Global Food Security
In June 2022, Dr. Cary Fowler, Special Envoy for Global Food Security highlighted in a call with Jim O’Brien, head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination, that extreme weather conditions, conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic threaten global food security. The recent war in Ukraine is also exacerbating global food insecurity, particularly affecting the world’s poor, with its distinctive multicausal nature.

The 3 Cs Impacting Global Food Security

  1. COVID-19: The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the global food supply.
  2. Climate: Extreme weather conditions, such as drought, had implications in the U.S. and around the world.
  3. Conflict: The conflict in Ukraine has reduced the country’s production capacity and blockades make the Black Sea inaccessible for export, resulting in the scarcity of food, price inflation and severe disruption in the food supply chain. This is ultimately forcing millions into acute hunger.

The Impacts of the Russian Invasion

The Russian invasion has caused Ukraine’s exports to collapse as the conflict has cut off supplies from Ukraine’s ports. Before the conflict, Ukraine stood as a large exporter of key food supplies such as cooking oils, maize and wheat. As a result of the conflict, 20 million tons of grain are stuck in Ukraine from the previous harvest in 2021, said Reuters in an August 2022 article. To compensate, others, such as India and the EU, have ramped up exports, but this compensation only partly covers export losses from Ukraine.

Fears of food shortages have prompted some countries to implement export restrictions disrupting the free flow of goods to keep key food products for their own nations to deal with surging prices and food shortages. The European Union is an example, placing export restrictions on some cereals.

The chaos caused by the conflict is far-reaching due to the vital role that both Russia and Ukraine play in global commodity markets. Russia and Ukraine produce 30% of the world’s wheat supply and 18% of global corn exports. Before the war, Ukraine exported roughly “4.5 million tonnes of agricultural produce per month through its ports.” Therefore, it is no surprise that lower-income countries that are heavily reliant on commodity exports from these countries face detrimental impacts.

Dependency Issues

The threat that the conflict poses to global food security is notable. Food prices have surged, especially affecting the world’s poor. The issue here is dependency as certain countries are close to wholly dependent on exports from Ukraine and Russia for products such as wheat, maize and oilseeds.

Countries such as “Turkey, Egypt, Eritrea, Somalia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Congo and Namibia” are highly dependent on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia. Brazil, Argentina and Bangladesh rely on Russian fertilizer for their crops, as do the African countries of Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast. These countries are vulnerable and in need of finding new suppliers during this time of conflict.

The United States Responds

The U.S.’s response to the Ukraine crisis and the subsequent rise in food insecurity has been primarily geared toward restoring global food security. In June 2022, the U.S. government invested $760 million in humanitarian aid to “mitigate further increases in poverty, hunger and malnutrition in vulnerable countries impacted by high prices of food, fertilizer and fuel.”

Via USAID, the U.S. will mobilize $640 million worth of economic assistance “to support bilateral targeted agriculture and food security programs to strengthen agricultural capacity and resilience in more than 40 of the most vulnerable countries.” These programs will be customized according to each country’s specific needs. The White House has said that solutions will “tackle urgent global fertilizer shortages, purchase resilient seeds, mitigate price shortages for fertilizer, scale-up social safety nets for families suffering from hunger and malnutrition and avert food and humanitarian crises in the most vulnerable countries.”

The crisis in Ukraine is challenging global food security, resulting in reduced production in Ukraine, inaccessibility of the Black Sea ports and an increase in food prices. It comes at a time when countries are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and climate-related issues. Hence, the U.S. has stepped in to provide aid to combat the crises that threaten global food security and affect lower-income countries that are heavily dependent on food imports from Russia and Ukraine.

– Claudia Efemini
Photo: Flickr

The United States Office of Global Food Security provides crucial, life-saving humanitarian aid to the world’s poorest countries. The Office of Global Food Security (OGFS) seeks to advance global food security by addressing the underlying causes of hunger and malnutrition, investing in country-led programs, leveraging multilateral institutions and making accountable, sustained commitments.

One of the initiatives of the OGFS is an organization called 1,000 Days, and it shows the importance of providing and achieving global food security. The purpose of 1,000 Days is to ensure the best nutrition during a woman’s pregnancy up until the second birthday of that child, as this “sets the foundation for all the days that follow,” as the organization’s official website states.

According to the organization, nutrition during pregnancy up until the second birthday provides the essentials for brain development, healthy growth and a strong immune system. A person’s predisposition to chronic diseases and obesity are also linked to this thousand-day window. Malnourished daughters who become malnourished mothers can also give birth to malnourished children, continuing the cycle.

Feed the Future serves as an OGFS initiative as well, with its focus being combating hunger and poverty around the world. The areas the initiative seeks to improve upon are inclusive agriculture sector growth, gender integration, improved nutrition, research and capacity building, private sector engagement and resilience.

Some of the key accomplishments of Feed the Future from 2017 include 1.7 million families no longer suffering from hunger and $2.6 billion in crop sales generated by farmers. Furthermore, more than nine million more people now live above the poverty line due to the initiative.

Despite the effectiveness of the Office of Global Food Security’s efforts to reduce hunger, President Trump’s administration said it would withdraw funding to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, or GAFSP. Created during the Obama administration, GAFSP was designed as an integral part of the Feed the Future initiative. GAFSP’s main goals are to raise farmer incomes, increase food security and prevent unrest that results from food shortages.

The United States is the program’s biggest donor, with $653 million to date. In an interview with Foreign Policy, Marie Clarke, a member of the GAFSP steering committee and executive director of the nonprofit ActionAid USA, explained that withdrawing the United States’ funding could be extremely harmful to economic development, security and humanitarian conditions in the world’s most susceptible regions.

Hopefully, withdrawing funding for GAFSP will not set the tone for how much the U.S. Office of Global Food Security will be able to spend on reducing global hunger. The continued vigilance of such organizations, supported by nations like the U.S., is supremely important in the fight against poverty.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Flickr

Evaptainer: How the Science of Sweating Can Increase Food SecurityThe founders of Evaptainers have harnessed the science of sweating into a device that could help the 7 million people in the world who have no access to refrigeration. While the typical fridge requires electricity for vapor compression refrigeration, the Evaptainer uses evaporative cooling to keep food cold and extend its shelf life without any electricity.

The Evaptainer brings modern-day technology to an idea that has been around for several millennia. At its most basic level, a refrigerating device that uses evaporative cooling contains an inner chamber that holds food. The outer chamber contains an evaporative medium, such as sand, between the outer and inner containers. Water is poured over the evaporative medium, which cools as it evaporates.

The science is simple. To evaporate, water must absorb heat energy from the environment in order to become hot enough to change its state, either from solid to liquid or liquid to gas. The heat the water draws from its environment, called latent heat, cools the environment from which it draws heat.

In the case of the Evaptainer, this process cools the inner container that holds the food. Evaptainers can cool the 60-liter inner container by up to 35 degrees Fahrenheit, extending the shelf-life of food from around two days to two weeks, in hot weather.

Bishop Sanyal, a MIT professor not affiliated with Evaptainer, told MIT Technology Review that Evaptainers could help increase food security. However, he sees the $25 unit price as posing a possible problem for families’ ability to access the devices. For example, the average family in Morocco makes $60-$100 per month as explained by Sanyal, so paying $25 upfront could be a challenge. Nonetheless, if families are able to make the investment, having an Evaptainer could save them money in the long run.

Another challenge Evaptainer faces is that humid air can evaporate less moisture than dry air. As a result, in past 40 percent humidity, the device cools significantly less than it would in its optimal environment of 30 percent humidity or less.

For now, at least in optimal environments, Evaptainers have the potential to improve the quality of life of those who have no access to electricity or refrigeration and reduce the amount of spoiled food waste. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, such progress represents about $310 billion annually in developing countries alone.

Laura Isaza

Photo: Flickr

Approximately 805 million people around the world are starving. Extreme poverty, rapid population growth, climate change and shrinking resources are a few of the crucial factors threatening global food security.

It is estimated that by 2050 the world’s population will have grown to more than nine billion people, meaning food production will have to increase by as much as 70% in order to feed the world.

Big businesses recognize the importance of fighting global hunger. As a result, a few major companies are leading efforts to improve global food security.


Amway, a leader in the nutrition and vitamin market, launched the Nutrilite Power of 5 Campaign to raise awareness of childhood malnutrition.

The company developed Nutrilite Little Bits, a micronutrient supplement that provides impoverished children with the key nutrients and vitamins often missing from their diets.

The Nutrilite Power of 5 Campaign has provided Nutrilite Little Bits to thousands of children in 11 countries since its inception in 2014.

Amway has committed to providing five million Nutrilite Little Bits by the end of 2016. This act has the potential to benefit more than 14,000 malnourished children.

General Mills

Food giant, General Mills, pledged to work closely with smallholder farmers in developing economies to sustainably source 100% of their top ten priority ingredients by 2020.

“We know that when farmers have the knowledge and resources for their farms and families to thrive, the benefits accrue well beyond the individual and extend to the community and societal levels,” said General Mills Foundation Associate Director Nicola Dixon.

General Mills wants its farmers to produce enough to feed their families and generate an income while raising the living standards in their communities. Millions have already benefited from the company’s work.


Cargill, one of the world’s largest food and agriculture businesses, committed to providing more than $13 million in grants through a broad set of programs focused on food security, sustainability and nutrition.

The grants will be focused on promoting sustainable agricultural practices, improving market access and productivity for farmers, supporting childhood nutrition and education and advancing healthy diets and preventing diet-related health issues in low-income communities.

“The private sector can be a catalyst for lasting change by jumpstarting innovation and economic development,” said Ruth Rawling, Cargill’s vice president of corporate affairs.

One of the grant recipients is CARE USA, which has partnered with Cargill for over 25 years to combat poverty and long-term hunger among some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Cargill’s grants are expected to benefit more than one million people in 15 countries.

Global food security is one of the most dire issues facing the world. One’s ability to feed themselves is directly correlated to their productivity and ability to earn a living.

There is great potential to vastly reduce poverty, increase incomes for the world’s poor and expand the world’s consumer base as big businesses further their investment in global food security.

Sara Christensen

Photo: Flickr

Howard Buffet

Farmer and philanthropist, Howard Buffet, made it his mission in life to help end global hunger. He was recently interviewed by PBS on his current work in Africa helping farmers to generate sustainable agricultural solutions.

Buffet told PBS that his foundation, The Howard G. Buffet Foundation, invests in global food security while currently working on a few different projects. Primarily, they are building three hydro plants in the Eastern Congo. Hydro plants produce impressive amounts of electricity for communities.

Harvard University professor, Juma Calestous, told PBS news how the willingness Buffet shows to go hands-on and visit the Democratic Republic of Congo has brought him respect across the continent.

“The Democratic Republic of the Congo is an area where not many donors are interested in operating,” Calestous said in a PBS news video. “He’s taking very high risks in going to those areas.”

Howard Buffet said in the video that areas of conflict, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, are where impoverished people need the most help because they have devastated infrastructure and no governance. However, his other project is taking place in the peaceful nation of Rwanda, focused on training young Rwandan farmers.

“I also think we [the U.S.] have a huge responsibility internationally, because we are a leader,” Buffet said in a PBS news video. “And we need to maintain that leadership.”

Buffet’s work in Africa is critical because although the continent has vast agricultural potential, its per capita food production has drastically declined. The Howard G. Buffet Foundation seeks to invest where others have not and it fills critical gaps that lead to sustainable change.

“We’re not going to end world hunger,” Howard Buffet said in the PBS video. “But, you know, I think every step we can take in that direction is something positive.”

Kerri Whelan

Photo: Flickr

Soybeans and Global Food Security
A recent study by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in California has shown that soybeans can be re-engineered to grow in more arid environments without losing standard crop yield. If the new varieties prove durable, the cultivation of soybeans in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia will help address food insecurity issues in the region. Here are five reasons why soybeans are important in addressing global food security:

1. Food production must increase by 70 percent to meet the world’s food needs by 2050.

There are a number of factors that will affect global food security in the coming decades including: population increase, movement away from rural areas and toward urban centers, food production and climate change.

Today, undernourishment affects 870 million people worldwide. Between now and 2050, there will be an additional two billion people on our planet, with around 24 million children pushed into hunger due to food security issues.

2. Soybeans are one of the world’s most important protein crops.

Soybeans have a protein content of over 35 percent, as well as healthy unsaturated fats and carbohydrate fibers, making them some of the healthiest food sources around. They are also one of the least expensive sources of protein when compared to eggs, milk, beef and cow peas.

Due to the use of soybeans in both the food and animal feed industries, soybean farmers can earn a substantial amount of cash because the crop can be successfully grown at a low cost of production.

3. Modifying soybeans can address both climate challenges and food insecurity.

In a recent study led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL,) computer models have been applied to look for a super soybean. The research study determined that soybean plants can be redesigned to increase crop yield by 7 percent without using more water. The study also demonstrated that soybeans can be redesigned to use either 13 percent less water, or reflect 34 percent more light back into space without reducing crop yields–good for both food security and climate change.

While other geo-engineering solutions for climate change tend to be expensive, such as spraying sulfates into the upper atmosphere in order to reduce incoming sunlight or loading the ocean with iron in order to increase plankton photosynthesis, modifying annual crops is inexpensive and can be implemented quickly.

4. Soybean cultivation is growing in Africa.

Research by the University of Agriculture Makurdi in Nigeria in collaboration with the International Institute of Agriculture (IITA), aims to help improve the lives and livelihoods of small-hold farmers in the drought-prone areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by providing more durable soybean varieties that can stand up against more arid conditions. Like the redesigned varieties in the JPL study, new varieties being promoted in Africa can help increase crop yields without using more water.

Soybean production remains relatively isolated in Africa, with Nigeria as the largest soybean producer, followed by South Africa and Uganda. However, the new, more durable varieties may allow for more countries to begin cultivating soybeans, helping improve the health of their populations as well as reducing local poverty.

5. Soybeans could have a long-term impact on poverty.

Food and water security will be a major national security focus in the coming decades as both climate change and population increases affect food production worldwide. Countries lacking basic food resources to feed their growing urban populations may become hotbeds for conflict, unrest and terrorist activities.

While many solutions for food insecurity should be addressed and considered by lawmakers, scientists and farmers alike, soybean technology is a first step in addressing the needs of poverty stricken regions by providing a modified crop that can meet multiple goals.

Re-engineered soybeans are an innovative (and healthy) way to help address local food security issues worldwide. Not only do they provide a good food source, but their wide use in products from oils to food to animal feed guarantee a lucrative market for local farmers. Reducing poverty through innovative changes in the way staple crops are traditionally grown is an economical and feasible way to bring food security, in light of climate and population challenges, to developing regions of the world.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: Daily Trust, United Nations Conference on Trade And Development, Intech, NASA, VOA News, World Food Programme, Stop Hunger Now
Photo: HD WAll IMG

A paper recently published in the Journal for the Society of Risk Analysis, brings attention to the important role corn plays in global food security. Corn’s many uses make it a central commodity and a great influence on prices and global food security. Corn can be found in: starch, oil, food sweeteners, alcohol, as well as livestock feed and biofuel that assists global food security.

Corn’s central role also means that a disruption in corn supply can create a global crisis. This is compounded by reliance on two major export markets: the United States and Argentina. Of the top five import countries, four of them rely on the United States to provide the vast majority of their corn.

Climate change, however, is a growing concern among corn growers world-wide. According to a study done at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom focusing on corn production in France, temperature levels are a significant variable in corn production. When temperatures exceed a certain level, corn yield suffers, according to the study. Already the average number of days over this threshold per year has risen. This is disturbing news as average temperatures are expected to continue to rise during the 21st century. As the study’s leader, Dr. Ed Hawkins of the Natural Environment Research Council’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science, states “It’s a serious risk to food security.”

Scientists estimate corn production will need to increase by 12 percent per acre between 2016 and 2035 in order to maintain current production levels. In order to increase crop yields, additional technology advancements will be necessary.

The importance of global food security has led corn growers from leading export nations to form a collaborative group to address this shared issue as well as biotechnology, stewardship, and trade. This cooperative group formation, dubbed The International Maize Alliance (MAIZALL), is the first of its kind and is significant for the collaboration among trade competitors. The United States, Argentina, and Brazil, the three top corn export markets, are members.

MAIZALL will discuss biotechnology in regards to food security as well. Getting import markets to accept drought-resistant traits is an important component for global food security, stated National Corn Growers Association President, Pam Johnson. MAIZALL members will travel to China and South Korea in October to discuss biotechnology in those markets.

Incorporating technological innovation to boost yields and counteract climate change is important for protecting and increasing future corn yields. A significant drop in these yields will lead to increased food prices and shortages that will endanger global food security. With a world population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, corn producers world-wide are on the alert.

– Callie D. Coleman

Sources: Farm Futures, Corn and Soybean Digest, Food Security

USDA Invests Heavily in Global Food SecurityIn an effort to both invest in America’s rapidly advancing growing technologies as well as solidify the nation’s status as an agricultural superpower, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they will be allocating 75 million dollars for grants and educational funding towards global food security.

This amazing opportunity towards bolstering global food security is also, in part, thanks to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) as well as the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Food Security program. Recently, much interest has been shown in developing the United States’ wonderfully rich topsoil and varied growing climates in order to maximize yields while maintaining the soil’s nutritional efficacy. Considering that many countries around the globe are continuing to experience severe shortages and food insecurity, the US has adopted a mutually-beneficial policy that will attempt to ameliorate any and all future global food security challenges.

Agricultural Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan was on hand to present the good news to Biological Sciences faculty members at South Dakota State University’s Brookings campus. After announcing the exciting news, Deputy Secretary Merrigan remarked that “The grants announced today will help policymakers and others better recognize the food and nutrition needs of low-income communities in our country, while improving the productivity of our nation’s agriculture to meet those needs.”
Thanks to the $75 million pledged towards finding realistic solutions for the continuing battle against world hunger, global food security might actually be attainable in the present generation.
– Brian Turner

Source Agri-Pulse
Photo University of California