committed to promoting the health and wellbeing of the developing world. For instance, Sanders helped write a letter to Obama in 2015 supporting the United Nations Population Fund—a multilateral fund that promotes family planning and reproductive health services in more than 150 countries. Additionally, Sanders has supported initiatives to promote safe abortions for women and girls in conflict-affected regions. He has also supported funding to combat AIDs, malaria and tuberculosis and opposed an initiative that would have reduced appropriations for foreign assistance programs. In short, Sanders’ foreign policy platform is based on the promotion of human solidarity.

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren is running on the campaign, Diplomacy First. Warren plans to promote diplomacy by expanding the State Department, doubling the size of the foreign service and opening new diplomatic posts in under-served areas. Warren also plans to double the size of the Peace Corps in order to “[expose] young people to the world and [create] a direct employment pipeline to future government service.” Ultimately, Warren’s main foreign policy goal is to improve relationships with the rest of the world. She not only hopes to achieve this goal by increasing diplomacy but also by increasing foreign aid spending. For instance, Warren and other female senators advocated for increased humanitarian action in order to empower women and girls in Syria in 2015. That same year, Warren, like Sanders, helped draft a letter to former President Obama to promote safe abortions for women and girls in conflict-affected regions. More recently, Warren petitioned for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to address the Humanitarian Crisis occurring in Gaza and for President Trump to withhold cutting aid to Palestinian people. Overall, Warren’s motive for increasing foreign aid spending and promoting a greater role for the State Department is to reduce the United States’ reliance on military might in order to create allies with other countries and better address global concerns, such as cybersecurity and environmental issues.

Kamala Harris

Similar to Warren, Senator Kamala Harris’ foreign policy platform centers around diplomacy. Harris believes that smart diplomacy can advance the national interest and address global issues, such as terrorism, cybersecurity, nuclear weapons, environmental issues and health threats like Ebola. Before becoming a Senator, Harris was the Attorney General of California. One of the main accomplishments Harris is campaigning on is her work to help terminate human trafficking rings and dismantle transnational criminal organizations in order to increase women’s safety and prevent drugs and guns from entering the country. Through this work, Harris has also strengthened relations with Mexico. However, compared to the other three candidates, Harris does not have considerable experience with foreign policy or diplomacy that goes beyond U.S.-Mexico relations. In fact, the initiatives that she has focused on in her campaign and on her campaign website are almost entirely domestic issues. Nevertheless, Harris has stated that as President, she would prioritize promoting female empowerment and creating lasting peace throughout the world.

Although each candidate’s foreign policy platform has a slightly different focus, all four candidates advocate for improved international relations through increased diplomacy and foreign aid spending. These foreign policies are in direct opposition to President Trump’s America First initiative that would reduce foreign aid spending and limit the role of the State Department. Although this foreign policy plan may seem to promote an America First mindset in the short term, diplomacy and strong allies are ultimately what is in the country’s best interest long term.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: PBS

climate change in Central America
The effects of climate change are more apparent in some areas than others. Central America is one of these areas with drought, high temperatures and floods contributing to agricultural problems and a rise in migration out of the region and into the U.S. These five facts about climate change in Central America provide a glimpse of how it affects the country and the people who live there.

5 Facts About Climate Change in Central America

  1. Drought: In 2014, climate change in Central America took the shape of a severe drought that plagued the residents of Central America’s dry corridor. In the same year, the U.S. saw an increase in migrants from that region. As the drought persists, high numbers of Central American migrants continue to arrive at the southern border of the U.S., because they cannot sufficiently feed their families. The summer of 2018 included severe drought, and 100,000 Honduran families and two million residents across the Northern Triangle were at risk of malnutrition. The governments of the three Northern Triangle countries entered a state of emergency. The drought was especially destructive to Honduran farmers, many of whom are subsistence farmers living in poverty. Rural Honduran farmers could not easily access the agricultural resources necessary to combat the effects of the drought.
  2. Food Insecurity: In the aftermath of the summer 2018 drought, two million Central Americans were at risk of food insecurity. The region especially suffered from the impact of the 2018 drought as it still had not recovered from droughts that took place from 2014 to 2016. In 2018, Honduras lost 80 percent of its bean and maize crops. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador lost a total of 281,000 hectares of beans and maize.
  3. The Northern Triangle: Most Central American migrants arriving in the U.S. are from the Northern Triangle. The effects of climate change on the region are becoming increasingly severe. Predictions determine that temperatures there will increase by as much as two degrees by 2050, following increases that have already taken place since 1950. Flooding and prolonged periods of drought accompany the current rise in temperature and will become more severe as temperatures rise. USAID studies predict that some areas of Honduras will see a 60 percent increase in flooding and that Guatemala’s rainfall levels will become dangerously low within the next 10 years. The same studies predict that El Salvador’s coastline will shrink by as much as 28 percent within the next 100 years. One can link the current rise in migration to the effects of climate change in Central America.
  4. Summer 2018 Droughts: The intensity of the summer 2018 droughts can partly explain the size of the 2018 wave of Central American migrants sometimes referred to as the migrant caravan. In rural areas, a lack of irrigation systems made the drought especially disastrous. According to officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, crop failure was a fundamental reason for migration from Central America in 2018. Migrants left Central America to escape poverty and gang violence, but they also left to escape the effects of climate change.
  5. Agricultural Reform: USAID initiatives in Central America emphasize agricultural reform. USAID combats the effects of climate change in Central America by providing farmers with what they need to deal with droughts and floods. Thanks to initiatives like Feed the Future, 98.7 thousand Guatemalan agricultural producers implemented new technology and farming techniques in 2017. In the same year, 45,000 Honduran agricultural producers implemented new technology and farming techniques. Feed the Future also provided Honduran farmers with the resources and training needed to allow for increased crop diversity and animal agriculture. Diversity and reduced reliance on crops like corn and beans are vital to maintaining the region’s agricultural economy in the face of climate change.

Climate change in Central America is already causing serious problems and will continue to do so in the future. On a positive note, USAID and others are cooperating with Central American governments to respond to the changes taking place. Countries in the area are already implementing innovative, agriculture-based solutions. The efforts of aid organizations will continue to be vital as the global climate continues to change.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

Feed The Future in Ethiopia

USAID began assisting Ethiopia with improvements to food security and nutrition after the country was devasted by a famine-causing drought in the 1970s. Under the Feed the Future program — designed by the Obama Administration — further initiatives have been implemented to ameliorate hunger and improve the economy. Here are five facts about Feed the Future in Ethiopia.

5 Facts About Feed The Future in Ethiopia

  1. Feed the Future symbolizes a commitment to help Ethiopia become a self-sustaining nation. The organization is committed to a detailed short-term plan that is expected to minimize extreme poverty, malnutrition and hunger in the long-run. The plan will assist Ethiopia in its endeavors to become a lower-middle-class country within the next six years.
  2. The plan focuses on agricultural development in Ethiopia. Feed the Future provides farmers with updated “technology and practices,” which encourages productive and sustainable farming in the agriculture-based country. This includes the implementation of a Farm Service Center Project from 2015-2017 to aid in credit access, food security and gender equality. Thanks to the program, 100,000 farmers are able to deploy new, innovative technologies from 20 new private retail farm service centers.
  3. Coffee is a key crop. From January 2018 to April 2019, the organization helped Ethiopia send 6,000 kilograms of dried coffee to Germany and Japan. Feed the Future is focusing on increasing coffee seedling profitability by investing in “wet mills and sun-drying facilities” among smallholder farms. These investments can improve the quality of the seedlings in coffee-producing regions like Amhara and Oromia.
  4. Government cooperation is critical to success. The organization’s improvements to Ethiopia’s agricultural sector complements Addis Ababa’s new Growth and Transformation Plan to improve agriculture and industrialization. Addis Ababa is also partnered with other organizations like the Gates Foundation to further agricultural development.
  5. The organization is helping to reduce poverty. Feed the Future reports a 12 percent decrease in poverty in the areas where the organization has been active over a two year period (2015-2017). Feed the Future programs target efforts in regions where the poverty rate is 35 percent, on average.

Feed the Future is an American investment. Helping another country boost its economy can result in gains for the United States. Today, 11 of the United States’ top trading partners are previous recipients of USAID and hopefully owing to the efforts of Feed the Future and other organizations, one day, Ethiopia can also join these ranks.

– Rebekah Askew
Photo: Flickr

Making Nutrition Attainable
There are roughly 15.2 million children under the age of 5 in Bangladesh, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Malnutrition affected about half of this population for years. However, there has been some success in lowering this amount by making nutrition attainable. The WHO records that growth stunting reduced from 41 percent in 2011 to 36 percent in 2014. The percentage of underweight children also dropped from 36 percent to 33 percent between 2011 and 2014.

Although Bangladesh’s economy has progressed and the country has experienced a reduction in poverty, food insecurity remains a concern for about 35 percent of its citizens. The International Food Policy Research Institute recommends that children who consume at least four different food groups a day will be 22 percent less likely to experience stunting. In spite of the food insecurity, each day there are more possibilities for making nutrition attainable for poor countries.

Processed Foods

A very common misconception among big companies and corporations is that poor countries would not be able to purchase their food. Therefore, many companies do not venture to sell to these countries in fear of failure. However, in countries like Bangladesh, India and Nigeria, people purchase over 80 percent of the food rather than relying on home-grown. In Bangladesh, 75 to 90 percent of low-income urban consumers and about 40 percent of low-income rural consumers purchase their food. Fifty to 70 percent of the food people purchase in these countries is processed.

Although there are many unhealthy packaged foods, there is also a market for nutritional processed goods. A study in Nepal found that 80 to 90 percent of the country’s children of 6 to 23 months of age ate commercially-produced packaged foods. In Nigeria, people buy 80 million MAGGI bouillon broth cubes every day. These bouillon cubes carry essential nutritional qualities such as iron and other key micronutrients. There is a need for more similarly packaged and processed foods that provide nutritional density and quality.

Making Nutrition Attainable

In an effort to improve the situation, Groupe Danone and Grameen Bank collaborated to make a fortified yogurt factory in Bangladesh. Danone is the world’s largest yogurt maker with more than $21 billion in annual sales. Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi microfinance pioneer and founder of Grameen Bank, first suggested making baby food, however, a yogurt factory became the ultimate choice.

The company is successfully putting enough vitamin A, iron, zinc and iodine into the 60 and 80-gram cups of yogurt to meet 30 percent of a child’s daily needed diet. Overall, the local children who are often poor and malnourished benefit from the yogurts the factory produces. There is still a lot of work to do. The consumer demand increasing in the U.S. leads many businesses to cut sugar out of their products by at least 20 percent. However, for countries in Africa and Asia, there has yet to be this kind of motion.

The Danone and Grameen Factory Help People

The Danone and Grameen factory’s main goal is not to make large revenue, but rather to provide nutrition and education. Professor Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank hopes to share a lesson in manufacturing, business and humanitarian efforts for the developing world and the West. He believes that in starting this project, “You don’t see the money-making aspect, but how you can help people.” The project has employed the rural community through its links with the farmers which serve the factory. The yogurt company pays the local workers and farmers more than any customer does. Many employees are earning $60 a week, a substantial amount for rural Bangladesh.

Many private sector companies are hesitant to step into this effort because of the misinformation that affordable nutrition cannot be profitable. Professor Yunus hopes to educate these companies by challenging them to begin thinking about running their businesses in a different manner. For Danone, this project provides a clearer understanding of marketing food in South Asia and entering in a more profitable market in India.

The Impact

Danone and organizations like Feed the Future strive to make nutrition attainable in Bangladesh. As of January 2018, the U.S. Government selected Bangladesh as one of the 12 Feed the Future target countries. Feed the Future, under the U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy, is a global hunger and food security initiative. It has established a strategy for making nutrition attainable. Feed the Future aims to intensify production while diversifying agriculture. It uses high-value, multi-nutrient products. Feed the Future’s target beneficiaries include rice farmers, the landless poor who are net purchasers of rice, small and medium-size farmers who can diversify production, agricultural-based enterprises and people employed in the fishing and aquaculture sector. In poor countries, companies such as Danone make nutrition attainable by placing more importance on those in need than on the profit it makes. Government organizations like Feed the Future also help in providing food security to poor countries like Bangladesh.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: USAID

Feed the Future in Kenya
As of 2018, the Republic of Kenya had a total population of around 51 million people with a growth rate of 2.6 percent. About 25 percent of the nation’s population lives in urban areas and major cities while the majority of Kenyans live in rural and sub-urban areas. Because of this, one would assume agriculture would provide a steady income for most families, but the agricultural sector in Kenya hosts a variety of challenges.

Kenya’s Employment Challenges

While agriculture does contribute one-third of the nation’s GDP, many issues prevent farmers from turning a decent profit. Aside from the fact that only 9.5 percent of Kenya’s total land area is arable, many Kenyans simply lack the monetary resources to expand their businesses. In fact, Oxford University’s poverty index finds that around 50 percent of Kenyans live below the poverty line.

Rural Kenyans, like citizens of many other African countries, rely on subsistence farming—meaning they farm just to feed themselves and their families. In times of crop failure, even simply feeding one’s household can be a challenge, much less producing viable crops to sell. In spite of this, Kenya’s entrepreneurial middle-class keeps growing, and many nonprofits and aid assistance programs are jumping at the chance to see that that growth continues.

Feed the Future in Kenya

One such organization is USAID’s Feed the Future program; the Feed the Future initiative, as described on their website, “brings together partners from across various sectors and the U.S. Government to use each of our unique skills and insights in a targeted, coordinated way to help countries that are ripe for transformation change the way in the way their food systems work.”

Nkamathi Farm Products

An example of how Feed the Future in Kenya has positively impacted the nation’s population can be found in the success of Nkamanthi Farm Products. The founder of the company, Lydia Kanyika, saw how poverty and low education limited opportunities for young people in her community to find meaningful work. Hoping to create positive change in her world, she applied to and won a Feed the Future business development grant. The grant is awarded to select businesses based on four key elements: their marketing plans, ability to create markets, ability to generate employment opportunities and their ability to increase productivity along the livestock value chain in Northern Kenya.

Kanyika used her grant to expand her small business by upgrading her wooden chicken house to a modernized coop. This simple change has not only allowed her to increase the number of chickens she kept from 300 to 2,500 but also grow her farm’s production by 243 percent. Perhaps most amazing of all is how contagious her success was on her community.

The Ripple Effects

Through the expansion of her company, Kanyika has mentored more than 50 young Kenyans and provided them with employment opportunities that help them support their families. One of her employees, Martin Mwenda, gladly shared his business success with representatives from Feed the Future in Kenya. When he first began earning income from distributing eggs from Kanyika’s chickens, he told the project that he only sold five cartons of eggs each day. As Nkamanthi Farm Products grew, so did his clientele; he now sells 25 cartons daily, which provides him with a steady and consistent revenue.

“I want to expand the egg business,” he told Feed the Future. “I will then use the business to create employment opportunities for fellow youth, especially those who have migrated from rural areas to Isiolo town to make ends meet, like I did.”

The Future of Agriculture

While Kenya’s middle class continues to struggle for more open markets and trade, investment and financial freedoms, aid programs like Feed the Future are slowly but surely helping Kenyans expand their personal businesses, which in turn spreads more employment opportunities across the country.

Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Notre-Dame RepairsThe cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is a cultural, religious, and architectural icon that has stood at the center of Paris for nearly a millennium. For many, this cathedral is a sacred place of refuge, an escape from the world or a childhood memory. On April 15, a fire nearly destroyed the cathedral, severely damaging the spire and roof of the building. In the aftermath of this tragedy, news headlines focused on the noteworthy flurry of donations from billionaires and small donors pledged to Notre-Dame repairs.

After reaching nearly $1 billion just days after the fire, several articles marveled at how easy it was to raise these funds when investing the same amount of money and public support for other pressing issues seems so difficult. In a few op-ed pieces, authors even expressed the sadness and disappointment of how vigorous the funding was to repair a church whose religion preaches helping the poor and oppressed. This begs the question of what else could $1 billion be used for? Here are five different ways the funds for the Notre-Dame repairs could have been used.

What $1 Billion in Aid Could Do Around the World

    1. International Aid: In 2017, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) spent more than $1 billion on agricultural aid worldwide, which includes investment in capital for agricultural and technological development. USAID spent a similar amount on maternal and child health worldwide to treat cases of illness and provide medical technology to assist in childbirth.
    2. World Hunger: Through local partnerships and government leadership, the Feed the Future Inititiaive spent roughly $3.3 billion in agricultural and rural loans between 2011 and 2017 to mobilize farmers and families in developing countries. The average spending per year for this program amounts to about half of what was donated to the Notre-Dame repairs ($0.5 billion), yet the progress made through this initiative has added an estimated value of nearly $42 billion in economic output.
    3. The Refugee Crisis: The Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has requested $783 million to aid the South Sudan crisis where there are an estimated 2.4 million refugees. It raised $783 million in just 24 hours after the Notre-Dame fire. The funds UNHCR has requested for the crises in the countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Afghanistan comes to around $879 million. That money would aid more than a million refugees collectively in the three countries.
    4. Homelessness: In Beijing, China, homelessness is an increasing problem. The Fengtai Shelter, located in Beijing, serves almost 3,000 people annually and receives just $1.2 million each year in aid from the government. With $1 billion, nearly 800 similar homeless shelters could receive $1.2 million in aid.
    5. Climate Change Relief: Alaskan residents have witnessed dramatic changes where whole villages have been sliding into rivers. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said relocating one such village, Newtok, would require anywhere between $80 to $130 million. Given this analysis, $1 billion could be used to relocate roughly ten such villages in Alaska, impacting thousands of people who are being displaced by increasing water levels.

Here are just five different ways that $1 billion could be used towards important problems in the world. These examples go to show the magnitude of what can be done with $1 billion to help the poor and oppressed. Although it is hearting to see so many people rally together to help with the Notre-Dame repairs, it would be an amazing leap to see that kid of dedication put towards humanitarian aid efforts.

Luke Kwong

Photo: Wikimedia Commons