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African CropsGlobally, there are about 7,000 domesticated crops. But, today, just four crops–rice, wheat, soybean and maize–account for two-thirds of the consumed calories worldwide. These crops are incredibly nutrient-hungry and added to the common practice of mono-cropping, which has led to the degradation of a third of the Earth’s soil. It is estimated that the global population in 2050 will increase to 10 billion; food production will have to likewise increase by 50 percent to avoid mass hunger. Many scientists think that previously ignored African crops, aptly nicknamed “orphan crops,” are the answer to preventing the oncoming crisis.

4 Wildly Underrated African Crops

  1. Moringa Trees – Also known as the drumstick tree, Moringa trees are a fast-growing species whose leaves, roots, flowers and seeds can all be used for a variety of purposes including as a dietary supplement, water purifier and food. Eight species of it are native to Eastern African countries and it is also endemic to Southeast Asia. Although completely obscure to most Westerners, it is considered by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to be one of the most economically valuable African crops. The Moringa’s tiny leaves are incredibly nutritious, being filled with antioxidants, iron, vitamin B6 and more, and are generally ground into powders or packed into capsules to serve as a natural dietary supplement. Its seed pods, which can be consumed both raw or cooked, are also exceptionally high in vitamin C: just one cup of them provides 157 percent of the daily requirement. The seed pods can also be processed into a sweet, non-drying oil.
  2. Bambara Murukku – Ranked as the third most important legume of Africa after peanuts and cowpea, the Bambara is grown mostly by subsistence farmers in semi-arid Africa, thus making it known as a poor man’s crop. Its nuts, which are rich in carbohydrates and protein, can be eaten boiled or roasted or ground into a powder to make flour for usage in bread and cakes. Additionally, Bambara groundnut does not require fertilization as it is self nitrogen-fixing, making it an ideal crop for nutrient-poor areas. Furthermore, the plant is drought-tolerant, making it an ideal crop in the face of climate change.
  3. Teff – A staple crop of Ethiopia and Eritrea, teff makes up two-thirds of those residents’ protein intake. Resembling a skinny wheat stalk, its tiny, thin grains are used for making bread and porridges and its straw is often utilized as a construction material for reinforcing mud walls. It comes in a variety of colors, with the white grains considered the most prized and the red grains fetching the lowest price. The demand for teff has been the fastest-growing of all the African crops in this article in recent years with exports rising by 7 to 10 percent annually. This has been largely due to the media hailing it as the next super grain as well as an apt gluten-free flour option. The export of injera, the Ethiopian pancake made out of teff flour, has also enjoyed an upward trend in recent years. Ethiopian companies, such as Mama Fresh, regularly fly their injera overseas to eager customers.
  4. Okra – Although it is disputed whether okra has originated from either West Africa or Southeast Asia, it is generally agreed that it is one of the most important African crops. Grown mainly for their pods and leaves, its fibers can also be used as a construction material, for handicrafts such as baskets or as a kindling fuel. The plant is incredibly adaptable and resilient and can thrive in just about any condition and climate. High in vitamins A and C, iron and calcium but low in calories, the okra has much potential in Western markets as diet food. It has, until recently, been all but unknown outside of its native land. More research and experimentation needs to be conducted on it to unlock its full potential. Currently, researchers are investigating its possibility of being used as a commercial oilseed and medicinal mucilage.

From custard apples to bread trees, there are hundreds more other under-utilized crops in both Africa and around the world. The status quo of the global diet is far too dependent on a mere handful of plants. In order to prepare for and feed the ever-growing population of this planet, people must become more open and adventurous in various culinary tastes by incorporating these orphan crops into daily meals.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

 

Food InsecurityAccording to the U.N., malnutrition has been on the rise in recent years. The latest data states that 821 million people are undernourished. This translates to one in nine people suffering from hunger. These statistics are staggering; fortunately, this problem is currently being addressed by numerous organizations that are combating food insecurity across the globe.

What is Food Insecurity?

The U.N. defines food insecurity as “uncertain access to food at the household or individual level.” In 2017, in the U.S. alone, 40 million people faced food insecurity. This number drastically increases when describing those who are food insecure worldwide. Food insecurity can lead to severe malnourishment. Due to the fact that the price of fresh, healthy food is typically higher than that of processed foods, food insecurity can also lead to obesity. This is how poverty can increase food insecurity

Food insecurity can be the result of multiple factors. Natural disasters and droughts are examples of conditions that contribute to food insecurity. For example, in 2016, 40 million people experienced food insecurity after El Niño. Though these statistics are discouraging, different organizations are addressing this problem. These five organizations combating food insecurity are making a difference in the lives of millions.

Five Organizations Combating Food Insecurity

  1. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID): USAID provides support for 142 countries across the globe. The largest areas of aid provided include emergency relief ($3.9 billion) and the reduction of HIV/AIDS ($3.5 billion). However, the areas of assistance often extend past these categories to include health, agriculture, education and more.
  2. World Food Programme (WFP): The WFP provides aid to 83 countries annually. They also help approximately 86.7 million people each year. This organization centers its efforts on areas of conflict and disasters. It is estimated that WFP provides 15 billion rations each year. One donation of $50 through WFP provides three months of food for a child in need.
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): FAO works in 130 nations around the world. It has adopted the slogan #ZeroHunger in unison with numerous organizations globally, which reflects its purpose of ending hunger through the use of agricultural programs. This agency of the U.N. also focuses on sustainability. Additionally, it provides support for countries to protect against the detrimental effects of natural disasters.
  4. The World Bank: Created in 1947, the World Bank has provided funding for 12,000 projects globally to go towards disaster relief and support development. The World Bank’s mission includes reducing extreme poverty by providing financial and technical assistance to developing countries. It has five subsections aimed at accomplishing specific goals. These subsections convene together to promote the common mission. One of the five institutions is the International Finance Corporation, which provides financial services to the countries where the World Bank works.
  5. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): IFAD is an organization combating food insecurity in rural regions. Another branch of the U.N. established in 1974, IFAD was created to address the food insecurity resulting from poverty. Its focuses include building up agricultural programs and creating a lasting impact on people in rural areas.

These organizations are a few examples of the various organizations combating food insecurity globally. Their efforts provide valuable assistance to reduce the number of people who face food insecurity and hunger around the world. Food insecurity can have detrimental effects on those who experience it. However, it is reassuring to know that there are organizations working to reduce the severity and extent of hunger.

-Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr


For decades, the Chilean government has worked hard to promote sustainable agricultural practices. These practices began through joint programs with United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the 1980s, when both the government and farmers realized that growing organic crops will yield both better food products and higher profits as well.

The government also worked with the Government of the United States in buying more efficient and organic fertilizers and pesticides. Modern programs promoted by the Chilean government through their agricultural bureau have helped to grow the agriculture sector by about 3 percent in 2017, which was twice the growth of the nation’s GDP. By 2020, the Chilean government aims to be in the world’s top 10 list of food producers. Sustainable wine production in Chile will help them get there.

Wine Production in Chile

The agriculture sector in Chile employs about 800,000 people or just over 4 percent of the population. Out of the total agro-forestry exports, wine makes 2.9 percent. The majority of the wine production in Chile comes from small and medium-sized farms that are spread up and down the country. In 2009, Chile was ranked 5th in the world in wine exportation and 7th in wine production. This ranking has stayed relatively stable for the past decade.

Chilean wine is world renown for its quality. Because of this fact, it has also brought in much foreign investment and tourism. Modern-day investors see a stable and ever-growing market to invest in, while tourists see a beautiful country made better by great wine.

Wines of Chile

The secret of the wine production in Chile is two-fold. One is certainly the Chilean climate that helps to reduce the need for harmful pesticides since it is difficult for certain bacteria and molds to grow. The second is the government support of the sustainability code of the Chilean wine. The code that promotes sustainable wine production in Chile is given to the wine producers by a voluntary organization called Wines of Chile, that now has over 100,000 members. The organization provides uniform quality standards that wineries must meet to receive their stamps of approval.

Wine Standard

The organization Wines of Chile helps wineries organize sustainable wine production in Chile by providing resources to help them earn the standard. A winery can receive three stamps that form a circle when combined. The first stamp is green for the vineyard. To earn this stamp a winery must prove that it is using sustainable methods to both grow and harvest its grapes. The second is orange that accounts for social dimension. A company must show social equality at all levels. The third is red for the process of the winemaking itself. The process includes all facilities and processes for getting the wine to market, such as bottling.

There are a few powerful benefits for receiving three stamps of approval. The first one is that it increases the marketability of the wine. Organic and sustainable labels make the wine more attractive, especially abroad. The second is that the resources available to the wineries allow them to grow and become stable. The third one is that it is great for the environment, that, in the end, allows for better harvests and longer use of the land.

In 2017, Chilean wine exports to China were worth over $250 million and to the United States, total exports were at $246 million. In 2016, Chilean exports totaled $1.8 billion. As sustainable wine production in Chile continues to grow and becomes even more successful, it will surely help Chile reach the much-desired place in the top 10 list of world’s food producers.

– Nick DeMarco


Photo:
Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Mozambique Located in the Southeastern region of Africa, Mozambique is an interesting country with a rich culture and, like many of its neighbors, a painful history.

In this article, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Mozambique are presented.

  1. Mozambique had a population of almost 20 million in 2002. The country’s population is estimated to reach 33.3 million by 2025 and a staggering 50 million people by the year 2050. Currently, the country’s population of around 30 million only confirms that the estimated figure may be reached, if not even surpassed. Out of the total population, 96 percent is made up of black Africans whilst the Portuguese, Asians and the mixed race make up the remaining 4 percent.
  2. In 2002, an estimated two-thirds of Mozambique’s population was illiterate. At the time, education was compulsory for people in the age group from 7 to 14. Mozambique was under Portuguese rule and the black population had limited opportunities for education and only a few of the elite could study in Portugal at that time. Now, the literacy rates are much higher as 58.55 percent of the adult population from age 15 up are able to read and write.
  3. Illiteracy is high among the indigenous people of Mozambique and as a result, an independent indigenous paper is not a feasible option. The highest selling paper is the Portuguese Noticias. Its circulation ranges between 25,000 and 50,000. The state-controlled Radio Mozambique is the country’s main source of news and information. However, Mozambique has about 40 other community radio and television stations that are approved by the government.
  4. Constitution of Mozambique protects the freedom of the press thus journalists in Mozambique have been able to write stories that criticize the government without being victimized. However, journalists face criminal libel laws that ensure that they have a certain level of self-censorship. In May 2018, the country stepped down six places in the Reporters without Borders (RSF) rankings that measure safety for reporters in a country. Mozambique fell from 93rd to 99th but as a result of other countries improvement in this field.
  5. Mozambique has an average rainfall level of about 55 inches per year yet the country imports its food. In 2016, food imports were at 15 percent. Mozambique’s own agricultural products include shrimp, fish, tea, sisal, coconuts, corn, millet, cassava and peanuts. The country has a need to import other things like wheat in order to cover the food deficit.
  6. The national poverty rates in the country are estimated to range from 41 to 46 percent of the country’s population. This means that around 11 million people in the country are absolutely poor. Whilst the welfare levels have improved at the national level compared to previous years, the gains have not contributed to a convergence in welfare levels between rural and urban zones.
  7. In 1990, Mozambique was one of the poorest countries in the world and the poverty reached approximately 80 percent of the total population. The Millennium Development Goal was set to reduce poverty by half but it proved to be too difficult to reach. After the war in 1992, Mozambique experienced strong growth and stability for a while. From 2002 to 2009, poverty reduction became stagnant. After that period, from 2009 to 2015, the country’s economy kept growing at a slow but stable pace.
  8. In rural Mozambique, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has begun educating women in the society about food security. A few women undergo training as “care mothers”, then they go out into the community and teach the other women what they have learned. They are taught how to have a balanced diet and a healthy number of meals in a day as well as how to garden at home so that they can produce what they need for a balanced diet themselves.
  9. Like many African countries, people rely on public transportation in Mozambique. Buses, minibusses and taxis are the common means of transport in urban areas. In rural places, transport ranges from minibusses and pickup trucks to bicycles and boat taxis. The roads are in bad shape despite investments in restoring the roads. Public transport is not always reliable and may not be on schedule.
  10. Most of the girls in Mozambique are enrolled in primary school but by the fifth grade, only 11 percent are left to continue their education and only 1 percent of girls make it to college. The government has made efforts to give all children access to education, however, the quality of education is below standard.

As a third world African country, Mozambique has similar living conditions to other poor and developing countries.

Although the people in the country endure many hardships, they live full lives steeped in culture and tradition.

Their lives revolve around their families and communities and their customs stem from local influences rather than national ones.

– Aquillina Ngowera

Photo: Flickr

Food Crisis in Yemen
Located at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia, Yemen is home to 20 million people that are food insecure.

The Famine Early Warning System Network has determined that the country is in a crisis phase and that the most vulnerable families could enter into a catastrophe phase.

Recent war and conflicts have exaggerated the food crisis in Yemen and if nothing is done, the U.N. warns that it could become a famine.

Factors Affecting Food Crisis in Yemen

One factor that prevents access to food in the country is the temporary hold on operations at main ports that supply a large percentage of Yemen with food due to the conflict. The country imports around 90 percent of its food and with main ports shut down due to conflict, these vital goods cannot reach the people who need them.

However, some humanitarian aid comes through these ports and that aid is vital to preventing starvation and death for at-risk regions who rely on ports like Al Huddayah and Salif.

Another factor is the decrease in Yemen’s currency value- Yemeni rial (YER). As its value decreases prices for basic needs like food rise, leaving those without financial means to go hungry.

The Yemeni rial value dropped by half between July and October and food prices have increased steadily. This leaves already impoverished households unable to provide food for their families.

This financial situation poses even more of a danger than the inability to access ports because even if imports were being let into Yemen, many would be unable to afford them.

As a result of these issues, more than 2 million people have been displaced and 14 million are in desperate need of food.

Relief In Yemen

There are high rates of malnutrition among children due to the food crisis in Yemen. Around 3 million children under the age of 5, as well as nursing or pregnant women, are at risk of malnutrition. UNICEF has recently revised their humanitarian response plan regarding Yemen and raised its required funding from $378 million to $424 million.

The organization has treated 195,000 children with severe acute malnutrition since September 2018 and plans to reach a total of 276,000 children at the end of the year.

FAO and Mercy Corps

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has stated that 190 regions in Yemen are experiencing pre-famine conditions. FAO plans to focus their efforts on improving agriculture production to relieve the pressure of food insecurity in the country.

Their 2018-2020 plan of action for the country includes focusing on famine-risk regions by providing emergency relief and then teaching sustainable farming and improving planning for future famine events.

Mercy Corps is another group focused on combating the food crisis in Yemen. They focus on regions that have been severely overwhelmed by violence.

They have provided food vouchers to impoverished household and treat severely malnourished children. The organization not only focuses on providing food but also clean water, sanitation, disease prevention and helps sesame farmers improve their farming techniques.

Last year, they reached 3.7 million people with their assistance. Even though conflict sometimes disrupts their efforts, they are more than ever determined to help the people.

Yemen is one of the Middle East’s poorest countries and the citizens of the country desperately need assistance if they are going to survive this awful food crisis.

Focusing on access, financial relief and ending the conflict are vital keys to ending the food crisis in Yemen. Most of all, these people are suffering and need urgent action due to the dire instability of the situation.

– Olivia Halliburton

Photo: Flickr

Refrigerator Vaccines in South Sudan
Refrigerator vaccines in South Sudan are being implemented at a fast rate. In the past, the country has struggled to vaccinate because of the difficulty of accessing a large number of small villages located throughout the country, as well as adjusting to low rates of electricity. Thankfully, distributing vaccines in airtight refrigerators has helped the vaccination efforts tremendously.

Refrigerator Vaccines in South Sudan

The refrigerators used to transport vaccines are crucial to what’s called a “cold chain” — a temperature-controlled supply line that protects the medicine. Vaccines must be kept at near-freezing temperatures when transported. UNICEF health workers store thousands of small vaccine bottles in the refrigerators which are then distributed to mothers and small children to combat diseases such as measles, polio and tetanus.

Health workers then maintain the cold chain to remote villages by using styrofoam boxes and ice packs to sustain the vaccines for another seven days, reaching people who live far away from medical facilities. The ability for vaccines to be transported by cold chain saves thousands of lives of people who wouldn’t normally have access to vaccinations.

Cold Chain Process

To maintain the cold chain to remote villages, health workers use styrofoam boxes and ice packs that can safely store the vaccines. It is quite the journey to transport his refrigerators to Kenya where they are dispersed. The vaccines are manufactured in Germany and need to be transported by ship through the Suez Canal to Mombasa, Kenya.

The vaccines are then transported by truck from Juba and Wau, a process that can take up to two weeks during the rainy season, as there are over 170 miles of unpaved roads in South Sudan, as well as places with no road access, to cover. There is also the possibility of conflict with drivers on the roads, making the job treacherous on many fronts. Since 2013, four drivers and one driving assistant lost their lives while delivering aid for UNICEF.

Organizational and International Aid

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) collaborated with the national Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Industry (MLFI) to help produce Refrigerator Vaccines in South Sudan to help cold chain supplies as well. The organizations more than tripled the number of functional vaccine refrigerators in 2015 from 42 to 160, including 102 solar direct-drive refrigerators and 16 electrical refrigerators and freezers. Over $1.2 million of cold chain equipment has been delivered by FAO through funding from the United States of America, United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark and Africa Solidarity Fund governments.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with UNICEF, state directors general for health and Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) officers of all states met in January of 2017 to discuss how to reach 2.3 million people with measles vaccines. The groups discussed how to enhance the skills of key personnel in the areas of:

  • Advocacy
  • Implementation of measles follow-up campaigns
  • Communication and social mobilization for the campaign
  • Management of the cold chain system (including vaccine storage and ice packs distribution, and strategies for implementation in high health risk and security compromised areas)

Refrigerator Vaccines in South Sudan have helped aid thousands of people against preventable diseases. The efforts of UNICEF, FAO and the South Sudan government should be applauded for their efforts.

– Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in Comoros

Sustainable agriculture is an ever-present priority in the Comoro Islands. More than 80 percent of the rural population relies on small-scale agriculture for food and income, therefore sustainable farming practices have become a major necessity. Current agricultural practices do not prevent soil erosion or retain field fertility, but there are a number of projects aiming to improve sustainable agriculture in Comoros. Three organizations operating these projects are:

  1. Engagement Communautaire pour le Developpment Durable (ECDD)
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  3. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

The Engagement Communautaire pour le Developpment Durable (ECDD) project works toward environmental conservation in Comoros through the introduction of sustainable farming techniques. These methods increase crop yields and protect natural resources like soil and water. One recommended activity is market gardening, which generates income and reduces reliance on traditional agricultural practices. The ECDD project also provides the necessary support for the people to implement the new techniques.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the U.N. also plays a big role in the improvement of sustainable agriculture in Comoros. Some of the focuses of the U.N. organization are boosting domestic food production and improving food safety. Much of the population is affected by low-quality and unsanitary foods, and farmers don’t have access to the technology and methods needed for sanitary production. Additionally, this U.N. organization, as well as the World Bank and the Global Environmental Facility, have run programs supporting sustainable fishing and agroforestry. These are two other industries that are critical for life in Comoros.

Finally, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has a number of projects in Comoros. One of these projects is the Nioumakele Small Producers Support Project, which developed and popularized the practice of planting live fences around plots. This technique has benefited sustainable agriculture in Comoros by both rehabilitating soil in the region and increasing agricultural and dairy production levels. The project officially closed in 1997, but the environmental impact is still growing as local farmers continue to use the methods and take responsibility for the sustainable activities.

Ultimately, sustainable agriculture in Comoros needs to be improved. So much of the nation depends on agriculture, and in order for the country to withstand climate change and further development, it needs to implement more sustainable practices. However, through the help of organizations like the ECDD, FAO and IFAD, the Comoro Islands have the potential to create a much more environmentally-conscious agricultural industry.

– Liyanga de Silva

Photo: Flickr

how to help people in FijiIn 2016, Cyclone Winston, the most powerful tropical storm on record in the southern hemisphere, ripped through the island of Fiji. Winston killed 44 people, destroyed 30,000 homes, and caused nearly $200 million in damages. Later that same year, Cyclone Zena caused significant flooding and damage to Fiji as well. Much of the country’s formerly well-developed infrastructure was damaged by these two storms, and efforts to find out how to help people in Fiji must be continued.

Before the devastation of the double cyclones, there was a good deal of work being done in Fiji to help impoverished communities on the islands. One of the most prominent groups doing this work was HELP International. Projects HELP committed to included anti-drug activism, financial responsibility courses and a multitude of physical education classes for children, especially those with disabilities. However, while only 40 percent of the population was directly affected by Winston and Zena, the most pressing issues remain the assistance and rehabilitation of the islands most dramatically impacted by the tropical storms.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is one of the most prominent groups working on how to help people in Fiji. In terms of immediate response, the FAO distributed 90,000 packets of seeds and more than 500,000 fresh planting materials in order to combat food insecurity.

Despite these encouraging signs, there is still much to be done a year after the cyclones devastated the islands. If you are trying to find out how to help people in Fiji, the Fijian government has established a plan to work the islands back to functionality, but foreign aid and investment will be needed.

A program called “Adopt a School” has been started by the Fijian government, with the express purpose of allowing concerned groups to establish and rebuild damaged schools. The “Help for Homes” initiative is a program partially funded by the government in an attempt to subsidize the rebuilding of homes for those who lost them in Winston and Zena.

However, the government is short roughly $97 million, and is relying on donors to fill the gap. The sugar industry, devastated by the storms, is facing similar rebuilding problems and requires similar levels of assistance. Though we cannot forget those affected here in the United States by Irma and Harvey, aid to those whose lives were destroyed by other storms in other countries should not be kept from all who need it.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in New Caledonia

The islands of New Caledonia lie 900 miles to the east of Australia in the southwest Pacific ocean and are a French territory. The Loyalty Islands, Belep Islands, Iles des Pins, and the mainland (also called New Caledonia) form the majority of New Caledonia, with some other small islands also belonging to this French territory. Gorgeous lagoons and white sand beaches make New Caledonia a popular travel destination and a beautiful home for its citizens.

The people of New Caledonia have a high quality of life, and hunger in New Caledonia poses little to no problem. Of its 270,032 citizens, all have access to improved sanitation, 98.5 percent have access to improved drinking water sources, 96.9 percent of the population is literate, and life expectancy at birth is 77.7 years. Additionally, New Caledonia ranks 61st in the world for per capita GDP, showing the relative strength of its economy.

Most of New Caledonia’s statistics show its success in providing a strong quality of life for its people; however, its poverty rate is 17 percent, which is high for a developed state. Comparatively, the United States’ poverty rate is about 15 percent and France’s is 14 percent. Although New Caledonia has moderate poverty, hunger in New Caledonia is a non-issue. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations continually reports that the number of undernourished people living in New Caledonia is not significant.

Hunger in New Caledonia is not a significant issue, as basic needs are met for New Caledonians. Poverty, however, is still rather high, indicating the needs of New Caledonians as being at a higher level than basic physiological needs. These needs include ensuring greater levels of education equally to both European and non-European New Caledonians, and an expanded job market to help lower the high unemployment rate (14.7 percent in 2014).

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in South AmericaThe regions of Central and South America, in addition to the Caribbean Islands, collectively comprise what is currently recognized as Latin America, which is home to a growing population of roughly 637.6 million inhabitants. Of the three, the twelve nations of South America comprise the majority, or about 66 percent of that population. Despite all of these countries having experienced economic turmoil, political instability and social injustices, as a whole, the issue of hunger in South America does appear to be improving.

Since 1991, hunger in South America has seen significant declines. The largest of these has been Bolivia, which had 38 percent of its population without sufficient access to food in 1991. As of 2015, it had managed to reduce this number to 15.9 percent. Other countries have also made significant strides, such as Peru, which reduced its percentage of hunger from 31.6 in 1991 to 7.5 percent in 2015.

The basis for these accomplishments was established after Latin America adopted a U.N. Millennium Development Goal in 2000. The goal was to cut hunger in half in South America and its other regions by 2015, according to a State of Food Insecurity in the World report released by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. The region fortunately accomplished this goal, and while South America still has the largest proportion of undernourished people to its population, it was able to do this at a quicker and more effective rate than Central America or the Caribbean Islands.

One reason it was likely able to do this is that a handful of countries in South America are major agricultural producers and exporters. Brazil, for example, uses 31 percent of its land for crops; the country mainly grows sugarcane, but they also are dominant producers of coffee, bananas, mangoes, coconuts, papayas and oranges. Additionally, they rank second behind the U.S. in terms of total beef production. Similarly, Argentina is also a large beef producer, and Ecuador is a dominant producer of bananas.

In fact, due to its current production levels and untapped resources, economists and agricultural experts have speculated that Latin American countries will have a decisive role to play in the coming decades when it comes to global food production, something that could certainly play to their advantage. As of 2015, Latin American food imports accounted for a mere four percent of food imports worldwide. In contrast, their food exports accounted for 16 percent of food exports worldwide.

However, there are still tens of millions of people experiencing hunger in South America today. The existence of such a problem reflects that South America’s issue is not that it lacks sufficient food resources, but that it lacks adequate methods of distributing and allowing access to these resources. This is typically reflective of a larger, systemic problem of inequality. However, if resolved, it could improve the continent’s ability to produce and distribute these resources at a rate that would allow its countries to not only be dominant economic players in the international community, but also to take care of their own citizens simultaneously.

In a world whose population is estimated to reach nine billion by 2050, and whose food demands are expected to be 60 percent higher than they are today, it is critical that Latin America, and more importantly South American governments, establish economic reform that would allow for more equal food distribution. By doing so, they could then benefit from and play a major role in assisting future food shortages across the globe.

– Hunter Mcferrin

Photo: Flickr