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5 Facts About Insecurity in KuwaitLocated on the western edge of the Persian Gulf, Kuwait is a small Arab state comparable to the size of New Jersey. Nevertheless, Kuwait holds the sixth-largest oil reserve in the world. This has helped its citizens become among the wealthiest in the world. Kuwait has consistently ranked among the Arab world’s best for food security. However, its reliance on food imports, as well as having underdeveloped agriculture and fishing industries, could hinder its future. Here are five facts about food security in Kuwait.

Top 5 Facts About Food Security in Kuwait

  1. According to the Economist’s 2019 Global Food Security Index, Kuwait received a score of 74.8 out of 100 and ranked 27 out of 113 countries for food security. As a result, Kuwait only trails Qatar (ranked 13) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (ranked 21) in the region. Kuwait is most notably fifth in the world for food “affordability” and boasts a high “sufficiency of supply”. Both factors significantly prevent hunger.
  2. Despite its high ranking on the Global Food Security Index, Kuwait imports over 96% of its food. Given that Kuwait only has 1.4 million citizens, more than 700,000 foreign nationals and migrant workers benefit from a subsidy program. In November 2019 alone, subsidy expenditures reached upwards of $23.5 million. Kuwait’s food subsidy initiative has ultimately improved the nutrition of Kuwaiti children and created widespread food security in Kuwait.
  3. Expatriates in Kuwait who do not receive subsidized food are at great risk of food insecurity. The average non-Kuwaiti worker in 2018 earned about 299 KD, while the average Kuwaiti citizen earned 1,415 KD. In the event of another surge of COVID-19, this wage gap could be especially catastrophic for the 2 million foreign nationals in Kuwait who do not receive food subsidies. For some, their salary might even not cover all of their basic human needs.
  4. A major reason for Kuwait’s reliance on imported food is its weak agriculture industry, which has traditionally consisted of fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, onions and melons. Ultimately, agriculture contributes less than 0.5% to the country’s GDP. Further development of agriculture seems unlikely considering an average annual rainfall of about four inches and 8.6% arable land. An underdeveloped agriculture sector would be an existential threat to most countries. Conversely, Kuwait’s small population, great wealth and diversified imported food supply chain allow it to circumvent such risks.
  5. Kuwait’s fisheries have experienced reduced production. Kuwait’s fisheries can provide only 33-49% of total fish demand in Kuwait and their production has dropped by over 20% in recent decades. Anything that negatively impacts Kuwait’s fishing industry could make Kuwait more dependent on other countries for their fish supply. If water temperatures increase as predicted, the average price of fish would likely rise with the departure of locally-sourced fish. This could increase poverty nationwide. Therefore, programs like the DNA Project are crucial to protecting Kuwait’s food security in the future. The DNA Project intends to collect DNA from local and migrating fish in order to manage stock more effectively.

Kuwait Works with FAO

Although fighting domestic poverty has long been a priority for Kuwait, the growing presence in foreign policy is exciting. Kuwait’s current work with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to combat hunger in Syria is just one example of this transition. In May 2019, Kuwait donated three million dollars to the FAO, securing 200 kilograms of enhanced wheat seeds for 20,000 Syrian farmers and their families. Consequently, agricultural production and food security in Syria have both been bolstered. Kuwait’s involvement in eliminating poverty in Syria builds on its partnership with the FAO in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, where it has achieved similar success in improving food security. As collaboration develops between nations to eliminate poverty, the ability to achieve other humanitarian goals will significantly increase as well.

Alex Berman
Photo: Pexels

Stunted Growth in Children
In 2019, 149 million children under the age of 5 around the world experienced stunted growth. Children that stunted growth affects are 33% less likely to evade generational poverty as adults. By continent, 36% of children in Africa under the age of 5 are malnourished. Around 40-45% of “all preventable child deaths” are due to undernutrition. In 2012, this meant that more than 6 million children died from stunted growth disorders.

Stunted Growth in Children

Malnutrition in the early stages of a child’s life causes stunted growth. Stunting correlates with impaired physical growth and cognitive development, a weakened immune system, higher mortality rates and overall poor health. Stunted growth is a chronic condition that appears within the first two years of a child’s life.

Children who experience stunting are more likely to be fatigued and less curious, which naturally lessens their psychosocial development. Additionally, they tend to face disciplinary challenges as well as possess less developed motor function and social skills. These challenges perpetuate the cycle of poverty, as stunted growth in children leads to higher dropout rates and a 22% reduced earning capacity in the workforce.

While the effects of stunted growth are largely irreversible, reducing malnutrition will lessen underdevelopment and other illnesses that stem from malnourishment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has plans in place to reduce the prevalence of this disease by 40% by the year 2025.

Physiological Explanation

Malnutrition causes diminished cognitive function and psychosocial adversity in children by altering neurological function. This, in turn, leads to reduced income as adults. Dendrites are neurons that communicate with nerve cells and pass on signals in the brain. Malnutrition in young children decreases the density of dendrites in the brain and therefore reduces the number of neurons. This process negatively affects critical brain development such as memory formation, locomotor skills and other neurological functions, which are critical to healthy brain development.

Links to GDP Growth

According to the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, malnutrition drains the global economy of approximately $3.5 trillion per year from lost productivity. Individuals often experience a lack of brain development during the first years of their lives from undernourishment. They later suffer from diminished productive capacities in their livelihoods. The Global Panel reports that a 3% to 16% annual GDP loss results from malnutrition. Simply put, better-nourished children grow into more productive adults.

Policy Changes and Solutions

As with many public health problems worldwide, foreign aid investments may be a critical starting point for reducing malnutrition and stunted growth in children in poor regions. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that if the U.S. invested $1.2 billion per year in the global fight against malnutrition, the decrease in deaths and an increase in “future earnings” (GDP income and relative economic benefits) would generate $15.3 billion for the U.S. per year. This calculation represents a thirteen to one benefit-to-cost analysis.

An Ethical Approach

Much more than an economic incentive, there is a moral imperative to improve nutrition globally. Eliminating malnutrition would increase the overall health of populations. Poor communities that lack consistent access to nutritious food and healthcare would particularly feel this effect.

Research shows that, while the impaired cognitive state is not necessarily permanent and can improve incrementally, there typically remains overall “cognitive dysfunction” in stunted children in comparison to healthy children. The FAO’s recommendations include dietary supplements, food fortification (the addition of nutrients to food to increase the nutrient content) and biofortification (agricultural practices that incorporate DNA recombination to augment nutritional content in primary crops).

Along with FAO dietary solutions, the WHO has developed policy aims to reduce stunted growth in children by 2025. Its policies include collaboration between organizations such as Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), which works to reduce global malnutrition and the health disorders that accompany malnourished children. SUN helps countries develop and implement government policies to improve nutrition during the critical period before a child’s second birthday. Through collective action efforts, SUN, WHO, governmental entities, the U.N. and individual stakeholders are joining forces to eliminate malnutrition.

Nye Day
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

food waste in macedoniaNorth Macedonia, a small developing country situated North of Greece, has experienced impressive progress in addressing hunger within the country. For instance, The poverty rate in North Macedonia was 27% in 2010. By 2017, that number reduced to 22%. Further, in 2019 Macedonia’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was 5.6, a relatively low level of hunger. Unfortunately, high levels of food waste in Macedonia have limited progress towards completely eradicating poverty and hunger in the region.

Are the Programs Working?

People continue to have severely limited access to nutritious food in the country despite the recent progress made in reducing poverty. The GHI found that 5-10% of the childhood population under the age of five experienced stunting in the form of impaired growth and development, a common indicator of undernourishment. In addition, one in five Macedonians continues to struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. The Macedonian government pointed to food waste as being a relevant contributor to the level of hunger in North Macedonia.

According to the World Bank, globally, people waste one-third of food. For developing countries, waste is largely due to poor infrastructure and storage. In North Macedonia, 40% of solid waste comes from food, accounting for a staggering 100,000 tons of waste. Agricultural surpluses create the majority of waste. This leads to decreased access to nutritious foods, lower incomes for actors in the value chain, and increased food prices for consumers. These all negatively impact those living in poverty, and further, may potentially lead to an increase in hunger in North Macedonia.

Is There a Solution to Food Waste?

Food waste and support for eradicating global hunger is on the rise. An apparent solution to the problem would be to redistribute food waste to those at risk of hunger. The Fund for Innovation and Technological Development has teamed up with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to address these redistribution efforts. The organization has provided support to the Let’s do it North Macedonia association to address sustainable solutions for food waste in Macedonia. People in need are receiving the redistribution of food surplus through the Everyone Fed program. This is happening in Skopje, Kumanovo and Prilep. The program has supported 10,000 people in need, including the provision of over 550,000 meals.

The Let’s do it North Macedonia association has successfully advocated for the passage of the Food Surplus Donation Law. The association is currently advocating for the creation of the first National Food Loss and Waste Prevention Strategy. These measures will help further mitigate food waste in Macedonia and contribute to the alleviation of hunger. In addition to redistributing food waste, the waste can be reduced through investments in infrastructure, as recommended by the NGO Ajde Makedonija. At the international level, the FAO is supporting smallholders and family farmers in Macedonia to overcome insufficient agricultural infrastructure which may further alleviate hunger. By eliminating food waste in Macedonia through innovative measures, such as the redistribution of surplus food, the Macedonian economy could save an upwards of $1 million a year. People could, in turn, repurpose these savings to further address poverty and hunger in Macedonia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in TajikistanTajikistan is the poorest nation in Central Asia and one of the world’s most impoverished countries. The rugged, mountainous terrain covers approximately 93% of the country’s territory, making food production nearly impossible. As a result, the 9.1 million people that inhabit the country often face food insecurity and high malnutrition rates that affect mostly women and children. Fortunately, the former Soviet constituent has been working alongside various countries and organizations to overcome this struggle and has been successful throughout the last decade. However, hunger throughout the country is still widespread and will need continual support. Here five projects fighting hunger in Tajikistan.

5 Projects Fighting Hunger in Tajikistan

  1. The Prevention and Treatment of Moderate Acute Malnutrition Project: The Prevention and Treatment of Moderate Acute Malnutrition Project is a plan that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) gave funding to and the World Food Programme (WFP) implemented. The project started in January 2018 and will go to 2022. It intends to improve nutrition and healthcare in the region by “[providing] specialized nutritious food to over 24,000 malnourished children aged 6-59 months in more than 300 national primary health centers in targeted districts.”
  2. Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN): In September 2013, the Republic of Tajikistan joined SUN, a movement consisting of 61 countries that work alongside central and local governments to improve nutrition. Since joining, Tajikistan has passed several laws and documents that address improvements in health, nutrition and food security. Not only that, but the government has also installed the Food Security Council of the Republic of Tajikistan (FSCT) to delegate strategic methods on how the country should allocate food to alleviate widespread hunger. Since joining the movement, the country has made various improvements in all aspects of nutrition. For instance, from 2016 to 2019, SUN was able to decrease stunting in children under 5 years of age, a very prevalent issue throughout the country, by 9.3%.
  3. Women’s Dietary Diversity Score (WDDS): The Women’s Dietary Diversity Score, or better known as the WDDS, is a qualitative global nutrition evaluation that studies the types of food that a person consumes over 24 hours. The objective is to monitor the quality of the Tajik peoples’ current diet so the government can determine how to integrate better nutrition. The indicator focuses on women because experts believe that if women can satisfy their high nutritional needs, especially mothers and those expecting, then family members should also achieve their dietary needs. In the pilot WDDS study in 2016, the mean score on a scale from one to nine was six. Future studies will focus more on having comparable food-related information.
  4. Agrarian Reform Programme: From 2012 to 2020, the Agrarian Reform Programme of the Republic of Tajikistan addressed how to enhance the country’s low agricultural productivity. The landlocked state often faces hardship when it comes to food production because 7% of arable land is often prone to soil degradation. With assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the country has received support to revise and advance policies regarding federal policies on food security, distribution and nutrition. Through various agrarian reforms throughout the eight-year period, the amount of arable land increased to nearly 65%.
  5. Feed the Future: Feed the Future is an American global hunger and poverty initiative that emerged in 2010. It aligns people from various sectors and the U.S. government to create an effective way to assist countries that need help enhancing their food production and distribution systems. With the support of USAID, the initiative has been able to help farmers boost their rate of food production while simultaneously teaching the importance of proper nutrition. The majority of the focus has been on Khatlon, a key province for agricultural production in the southwest area of Tajikistan that also has the highest rates of undernutrition and the largest number of those living below the poverty line.

Through various technological and modernization developments, Feed the Future has had a huge success, including secure access to land and water, increased breastfeeding rates and the establishment of a pilot program to prevent and treat moderate acute malnutrition in children. One of the most notable accomplishments was the introduction of seedling technology that helped produce more than 1.5 million seedlings of improved produce, such as cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet peppers.

While hunger is still a very prominent issue throughout Tajikistan, the Tajik government and international organizations’ efforts have brought forth numerous improvements throughout the last 10 years. With continued support, Tajikistan has high hopes for an improved future.

Heather Law
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Côte d'IvoireFollowing the conclusion of a civil war in 2011, the West African nation of Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, has experienced economic growth rates averaging around 8% per year. Despite its growth, the nation still struggles with endemic poverty and hunger. It ranks 165 out of 188 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. Under President Alassane Ouattara, Côte d’Ivoire has focused on the economy and the middle class, launching an ambitious National Development Plan in order to transform Côte d’Ivoire into a middle-income economy by 2020. Ouattara’s government has also made some strides to combat severe hunger in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly regarding child care. Côte d’Ivoire’s fast economic growth is admirable. However, it is also crucial to understand the problems afflicting the world’s most vulnerable people, such as hunger, and not just economic growth.

7 Facts About Hunger in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Côte d’Ivoire has been successful in combating one of the worst consequences of widespread hunger: stunted growth in childhood. Between 2012 and 2016 rates of stunting and wasting for children under the age of five dropped to 21.6% and 6.1%, respectively. The average rates for developing countries are 25% and 8.9%.
  2. Another area of progress in combating hunger in Côte d’Ivoire is in promoting the exclusive use of breastfeeding for babies. Between 2012 and 2016 rates of exclusive breastfeeding rose from 12% to 23.5%
  3. The World Food Programme (WFP) has worked with the Ivoirian government to combat hunger in Côte d’Ivoire at the childhood level. The WFP distributes school and take-home meals at primary schools across Côte d’Ivoire. Before the COVID-19 crisis, the organization was set to expand its coverage to 125,000 schoolchildren in insecure zones. 
  4. Côte d’Ivoire has also experienced success in fighting severe food insecurity. This issue had previously disappeared from the country before returning in 2019. The overall food insecurity rate has declined from 12.8% in 2015 to 10.8% in 2018.
  5. Agriculture in Côte d’Ivoire employs over half of the labor force and takes up 84% of the arable land. Farmers in Côte d’Ivoire largely grow cash crops, such as cocoa. (Côte d’Ivoire is the largest producer of cocoa in the world.) A successful harvest is vital for Ivoirians to be able to feed their families. To that end, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has distributed agricultural kits throughout the country in an effort to improve productivity and competitiveness.
  6. Hunger in Côte d’Ivoire is significantly impacted by the fact that 46% of people in Côte d’Ivoire live below the poverty line ($1.22 per day). Poverty is concentrated in the North and the West, which are more rural and insecure. Food insecurity is a bigger issue in these areas. It is more difficult to implement food distribution and agricultural aid programs there.
  7. The WFP gave Côte d’Ivoire a Global Hunger Index of 25.9 which indicates a “serious” problem. Such a ranking stems from the triple threat of malnutrition, undernutrition and overnutrition. Overnutrition is a newer problem that disproportionately affects the adult women population. However, malnutrition and undernutrition in Côte d’Ivoire have deep roots in food insecurity. The issues stem from a high dependency on the quality of the local harvest and a widespread lack of support among small farmers for food crop production.

While poverty and hunger in Côte d’Ivoire remain endemic, the government and a variety of international organizations have made significant progress in their struggle. This is particularly true at the childhood level. Developing market competitiveness and advancing economic growth is necessary. However, it is important to assist those who need the most help, like those who experience severe hunger and malnutrition.

Franklin Nossiter
Photo: Flickr

Deforestation in Senegal
For the vast majority of people in the United States, it would be difficult to imagine a life without electricity. However, for many nations in the developing world, the primary source of energy – be it for cooking, keeping the house warm or industrial fuel – is charcoal, and the process of harvesting wood and making charcoal has created a livelihood for thousands of people around the globe.

Unfortunately for Senegal and other countries that rely heavily on charcoal production, it is also terrible for the environment. According to a statement by the United Nations Environmental Program, Africa as a whole is losing more than nine million acres of forest per year, putting the continent at nearly double the world’s average deforestation rate.

Deforestation in Senegal and the world can open the door for a host of other environmental problems. Forests are essential for maintaining local water cycles; deforested areas often see a decrease in rainfall, and experts say that the increase in droughts in East Africa in recent years are the result of heavy deforestation rates. In addition, tree roots play a role in maintaining soil by holding it in place; without tree cover, rain or wind can wash rich soil away and turn arable land barren.

Compared to the rest of the continent, Senegal is not doing too badly. An estimate by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N. states that the country is about 42 percent forested land as of 2016. However, deforestation still poses a significant problem, in no small part due to the charcoal industry; more than half of Senegal’s 13 million people are still relying on charcoal for fuel and thousands of people in rural areas of Senegal have built their livelihoods on harvesting wood to make charcoal.

Flooding and the Women of Kaffrine

In Kaffrine, a region of Senegal where many families rely on charcoal, deforestation has taken its toll on the residents. In 2016, the region was scourged by heavy flooding during the summer. Heavy rain had always been common in Kaffrine during the summer months, but 2016 brought a level of flooding not seen for decades. The floods destroyed at least 100 houses and damaged at least 1,500 other homes on a massive scale. In addition, the flood waters swept away crops, resulting in farmers losing their livelihood for the year – a devastating blow in a region where agriculture is the main source of income. Experts claimed that deforestation may have been partially responsible for the flooding and that reforestation might be the key to preventing similar disasters in the coming years.

However, as deforestation in Senegal continues, the women of Kaffrine have been at the head of the movement to salvage what is left. Senegal has long considered the process of making charcoal to be men’s work, but in recent years, women have been taking the initiative to reduce the negative impact of charcoal.

The Female Forestry Association and PROGEDE 2

Part of the job is reducing the harm done through reforestation. The Female Forestry Association, led by Fily Traore, has been leading the way in this undertaking; in 2018 alone, the organization planted more than 500,000 trees in Kaffrine. One of its goals is to revive several types of fruit trees, which have become scarce in the region as forests disappear.

Furthermore, in areas which are dependent on charcoal production for money, women have played a massive role in finding other, more sustainable ways for communities to support themselves. Aside from the work of reforestation, which provides jobs for many women within the Female Forestry Association, women have been instrumental in developing alternative sources of income besides charcoal production. In particular, the village of Medina Degouye has taken huge steps toward developing horticulture; the community’s vegetable gardens not only provide food for the village, but several residents have begun selling excess produce throughout the region and even in the capital city of Dakar.

These advancements have happened partly because of the support of the United Nations’s Second Sustainable and Participatory Energy Management Project (PROGEDE 2) in Senegal. Under PROGEDE 2, women in Kaffrine are empowered to take charge of the local economy, including charcoal production and the management thereof. PROGEDE 2 also offered training in forest management, beekeeping and horticulture for men and women, allowing women to support their families while also finding alternative sources of income.

Aside from the environmental impact of charcoal, the work of PROGEDE 2 and the women of Kaffrine are addressing a much more direct result of overusing forests: if deforestation in Senegal continues, eventually nothing will be left to harvest. In addition, the long-term effects of deforestation could easily ruin life for many people in the rural areas of Kaffrine if left unchecked. However, between the work of the Female Forestry Association and the empowerment of rural women under PROGEDE 2, Senegal may be able to avert this scenario as the area sees a regrowth of its forests. The women of Kaffrine are taking the future into their own hands.

– Keira Charles
Photo: Flickr

reducing food waste
Reducing food waste could potentially prevent climate change and help end global poverty. In the first study of its kind, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculated that the world’s population wastes 1.3 billion tons of food per year. That food waste also results in 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.

Food waste also costs the world $750 billion annually. The United States alone wastes $161 billion a year. Another study calculated that $265 billion per year would end world poverty and hunger by 2030.

The FAO’s study, “Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources,” focuses specifically on the environmental impacts of wasting food. A 54 percent majority of this waste occurs during the production phase, and developing nations struggle most during this part.

On the other hand, 46 percent of food waste occurs during the distribution and consumption of those products. Developed countries waste more during the consumption phase; they are responsible for 31 to 39 percent of total food waste.

Reducing food waste requires positive change in all phases of the food production and consumption chain. The FAO also suggested teaching more environmentally friendly farming practices and better analysis of the balance between supply and demand. As a result, the entire food production process would be more efficient and profitable during both phases.

Not only does reducing food waste affect the economy and environment, but it also has a positive social impact. If consumers in developed countries reduced their food waste, then farmers in developing nations would have more land and other resources. These farmers could use the extra water and space to grow the foodstuffs their countries (and other developing nations) need.

Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FAO provide toolkits for reducing food waste. The EPA’s toolkit also provides a guide full of information specifically about the U.S. It also contains an implementation plan for starting a local advocacy movement. Here are just a few ways individuals can help reduce food waste:

  1. Plan before shopping. Checking the fridge and pantry before shopping can prevent overbuying.
  2. Buy the ugly fruits and vegetables. They are still perfectly good to eat.
  3. Keep track of “Sell By” and “Use Before” dates. Sometimes, food stays good much longer than a sell by date. In addition, make sure to eat foods that are nearing those use before dates.
  4. Be creative. If they are a little wilted or wrinkled, those foods are still great for smoothies, soups, pies, etc.
  5. Eat smart and share. Controlling portion sizes when cooking or ordering food while out will reduce food waste. If there are extras or leftovers, sharing with family and friends can also help.
  6. Freeze food. This will keep it fresh until a much later date.
  7. Compost. Buying a kitchen composter or recycling waste in a garden will keep food out of landfills.
  8. Donate. Donating untouched food to homeless shelters or others in need will be doubly beneficial. Instead of becoming waste, it will go to the people who desperately need it.

Food waste clearly has a widespread impact in all avenues of human life. Better communication and balance between farmers and distributors would save both money and the environment. More thoughtful purchasing and consumption at the individual level would also contribute. If the world can cooperate and reduce food waste, then there is greater hope for the end of environmental destruction and global poverty.

Taylor Hazan

Photo: Pixabay

fao_social_protection_program
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) updated its social protection plan by adding agricultural and rural development measures.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on reducing poverty have been met by many developing countries; however, there are still high levels of extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Evidence has shown that the three elements of the FAO social protection program: social assistance, social insurance and labor market protection, are very effective in reducing poverty and hunger.

In 2013, the program helped relieve up to 150 million people out of extreme poverty.

The most common form of social protection in developing countries is social assistance, which provides conditional or unconditional cash transfers to households and individuals.

These incentives account for large income losses and lack of savings when farmers are unable to produce enough to survive.

“Most of the world’s poor and hungry continue to live in rural area. According to the World Bank, about 78 percent of the planet’s poor are found in rural areas”, stated FAO Assistant Director-General Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Rural households depend on subsistence agriculture to survive; the cash incentives provided by the FAO have proven to encourage households to invest in the education and health of their children.

These acts help end the generational cycle of poverty and bring FAO closer to achieving the first “Zero-Hunger Generation” goal.

The FAO social protection program has also allowed impoverished rural farmers in developing countries to weather the effects of external shocks such as floods, pests, droughts and price volatility.

José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, stated that “With climate change, the shocks happen year after year; it eats away at the capacity of rural poor to cope with it.

Social protection offers poor families a kind of buffer to protect them from external shocks.”

The most recent edition of The State of Food and Agriculture 2015 explains how the addition of agricultural and rural development measures to the social protection program will sustainably move people out of poverty and hunger.

The report illustrates that agricultural input subsidies, such as fertilizer, have been well received across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

There was an increase in food and fertilizer costs in 2007-2008, so the FAO agricultural incentive was instrumental in providing food security for rural households.

The report also addresses the issue of credit and how little of it is allocated to agricultural needs.

It goes on to emphasize that “leveraging public expenditure on agriculture and social programs” is imperative in strengthening agricultural and rural development.

Agricultural incentives and credit fosters independence amongst rural farmers. They become more financially capable and are able to manage household risks.

Providing credit also allows poor rural farmers to make investments in livestock and machinery, therefore increasing their productivity and income.

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: BBC, FAO
Photo: Google Images

Why this year's flu epidemic may be the worst one yet - TBP

Every winter, the elderly line up at their local drug store and people start walking around cities with face masks—all hoping to avoid getting this year’s strain of the flu. But much like many other diseases, the flu hits people in undeveloped countries, who have minimal access to quality healthcare, harder than it hits those in the United States. This summer, poultry farmers in West Africa are hit particularly bad as the flu epidemic spreads between their livestock.

“[Poultry farming] was our main activity for revenue,” said Naba Guigma, a poultry farmer from Burkina Faso’s Boulkiemde province, a region hit particularly hard by this strain, told IRIN. “Now I have no more poultry. The henhouse is empty.”

Millions of other farmers find themselves in the same situation as Guigma, as the sector has been steadily growing in West Africa since 2005. In Cote d’Ivoire alone, jobs in poultry farming have increased by 70% between 2006 and 2015, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This kind of job growth means that this epidemic does not only affect individual farmers but damages the entire regional economy.

The strain was confirmed to be H5N1, a particularly deadly strain of the bird flu or H1N1 that circled Africa, America and beyond in 2008 and 2009. First identified in January in Nigeria, this poultry flu has since shown up in Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Niger. Before January, what is commonly known as “bird flu” had not been seen in the region since the epidemic in 2008.

This strain of the disease is particularly dangerous because it can kill the chickens before it is recognized. Guigma initially thought his chickens and guinea fowl were sick with the Newcastle virus, a routine poultry disease. Just two weeks after Guigma first noticed the signs of disease, all of his 120 birds—worth up to $515—died, leaving Guigma without any source of income and with higher prices for poultry in his region.

“At this point, we don’t know very much about these viruses,” said CDC officer Alicia Fry at a press conference with the International Business Times in April. However, given that the virus kills animals in a radius of a contaminated copse and the main way of dealing with exposed animals is killing them on compensating their owners, the future does not look bright for these poultry farmers.

“Nothing about influenza is predictable—including where the next pandemic might emerge and which virus might be responsible,” the United Nations health agency told International Business Times in March. According to the World Health Organization, if this flu is not well-monitored, it could be worse than the 2009 swine flu outbreak that killed over 284,000.

– Eva Lilienfeld

Sources: IB Times 1, IB Times 2, Irin News
Photo: Newshunt

In 1996, representatives from more than 185 countries came together to address lack of food security at the World Food Summit. During that time, the summit came to the conclusion that, “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life,” food security would be a global reality.

Thus, as the World Health Organization clarifies, food security necessitates three things:

1. Production

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there is plenty of food to fulfill the nutritional needs of every single person living today. However, food is often wasted and unable to reach the hands of the hungry through current distribution channels.

2. Distribution

Thus distribution is by far the greatest explanation for why we still have hunger and malnourishment today.

For consumers and farmers trying to sell their produce, market access is often unobtainable because of time, danger or cost. In fact, an estimated 16 percent of rural persons in the developing world lack easy access to markets to sell their produce.

Furthermore, while enough food is produced globally to feed every living person, not everyone can afford the prices, which further exacerbates food insecurity.

To combat distribution problems, investments in high-quality infrastructure, such as roads or railroads to provide better access to centralized markets, are vital. Because many governments don’t have the capital to spend on large-scale infrastructure, private investments or grants provided by the International Monetary Fund could pay for, or at least offset, the cost of infrastructure.

Food subsidies are another option for governments with impoverished and food-insecure populations. Subsidizing the cost of food can help the poor afford it while ensuring farmers have enough incentive to bring their food to markets in the first place.

3. Education

Educating farmers about more efficient techniques for crop production would help global food production and reduce waste. The farmers that would benefit most from improved crop production techniques are often those who cannot make enough money from their crops to pay for their own needs or feed their families.

Research conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment found that “60 percent of nitrogen and nearly 50 percent of phosphorus applications exceed what crops need to grow.” The report also noted that over 30 percent of food is wasted worldwide, indicating farmers have a lot to learn on maximizing crop output while minimizing environmental impact.

Many university-sponsored programs already go out and educate farmers on this subject, but much more could be done to ensure farmers, particularly those in developing countries, have the knowledge to succeed at the highest level of food production.

The globe is already seeing increased food production from many countries in the developing world, especially in Africa. A March 2013 report by the World Bank predicted that the food and beverage markets in Africa would triple by 2030.

Unfortunately, food insecurity will remain an inevitability of global poverty if the core issues above are not addressed. Lawmakers in developing countries, members of the agribusiness sector and individuals affected by poverty all have a vested say in making the globe food-secure; time alone will not solve the problem.

– Joseph McAdams

Sources: World Health Organization, Food and Agricutlure Organization, MIT, University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, sciencemag.org, The World Bank
Photo: Natural Habitats