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Hunger in Costa RicaCosta Rica, officially known as the Republic of Costa Rica, is a Central American country located just south of Nicaragua. Over the past decade, many Central American countries, including Costa Rica, have had struggles with malnourishment. Hunger in Costa Rica was a national issue between 2011-2013. According to a report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 8.2 percent of the population of Costa Rica was “chronically malnourished.”

Poverty in Costa Rica

Costa Rica does not have a problem producing food. When there are foods it cannot produce they are imported. Costa Rica’s food problem is that citizens cannot afford the food they need. Estimates placed the unemployment rate at 18 percent, a bad mix with the fact that Costa Rica already has a high cost of living due to its location.

However, by 2017, there had been massive improvements and reductions in hunger in Costa Rica. The International Food Policy Research Institute found that by 2016, Costa Rica has already reduced its proportion of undernourished citizens to just 3.8 percent.

As mentioned before, the economy was the biggest factor that contributed to hunger in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has focused on building its economy over the past five years. In fact, Costa Rica has grown its economy by 3.5 percent annually at that time.

Increasing Business

One of the ways its economy has grown is to make the business environment more attractive. Costa Rica has reduced its licensing requirements, which will take away some of the hurdles for new business owners. Costa Rica has also focused on growing its trade market. Exports and imports together make up about 72 percent of GDP. The majority of these exports are bananas, coffee and sugar.

Although increasing the economy has helped reduce hunger, a new type of malnourishment is becoming a problem: obesity. Almost a quarter of the adult population is obese, and more than 60.4 percent of people are deemed overweight. Even the adolescent population is suffering from obesity: 8.1 percent of children under five are overweight.

Many Costa Ricans do not view obesity as a problem because being bigger is seen as “normal”. There is a term used called “gordita.” A gordita is a type of Mexican pastry, and the word is used as a slang term used affectionately for someone who is overweight. Costa Rica, as well as the rest of Central America, has a growing problem with obesity. Just like its struggles with hunger, the country will find a solution to this rising problem.

Scott Kesselring
Photo: Pixabay

Five NGOs Fighting World HungerEnding world hunger isn’t an easy task. For decades now, famine and food insecurity have caused problems worldwide. When kids are malnourished, they are unable to successfully perform at school, limiting their chances at an education. They are also at risk of weakened immune systems. Non-governmental organizations are working to help fight famine. Here are five NGOs fighting world hunger all across the world.

5 NGOs Fighting World Hunger

  1. Action Against Hunger. Action Against Hunger is a global nonprofit organization that has been working to end famine since 1979. Originally starting in France, Action Against Hunger now works in more than 50 countries worldwide, including Malawi, Cambodia, Nepal and Ethiopia. The organization takes a hands-on approach, addressing malnutrition through several points. These include developing nutritional products, promoting food security through public health and using research to develop nutritional products. The final goal of the organization is ending world hunger.
  2. A Growing Culture. A Growing Culture believes in ending word hunger by advocating for independent, smallholder farmers everywhere. According to the organization, smallholder farmers make up 94 percent of the world farms while providing 70 percent of the world’s food. A Growing Culture supports farmers in creating sustainable agricultural practices through outreach, information exchange and advocacy. By doing this, it ensures that local farms can grow crops to help their local communities. Sustainable farming practices are better for ecological systems as well as people. Smallholder farms have less risk of pesticide abuse, waste runoff and water supply contamination.
  3. The Carbon Underground. The Carbon Underground believes in ending world hunger by using a technique called regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture is described as “a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds and enhances ecosystem services.” This can include capturing carbon in the soil while reversing atmospheric accumulation. The Carbon Underground organization also believes that regenerative agriculture is beneficial for food and freshwater security and healthier food production. Furthermore, it supports the world’s farmers. These benefits can change entire communities and cities. When people have access to fresh water and clean crops, they are able to have nutritious meals, feel more focused in school or work and contribute to society.
  4. The Small Planet Institute. In the late 1960s, Frances Moore Lappé began writing a book that would revolutionize the way people would think about food. The book, titled “Diet for a Small Planet,” sold more than three million copies. In the book, Lappé discusses the myth of “scarcity in a world of plenty.” It dives into concepts of responsible agriculture, the environmental impact of animal products and the philosophy of food. The award-winning book went on to become the inspiration for The Small Planet Institute, an organization that she began with her daughter. One of the main programs of the group is dedicated to ending world hunger by discussing some of the myths and facts about famine.
  5. Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) believes in transitioning Africa toward safe agriculture and an environmentally friendly future. The AFSA also strongly believes in consumer action. This means that consumers should have a say in the crops grown, the way they are produced and agroecology. Agroecology is the link between agriculture and the ecological process in which it can flourish. By giving African citizens the skills they need to succeed in farms, they are able to contribute more to society, send children to school and give communities the ability to flourish independently.

World hunger continues to be a problem worldwide. However, non-government organizations are stepping in to help combat these problems. Malnutrition and famine are proven to hinder students in school, parents in the workforce and communities. But with the help of these organizations, vulnerable people are able to get the assistance they need in the fight toward ending world hunger.

Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Lesotho

Lesotho is a small, mountainous African kingdom surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho’s population is 72 percent rural and 80 percent are engaged in the agricultural sector, which has suffered greatly due to recent droughts, climate change and failed harvests. Lesotho is classified as a lower-middle-income country; however, 57 percent of its two million residents live below the poverty line. Here are eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho to know.

8 Facts About Living Conditions in Lesotho

  1. HIV/AIDS – In 2017, 23.8 percent of adults aged 15 to 49 in Lesotho had HIV, 320,000 people were living with HIV and there were 4,900 AIDs-related deaths. NGOs such as UNAIDS, UNICEF and the WHO have been working with Lesotho’s government to fast-track HIV prevention, testing and treatment. In 2017, 80 percent of people living with HIV in Lesotho were aware of their status, 74 percent of people with HIV were on treatment and 68 percent of people on treatment were virally suppressed.
  2. Tuberculosis – Around 405 out of 100,000 people suffer from tuberculosis (TB). This is one of the highest tuberculosis rates in southern Africa. This airborne bacterial disease is a huge public health crisis in Lesotho and is seen as a co-epidemic with HIV/AIDS. The crisis has narrowed substantially from the TB rate of 695 out of 100,000 people in 2007. Progress is being made, but there is still much to improve upon in terms of public health and living conditions in Lesotho.
  3. Access to Clean Water – The Highlands Water Project raises millions of dollars annually for Lesotho by selling water to its neighboring countries, primarily South Africa. Still, around 18.2 percent of people in Lesotho do not have access to clean drinking water. Many must walk for hours just to reach water access points that may or may not be in working order. The Metolong Dam Project is a promising project to help increase clean water accessibility. When completed in 2020, it is predicted that water supply will reach 90 percent of the district Maseru and sanitation coverage will increase from 15 to 20 percent.
  4. Food Insecurity – Drought in Lesotho combined with two successive crop failures, low incomes and high costs for food left more than 709,000 people in “urgent need of food assistance” from 2016 to 2017. The food insecurity crisis worsened with a steep reduction in harvest for Lesotho’s main crops of maize, sorghum and wheat between 2017 and 2018. The World Food Programme (WFP) is helping to reduce hunger in Lesotho by supporting more than 260,000 people affected by drought with monthly food distributions and cash-based transfers during the low-yield season.
  5. Stunting – One in three children under 5 years old are stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition. Acute malnutrition is a major problem in Lesotho’s population that affects children the most. Many NGOs focus on alleviating child hunger caused by poor living conditions in Lesotho. UNICEF provided support to 1,750 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in 2017 and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) helped 2,560 families start home-based gardens with vegetables to create a stable, healthy food source. In addition, the WFP currently provides free healthy school meals to more than 250,000 children in 1,173 of Lesotho’s primary schools.
  6. Housing – Around 70 percent of Lesotho residents live in substandard housing conditions with issues ranging from overcrowding to lack of toilets. Nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity operate in Lesotho to build homes for vulnerable populations, but individuals also can have a large impact on housing and development. A winning proposal by Javed Sultan for Climate CoLab laid out the success in building affordable and climate responsive homes for the elderly in Lesotho. Innovative and cost-effective building in Lesotho has the potential to help many people in housing poverty.
  7. Sanitation – Access to proper sanitation facilities has increased every year since 1994. In 2015, 30.3 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities that included flushing systems, ventilation latrine pits and composting toilets ensuring hygienic separation from human waste. In 1994 only 22.6 percent had this level of sanitation. This shows that progress is being continually made to improve this area of living conditions in Lesotho, but there still is much to accomplish.
  8. Education – In 2010, Lesotho established Free and Compulsory Primary Education by law. The net lower basic enrollment ratio increased from 82 percent in 2000 to 95 percent in 2010. Lesotho also has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, with 85 percent of people over the age of 14 being literate. The Government of Lesotho allocates 23.3 percent of its annual budget, or 9.2 percent of Lesotho’s GDP, on the education sector showing its commitment to improving its education system.

These eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho show that there are still major issues including epidemics, water, hunger and sanitation crises that need to be further addressed. However, progress is being made to improve living conditions on many fronts due to the collaboration of charitable organizations and the Government of Lesotho.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

GreenFingers Mobile Aids in Food Insecurity
Agriculture is at the center of many African families. With over 70 percent of African families depending on agriculture as their main source of income, 90 percent of them live on less than $1 to $2 a day. GreenFingers Mobile aids the food insecure to attempt to change that. This app provides small and emerging South African farmers access to the growing market to help reduce poverty and make Africa food secure.

How GreenFingers Mobile Works

Initially piloted in 2013, GreenFingers Mobile did not fully establish until 2015. Prior to 2018, the mobile app served three countries and assisted more than 5,000 smallholder farmers. Today, it serves more than 8,700 farmers across three countries. The goal of the app is to provide small farmers with access to the agriculture market. GreenFingers Mobile aids the food insecure by replacing the inefficient pen and paper system and supplying farmers with real-time data. Instead, it provides farmers with a variety of services that range from improving the yield of their harvest to a virtual profile to build their credibility within the market.

In addition to informing farmers of the wellbeing of their fields, GreenFingers Mobile also aids the food insecure by registering over 12,500 farmers in training courses. These training courses provide farmers with knowledge of the agricultural market and ways to improve the yield of their cash crops. According to the World Bank, in 2016, nearly one out of nine people living in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and East Asia suffered from chronic hunger. That same year, 27.4 percent of Africa’s population suffered food insecurity. With food insecurity on the rise, the app presents many small African farmers with the ability to fight back. Through GreenFingers’ efforts to ensure food security in growing communities, it simultaneously reduces poverty. With the threat of hunger erased, communities and countries will become self-sustaining.

GreenFingers Mobile’s Funding and Investors

In 2018, GreenFingers Mobile was a finalist in Google’s Impact Challenge and received $125,000 in funding. That same year, Kiva, an international nonprofit organization with the mission to expand financial services to developing countries, approved a $15,000 loan for the company. Many expect the app to grow the sub-Saharan agricultural market to five times its current size in 2030, going from $200 billion to $1 trillion. Within the next two years, GreenFingers Mobile hopes to have more than 30,000 farmers utilizing the app. In May 2019, GreenFingers Mobile launched the GFM Tree Tracking module, which will provide the farmers with over a million trees.

Among many of the app’s investors is the Hivos Food & Lifestyle Fund, which Hivos provides. Hivos is an organization that focuses on “social change, digital activism and rural innovations in the sectors of sustainable food systems, renewable energy and governance,” as the GreenFingers Mobile website says. Natalie Miller, GreenFingers Mobile CEO, says the fund provided several cycles of seeds and helped lower the entry barrier, which assisted the app in cutting prices by two-thirds.

With nearly 60,000 commercial transactions completed, GreenFingers Mobile continues to grow. It is paving the way for technological innovation in Africa. Though it will take time for Africa to see an effect on its food security, GreenFingers Mobile is on its way to improving the lives of those in poverty.

– Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Poverty in GazaThe Gaza Strip, a highly controversial tract of land, borders both Israel and Egypt. Gaza Strip’s population of 1.8 million, living in an area about the size of Detroit, endures severe hardships. Gaza has a poverty rate of 53 percent. An ongoing conflict with Israel and political instability are the chief reasons for Gaza’s extreme poverty rate. Below are seven facts about poverty in Gaza.

7 Facts about Poverty in Gaza

  1. The Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas, a militant fundamentalist organization.
    Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip since it orchestrated a coup d’état in 2007  Both the United States and the European Union label Hamas as a terrorist organization, This is due to its explicit acts of violence against Israel and its citizens. Meanwhile, the Hamas government has developed robust social and welfare programs in the Gaza Strip. Spending is between $50-70 million annually.
  2. Hamas instituted a blockade of Gaza, resulting in poverty complications.
    The next among these facts about poverty in Gaza is about its blockade. Since Hamas came to power, Israel and Egypt have enforced a land, air and sea blockade of Gaza, citing security concerns. The blockade has contributed to a struggling economy, a lack of clean drinking water, inadequate housing and severe food insecurity. According to the United Nations, “the blockade has undermined the living conditions in the coastal enclave and fragmented… its economic and social fabric.”
  3. Gaza’s GDP is declining.
    In a 2018 report, the World Bank described Gaza’s economy as in “free-fall.” The World Bank cites a combination of factors as the reason for a six percent decline in the territory’s GDP. While the decade-long blockade has done significant damage to the economy, recent cuts to international aid are placing additional strains on Gaza. Another contributing factor is that 52 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants are unemployed. Gaza has a youth unemployment rate of 66 percent.
  4. As many as 90 percent of those living in Gaza have little access to safe drinking water.
    In fact, 97 percent of Gaza’s freshwater is unsuitable for human consumption. Diarrhea, kidney disease, stunted growth and impaired IQ result from Gaza’s water crisis. Additionally, humanitarian groups warn that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 due to shortages.
  5. Poverty in Gaza is exacerbated by precarious access to food and other basic goods.
    In 2018, the UN characterized 1.3 million people in the Gaza Strip as food insecure. This constitutes a 9 percent increase from 2014. The blockade prevents many goods from entering the territory. Further, it places strict limits on fishing activity, a major source of economic revenue. It also limits availability to the equipment needed for construction, as Israel worries the equipment could be used for violence.
  6. Gaza currently has access to electricity for only eight hours each day.
    Demand for electricity far exceeds the supply. Likewise, the UN describes it as a chronic electricity deficit. From providing healthcare to desalinating water, poor access to electricity makes life more difficult in the Gaza Strip.
  7. Many organizations and movements are working to alleviate poverty in Gaza.
    The United Nations has several arms at work, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNRWA provides education, health services and financial loans to refugees in the territory. The UNDP targets its assistance to decrease Gaza’s reliance on foreign aid. Additionally, the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement strives to put economic pressure on Israel and lift the blockade.

Importance of Addressing Poverty in Gaza

These seven facts about poverty in Gaza provides some insight into the situation. However, addressing the region’s poverty proves to be a worthwhile pursuit. Poverty reduction can lead to greater stability. Furthermore, it can increase the chances for dialogue between Israel and Palestine. Overall, international cooperation and foreign aid have the potential to vastly improve the lives of the 1.8 million individuals in Gaza.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

op 10 Facts About Hunger in Australia
Australia, home to more than 25 million people, is often regarded as a regional power with one of the strongest economies in the world. However, a significant portion of Australia’s population suffers from food insecurity. Many are unable to afford enough food to feed both themselves and their families. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Australia to know:

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Australia:

    1. More than four million people in Australia suffer from food insecurity. According to Foodbank Australia’s 2018 Hunger Report, more than four million Australians suffer from food insecurity, approximately 18 percent of the population.
    2. One in five children is hungry in Australia. Foodbank Australia reports that 22 percent of children in Australia suffer from food insecurity, and of that 22 percent, nine percent go at least one day a week without a single meal. Additionally, 29 percent of parents report they go a full day without eating at least once a week so their child has something to eat. In order to fight this, some schools provide breakfast programs. Charities such as Helping Hands provide families with weekly access to fresh food for a small donation.
    3. Women are more likely to suffer from hunger. Often due to living on low incomes or pensions, women are at a higher risk of hunger. Women are 31 percent more likely to suffer from food insecurity than men. Women with low incomes have a 49 percent chance of experiencing food insecurity while the rate for men is 38 percent.
    4. Indigenous Australians suffer disproportionately. Food insecurity affects roughly 30 percent of Indigenous Australians, both in remote and urban areas. In cities, Indigenous Australians often experience low incomes and lack of access to cooking facilities, making them more susceptible. In the country, options for purchasing food are limited. On average, Indigenous Australians spend at least 35 percent more of their income on food than Non-Indigenous Australians. However, the Australian government has worked to fight hunger with its Close the Gap campaign. Close the Gap was established in 2008 and focuses on achieving health equality for Indigenous Australians.
    5. Hunger is a greater issue in remote areas. Australians who live in remote areas are 33 percent more likely to suffer from food insecurity than those in cities. In cities, 17 percent of the population suffers from food insecurity. In remote areas that rate is significantly higher at 22 percent.
    6. Hunger negatively impacts mental health. Of Australians impacted by food insecurity and living in remote areas, 65 percent report feeling stressed, and 60 percent say that their situation makes them feel depressed. Australians living in urban areas report similar feelings: 54 percent report they felt stressed and 48 percent report food insecurity makes them feel depressed. Foodbank Australia found that 42 percent of those who receive aid say it helps improve their mental health and wellbeing.
    7. Australia’s high cost of living contributes to hunger. Wage growth has stagnated in recent years while Australians experience heavy cuts to welfare payments. Electricity prices have simultaneously skyrocketed. Consumer spending has plummeted, as increases in wages are unable to sufficiently match increases in costs. As a result of either an unexpected expense or expensive bills, 49 percent of Australians who suffer from food insecurity report being unable to afford food.
    8. Single-Parent Households are more vulnerable. Food insecurity impacts 39 percent of single-parent households in Australia, meaning they are the household type most likely to be hungry. Nearly two-fifths of all single-parent households struggle to put food on the table compared to 23 percent of single person households and 22 percent of family households with children.
    9. The task of providing food to the hungry is placed into the hands of nonprofits. The Australian government has yet to establish a government program that focuses on fighting food insecurity. Australia’s state welfare agency, Centre, does provide a one-time payment to those in crisis but has yet to establish additional support. Feeding the hungry has been placed in the hands of charities and private donors.
    10. Charities are unable to meet the demand for food. Only 36 percent of charities are able to fully meet the food needs of those they serve. This means 64 percent of food needs are still not being met. Additionally, these statistics do not account for those suffering from food insecurity who have not approached a charity. Furthermore, charities are completely unable to provide for seven percent of those who approach them each month.

These are the top 10 facts about hunger in Australia that illuminate the challenges many Australians face every day. Many factors contribute to food insecurity in the country and all too often put the most vulnerable at risk. However, programs such as Close the Gap and the work of nonprofit organizations illustrate how the country is taking powerful steps to end hunger in Australia.

– Nicholas Bykov 
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Burundi
Burundi is a small, landlocked country situated in the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa and bordered by Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is currently listed at number 185 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI), which coincides with its status as one of the poorest countries in the world. HDI is determined by a variety of factors, including the average lifespan of a country’s inhabitants. Life expectancy can be a telling indicator of the social, economic and institutional challenges a country might be facing.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Burundi

  1. It’s relatively low—The CIA estimates the overall life expectancy in Burundi at about 61.4 years of age, while the U.N. Development Programme’s estimate is slightly lower at 57.6 years. Either way, the average life expectancy in Burundi is younger than the average age of retirement in the United States.
  2. Food insecurity is an issue—Between July and September 2018, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) determined that at least 1.4 million Burundians were living in the Crisis and Emergency phases of food insecurity. For many, these classifications translate into a lack of proper nutrition that can seriously impact health. Some measures are being taken to address this issue—for example, last year USAID’s Food for Peace initiative contributed $30 million in food resources to Burundians and Congolese refugees—but putting a greater emphasis on the introduction of innovative irrigation practices could have a more lasting impact.
  3. Childhood malnutrition has long-term effects—Perhaps the most visible effect of food insecurity in Burundi is malnutrition among young children. According to USAID, 56 percent of Burundian children under 5 experience stunted development and 29 percent are underweight. Underdevelopment from malnutrition can have lasting effects on both overall health and longevity, potentially resulting in shorter life expectancy.
  4. The population is outgrowing its resources—About 20 percent of Burundi’s population of 11 million people consists of children below the age of 5. This indicates a massive dependent population and a high potential for growth—in fact, the population is expected to double by 2050. In a country already struggling to support its inhabitants, rapid growth will mean spreading its resources even thinner and exacerbating issues like food insecurity. This trend, therefore, can indirectly impact life expectancy in Burundi on a variety of levels.
  5. There is a lack of reproductive health services—As evidenced by the above point, Burundi has one of the highest birth rates in the world at an average of 5.93 children per woman. According to the U.N.’s Human Development Report, 30 percent of Burundian women had an unmet need for family planning, and the prevalence of contraceptives (any method) among women of reproductive age was only 28.5 percent. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is taking some action to address the lack of reproductive health services. In 2018, UNFPA supported the development of 10 new health facilities providing emergency obstetric care. However, Burundi still lacks a comprehensive family planning program.
  6. Most of the population lives in poverty—With a GNI per capita of $702 per year, the majority of Burundi’s population lives in some degree of poverty. 90 percent of the employed population lives on less than $3.10/day, making it extremely difficult for working men and women to support their families and meet all of their needs. While the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been instrumental in implementing poverty reduction strategies in rural areas, much of the population continues to suffer from poverty on some level.
  7. HIV/AIDS reduction is still in progress—In 2016, there were 2,200 new HIV infections in Burundi, making the total number of citizens living with the disease about 84,000. The most high-risk groups continue to be sex workers and men who have sex with other men, with an HIV prevalence of 21.3 percent and 4.8 percent respectively. Between 2008 and 2011, the World Bank implemented the Second Multisectoral HIV/AIDS Project to capitalize on previous HIV reduction efforts; the project resulted in increased condom use and more readily available antiretroviral therapy. Because of such initiatives, HIV infections have decreased by 54 percent and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 49 percent since 2010.
  8. Other major infectious diseases exist—Due to a tropical climate and a lack of immunizations, illnesses like malaria, typhoid fever, measles and hepatitis A continue to pose a problem for Burundians. These conditions, coupled with a physician density of only 0.05 physicians/1000 people, put the population at risk for premature death and can seriously impact life expectancy in Burundi.
  9. Environmental hazards hinder development—Burundi’s extreme climate puts it at risk for natural disasters like floods, droughts and landslides. Such hazards damage infrastructure, displace people from their homes and contribute to the issues of food insecurity and water scarcity during certain months of the year.
  10. It’s ultimately increasing—As a result of some of the initiatives discussed above, life expectancy in Burundi has increased from 48.1 years in 1990 to about 58 years in 2017. While this number is still significantly lower than that of countries like the United States, there has been a definite upward trend.

In conclusion, there are a variety of factors that contribute to a relatively low life expectancy in Burundi. By continuing to provide assistance to relief programs, it is likely that the average life expectancy will continue to rise.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

How Rising Fuel Prices in Zimbabwe
A 150 percent rise in fuel prices in Zimbabwe has had dramatic consequences on the lives of the country’s citizens. The rise in Zimbabwe’s cost of living initially started because of confusion behind its currency, but it has leaked into every aspect of living. For example, after the price increase, the price of bread almost doubled within a week. Organizations like USAID and the World Food Program are trying to help alleviete the true cost of the rise in fuel prices in Zimbabwe.

The Currency Crisis and Fuel Prices

After rampant inflation, Zimbabwe got rid of its own currency and adopted others, such as sterling or the South African Rand. Now, however, there is not enough hard currency to back up $10 million in digital funds. This shortage of imports is affecting local stores and supermarkets by making it more difficult to stock their shelves. Thus, the supermarkets that do have stock have been raising their prices. Fuel has also become a big problem.

Zimbabwe now has the highest priced petrol in the world at more than $3 a liter. The second highest prices are in China at around $2 a liter. The government has stated that the significant rise in fuel prices was put in place to prevent fuel shortages and counteract illegal fuel trading. The country mostly imports its fuel, but without hard currency, imported products are difficult to obtain. In addition to this, the government has been accusing people of hoarding fuel and selling it on the black market, which is said to be much cheaper than buying it up front because of the country’s currency crisis.

Food Insecurity

Without fuel, many farmers cannot operate the basic machines that they need to cultivate and harvest crops. Many rural households rely on agriculture as a main source of food, and the prediction of bad harvests by USAID only makes the situation seem worse. In addition, the current drought has left farms without rainfall to water crops, and without fuel, farms cannot power their irrigation systems to counteract poor rainfall.

The Food and Agriculture Organization has stated that “2.4 million people in rural Zimbabwe will be food insecure by March 2019.” This is in part due to the droughts and in part due to the overwhelming increase in fuel prices.  With crop failure and the cost of imports being so high, the government is finding it difficult to import basic necessities such as food and medication.

Plans for Aid

Some citizens believe that effective aid should not come from the local government due to previous allegations that the dominant party prioritizes aid to its own supporters. Organizations like USAID and WFP are partnering to provide emergency food assistance to 665,000 hungry people in Zimbabwe. USAID also supports developmental programs in Zimbabwe such as Amalima.

The Amalima program has families come together to learn productive tasks such as raising livestock and cultivating farmland. The program aims to use these learning tasks to be able to improve child nutrition and help the people in rural communities to better prepare for a food crisis.

The country is certainly in a crisis stage when it comes to food security. Due in part to both the rise of fuel prices in Zimbabwe, the economic crisis and poor harvests due to drought. As aid ramps up to keep up with the needs of the region, many can be saved from starvation and malnutrition. Emergency aid and ongoing developmental programs are doing their part to make sure the people of Zimbabwe lead healthy and fruitful lives.

Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Pixabay

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable AgricultureThe Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) is a huge non-profit organization established in Switzerland by the company Syngenta, a multinational chemical and agriculture business. Founded in Switzerland in 1999, Syngenta was acquired by the government-owned Chinese company ChemChina in 2017 for $43 billion, which is reported to be the largest corporate acquisition by China to date. To some, this may sound like e a conflict of interest, all for optics and profit. However, with backers such as the United Nations, several governments and charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has legitimate support.

What the SFSA Does

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture helps small farmers across the developing world on many fronts. It offers insurance programs for small farmers with affordable premiums to help them if the weather turns foul or their livestock gets sick. This is an enticing and helpful deal for farmers, especially in areas where the weather can be inconsistent. The SFSA also helps farmers plant crops that are more likely to weather the storms and produce a higher quality product at a higher yield.

To take full advantage of their new product, the SFSA teaches marketing and other business strategies to their farmer partners. With a surplus of crops, these farmers can now make a profit whereas before they barely made a living. One of their partners is Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh. Normally, Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh specializes in capital gains, but they also have a social outreach program that focuses on improving working conditions, pay and other social policies including improving nutrition in Bangladesh.

Failure and Success

In the United States, specifically in the State of Kansas, the Syngenta had a rocky start. In 2011, Syngenta introduced GMO corn seeds to Kansas farms before it had the approval to trade with China. This oversight closed off an entire market to these corn growers and processors, causing the price of corn to drop and resulting in the loss of profits. A class-action lawsuit followed. In 2018, a Kansas federal judge ordered Syngenta to create a fund to pay $1.5 billion in damages to companies and farmers in the corn business.

Since 2014, Syngenta and the United Nations have been working together in Bangladesh. This program was initiated to educate farmers on better farming techniques and to get their opinion and input about the issues they face. To do this, the SFSA held townhall-style meetings where they met and listened to these farmers. Since the SFSA started working in Bangladesh in 2001, 30 of their farming hubs have been created. Farmers who have participated have seen a 30 percent increase in productivity per acre and a 34 percent increase in household income.

Though it may have had a rocky start, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has since proven itself to be an asset to a farmer around the world. Looking at joint projects with other organizations around the world, it is easy to see a lot of benefits. It is providing humanitarian aid around the world in the form of agricultural aid and education. Increasing sustainable agriculture and crop yields will go a long way to helping alleviate poverty around the world.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Venezuela
Life expectancy rates in Venezuela may have looked very different a decade ago under Hugo Chavez, but now the country caught the attention of the world with the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, which has resulted in civil unrest. The country is facing extreme hyperinflation and a reduced supply of power, healthcare and food, which has ensured the exodus of more than three million citizens in recent years. Although the country has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, its economy seems to have collapsed within months. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Venezuela.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Venezuela

  1. In terms of life expectancy at birth, Venezuela was ranked 92 in the world in 2017, with a total life expectancy at birth of about 76 years. The expectancy of males is 70 while that of females is 79.
  2. Coronary heart disease has been cited as the chief cause of death, resulting in roughly 16 percent of all deaths, followed by Cardiovascular disease, which had almost the same death toll as violence. The cardiovascular problems have been attributed to the increasing trend of a sedentary lifestyle that more people are leading now due to urbanization of the area.
  3. The country reached its lowest infant mortality rate of 14.3 percent in 2010. Unfortunately, there has been an increase since that year with the rate shooting up to 25.7 percent in 2017 from 22.2 percent in the previous year. The researchers from The Lancet Global Health could not determine one cause of the trend, but it indicated a number of factors that may be responsible such as the collapse of healthcare and macroeconomic policies.
  4. Maternal mortality rates have increased 65 percent to 756 deaths in 2016 from 6.3 percent in the earlier year. I Love Venezuela is an NGO that has been trying to reduce these rates by providing more than 4,200 families with medical supplies.
  5. The data provided by Venezuela to the World Health Organization showed that cases of Zika virus increased from 71 to 59,348 in 2016. This increase was likely one of the causes of the significant rise in both infant and maternal mortality rates.
  6. Encovi, the Encuesta de Condiciones de Vida, a survey on living conditions done by a group of universities, found that the citizens lost an average of 24 pounds of body weight in 2017 due to extreme hunger. Around 61.2 percent of the population was living in extreme poverty. The study also reported that poverty rates had increased from the previous year from 82 percent to 87 percent. Furthermore, 61.9 percent of the adult population reported going to bed hungry because they couldn’t afford to buy food. A U.S. based NGO, Mercy Corps, has expanded their operations on the Colombo-Venezuelan borders to appease such disparities as many Venezuelans are crossing the border into Colombia to escape the skyrocketing food prices.
  7. There has been a staggering increase in the number of children dying from malnutrition and dehydration that have been reported in recent years. South American Initiative is trying to mitigate the situation and has been successful in providing 1,500 meals per week and clean drinking water to the orphans and malnourished adults in the hospitals to tackle the enlarging of malnourished patients.
  8. As per the 2017 survey done by the Congress of Venezuela, nine out of 10 main hospitals of the country were found to be short of diagnostic facilities, including x-ray machines and laboratories, with 64 percent of hospitals being unable to supply food to their patients. Healing Venezuela is an NGO fighting the expanding lack of medical services and doctors in the country. They have provided seven tons of urgent medical supplies to hospitals and NGOs in need.
  9. Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation has been able to assist 130 hospitals and institutions with more than 480,000 individuals served and more than 39,500 patients treated with its various programs targeting food, health, formula and school supplies.
  10. The country’s National Assembly estimated that prices rose 4,608 percent in 12 months in the span of 2017 to the end of January. Reports from the International Monetary Fund estimate that the inflation in Venezuela will rise to 10 million percent in 2019, an alarming projected increase from 1.37 million in 2018.

The Fight Continues

The former Health Minister, Antonieta Caporale, was fired shortly after he had released the health statistics in 2017, which were the only data provided by the government. The Venezuelan National Assembly had announced a humanitarian crisis in the country, further pleading for international humanitarian aid, which was quashed by the President.

Though these 10 facts about life expectancy in Venezuela may seem bleak, there is hope for the country with NGOs playing a major role in helping improve the current state. Several organizations are working towards improving the condition of Venezuela, including the Trump administration who have shown support and held secret meetings with the opposing military forces to formulate plans to overthrow President Maduro.

– Nikhil Sharma

Photo: Flickr