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Farming Innovations in JapanAgri-tech, a growing term used to describe Japan’s digital farming technology has greatly advanced farming systems in the country in order to combat a potential water shortage by 2030. Both experienced and inexperienced farmers in Japan are using new technologies to limit the overuse of water and fertilizer, which in turn, is fighting food insecurity and poverty for the entire population. Professor Kiyoshi Ozawa, from Meiji University Kurokawa Field Science Center, summarizes the system, “instead of spraying a large amount of water with sprinklers or the like, fertigation uses narrow pipes to place drops of water and fertilizer at the roots of the growing crops.” Farming innovations in Japan aim to reduce overall poverty in the country.

Farming Innovations in Japan

There are several innovations to take note of that have eased the labor intensity and climate impact of farming in Japan, such as heat-resistant varieties, delayed transplanting and specialized application of fertilizers, to combat both climate change and poverty in the face of a potentially grave water and food shortages.

Japan Today, an esteemed magazine based in Japan, also highlights the main goal of this growing agri-tech business as a collaboration between experts, advanced farmers and younger generations to create permanent, sustainable solutions and share knowledge about the most efficient farming techniques. “The valuable experience and techniques of veteran farmers could also be more accessible to newer farmers via the web,” explains writer Allen Croft, “such as learning resources about harvesting times with databases and photos.”

Factors Affecting Farming in Japan

Not only do these farming innovations in Japan help to alleviate poverty in vulnerable communities but they also fight climate change issues by directly limiting water and fertilizer usage and combatting overproduction. Climate change has caused tension in the agricultural world of Japan, as unpredictable water levels cause heightened food prices, specifically in terms of rice production. Several other factors are contributing to pressure on Japan’s farming industry, including a decline in labor force participation as fewer young people are becoming farmers as well as Japan’s reliance on food imports.

These new technological farming innovations in Japan are working to alleviate the problems outlined above and are bringing new uses to AI and loT technology in a way the farming communities have never seen before. Through data analysis and observation of traditional farming structures, farmers can maintain exact water measurements and maximize soil fertility in order to maintain consistent crop growth. The main goal of these digital solutions to farming in Japan is to create permanently sustainable agricultural practices for generations to come.

The Japan Social Development Fund

Specifically from the standpoint of poverty alleviation, the World Bank has implemented a project, the Japan Social Development Fund, that aids impoverished communities while focusing on education, adaptation to climate change, health and sanitation services as well as environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. While most vulnerable communities in Japan do not have access to the digital technology innovations that farmers have developed, a social shift towards awareness of water usage has allowed farmers with limited resources to implement certain practices.

The Future of Digital Agriculture

There are a variety of growing measures set in place to make the agriculture business in Japan more sustainable in the face of both climate change and poverty. Digital agriculture is growing at an immense rate and it is predicted that the global market, specifically for agricultural robots, will reach $73.9 billion by 2024, which will vastly change the structure of food production and the labor force. The scope of digital farming innovations in Japan is broad and could potentially create a basis for agriculture in other countries struggling with water and food shortages as well.

– Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr

2020 Global Hunger Index resultsCalculating world hunger statistics is no easy task. The United Nations estimated that in 2018, more than 820 million people suffered from food shortages all around the globe. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is an organization that studies world hunger trends in developing nations and publishes yearly reports on the statistics. The organization uses child mortality rates, youth undernutrition numbers and food supply totals provided by agencies such as the United Nations, World Health Organization and UNICEF, to produce a hunger index for each nation. Depending on a nation’s index, they are placed on a scale of hunger severity of low, moderate, serious, alarming and extremely alarming. The 2020 Global Hunger Index results have been released and show promising developments for Sub-Saharan Africa.

2020 Global Hunger Index Results

In the 2020 Global Hunger Index, 11 nations are rated as alarming, 40 are serious, 26 are moderate and 48 are low. This means that there are no countries considered extremely alarming when it pertains to hunger. While there is still much work left to be done to feed the world, the 2020 GHI results are hopeful. Both the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were previously rated as extremely alarming but have experienced drastic improvement over the last year. Action Against Hunger works tirelessly in both the CAR and DRC and deserves recognition for the status improvements.

Hunger in the Central African Republic (CAR)

Fighting hunger in the Central African Republic became a priority of Action Against Hunger in 2006. Currently, more than 450 team members are present in the CAR helping to secure food and water for the most vulnerable communities. In just 2019 alone, Action Against Hunger provided these vital resources for 342,516 CAR citizens. The work has allowed the CAR to move out of the hunger category of extremely alarming. A majority of people living in the CAR are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian aid for survival. If the 2020 Global Health Index category change is to remain a permanent one, Action Against Hunger is part of the reason why.

Hunger in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is another African nation to see improvement in its 2020 Global Hunger Index status. Similar to the CAR, Action Against Hunger has become an integral part of ensuring food accessibility for the DRC’s impoverished communities. The global nonprofit has worked in the DRC for almost 25 years and now deploys 472 team members to carry out help. Food, medical supplies and water sanitization are necessary for the Congolese to survive. Within the past year of 2020, 1.2 million people in the DRC received help from Action Against Hunger. That means that over 10% of the DRC’s population depends on Action Against Hunger to live. The GHI improvement for the DRC stands as a testament to the work being done by Action Against Hunger for over two decades.

Zero Hunger

The 2020 Global Hunger Index results are only a snapshot of where the world is in the fight against hunger. There are still hundreds of millions of people suffering from food insecurity. However, the GHI results show hope that food shortages may someday be a thing of the past. With Action Against Hunger and other similar organizations helping to fight hunger, strides have been made in the area of global hunger.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

Festival of MasksCabarete Sostenible began as a response to the COVID-19 crisis by providing emergency food aid to families in need in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. Its Festival of Masks aimed to raise money for further emergency food relief efforts, community farming and educational initiatives for the community.

The Festival of Masks

A silent auction was held through 32auctions, an online forum, on October 30 and October 31. During this 24-hour event, limited edition photo prints of volunteers were auctioned alongside photo prints of the communities and businesses that the organization has helped to support through the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the Festival of Masks fundraiser fell short of its goal, it still managed to raise over $500. The money will be put toward providing meal packs to food-insecure individuals in Cabarete.

Impact of COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic

Before the COVID-19 pandemic shook the foundations of the global economy, the Dominican Republic had experienced steady economic growth. Between 2015 and 2019, the Dominican Republic’s Gross Domestic Product had increased at an average rate of about 6% each year. The Dominican Republic benefitted from the combined force of several crucial domestic industries such as mining, tourism and telecommunications. Foreign investment and remittances also contributed to the country’s economic growth.

The strength of the Dominican Republic’s domestic industries and its connection to foreign capital makes it likely that the country will make a post-pandemic rebound. How soon this resurgence will begin, however, is uncertain. In 2020, the country’s GDP is expected to decrease by over 4%. Additionally, the Dominican Republic’s economy is not expected to significantly reverse course in either 2021 or 2022.

While there is much hope for the health of the Dominican Republic’s economy in the long-term, the next two to three years will be difficult for those who live there. Particularly in places like Cabarete, where close to two-thirds of the local population depends on the tourism industry for employment, many people struggle to meet their basic needs during the pandemic.

Cabarete Sostenible Addresses Food Insecurity

Cabarete Sostenible’s Festival of Masks raised money for food insecure individuals in Cabarete by auctioning limited edition photo prints. The organization also provides food for the community through donations received.

The entire amount of money Cabarete Sostenible receives through donations goes toward food packaging and distribution. Donations of only $4 feed an individual for one week and donations of $15 feed a family of four for one week. With the money Cabarete Sostenible’s Festival of Masks raised, it will be able to feed 147 individuals for a week.

Hope for the Dominican Republic

It is predicted that it will take the next three years for the economy of the Dominican Republic to regain its footing. Until such time, organizations like Cabarete Sostenible and its Festival of Masks work to address food insecurity in the Dominican Republic and ensure the survival of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. With further monetary support, Cabarete Sostenible can have an even greater impact in the area.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela
Venezuela is a Latin American country located in the northern region of South America. It has been under an oppressive regime since 1999. The country was once a prosperous oil-rich country. However, the past and present leadership of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro have led to economic collapse and horrible conditions that its citizens face every day. These conditions have caused 4.6 million Venezuelans to flee since 2016, accounting for 15% of the country’s current population. Here are five facts about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

5 Facts About the Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela

  1. The ever-increasing hyperinflation of the country leaves its citizens with virtually worthless income. With a recorded inflation rate of 9586% in 2019, the income earned by Venezuelans can come out to be as little as $0.72 per workday. The bolivar currency that has been used for decades in the country has become almost useless since many goods and services are being charged in U.S. dollars at a regular U.S. price point. With an exchange rate of 1 VEF (Bolivar) to $0.10, something as simple as a pound of apples is now valued at $18. Buying food, hygienic supplies and clothing can now cost months’ worth of income for a household.
  2. Venezuelan women who try to find refuge in neighboring countries are often kidnapped and forced into sexual exploitation. There is a growing migration rate of Venezuelans to other countries to find better living conditions. Many of these migrants illegally cross the border, which makes them vulnerable to xenophobia and exploitation. Accounts of the prostitution of hundreds of young girls crossing borders by bus or foot at a time are common in the neighboring country of Colombia. Migrating Venezuelan women face other dangers as well. From January to August 2019 alone, 27 Venezuelan women were killed in Colombia. The majority of the incidents were related to sexual violence.
  3. Basic goods in supermarkets are extremely scarce, expensive and require waiting in line for hours. With prices already soaring and taking up most of the income of Venezuelans, there is a dangerous scarcity of basic items such as toothpaste and drinking water. Families line up outside of supermarkets the night before or stand in long lines of up to four hours in hopes of food being available. The scarcity of virtually every product including basic medicine and hospital equipment has increased the maternal mortality rate by 65%. The infant mortality rate also increased by 30% in recent years.
  4. There are frequent power outages, which lead to higher water insecurity. Like the scarcity of basic items, utilities such as running water and electricity have suffered a shortage in Venezuela. The electricity blackouts cause water shortages that can last up to two weeks. As a result, citizens are forced to use contaminated water. This in turn arises concerns of infections and diseases such as Hepatitis A and typhoid fever. In March 2019, many areas in the country went 10 days without electricity. Notably, on March 25, 14 of Venezuela’s 23 states experienced a complete outage. During this time, men, women, children and newborns had to resort to showering with sewage water or dirty water collected during rainfall.
  5. The autocratic president, Nicolas Maduro, tampers with elections and throws political opponents in prison. The party and president in power hold full responsibility for the situation in the nation. The rigged election process keeps them in power, in spite of the crisis. In the last elections of 2018, bribery with nation benefit cards and other forms of aids were used to get the president re-elected. Supporting an opposing leader or party is becoming harder since the Maduro regime has arrested more than 12,800 people linked to anti-government protests and beliefs. Notably, Leopoldo López was held under house arrest for almost four years after calling people to the street to protest the government.

Who is Helping?

Several organizations have taken the initiative to combat the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. One of these organizations is the South American Initiative, which has been using monetary donations to feed starving children and adults, helping approximately 23,500 people. The initiative also supports Venezuelan refugees in camps in the nation and neighboring countries, providing almost 71,000 meals. The organization has raised $48,903 for aid.

The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has been ongoing for over 20 years. Scarcity, inflation, corrupt leadership and refugee exploitation are some of the many problems the nation faces. Thankfully, there are efforts from organizations to help relieve Venezuelan citizens. However, much more needs to be done before the crisis can be completely eradicated.

Veronica Spinelli
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is a country in the Central Asian region with a population of more than 5.5 million and a coastline along the Caspian Sea between Kazakhstan to the north and Iran to the south. Prior to gaining independence in 1991, Turkmenistan was a Soviet republic.

The country is well-endowed with energy reserves including natural gas and oil, and its economy is highly dependent on energy production and exports. In addition, Turkmenistan is rich in cotton, another highly exported commodity. Although 48.2% of the country’s labor force works in agriculture, this sector represents only about 8% of its GDP. Turkmenistan, moreover, continues to grapple with substantial barriers to economic and political progress, subjecting many of its citizens to poverty and other sources of hardship. Here is what you should know about poverty in Turkmenistan.

4 Facts about Poverty in Turkmenistan

  1.  Turkmenistan has made significant progress when it comes to poverty reduction. In 1999, an estimated 58% of the population in Turkmenistan was living in poverty compared to 0.2% in 2012. GDP per capita witnessed a similar kind of improvement over the same period. In 1999, GDP per capita in Turkmenistan was only $1,800. That figure increased to $8,900 in 2012, and in 2017, it reached $18,200, earning the country a rank of 97th highest GDP per capita in the world.
  2. Turkmenistan is reported to possess the world’s fourth-largest reserves of natural gas. Its heavy reliance on energy exports, however, exposes its economy to sizeable vulnerabilities, including fluctuations in the energy prices. High energy prices in the last decade enabled sensible progress in the form of utility subsidies on the part of the Turkman government since 2014. However, the country’s GDP growth rate has declined to 10.3%, as a result of low energy prices, in 2014 from 14.7% in 2011. In 2015, its GDP growth rate further declined to 6.5%. These setbacks have resulted in cutbacks on government subsidies and infrastructure spending.
  3.  The country’s first political leader, Niyazov, died in 2006 and was succeeded by Berdimuhamedow, who continues to be president today. Under the reign of Niyazov, political dissent was widely suppressed and freedom of movement and travel tightly limited. In 2004 and 2005, moreover, Turkmenistan’s development was significantly hindered when the government cut one year off of secondary school requirements, replaced 15,000 healthcare professionals with military conscripts, and closed all regional hospitals. Political repression and limited civil freedoms continued under Berdimuhamedow. With a transparency index of 154 among 176 countries, corruption on all levels of government has also been a major obstacle to development in Turkmenistan, limiting its potential for foreign investment opportunities.
  4.  Turkmenistan’s economy is heavily regulated by the state. This point is illustrated by the fact that an estimated 90% of agricultural production is controlled by the state. People also report long waiting queues throughout grocery stores that the state owns or controls. Since food items like bread and eggs are subsidized and given that Turkmen farmers are barred from growing unauthorized products, the country’s economy is far from efficient or self-sufficient. This fact is further exacerbated by government control over the foreign exchange rate, thus restricting the private sector’s ability to import the foodstuffs needed to sustain the population.

While official estimates for poverty in Turkmenistan are low, at 0.2%, there are several drawbacks that the country faces in regard to both its economy and its social and political standing. These range from the need to diversify its economic model from its heavy reliance on energy export revenues to the promotion of a more free business and investment climate. In the meantime, international cooperation and coordination ought to strive to ensure that the recent food shortages in Turkmenistan do not escalate into a full-fledged hunger crisis.

Oumaima Jaayfer
Photo: Flickr

Food
A team of scientists from Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom recently collaborated to study nanotechnology-based fertilizer delivery to crops. What they discovered has the potential to revolutionize farming worldwide, reduce environmental impact and mitigate future global food shortages.

The study, which was published in the Jan. 25, 2017 edition of American Chemical Society Nano (ACSNano), acknowledges that fertilizer prices in developing countries are substantial, and the costs often negatively impact food supply. Scientists determined that developing technology to reduce fertilizer costs was necessary, and began testing a trial fertilizer on rice farms in Sri Lanka.

The results were nothing short of impressive. Initial trials showed a 20% increase in production using about half the amount of fertilizer. These findings are a boon for future generations. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that crop production needs to increase by approximately 60% by 2050 in order to supply the world’s population and avoid global food shortages.

The Science Behind the Results

The scientists in this study didn’t reinvent the wheel. They focused their attention on urea, a common fertilizer. Although urea has been used for decades, it has major weaknesses. When urea comes in contact with water, it breaks down prematurely and cannot be efficiently absorbed by crops. Farmers then have to use more fertilizer — if they can afford it. Calling this issue a “major challenge for global agriculture” that “threatens future food security,” the team settled on a nanotechnology-based principle for fertilizer delivery. This method has wide applications in pharmaceutical delivery, and the scientists thought it showed promise.

The team combined Hydroxyapatite nanoparticles with urea to create nanohybrids. Then, they applied the mixture to crops at test farms. It pleased them to discover that the nanohybrid fertilizer decomposed the urea at a slower rate than urea alone. The scientists reported that they reduced the amount of fertilizer application by 50% while increasing crop yield by more than nine percent.

Larger Harvests with a Smaller Footprint

Money isn’t the only thing saved when nanohybrids are in play. Less fertilizer applied to crops means that less washes away into bodies of water, avoiding unnecessary pollution. Gehan Amaratunga, one of the scientists on the team, says “this goes a long way to reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture…It is a Green Revolution.”

Gisele Dunn

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Iraq
Hunger in Iraq remains a big concern. Over 13 years since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the country continues to slip closer to starvation. As U.S. military numbers have increased in the country to just over 4,600 troops, Secretary of State John Kerry outlined additional spending to provide aid to the people of Iraq. His statement, released in April, cites the severe humanitarian crisis facing the country.

To alleviate hunger in Iraq, the State Department plans to spend an additional $155 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing the total to $778 million provided to the people of Iraq since the fiscal year 2014. While commendable, this aid is dwarfed by the estimated $2 trillion the U.S. has spent on the war effort in that country and does not go nearly far enough to help solve the problem.

Iraq’s food shortage stems from displacement in the country. The Islamic State (IS) is still in open conflict with the Iraqi government forcing many from their homes, including farmers. Fighting in areas such as Salahuddin, Nineveh, Kirkuk and Anbar have greatly reduced or halted the food generated in these important growing regions, increasing hunger in Iraq. The U.N. estimates more than 3.4 million Iraqis have been displaced in the fighting so far.

Farmers are fleeing as sectarian violence has specifically targeted agrarian production in Iraq. In territory under their control, IS has shown a willingness to confiscate farming equipment. Groups opposing IS have attacked the agricultural production of local Arabs in retaliation for their cooperation. Yazidis have burned the fields of Arab farmers in Sinjar and in the breadbasket region of northern Nineveh, Kurdish fighters have razed entire Arab communities. Farmers face additional difficulties in growing crops such as a lack of agricultural machinery, a shortage of fuel and even unexploded bombs and mines in fields.

Exacerbating the issue, a stream of refugees have flooded over the border from neighboring Syria, seeking refuge from the fighting there. To get an idea of the size of the problem, imagine a country with the land area and population size of California. Now imagine that the inhabitants of Los Angeles have been displaced to the rest of the state while a flood of refugees pour across the border.

Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, addressed the European Parliament in June 2015 stating, “In the months ahead the humanitarian situation is going to get worse … 10 million Iraqis are likely to need some form of life-saving assistance.” This threat looms in a country with a population of 33 million.

Looking just at food, the U.S. State Department optimistically expects the humanitarian aid from USAID distributed through the World Food Program to be able to feed just over 1.5 million people for about two and a half months. Yet according to the U.N., 4.4 million Iraqis are in need of food support, not counting the estimated 250,000 Syrian refugees taking shelter in the country.

The State Department is also providing funding for education, an important measure, but one that should take secondary priority in a country where millions are not having their daily hunger needs met. Sectarian violence creates a vicious cycle contributing to food shortages which in turn leads to more unrest. A response to hunger in Iraq needs to be part of any solution in the region.

Still in its infancy after the U.S. invasion in 2003, the Iraqi Government has proven ineffective in solving the nation’s hunger problems as it fights for its very survival against IS forces. Unless the international community takes action soon, the situation in Iraq threatens to spiral further out of control.

Will Sweger

Photo: Flickr

Food shortages in VenezuelaBeginning in 2014, oil prices around the world began to plummet. This sparked an extreme financial crisis in Venezuela, whose economy is based solely on its immense reserves of the fossil fuel. This evolving crisis has contributed to dire food shortages in Venezuela. The CEO of Empresas Polar, Lorenzo Mendoza, is working to aid fellow Venezuelans in need. Oil became a source of vast political influence in Venezuela once the industry became nationalized in 1975. The Washington Post reports that oil currently makes up about 95 percent of the region’s revenue from exports.

Oil Profits Plummet

In 2013, following the death of Hugo Chávez, former Vice President and current Head of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro was elected president and promised to continue the policies of his predecessor. According to The Washington Post, Maduro is “discouraging private industry that could have diversified the nation’s economic base” and using revenues from PDVSA, the state oil company, to “pay for generous social welfare benefits that won votes.” This lack of diversification and unruly spending, combined with the harsh drop in oil prices, has left the economy and citizens of Venezuela in turmoil. The International Monetary Fund’s figures show that Venezuela “went from earning $80 billion from oil in 2013 to a projected $20-25 billion in 2016.” This discrepancy of billions of dollars has created food shortages in Venezuela, resulting in riots and violence. Numerous looters have been shot and killed, hundreds have been arrested and lines of hungry families continue to grow.

Uncooperative Government

Political and economic instability has allowed crime to prosper. According to the Los Angeles Times, “gangs on motorcycles have fought over the right to control and distribute food.” Instead of taking responsibility for the lack of revenue, mounting inflation and food shortages, President Maduro has shifted blame onto the U.S. government, as well as Mendoza. Mendoza’s business, a large-scale food processing and brewery corporation, is a unique entity within Venezuela’s socialist society. Empresas Polar is the largest privately owned enterprise in a country whose government controls a substantial portion of businesses.

President Maduro accused Mendoza of withholding goods and slowing production during the crisis. The Wall Street Journal reports that the government views Mendoza as “a traitor responsible for the scarcities.” Mendoza denies all accusations and believes that it is the government’s control of prices, lack of imports and halts in production forced by a lack of federal funds that is fueling the food shortages. In fact, Mendoza is actively fighting to end the overwhelming food shortages in Venezuela. The CEO is urging his government to cooperate with organizations that can offer aid.

Venezuela Refusing Help

In February, The Wall Street Journal reported that Mendoza contacted Harvard economics professor Ricardo Hausmann to speak of “Venezuela’s need for up to $60 billion of loans from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to avoid economic meltdown.” This cry for help will most likely go unheard, as Venezuela’s government has denied foreign aid from most countries, especially the U.S., since the time of Hugo Chávez.

While President Obama and President Maduro did meet for a few moments at the Summit of the Americas in April, Maduro spent most of his time lambasting Obama for his sanctions, which are based on human rights violations by a handful of Venezuelan officials.

Moving Forward

In this time of crisis, Empresas Polar and its charismatic CEO Lorenzo Mendoza are bringing hope to Venezuela. Empresas Polar represents a bright future for Venezuelan business, as it is responsible for the employment of thousands, offers price-conscious products, a provides a profitable business plan and diversification of the Venezuelan market. Moreover, despite attacks on his character and livelihood made by the government, Mendoza will continue to fight for foreign aid to end the food shortages in Venezuela.

Liam Travers

Photo: Business Insider

Poverty
When you have enough money and food to be comfortable, it can be easy to be unaware of just how many people in the world are lacking in these basics. Sometimes an inspiring film can really drive this point home, with moving stories and imagery that make it shockingly clear that millions of people in the world struggle with poverty every day. These are a few of the documentaries and films about poverty that give an idea of what poverty is like, or attempt to explain the nature of poverty.

We Feed the World: This film examines the contrast between the overproduction and waste of food among the affluent and the scarcity among those who are hungry. Food production is also explored. The story is told via an interview with U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Zigler.

Slumdog Millionaire: One of the most popular films about poverty, Slumdog Millionaire is about how an orphan growing up in poverty in Mumbai comes to be a contestant on India’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” The question is, how did an uneducated orphan come to have the answers to some many of the game’s trivia questions? Moving visual imagery and dramatic storytelling bring both the reality of poverty and the hope amidst it to life.

A Place at the Table: This film, featuring actor-director Jeff Bridges, examines hunger in the U.S. The staggering statistic of 50 million Americans living in household lacking food security is given and this in the “richest country in the world,” reported Bills Moyers & Company. A Place at the Table tells us not only how many Americans are going hungry, but what tax dollars are being spent on instead. It also follows the lives of Americans living with food insecurity. Often they are people who are working full-time. Despite adding many food banks in the U.S., the problem persists.

The End of Poverty: This is another film that asks why there is so much poverty existing alongside so much wealth in the world. Directed by Philippe Diaz and narrated by Martin Sheen, the film takes the view that our current economic system is not only responsible for this situation, but perpetuates it and keeps it from truly changing. A look is taken at policies that keep rich countries rich, and poor countries poor.

Poverty, Inc.: This documentary takes a hard look at how the system of giving aid is and is not working. Although the film acknowledges the good in giving, it raises the question of what happens once money or aid is given. Are there unforeseen consequences? Sometimes aid can create dependence in a community in need. It’s important to examine the most efficient strategies for helping communities to rise above poverty and learn the tools to keep themselves out of it.

These thought-provoking documentaries and films about poverty bring new perspective to how we think about giving aid to those in poverty.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr

smuggling in Venezuela
Venezuela’s government continues to battle a food hoarding and smuggling epidemic. It accuses food smugglers of causing national food shortages in the country. The government states that food smugglers hoard goods to resell for profit and smuggle such items into Venezuela’s neighboring countries.

Due to currency controls and a lack of U.S. dollars, Venezuela has found it to be increasingly difficult to import foreign food products from other countries. One of the most popular countries for food smuggling is Colombia, which borders Venezuela. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos have both acknowledged the problem.

Earlier this month, Maduro stated that smuggling seizure efforts in Colombia have recovered close to $400 million U.S. dollars worth of goods. Due to these smuggling incidents, the Venezuelan government intends to introduce a biometric tracking system that will limit citizens’ food purchases via a fingerprint scanning.

A military spokesperson for the government told El Universal newspaper that the quantity of goods smuggled to Colombia “would be enough to load the shelves of our supermarkets.”

This July, the government seized more than 11 tons worth of fish, chicken and beef.

Last month, Venezuela began to close its border to Colombia at night and deploy thousands of troops in an effort to stop the smuggling in Venezuela from taking place. However, opposition to the plan suggests that the policy will treat Venezuelan citizens as criminals and even breach individual privacy. Many have suggested that the policy leans toward food rationing.

Some watchdog groups have even predicted that those without the biometric cards may not be able to shop at state supermarkets. The Venezuelan government believes up to 40 percent of items purchased within the country are smuggled out of the country. This includes medicines and basic foodstuff.

Even though the government has stated that those who make use of the biometric cards may receive various discounts and other benefits, those against the plan suggest otherwise. Nevertheless, the country has seen inflation rates top 60 percent this year due to food smuggling, which indicates that something must be done.

– Ethan Safran

Sources: The Guardian, BBC, Latin Post, The Guardian
Photo: The London Fog