Use of Chemical Pesticides
Despite their effectiveness in killing specific pests, historic incidents and unknowns related to chemical pesticides have led to public health concerns. Fears that people could be at risk if they consume food treated with chemical pesticides do have a foundation. Pesticides have been found to partially cause neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s Disease, among other maladies. Chemical pesticides cannot choose which organisms they kill, which can lead to raised ecosystem contamination and toxicity. Not all chemical pesticides directly harm humans. However, evidence of those that do, along with evidence for unintended ecological damage, led to efforts to reduce the use of chemical pesticides.

Neem as an Alternative

One of the most concerning side-effects of the use of chemical pesticides is their effect on bee populations. Bees are vital to crop pollination and indirectly help create much of the food that humans eat. Pesticide use is a primary cause of the current decline in beehive populations. American and European beekeepers report this is at around 30% per year.  Bee population decline contributes to food scarcity and poverty. When food becomes more scarce, prices rise and more people go hungry. Current conditions necessitate implementing an alternative to chemical pesticides that is safe for humans, certain insects and plants.

New research points to naturally derived pesticides as possibly safer and less damaging to the environment. Currently, the most promising natural solution is neem oil. Neem oil is an organic, naturally-derived substance from the Neem tree. The tree grows primarily in tropical regions. These areas tend to be most affected by insect infestations and represent some of the poorest areas in the world.

Neem oil use is not a new phenomenon. Traditional Indian farming methods practiced for thousands of years, and even folk medicines incorporate neem usage. It is effective at reducing specific insect populations while having minimal noted negative effects on beneficial insects like bees and worms. A number of agricultural companies have begun using neem in their products, and its use is only expected to grow as its efficacy is increasingly verified.

Outbreak and Application in Africa

In early 2020, East Africa faced its worst locust outbreak in decades. Swarms devoured hundreds of thousands of acres, fostering hunger and fear in local communities. Millions of people became more food insecure and the use of chemical pesticides became less viable. The COVID-19 pandemic upset the global chemical supply chain, which seems to have inhibited governments from receiving the large quantities of pesticides needed to make an impact against the locust invasion.

In response, some farmers in Kenya began making their own neem oil to push back against locust invasions. Neem oil can weaken locusts’ reproductive ability and potentially kill them, which reduces the current and future populations. While it was too late to make a big impact against the swarms, individual farmers protected their crops. If enough farmers learn to make their own oil in the future, or if it is produced cheaply on a large scale, Kenya could have an effective, safe defense against locust invasions. Other countries in the region also afflicted by locust swarms stand to benefit from looking to Kenya as an example.

Potential for Future Practices

Chemical pesticide use is harmful to the environment and can create bad health outcomes for some people. Industrial use of neem oil instead of chemical pesticides could improve health conditions worldwide and protect ecosystems. On a smaller scale, it could protect the economic interests of poor farmers and people at risk of starvation. People may also be more accepting of the use of growable, natural pesticides over the use of chemical ones. Locally-made neem oil also mitigates environmental pollution. This puts more power into the hands of individual farmers. Though natural pesticide solutions require more research, they represent critical development in the future of agricultural pesticides.

Jeff Keare
Photo: Unsplash

Top Ten Facts About Hunger in Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is home to nearly 11.5 million people and has lasted through a communist regime for more than 50 years. U.S. sanctions were designed to dislodge the leader, Fidel Castro, and his regime; surprisingly, the island of Cuba has survived long after the collapse of its biggest supporter, the Soviet Union.

During the last 50 years, the government of Cuba has worked to eliminate poverty and hunger; however, many analysts argue that the economic system envisioned by Fidel Castro has not lived up to its plans. The Revolution was centered around the idea of eliminating a class structure, yet, the country has been left poor.

Nevertheless, the government of Cuba has continued its support of Castro’s ideology and is now working to eradicate issues such as hunger. To learn more about the country’s shortcomings and successes, here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Cuba.

Facts About Hunger in Cuba

  1. Social protection programs implemented within the last 50 years have greatly helped Cuba reduce hunger. The government of Cuba provides monthly food baskets, mother-and-child health care and school feeding programs. These programs are reliant on food imports and are dependent on the national budget.
  2. Guided by the government’s commitment to leave no Cuban unprotected, the leadership of Cuba reformed its economic model. This process began in 2011 and had the goals to reduce costs, increase the viability of social programs and boost overall efficiency. Food scarcity was recognized as one of the nation’s top priorities.
  3. In 2015, about 3.5 million people visited Cuba, causing a surge in the demand for food. Food scarcity was in part due to the U.S. embargo, as well as poor planning by the Cuban government. The foods that many families relied on went instead to restaurants that catered to the increase in tourism. The prices of essential food have risen exuberantly, leaving the average Cuban at a big loss.
  4. The typical Cuban family has poor nutrition as there is often very little food diversity, and Cubans traditionally eat very few vegetables. In 2011, the government began its attempts to implement its National Plan for the Prevention and Control of Anemia. Children under the age of five are specifically targeted in this effort; however, by the end of 2015, it was reported that 31.6 percent of children aged two, and as many as 39.6 percent of children six months or younger, suffer from anemia.
  5. There are still periods of food shortage in Cuba. Maria Julia, a single mother from Santiago de Cuba, described the food shortages that occurred in December 2014 and January 2015. She and countless other Cuban families had no access to chicken — the main protein in Cuban cuisine. Schools could not provide lunch or snacks for the children during these periods, further challenging struggling parents.
  6. The Cuban government covers half of an individual’s nutritional needs at a very low cost. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recently honored Cuba for its low levels of malnutrition and hunger. Although unable to provide an average Cuban with all their nutritional needs, the government has managed to provide supplements and extra rationed items for the elderly, children and those suffering from chronic illnesses.
  7. Food scarcity has caused families to struggle to create main meals; often by the end of the month, most Cuban families have usually already eaten their ration. This results in difficulty finding sustainable meals, and families tend to rely on social networks to acquire their essential food items.
  8. In dealing with food scarcity, Cubans had to adapt to different food than their traditional preferences. Many refuse to accept available food as viable, yet, they continue to consume the food out of necessity. The food available through the government does not reach cultural standards, so the Cuban people’s disdain is a sort of symbolic rejection.
  9. Nitza Villapol, one of the main Cuban food authorities, has encouraged the change in the traditional Cuban diet through cookbooks aimed at the average Cuban. The cookbooks and state-approved television shows teach Cubans to cook without staple foods. Food scarcity made traditional ingredients like pork, milk, butter and bread extremely difficult to attain.
  10. After the crash of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba’s sugar economy plummeted for nearly a decade. The government ordered the shutdown of 71 out of 156 sugar refineries in Cuba. Farming land that was once used for sugar is now used to supplement the monthly rations given by the state. Farmers generate cooperatives so that locals can survive off state-sponsored food in conjunction with local farming.

Independence and Eliminating Hunger

Currently, the small island of Cuba imports 60-80 percent of its food. State officials are encouraging the continuation of cooperative farming to avoid dependency on other nations. Additionally, urban farming started in the 1990s and is regarded by the government as an acceptable mean to supplement the monthly rations.

The island of Cuba is working very hard to eliminate hunger. These top ten facts about hunger in Cuba demonstrate both the areas in which the goals of the regime have fallen short, as well as the successes of Castro’s vision.

– Stefanie Babb
Photo: Unsplash

Food Crisis in Cuba

Many strides have been made in recent years to help poverty-stricken Cubans receive the basic necessities for life, but with a strenuous historical background and strict governmental policies, citizens are still in a fight for food. Missionaries and aid from other countries are currently offering assistance to help end the food crisis in Cuba.

The History of Poverty in Cuba

During the 1950s, Cuba was a small, third-world island country that was not big enough to produce its own goods and did not have enough farms to support the hungry population. Further complicating things was an enormous income gap between the rich and the poor.

In 1959, the country underwent a revolution during which Prime Minister and President Fidel Castro came to power, changing the state of the island’s economy for the worse. At this point, Cuba still relied mainly on imports from other countries for food and supplies. The Soviet Union was Cuba’s main supplier of food, but after the Cold War, the communist nation was no longer able to support Cuba’s hungry population, which made things even worse for hungry citizens.

Being one of the only communist countries in the world, the government in Cuba still has a tight hold on its citizens. Many of these same issues still exist today, making it difficult for people in poverty to obtain substantial food in Cuba.

The Food Crisis in Cuba Today

In 2018, Cuba still does not have enough land to grow agriculture to feed its population and does not produce enough of its own products. It relies on importing up to 80 percent of its food, according to the World Food Programme. The average diet of a Cuban household lacks an adequate amount of vegetables and protein-rich foods needed to promote a healthy lifestyle. Around 36 percent of infants suffer from anemia because of the lack of a proper diet.

In 1959, the Cuban government instituted a food rationing system that is still in use today, making households pay high prices for foods only sold in government-run supermarkets. The rationing system ensures enough food for families to just survive.

Each family receives a rations book that they take to the grocery store, allowing them to buy a certain amount of rice, sugar, coffee, cooking oil and chicken, according to The Guardian. Because of unemployment and low paying jobs, this system has made it even more challenging for citizens in poverty to pay for food in Cuba.

In the past few years, the U.S. has lifted some of its various bans on Cuba and has restored peace with the Caribbean nation, which means that more U.S. citizens are entering the country for leisure and vacation. The increase in tourism has had a negative impact on the food scarcity problem, according to The New York Times, as the food is now used for tourists instead of hungry citizens and has made the price of food in Cuba rise.

The Good News About the Cuban Food Crisis

During his presidency, President Obama loosened the U.S. ban on trading with Cuba, which has provided the growth of trade with Cuba and allowed the island nation’s farmers to obtain better farming equipment. American trade officials hope to create a food import market that could be worth billions if the Cuban economy boosts, which would help end the food crisis in Cuba.

Because of the recent peace between Cuba and the United States, missionaries have entered the country in the hopes of helping with the food shortage problem. A Georgia Southern University student, sophomore Olivia Folds, participated in a mission trip in 2017 to assist with the food crisis in Cuba. Folds’ group was stationed in the city of Camaguey and each missionary was assigned a family where he or she made supply bags for the family in need.

These bags included clothes, shoes, toiletries and food that Cuban citizens were not able to get for themselves. Children received bags filled with basic necessities along with crayons and candy, which were small luxuries they were not used to, Folds told The Borgen Project. She also commented that, if any of the missionaries offered the families money, they were “supposed to only give them like $50,” because “the government only allows them certain amounts of money each month.”

The Cuban government is still attempting to improve the food shortage problem for its citizens. With a new president that stepped into power this year, new policies being put into place and missionaries being able to come into the country more often, Cuban citizens are slowly but surely on a path to better nutrition.

– McKenzie Hamby
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Sierra Leone

The nation of Sierra Leone is located on the western coast of Africa with a population of approximately 7,076,641. Since gaining independence from the British Empire on April 27, 1961, Sierra Leone has faced serious challenges in the social, economic and political spheres. Stemming from these challenges, the following are 10 facts about poverty in Sierra Leone.

10 Facts About Poverty in Sierra Leone

  1. In Sierra Leone, the life expectancy is 39 years for men and 42 for women. These premature deaths are due to limited access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and hygiene and food insecurity. Malnutrition also remains an important contributor to infant morbidity and mortality with 34.1 percent of children under the age of five stunted and 18.7 percent underweight due to food insecurity.
  2. Sierra Leone has a Gender Inequality Index value of 0.662, ranking it 137 out of 146 countries in 2011. Significant gender-based inequality exists in all aspects of life including reproductive health, emotional empowerment, economic activity and governmental representation. Only 9.5 percent of adult women reach secondary or higher level education compared to 20 percent of their male counterparts.

    In 2007, the government introduced three gender laws aimed at reducing gender inequality. These acts show progress but enacting and implementing practices of gender equality remain minimal. The president has also given his support to the national campaign for a minimum quota of 30 percent of women in political decision making positions, but the number remains low at only 13.2 percent.
  3. Around 70 percent of youth are unemployed or underemployed. The youth population, aged 15 to 35, makes up one-third of the population of Sierra Leone. This challenge was a major root cause of the outbreak of civil conflict within Sierra Leone. One of the leading reasons for these high rates of unemployment is the persistence of illiteracy and the lack of formal education to provide skills to compete for the limited jobs available.
  4. Approximately 60 percent of Sierra Leoneans live below the national poverty line. Remaining among the world’s poorest nations, ranking 180 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index, more than 60 percent of Sierra Leoneans live on less than $1.25 a day.
  5. Sierra Leone has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates, at an estimated 1,165 deaths per 100,000. According to a report released by the country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation with support from partners, the main causes of maternal deaths were largely bleeding, pregnancy-induced hypertension, infection and unsafe abortions. Almost 20 percent of maternal deaths were among teenagers 15 to 19 years of age.
  6. Sierra Leone holds only a 41 percent adult literacy rate. Many of the schools in Sierra Leone were built shortly after gaining independence and have had little expansion since, leading to inadequate facilities. Government funding for education is extremely limited, making improvements difficult. A lack of education not only diminishes the availability of contemporarily trained skilled laborers and professionals but also negatively affects the agriculture industry where poor farming practices compound with climate change in a cycle of degradation.
  7. Sierra Leone was ravaged from 1991 to 2002 by civil war. Civil war erupted in 1991 after a rebel group called the Revolutionary United Front attempted to overthrow the country’s Joseph Momoh Government. The war lasted until 2002, by which time over 50,000 people had died and over two million had been displaced.But, even in the face of these 10 facts about poverty in Sierra Leone, peace has been fostered within the nation. Since the enactment of a U.N. Peacekeeping intervention on January 18, 2002, Sierra Leone remains firmly on the path toward further consolidation of peace, democracy and long-term sustainable development.
  8. Sierra Leone remains heavily dependent on foreign aid. Although positive economic growth has steadily occurred over the past decade since the end of the civil war, Sierra Leone continues to rely on foreign aid. About 50 percent of public investment programs are financed by external resources.
  9. Recovery and development are being threatened by climate change. Employment in agriculture remains the backbone for citizens’ income in Sierra Leone. Climate change leads to low yields of critical crops and a potential annual loss of between $600 million and $1.1 billion in crop revenues by the end of the century. Resources such as water, soil and forests are being threatened by the ever-growing population, increasing energy consumption, mining activities, the pollution of rivers and massive deforestation related to agricultural practices.
  10. A largely unchanged economic structure with low levels of productivity and major reliance on agriculture hold back further economic recovery. Agriculture provides employment for about 75 percent of the rapidly growing population, but its continuation is threatened by unproductive farming techniques and climate degradation. The country’s infrastructure remains poorly maintained and because of business climate shortcomings stemming from economic instability, there is only a small private sector to spur further economic growth.

These 10 facts about poverty in Sierra Leone are far from the whole story. The country has made tremendous strides since the cessation of conflict to establish stable governance and to facilitate peace and security. Sierra Leone should be cited as a success story in peacebuilding.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Sack Farming in KenyaAs of 2015, 153 million African citizens reported being impacted by food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as a state of living where one is unable or has limited access to obtain consistent, nutritionally valued food to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Current Issues in Africa

The average per capita income of sub-Saharan African is approximately three times lower than that of the rest of the world. One of the main sources of income in Africa is agriculture which can easily be impacted by the quality of soil, a stable water source, temperature and use of fertilizer.

That being said, in areas such as Kenya, 42 percent of the population (44 million people) live below the poverty line. Agriculture is one of the top sources of income and a major boon to the nation’s economy. In fact, it gives work to 70 percent of the workforce and contributes to 25 percent of Kenya’s annual gross domestic product.

Kibera, Nairobi, one of Kenya’s largest slums, suffers from a lack of resources such as water, land space and labor. With a consistent rising population (4.1 percent annually in Nairobi), more food is needed to sustain life. An upcoming technique to combat this problem, being implemented not only in Kenya but in surrounding nations such as Uganda, is sack farming.

Combating Food Scarcity with Sack Farming

Sack farming is the process of utilizing ordinary scrap sacks as the foundation for producing crops such as potatoes, carrots and spinach. By implementing sack farming in Kenya, food insecurity throughout the country can be tackled. All that is needed for this form of planting is the sack, manure, soil, small stones for drainage and the desired seeds.

Beginning with the necessary equipment, sacks of any size and texture can be used, from burlap encasings to plastic bags. Fertilizer can be made from composted food and waste. As for labor, the younger communities in Kenya have stepped up to take responsibility.

Effects of Sack Farming in Kenya

Depending on the size of the sacks, one sack has the ability to grow up to 45 seedlings. In terms of income, if a household is able to afford three sacks with 30 seedlings each, the production would be substantial. This would increase the household’s income, therefore increasing the ability to purchase other products ranging from electricity to eggs and milk.

Sack farming in Kenya has the ability to produce crops such as spinach, lettuce, beets, arugula, potatoes, carrots and onions. Not only does this impact the economy, but families will finally be able to have access to a stable food source. This means fewer chances of developing nutritional deficiencies, especially in younger children.

Sack farming in Kenya is a more convenient and realistic way of feeding one’s family and community, especially when living in a rural or slum area. The process is an inexpensive, simple way to produce nutritious foods, combating the issue of food insecurity in areas throughout Africa.

– Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

Child Malnutrition in MaliAfrica is the only continent in the world in which poverty and malnutrition are on the rise. In a vast country with an undiversified economy, Malian households are especially vulnerable to poverty food insecurity.

Recently, Mali has faced “shocks” to its economic profile, including from a partial drought and internal strife. A 2013 World Bank study found that a 25 percent increase in cereal prices and 25 percent decrease in cereal production would push over 600,000 individuals to food insecurity levels in Mali. In addition, sustainably high population growth rates have risen the number of malnourished individuals in the country.

Effects of Child Malnutrition in Mali

While millions of Malians of all ages are affected by food insecurity, malnutrition is the second highest cause of death of children under the age of five. Almost 900,000 Mali children are at risk of global acute malnutrition in Mali, including 274,000 facing severe malnutrition and at risk of imminent death, according to UNICEF and the World Bank. To put this in the context of the country’s population, a 2013 World Bank study found that 44 percent of Malian households have at least one chronically malnutritioned child.

Malnutrition leads to devastating, long-lasting effects on young people. Research by an associate professor at the Federal University of São Paulo, Ana Lydia Saway, shows that malnutrition is linked to higher susceptibility to gain central fat, lower energy expenditure, higher blood pressure and disruptions in insulin production. These are all factors which heighten the risk of other chronic diseases later in life. 

How Mali is Combatting the Issue

Child malnutrition in Mali is a significant concern, requiring action and deserving worldwide attention. But a major problem limiting international assistance comes in the form of funding for aid.

In May, UNICEF reported that limited donor interest in the region has made it increasingly difficult for the organization to provide children with therapeutic food necessary to combat malnutrition. Funding for humanitarian organizations is low, as nearly 80 percent of UNICEF’s $37 million call for humanitarian aid for the year 2018 has not been raised.

“The children of Mali are suffering in silence, away from the world’s attention,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore said during a visit to the country this year. “Amid increasing violence, more children are going hungry, missing out on learning and dying in the first days of life.”  

Still, community and international-based organizations are working to mitigate the effects of child malnutrition in Mali. For example, in the capital of Ségou Centre, the local population, with the help of the World Bank and Swiss Corporation agency, is working to provide necessary social services to its commune.

The third phase of this project involved the decentralizing of health facilities, which were starchly underequipped. The commune recently constructed a community health center, showing promising bottom-up action within Mali. Other organizations are helping out to create sustainable progress in development, including Groundswell International.

Furthermore, farmers and processors in Mali have been working together to increase the presence of Misola flour to combat malnutrition. During processing, vitamins and minerals are added to the flour, targeting those with nutritional deficiencies. 

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that Misola can help rehabilitate undernourished children and help those with depressed immune systems. “The porridge made from the flour allows for a nutritional transition from breast milk to traditional solid food,” Fernand Rolet, co-President of the Misola Association, said. 

Overcoming Child Malnutrition Globally

Rwanda provides a prime example that overcoming child malnutrition is possible. The nation, which has a similar wealth level to Mali, has made progress in lowering malnutrition levels. A 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Access Report found that the level of stunting in young children dropped seven percent from three years prior. In Rwanda, the World Food Programme has been largely active, supplying food assistance such as providing meals for thousands of primary school children.

Combating malnutrition is an ongoing struggle, especially in Africa. Due to poor economic conditions and food scarcity, malnutrition continues to take the lives of thousands of children in Mali each year. Although citizens have founded programs to improve child nutrition and the issue is on humanitarian aid organizations’ radars, it is clear that more effort is needed to eradicate the problem. With continued efforts, child malnutrition in Mali will begin to decline.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr


What Global Warming Means for Food Scarcity
The number of devastating effects that global warming has on the Earth is already staggering. According to a new report, “increased food scarcity” is going to make that list a little longer.

The report, commissioned by the British government and carried out by the U.K.-U.S. Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience, warns of the effects that global climate change will have on the world’s food supply.

“The chance of having a weather-related food shock is increasing, and the size of that shock is also increasing,” said Tim Benton, a population ecology professor at Leeds University. “As these events become more frequent, the imperative for doing something about it becomes even greater.”

The report analyzed the world’s most prominent “commodity crops,” those being maize, soy, wheat and rice, and how extreme weather conditions would impact their availability. Since the majority of those crops come from a small number of countries (the U.S., China and India, primarily), extreme weather could greatly impact their production.

Perhaps the most startling statistic featured in the report is that by 2040, the severity of crop failures once estimated to only occur once a century, will start happening every three decades.

“Action is urgently needed to understand risks better, to improve the resilience of the global food system to weather-related shocks and to mitigate their impact on people,” Benton continued. “Governments and businesses need to prepare people for not being able to eat certain crops or products anymore.”

Alexander Jones

Sources: Business Insider, BBC, Science Magazine
Photo: The Telegraph

Plagued by collapsing currency and the highest inflation rate in the world, Venezuelans are facing soaring prices and pervasive shortages in their nation. Although waves of food scarcity have troubled the country in the past, this time the food shortage in Venezuela has persisted for over a year and shelves are remaining bereft of many essential products. Citizens are unable to easily acquire food items such as corn flour, rice and coffee, as well as other basic products like detergent and toiletries. Forced to wait in line for hours on end for goods, middle and lower class people in Venezuela are reaching a breaking point.

An unfortunate consequence of this dwindling morale is a countrywide rise in supermarket raids. Videos shared on sites such as Youtube, Whatsapp and Facebook show looters ransacking local supermarkets when rare provisions like coffee and toilet paper hit the shelves.

If Venezuelan citizens wait in line for these products, there is a slim chance that they will be able to get them, making criminal actions extremely tempting. While some looters turn to violence in order to feed their families, others do so with the desire to profit off the crisis by selling the items on the black market.

Many find Venezuela’s predicament somewhat surprising, as it is an oil-exporting country – a characteristic, which usually points to economic prosperity. According to economist Asdrubal Oliveros, however, this oil production is simply not enough.

“Other than oil we produce close to nothing, and even oil production has decreased,” Oliveros said. “There is a lack of hard currency, and, in a country that imports everything, this becomes more evident with food scarcity.”

Native farmer Jesus Lopez agrees with Oliveros. “We used to produce rice and we had excellent coffee; now we produce nothing,” he says. “With the situation here people abandoned the fields.”

Lopez is referring to farmland seized by the Venezuelan government that now sits idle. Oliveros remarks on this government-owned land as well, noting that the seizure caused an overvalued exchange rate that destroyed agriculture because “it’s cheaper to import than it is to produce.”

The government’s potential role in the food shortages may explain why the supermarket raid footage is somewhat controversial. Incidences of supermarket raiding are largely covered up and major national news sources do not address the issue.

Footage of supermarket raids is shared on social media almost weekly, however, and posters maintain that the footage is authentic and emphasize their role as activists. Posting the violent raiding videos on the Internet raises awareness of the issue and allows Venezuelans to gain a perspective on the problem that is not cast in a pro-government light.

Although the violent videos are somewhat shocking, perhaps this shock value is what Venezuela and its citizens need in order to get the country back on track.

Katie Pickle

Sources: LA Times, The Guardian
Photo: TIME

food waste_opt
As a whole, the global population produces more than enough food to ensure that no one goes hungry. Unfortunately, much of that food never reaches those who truly need it, and the results of constant over-production have devastating effects on the environment; effects that only increase the difficulty of cultivating crops in the future.

The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Word Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Germany, and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) partnered to create a short film in an effort to instigate conversations that could change the way the world handles food. Titled Waste, it provides a comprehensive view of how wasted food is detrimental to the environment.

Waste discusses the environmental cost of food loss and waste; food loss refers to food that is spoiled during transit or storage, while food waste refers to food that is thrown away before it can be consumed. The FAO estimates that 1.3 billion tons of food was lost or wasted in 2009. Today, one out of every four calories produced by the world’s farms is lost or wasted. It is estimated that the world will require nearly 60% more calories in 2050 than it did in 2006 as a result of population growth. Continued food waste will severely hinder efforts to end world hunger.

The benefits of reducing the excess production and waste of food would be incredible; we could feed every hungry person in the world, reduce food costs, and conserve water, land and energy.

  • Effects on Food: If all of the food wasted annually was laid side by side, it would take up an area one and half times the size of the United States. Nearly 56% of global food loss and waste occurs in the developed world as a result of absurd cosmetic standards for produce, confusing labeling, insufficient preparation and storage information, and exaggerated portions. The remaining 44% is lost in the developing world because of harvest and storage issues. Essentially, only a fraction of the world’s food fulfills its purpose of nutritional consumption.
  • Effects on Water: Water necessary to produce the food that is lost and wasted annually could fill 70 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Each apple that is thrown away requires enough drinking water to flush a toilet seven times. The meat for a single hamburger demands enough water to fill 16 bathtubs.
  • Effects on Land: If the farmland exploited for wasted food was concentrated into one region, it would account for a land mass the size of Mexico. Several billion tons of fertile soil is lost each year to produce food that is wasted or lost in outrageous proportions.
  • Effects on Energy: Food waste is responsible for the release of two times the climate-relevant gasses of the world’s air traffic, causing it to rank as a top emitter of greenhouse gasses. According to a yet unpublished estimate by the FAO, if food loss and waste were a country, it would qualify as the third highest emitter of such gasses, after the United States and China.
  • Effects on Money: The FAO calculates global food waste at 750 billion US dollars; 6 times the amount spent on developmental aid. In the US, the average family of four spends $1,600 on wasted food annually. Anything that contributes to a shortage of resources ultimately makes food more expensive, so reducing water, land and energy consumption will unequivocally save consumers money.

Waste, and also a study from the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the UNEP offer relatively simple and inexpensive solutions to the environmental, financial and humanitarian concerns of food loss and waste. For food loss in the developing world, potential solutions include building up food distribution and storage capabilities and introducing the use of sturdy plastic crates rather than sacks to transport produce. In the industrialized world, potential solutions include eliminating irrelevant produce cosmetic standards, ceasing the use of confusing dating codes which can cause consumers to throw away food that is still safe to eat, educating people in proper food storage practices, downsizing portions in some cafeterias by introducing a “pay by weight” system, and limiting excess purchases.

Attacking the global food loss and food waste crisis needs to be a top priority in the fight to preserve the environment, end world hunger and eradicate global poverty. These issues and their root causes are so closely related, addressing them separately will never solve the entire problem.

– Dana Johnson

Source: SIWI, Trust
Source: Everybody Eats News

Nagaland Citizens Utilize Unusual Food Source

Stink bugs, silkworms, dragonflies, tawny mole crickets, and red ants. To those afforded the luxury of daily meals, these insects are of little significance. But to the people of Nagaland, these bugs are nutritious sources of food sold in local markets to help alleviate hunger.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a 200-page report highlighting the benefits of Naga’s insect consumption. The report notes that insects are often full of more protein and nutrients than either fish or meat.  The insects can address malnourishment and provide food security, the report also states.

Farmers collect the bugs from forests and rice paddies. Both bees and larvae are expensive commodities in the local markets. The U.N. suggests frying the insects and preparing them in recipes, as they shouldn’t be consumed raw.

Nagaland isn’t alone in their bug consumption. According to the U.N., 1,400 insect species are consumed in almost 90 countries across the globe.

Numerous estimates suggest that 9 billion people will inhabit the earth by 2050. As more and more consumers are added to the planet, resources will have to be used more carefully. Nagaland highlights an effective way of utilizing all resources available. This is one unusual yet effective way of combatting poverty and world hunger.

– William Norris

Sources: The Morung Express, SI Live
Photo: The Morung Express