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How Vertical Farming in Mexico Can Address Food InsecurityMexico is a large country home to more than 130 million people. Of the population, roughly 44% live in poverty and about 10.4 million Mexicans endured severe food insecurity in 2018. COVID-19 worsens these issues, exacerbating concerns of food security and availability. Researchers are now studying the effects of vertical farming as new companies attempt to introduce vertical farming in Mexico.

What is Vertical Farming?

Vertical farming is a method of production in which crops are grown within stacked layers on top of one another. In contrast to traditional methods, where food grows across a singular plane such as a field, the vertical method enables fruits and vegetables to grow in more confined spaces, such as skyscrapers, multi-level warehouses and even shipping containers. In these environments, plants are exposed to artificial lighting and controlled temperatures to produce the best yield. The purpose of this method is to grow more food within smaller areas.

How Can Vertical Farms Help Mexico?

Vertical farming has gained traction in recent years because it gives people the opportunity to grow food in urban cities and areas where the population is rapidly increasing. Estimates indicate that Mexico’s population could rise to 150 million citizens by 2050, therefore, it is important to ensure that food production increases over the next several decades. While vertical farming allows growers to be closer to their consumers, it also alleviates some of the problems brought by agricultural farming. For example, Mexico loses billions of liters of water every year because of the poor irrigation of traditional farming methods. By introducing more vertical farms in Mexico, water waste in agriculture will drastically reduce.

Water reduction is not the only benefit of vertical farming as there are several negative aspects of traditional farming that indoor farming completely avoids. Introducing vertical farms in Mexico can lead to a decrease in fertilizer and pesticide use, which will reduce water, soil and air pollution. Additionally, since vertical farms are much closer to urbanized areas, there will not be as great of a need for agricultural machinery or transportation to deliver goods. This will reduce overall carbon emissions.

In Mexico, 34% of food produced through agricultural farming never reaches the consumer because of problems that occur during production, processing, storing and transporting. Implementing more vertical farms in Mexico can help address this problem by reducing the need for agricultural farming. Additionally, vertical systems can create job opportunities for many people, leading to profitable activities that can positively impact the nation’s economy. Overall, vertical farming can improve the quality of life for many Mexicans by giving them access to locally produced fresh food.

What are the Downsides?

Although vertical farming has a lot of potential in Mexico, it is not without drawbacks and cannot fully replace agricultural farming. This is because indoor farming technology is limited to producing specific fruits and vegetables, primarily leafy greens. While one might be able to produce lettuce, kale and different types of herbs, there are several plants that cannot grow under the artificial conditions that vertical farms create. Potatoes, corn and other root vegetables, for example, rely on traditional agricultural farming.

Limited variety is not the only issue that vertical farming presents. Because vertical farms consume so much energy and electricity, setting them up can cost millions of dollars. In urbanized areas, starting up indoor farms can be more expensive, making marginal profits lower and leading to fewer people who want to invest. Another issue with indoor farming is that it relies too heavily on technology. One day without power or LED lighting can be absolutely devastating and result in the loss of thousands of plants. Despite this, companies are starting to open up vertical farms in Mexico, with some expanding dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Verde Compacto

In recent years, several businesses have emerged in response to Mexico’s need to address food insecurity. One example is Verde Compacto, a vertical farming company that uses shipping containers to grow crops. This method enables founders Juan Gabriel Succar and Jorge Succar to grow 5,000 square meters worth of lettuce within “a 30 square meter sea freight container.”

The business is now working on a project to reduce its LED light use by 75%. Today, Verde Compacto is collaborating with its consumers to build container farms best suited to their needs. It is also looking to bring down the price of produce in countries outside of Latin America, expanding to regions such as Northern Europe in light of the pandemic.

Karma Verde Fresh

Another vertical farming company is Karma Verde Fresh, a startup based in Monterrey, Mexico. Since its founding in 2016, Karma Verde Fresh has developed its own method of indoor farming and has successfully increased its number of vertical racks by almost 90%. In 2019, the company opened its first laboratories, two at the campuses of the Autonomous University of Nueva León and one at the Antonio Narro Agrarian Autonomous University in Coahuila.

During the pandemic, Karma Verde Fresh signed a contract with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture to collaborate and build cultivation systems in food banks in Mexico’s most impoverished regions. The partners are now working to institute a Vertical Agriculture Tech and Trainer Certification Program in Mexico City. Karma Verde Fresh’s current goal is to install vertical farming systems in universities across Mexico, Central America and Chile between 2021 and 2023.

Ultimately, vertical farming is slowly integrating itself into Mexico’s future and is capable of addressing many of the nation’s problems. The benefits vertical farming hold for the nation is truly promising, potentially inspiring other countries to follow suit.

– Eshaan Gandhi
Photo: Flickr

GM golden riceRice is a staple crop in Asia that provides 30-72% of the energy intake in the region. Many children in these countries rely on meager amounts of rice and almost nothing else. Enter genetically modified (GM) rice. GM golden rice is a revolutionary modified rice crop, characterized by its golden color and vitamin A fortification. This biofortified crop works to alleviate the issue of malnutrition in Asia, especially among children.

Vitamin A

In Bangladesh, China, India and elsewhere in Asia, there is a vitamin A deficiency problem. Annually, vitamin A deficiency results in the death of several million children and blindness in 250,000, according to a study done by WHO. Half of these children die within 12 months of losing their sight.

GM golden rice allows for beta-carotene (a Vitamin A precursor) synthesis in the edible portion of rice. This process may prove to be a promising remedy to this widespread vitamin deficiency. The body can actually use beta-carotene in the edible portion of rice, rather than the rice’s leaves. Not only is it usable, but it can supply 30% to 50% of a person’s daily vitamin A requirement.

Other Benefits

Besides the nutritional benefit, GM golden rice also lasts longer than its non-GM counterparts. A Purdue University researcher found that some GM foods have an increased shelf life by a week longer than it would have originally. Foods that can stay fresher longer help impoverished regions store food and aid food distribution across long periods of time.  

Furthermore, modified foods, like GM golden rice, are routinely screened for safety. Simon Barber, director of the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio, the European biotech industry association, stated that before anything may be imported into Europe and used as animal feed or as an ingredient in food for humans, it had to travel through a security approval process.

In addition, the two genes inserted into GM golden rice, plant phytoene synthase and bacterial phytoene desaturase, are innocuous to the human body. Further, Dr. Russesll Reinke, IRR Program Lead for Healthier Rice,  stated that test trials in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. found this rice to be safe for consumption.

Conclusion

As technology rapidly evolves, people will have reservations about the unfamiliar processes involved. However, GM golden rice has continued to be a proven and effective supplement for adequate nutrition. With new technological solutions, like GM golden rice, food shortages can continue to decrease.

Justin Chan
Photo: Flickr

impact of conflict on poverty
Conflict can be a catalyst for an array of poverty-related events. It can impact poverty by depleting resources, interrupting supply chains, destroying infrastructure, taking lives and much more. Unfortunately, this trend has held in the country of Mali, which currently shows the significant impact of conflict on poverty.

Conflict Background and Economic Impact

The Mali War is an ongoing conflict that began in January of 2012. Since then, violence between the North and South of Mali has ebbed and flowed in severity but never subsided. Malian people, including the Tuareg, in the North of Mali, have expressed resentment and concern, as they feel that governmental groups and political factions have been neglecting their concerns and treating them unfairly. Ethnic divides, fundamentalist fighters and an unstable political system are a few issues that have caused this conflict.

There have been thousands of deaths and thousands of more people fleeing the conflict. As mentioned previously, many connect the weak economic sector in Mali to the outbreak of unrest and violence. Almost cyclically, this violence is now negatively impacting the economic sector. Before the conflict broke out, tourism accounted for more than 40% of Mali’s GDP. Researchers estimate that 8,000 people lost their job due to the drastic decrease in tourism after the conflict began. The economic connection highlights the ranging impact of conflict on poverty.

Many of those living in the North of Mali, mostly Tuareg and Arab groups, depend on the agricultural sector for their income. The government has invested very little in this sector and focuses primarily on tourism and the export of gold and cotton from the South. This has led many agricultural producers in the South to grow jaded towards the government due to their increased likelihood of experiencing extreme poverty.

The Impact on Public Health

Roughly 1 in 3 children in Mali are facing chronic malnutrition. An annual average of nearly four million people in Mali do not have access to an adequate amount of food. More than half of Mali’s children and young adults are illiterate and have been pushed out of school due to displacement. Many children in Mali are at great risk of being recruited into militant groups, further threatening their safety, educational resources, and ability to climb from poverty.

At its base level, the conflict in Mali threatens public health by the sheer loss of life it has caused. In 2018, hundreds of civilians were killed by armed groups. The byproducts of this violence caused even more people to experience extreme poverty, malnutrition and death. Additionally, more than 200,000 people have fled Mali altogether to avoid the violence. This stunts Mali’s economic growth, which reaffirms the dangerous impact of conflict on poverty.

Current Aid and Support Efforts

A military coup ousted the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, on August 19th, 2020. President Bah Ndaw became the interim leader of Mali and will hold the position until an election can be held. Some are hopeful that if a legitimate election can be held, much of the conflict in Mali will subside. In the meantime, many local and international nonprofit organizations have mobilized to aid in poverty-reduction efforts throughout Mali.

  1. For example, World Vision began providing aid in Mali in 1975, even before the conflict. In 2012 during the height of the conflict, World Vision provided aid in the form of food, clean water, and shelter to more than 150,000 people throughout Mali. Additionally, more than 60,000 children in Mali are currently benefiting from World Vision’s child sponsorship program. The program allows donors to provide monetary assistance to and communicate with an impoverished child. Many of these sponsored children in Mali reside within conflict-ridden areas.
  2. Peace Direct, another nonprofit organization, focuses on peacebuilding efforts in Mali. They support communities in their implementation of peacebuilding; in 2019 alone, they supported more than 20 projects throughout Mali. Peace Direct realizes the importance of community growth, both physically and emotionally, to peacebuilding. A lack of communal trust can be detrimental to poverty reduction, as teamwork makes progress more effective and efficient. Additionally, the building of trust and understanding among conflict groups is essential to support continued growth and stability throughout Mali. This trust will prevent future conflicts and allow Mali to focus on joint economic growth and poverty-reduction tactics throughout their country.

    3. “The Peacebuilding Stabilization and Reconciliation Project,” run through USAID, began in April of 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in March of 2023. This project focuses on rebuilding many of the conflict-ridden areas throughout Mali, providing rehabilitation resources to those impacted by the violence, increasing civic engagement and helping Mali’s government introduce barriers to prevent violent outbreaks in the future. USAID believes that providing community members with an active role in their governance will decrease dissent, enhance democratic values, reduce the likelihood of future conflict and decrease the joint poverty level throughout Mali. Success will also ideally increase GDP and overall well being while mitigating the impact of conflict on poverty in Mali.

The Future of the Region

The domino effect that violence can have on the prosperity of a nation is not a surprise. Violence decreases an individual’s ability to focus on economic growth or public health. It overtakes governmental initiatives and attention from the media, forcing poverty-related issues to take a backseat. The importance of the international community supporting peacebuilding efforts in Mali remains essential. The path toward peace will trickle-down benefits for many subsets of Mali’s society and will decrease the occurrence of extreme poverty throughout the nation.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: UN Multimedia

Facts About Poverty In Eritrea

Eritrea is a small northeastern country in Africa, surrounded by the larger Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. It is home to nearly 5.4 million individuals, of which, about 65 percent live in poverty. Eritrea‘s harsh history coupled with its low rates of development has contributed to the poor economic conditions that oppress so many. This article will provide nine facts about poverty in Eritrea which will give reason to the concerns raised by international organizations.

9 Facts About Poverty in Eritrea

  1. A tumultuous history with Ethiopia: After a 30-year war with Ethiopia, Eritrea finally gained independence in 1991. It was not until 1993, however, that this separation was legitimized. Eritrean citizens were historically neglected under Ethiopian rule. Many were deprived of their nation’s resources and abandoned on the pathway to development.
  2. Cultural superstitions prevent sanitary practices: According to UNICEF, persistent cultural beliefs hinder many Eritreans from collecting clean water, washing their hands and disposing of animal products properly. Many believe that evil spirits are attached to certain animal parts while other customs prohibit the use of latrines during certain hours of the day.
  3. Limited access to clean water for rural Eritreans: Very few villages in rural Eritrea have access to clean water. In fact, as of 2015, only 48.6 percent of the rural population had access to improved water sources compared to 93.1 percent in urban areas. As a result, many drink from the same water source as animals. In addition, many communities do not have a local latrine due to a lack of financial resources. Sewage systems also contaminate water sources that would otherwise be feasible options. These issues can lead to numerous diseases such as schitosmiasis, giardriasis and diarrhea.
  4. Challenges in agriculture: While nearly 80 percent of the Eritrean population works in agriculture, this sector only makes up about 13 percent of the nation’s GDP. Landscapes in Eritrea are naturally rocky and dry. This makes farming a difficult task even in the best weather conditions. During the most fruitful periods, domestic agriculture production still only feeds 60 to 70 percent of the population.
  5. Susceptibility to drought: When drought does strike northeast Africa, Eritrea is one of the countries that experiences the greatest blow. Months can pass in the Horn of Africa without rainfall and these episodes are frequent and recurrent. This results in food shortages and increased rates of malnourishment among children. Statistics show that malnutrition has been increasing throughout Eritrea as nearly 22,700 children under the age of 5 suffer from the condition. Plans have already been crafted as an acknowledgment of the crisis, one being the African Development Bank’s Drought Resilience and Sustainable Livelihood Programme for 2015-2021. For this, the Eritrean government has agreed to reserve $17 million to administer solutions for drought effects in rural communities.
  6. Many children are out of school: Public education in Eritrea is inconsistent across the nation. Children living in rural areas or with nomadic families do not have access to quality education like those living in urban regions. Overall, 27.7 percent of Eritrean children do not attend school.
  7. Low HDI: Recently, GDP in Eritrea has been growing. This can be attributed to the recent cultivation of the Bisha mine, which has contributed a considerable amount of zinc, gold and copper to the international economy. Even so, Eritrea’s Human Development Index is only at 0.351. The country is far behind other sub-Saharan nations, whose average is calculated at 0.475.
  8. Violence at the southern border: The central government has created large holes in the federal deficit in its preoccupation with Ethiopia. While the countries officially separated in 1993, discontent with the line of demarcation has left them in a state of “no war, no peace.” The Eritrean government sees the stalemate with Ethiopia as a primary concern, and the military forces needed to guard their territory has occupied most of the nation’s resources.
  9. High rates of migration: These realities listed above have encouraged much of the Eritrean population to flee the country. Eritrea is the African country with the highest number of migrants. Furthermore, the journey to Europe is a dangerous one, as the pathway through the central Mediterranean is highly laborious.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

 

 

roasted crickets
If the rise of Entomo Farms is any indication, the world is about to undergo a food revolution. The Bellevue, Washington-based company produces roasted crickets and cricket flour for human consumption. The crickets are sustainably raised and highly nutritious, containing 13 grams of protein per serving (1/3 cup). The insects also provide high amounts of calcium and iron, along with vitamin B12. Many industry experts believe that the nutritious nature of these insects can help to significantly reduce malnourishment worldwide.

Cricket Production

Most of the production of these crickets occurs at Entomo Farms’ private farm in Norwood, Ontario (the biggest cricket farming facility in North America). The crickets are farmed efficiently and sustainably. They are allowed to roam freely in dark, warm “cricket condos,” which simulate their natural habitat. The crickets are harvested only at the end of their life cycle, which lasts about six weeks. This ensures that the crickets are produced humanely, which is an integral aspect of Entomo Farms’ approach to cricket farming.

Roasted Crickets and Cricket Powder

Once they are farmed, the crickets are prepared in a special facility. They are rinsed thoroughly to remove bacteria and then broken up into two groups: some are roasted in the oven, intended to be eaten whole, and others are placed into a food processing machine, in which they are ground into a fine powder. This powder will be sold as “cricket flour” and is intended to be used as a nutritious supplement to regular flour. The flour can also be used in smoothies and protein shakes.

Investments and Impact

Entomo’s production network is quite vast: they ship their crickets around the world, to locations like South Africa and Australia. In addition, they are currently working on getting more of their products into large supermarkets. All of this points to massive growth in the near future – in fact, the entire insect production industry is expected to undergo a 24 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) increase from 2019 to 2030.

As a result, Entomo recently received a large investment from Canadian food company Maple Leaf Farms. When asked about the transaction, Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain said in a statement that his company “sees a long-term role in this form of protein delivery, both for animal and human consumption”. This investment bodes well for both companies, as production will be able to be scaled, and profits will likely increase. Once this occurs, Entomo Farms’ products will be able to make their way into the homes of the world’s poor, providing individuals and families alike with key nutrients.

Changing the World

Cricket production holds immense potential in changing how developing world eats. The protein and vitamins in the roasted crickets and cricket powder provide a nutritious boost to meals that many individuals in poverty sorely need. In addition, the environmentally friendly nature of cricket production is quite promising. Everything said, there is no doubt that Entomo Farms is changing the world for the better.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Flickr

Refugee Food AssistanceFor more than 60 years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has upheld its commitment to end global poverty, providing desperately needed refugee food assistance today. USAID works in more than 100 countries. It primarily provides humanitarian assistance, promotes global health and supports global stability. All around the world, more than 25 million people face refugee crises. And among these 25 million people, more than half are young children.

Food Assistance

USAID assists refugees by providing emergency refugee food assistance to 25 countries. In particular, USAID’s food assistance reaches Lebanon, Jordan, Ethiopia, Chad, Uganda and Bangladesh. One of the world’s biggest refugee camps lies in the southeastern corner of Bangladesh, in Cox’s Bazar. There, an estimated 868,000 Rohingya refugees seek safe haven. In order to escape western Myanmar, refugees must travel on foot through forests and turbulent waters. Often times, refugees do not have enough food for the trip and witness the deaths of loved ones. By the end of this journey, many refugees have nowhere to live and no source of living. Fortunately, USAID’s programs offer assistance.

Furthermore, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace and the United Nations’ World Food Programme partnered to assist those seeking peace, who lack a home and food. USAID and WFP provide packs of high-energy biscuits as meal replacements for arriving refugees. Moreover, USAID gives WFP resources to buy rice from Bangladesh’s national rice reserve. However, it takes time to distribute food to refugee camps. USAID even supports CARE International, which provides U.S. imported food to Cox’s Bazar.

Relief Tactics

Altogether, USAID programs lay out plans for permanent and stable recoveries using four types of relief tactics. Firstly, USAID provides locally and regionally purchased food, which is more quickly accessible than imported food. Secondly, if local food is unavailable, USAID provides U.S.-grown food. Thirdly, if imported food distorts local prices, USAID offers paper or electronic food vouchers. These vouchers allow refugees to purchase local food and support local communities. Fourthly, if more flexible solutions are required, USAID supplies cash, mobile or debit card transfers.

Beyond relief tactics, USAID helps improve global stability. Every year, USAID assists more than 40 to 50 million people worldwide with emergency food assistance. In 2018 alone, USAID gave more than $690 million to help refugees around the world. Overall, numerous countries benefit from USAID. By providing refugee food assistance, USAID plays a huge role in helping millions living in extreme poverty.

Fita Mesui
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture techniques are the key to successful development Sustainable agriculture techniques increase the profitability and health of farmlands. The easiest sustainable agriculture techniques are crop rotation and reduced usage of pesticides. This is because the quality of the soil is key to the health of plants and consequently people. Sustainable agriculture techniques are the key to the successful and sustainable development of economies around the world. It can benefit both small and large economies.

According to the UN, agriculture is the largest employer in the world. The industry provides employment to 40 percent of the world’s population. However, on average 1 in 4 children suffer from stunted growth around the world due to undernourishment. In fact, poor nutrition kills up to 3.1 million children each year. People in the developing world are more likely to be affected by malnutrition due to food insecurity.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is a sustainable agricultural technique that is both easy to explain but difficult to understand. To fully grasp how it works and understand its benefits, one must understand soil composition. According to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, an average soil composition is 45 percent minerals, 20-30 percent air, 20-30 percent water and 5 percent organic material. Water helps to hydrate the plant and circulate the minerals and organic material that feed the plant. Air allows room for the seeds to grow when planted.

Crop rotation involves planting different crops during different seasons every year. Crops such as corn or wheat are nitrogen-demanding and pull much of it from the soil. If they are planted year after year, they drain the soil of its fertility. Therefore, in the following year it is important to plant crops such as legumes. They demand less nitrogen and sometimes even help replace the lost nitrogen. The process continues depending on the farm’s specific soil composition. The time at which different crops are planted may be different for each farm.

Reduce Usage of Pesticides

One might be tempted to say that fertilizers and pesticides are necessary as they are used to increase crop yield. But heavy use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers increases water pollution which can harm humans and other animals and plants. It can also degrade the soil quality over time.

A sustainable farming technique that can be used to reduce a farm’s reliance on pesticides is to stop using pesticides altogether. A study published in a peer-reviewed journal, Nature Plants, claims that in 77 percent of the farms investigated, there was no correlation between increased profitability and high pesticide usage. They estimate that many farms could reduce their pesticide usage by 42 percent and see no difference in their crop yield. Pesticides are not only harmful but are also expensive; reducing use of pesticides can help save money. With so much of the world’s population relying on agriculture as their main source of income, every little bit of money saved counts.

Farmer Field School Approach

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations began a program in 1989 called Farmer Field School Approach. This program has been developing with practice and continued implementation. It has helped educate over 180,000 farmers in East Africa alone about the benefits of sustainable agricultural techniques and how to implement it on their farms.

Farmers who participate in these classes then go on to educate their neighbors. This is where the real impact happens. It has resulted in more sustainable farms. In the end, sustainable agriculture techniques lead to healthier farms, healthier people and a healthier economy.

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

 

High-Tech Solution to PovertyElectric-powered food: it sounds too good to be true. And for now, it probably is. But, according to Business Insider, Finnish scientists with the Food From Electricity project earlier this year synthesized a nutrient-rich protein using only water, electricity, carbon dioxide and microbes. The high-tech solution to poverty is reportedly nutritious enough to serve as a meal, being 50 percent (or more) protein and 25 percent carbohydrates. It is a promising step, but the process must be much more efficient before it can be adopted on a grand scale.

This research is the result of a collaboration between the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT). VTT scientist Juha-Pekka Pitkänen has affirmed that, in practice, “all the raw materials are available from the air. In the future, the technology can be transported to, for instance, deserts and other areas facing famine.” As this method does not require a location with the appropriate temperatures or soil type for agriculture, desert conditions will have no effect on its viability.

Business Insider theorizes two possible ways the technology might be used: to provide food for starving people in areas inhospitable to traditional agriculture and to reduce the demand for food livestock and the crops necessary to sustain it.

The second manner of use would bring down global emissions of greenhouse gases, a large portion of which the livestock industry is directly responsible for. Studies show that poorer countries are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, not least because they lack the financial means to combat those effects. Poorer nations are disproportionately in low-lying areas vulnerable to sea level rises. The nation of Kiribati, spread out over many island reefs and atolls in the Pacific, is a good example of a place already wrestling with less fertile soil and frequent flooding.

As a high-tech solution to poverty, food from electricity has a long way to go. LUT reports that producing one gram of protein in this manner currently takes about two weeks. As researchers model and adjust the process to allow the microbes to grow better, the hope is that the total time required will be reduced. At the same time, researchers want to produce larger quantities of the protein so as to pilot a commercialization effort and eventually develop the process into a compact product for mass production and distribution.

Aside from addressing general poverty, food from electricity has the rare potential to address climate change from both sides of the equation, tackling it at its source while mitigating its impoverishing effects. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops in the future.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Google

Climate Change

A military coup has worsened Mali’s national security, amplifying the impact climate change has had on the country and its people. Conflict erupted in northern Mali in 2012. The violence of the proceeding five years has since destroyed the nation’s land, diminishing the abilities local farmers have to grow vegetation.

Since 2012, Mali has witnessed a wave of poor harvests, pushing a food crisis upon the country. Hostile physical and environmental circumstances have forced about 475,000 people from their homes to neighboring countries, and those who remain in Mali face food shortages and security threats. With 25 percent of families moderately to severely food insecure, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) estimates that 270,000 people face starvation.

Two thirds of Mali is a desert or semi-desert that experiences long yearly periods of drought. Furthermore, the Sahara Desert is expanding southward at a rate of 48 km per year. Climate change has significantly decreased the amount of rainfall, dropping by 30 percent since 1998. Consequently, Mali is also suffering from water scarcity. Only three-fifths of Malians have access to safe drinking water and only about one-third have proper sanitation.

The water shortage has weakened Mali’s agricultural activities, taking an immense toll on its citizens. Agriculture employs 90 percent of the country’s rural population and 70 per cent of Mali’s entire labor force. Cotton, gold and livestock make up 80 to 90 percent of total export earnings.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been working on generating food security, particularly between harvests. The organization built a total of 3,966 environmental assets such as ponds, dams, and canals to help alleviate Mali’s lack of water. Technical and economic assistance have been provided for local farmers, broadening Mali’s market and strengthening the agricultural sector.  WFP has also begun providing nutrition support for pregnant women, nursing mothers, underweight children and children under five suffering from chronic and moderate-to-acute malnutrition. Further assistance from organizations like WFP is necessary to lift Mali‘s people from the harsh grips of military conflict and climate change.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Google

Hunger in GuernseyThe small island of Guernsey, tucked away in the English channel, has an economy built on financial services, tourism and agriculture. However, with a decline in manufacturing and horticulture, the island has to rely on the financial services.

With 87 percent of the economy coming from services, the unemployment has remained at 1.2 percent, with an accompanying unknown percentage of those living below the poverty line. Due to other unknown data, there is no current percentage of those living in hunger in Guernsey.

Further, in 2011, it was reported that for Guernsey residents to maintain a minimum standard of living, residents need a 20-30 percent higher income, and this rises to 40 percent for older residents. The same goes for necessities such as electricity. Guernsey natives could spend upwards of $240 a month on garbage, water, heating and electricity alone for an 85-square-meter apartment. Even with a milder climate, natives still spend approximately 36 percent more on food and drink than U.K. residents.

However, even with higher costs on food, due to the decline in agriculture, residents are still able to maintain a sufficient lifestyle, and there have been no recent reports of a spike in hunger rates, depth of hunger or malnutrition prevalence.

Although there is no current data on the number of those living in hunger in Guernsey, with the economy supported by financial services and the island’s continued ability to send aid to countries in need like South Sudan, it can be inferred that hunger in Guernsey is not an immediate or existing problem.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Pixabay