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Agricultural Sustainability in the DRCDespite the Democratic Republic of the Congo harboring the second-largest cultivable land in the world at 80 million hectares, food insecurity and malnutrition are pressing issues in a country that ranks among the poorest in the world. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) characterizes almost 22 million of the 89.5 million residents as severely food insecure, despite 70% of the employed population working in the agricultural industry. Lack of infrastructure combined with prolonged national armed conflict has led to only 10 million hectares currently under cultivation, leaving enormous potential for agricultural and economic growth. Agricultural sustainability in the DRC is crucial to address food insecurity and poverty.

The Joint WFP-FAO Resilience Program in DRC

A combined effort from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) focuses on the optimization of agriculture production as well as market revisions and improvements to reduce food insecurity and bolster a declining national economy. Improving agricultural sustainability in the DRC could prove effective in stabilizing a region with enormous agricultural potential.

The Need for Agricultural Sustainability

Providing direct financial relief to the DRC has proven both necessary and effective, especially in the wake of nationwide flooding in 2019 and 2020 on top of widespread armed conflict and displacement. Since 2018, USAID reports that the DRC has received roughly $570 million worth of direct food relief. However, direct relief does not equal sustainability and is a relatively short-term solution. The joint program from the WFP and FAO implements successful strategies to provide much-needed agricultural sustainability in the DRC and creates an important foundation for further improvements.

The Benefits of Cooperation

Promoting organizational cooperation and improving managerial structure has allowed for combined agricultural improvements nationwide. Since 2017, this project has reached 30,000 small farm households and stimulated cooperation that has improved organizational structure and operational capacities. This cooperation has allowed for the distribution of newer agricultural technologies and concepts such as improved seeds and more advanced tools to optimize production.

Increased cooperation has also helped eliminate local conflicts between farmers and has increased the total area of land being cultivated. The program has also provided 7,000 local women with functional literacy education, allowing for more female community engagement as well as involvement in managerial duties in farming communities.

Addressing Nutrition in the DRC

At a local level, the joint program has implemented enhanced nutritional programs to utilize the increasing resources. Increased cooperation and education have allowed for the growth of crops with enhanced nutritional value. To promote long-term sustainability, in 2020, the project utilized direct aid to establish 300 vegetable gardens, reaching 13,510 residents. The program also held 150 culinary demonstrations regarding optimal cooking techniques that are both affordable and nutritious.

Developing the DRC’s Infrastructure

Large agricultural areas such as the DRC rely heavily on infrastructure for transportation and storage of goods. The joint program has fixed 193 kilometers of agricultural roads since implementation in 2017, with 65% of the road rehabilitators being women.

Not only has the program enhanced transportation capabilities but it has also constructed 20 different storage buildings as well as 75 community granaries, allowing for the long-term storage of agricultural products. This enhanced storage capacity reduces waste from spoilage and allows product to be sold during favorable selling seasons, allowing for advanced agricultural sustainability in the DRC.

The Joint WFP-FAO resilience program in the DRC has made significant accomplishments in the country. With further efforts, agricultural sustainability in the DRC can be further developed to improve poverty in the region.

Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

Suaahara II ProjectIn Nepal, 36% of children who are under the age of five remain underdeveloped in terms of growth and health despite progress in recent years. Through cooperation with USAID, the Nepalese Government and local private sector groups, Hellen Keller International (HKI) has provided impactful services that have helped rectify the systematic obstacles causing these health issues. Hellen Keller International is a non-profit organization that aims to reduce malnutrition. The Suaahara II project takes a pivotal role in these efforts.

What is the Suaahara II Project?

One of HKI’s most notable services is the Suaahara II project, which started in 2016 and was initially set to end in 2021. However, it will now extend to March 2023 due to COVID-19. Operating in 42 of Nepal’s districts with a $63 million budget, HKI partnered with these six organizations for the project:

  • Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc. (CARE)
  • Family Health International 360 (FHI 360)
  • Environmental and Public Health Organization (ENPHO)
  • Equal Access Nepal (EAN)
  • Nepali Technical Assistance Group (NTAG)
  • Vijaya Development Resource Center (VDRC)

Hellen Keller International’s primary role in the Suaahara II project deals with the technical assistance of child and maternal nutrition. This means that its tasks are oriented around building the skills and knowledge of health workers. This includes teaching health workers how to adequately measure and evaluate assessments; additionally, another technical facet relies on promoting governance that invests in nutrition.

A Multi-Sectoral Approach

Kenda Cunningham, a senior technical adviser for Suaahara II who works under HKI, told The Borgen Project that the Suaahara II consortium has taken a “multi-sectoral approach.” She believes in the importance of this as it pushes individuals to “learn and think beyond their sector.” The Suaahara II Project’s demonstrates its integrated strategy in the initiatives below:

  1. The WASH program focuses on water, sanitation and hygiene through WASHmarts, which are small shops dispersed across districts that sell sanitary products like soap and reusable sanitary pads. Kenda explained how this has helped “bridge a gap” so that poorer households can access hygiene enhancing products. This also allows assistance from private actors, who can expand their markets in rural areas.
  2. The Homestead Food Production program (HFP) encourages households to grow and produce micronutrient-rich foods through vegetable gardening and raising chickens, for example. As a result, 35 districts have institutionalized HFP groups.
  3. The Bhancchin Aama Radio Program is a phone-in radio program that runs twice every week. It hosts discussions among marginalized communities and demonstrations for cooking nutritious foods. It has encouraged the Nepalese to socially and behaviorally alter their health habits.

Advancements from Suaahara I

The Suaahara II project’s contribution to improved health and nutrition in Nepal is also illustrated in its progression from the Suaahara I project’s framework. In addition to understanding the changes made in household systems and at a policy level from Suaahara I, Cunningham told The Borgen Project that technological developments have elevated the Suaahara II Project’s impact in Nepal.

Specifically, smartphones expedite the data collection process when studying trends pertaining to the 2 million households across the districts. The development of new apps provided more households with access to smartphones and key information. This therefore allowed officers to transition from pursuing “a mother-child focus to a family focus” in terms of the Suaahara II project’s accommodations and services.

Challenges with Suaahara II

While the Suaahara II Project has led to institutional and social enhancements regarding health and nutrition, some districts had access to the project earlier. This created a dissonance in the rate of health improvements amongst the districts. Cunningham reported that “far western areas are much more remote and therefore disadvantaged and food insecure.”

This inconsistency was largely due to the “Federalism” that took place in Nepal in 2017, which was a decentralization process that created 42 municipalities for 42 districts. Since every municipality has a different political leader, some districts had the advantage of assistance from foreign NGOs while others did not because their leaders rejected involving foreign NGOs. In these cases, as Cunningham explained, it is like “you are creating your own NGOs from the ground up.”

Suaahara II Achievements

These obstacles, however, have not been pertinent enough to counter the consortium’s efforts in fulfilling the Suaahara II project’s objectives. For example, a primary objective for Suaahra II is to increase breastfeeding amongst babies under six months of age. Exclusive breastfeeding of children under six has increased from 62.9% in 2017 to 68.9% in 2019, according to data that Cunningham shared with The Borgen Project.

Expanding children’s access to diverse and nutritious foods is another objective that has been achieved under the Suaahara II project. The dietary diversity among women of reproductive age (WRA) has increased from 35.6% in 2017 to 45.3% in 2019, according to Cunningham. Given the efficient rate of improvement in women and children’s health, governance and equity in only the first two years of the Suaahara II project, it can be inferred that the consortium will continue to progress in achieving its targets among the Nepalese in the three years that remain.

Regarding how HKI has responded to challenges with the Suaahara II project, Cunningham said  “[We] don’t use a one size fits all approach.” The advancements in Nepal’s health and nutrition systems can be largely attributed to HKI’s multifaceted and integrated strategy, a model that could yield prosperity in the rest of the developing world.

Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in South Sudan
South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has faced adversity and troubled times since its founding. Its separation from Sudan was accompanied by significant conflict, beginning with the advent of civil war in December 2013. The widespread conflict led to many humanitarian crises and the country did not see peace until a cease-fire was issued in August of 2018. Five years later, the effects of this conflict persist and can be seen in the nation’s water crisis. Here are six facts about the water crisis in South Sudan.

6 Facts About the Water Crisis in South Sudan

  1. Only 41 percent of people in South Sudan had access to clean drinking water in 2019. In urban areas, residents often live too far from water sources to walk and are forced to rely on deliveries, driving up the cost of water. This forces many lower-income families to go without. Outside the metropolitan areas, water wells are not reliable either. During the conflict, armed groups destroyed the wells of many communities, hoping to defeat them. Now that the fighting is over, these wells remain destroyed, and even if they are within walking distance, people may not have access.
  2. Having to travel long distances to obtain clean drinking water also creates health and safety concerns for women and children in South Sudan. Walking long distances every day to access water increases the risk of severe dehydration as well as violence and kidnappings.
  3. The conflict has also displaced more than two million people, driving them into other countries or away from their available water sources. People settled in rural areas are heading to the cities, putting further pressure on already strained water sources and worsening the water crisis in South Sudan.
  4. According to data from 2016, one in three people use contaminated water daily. This water may come from the Nile or from swamp areas, both of which present immense risks of bacterial infections. When the choices are either to be thirsty or drink dirty water, people have to choose the water. As a result of the contaminated water, there were 20,000 reported cases of cholera in South Sudan between June 2016 and the start of 2018.
  5. Most water in South Sudan is not put towards domestic use. 97 percent goes to the agricultural industry, and in these strenuous times, a lack of water presents challenges for their main industry. 80 percent of the South Sudanese support themselves through farming, and without enough water to grow crops, their nutrition and economy suffer.
  6. A total of 871 million dollars has been given to South Sudan so far, but this only meets half of the goal to solve the crisis. Still, significant work is being done by humanitarian organizations, including Oxfam, which is working on the ground to improve access to clean drinking water. Its goal is to make long-lasting, sustainable changes to how water is accessed in order to end the water crisis in South Sudan.

While there is still progress to be made, there have been decreases in the percentage of people without drinkable water, especially in urban areas. Moving forward, as clean water reaches more remote areas, water accessibility in South Sudan will become more stable, greatly improving livelihoods.

Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Flickr

Human Milk and Infant Nutrition 

Breastmilk possesses invaluable qualities that nourish, nurture and protect infant health. Most people are aware that the properties of breast milk help to fight against infections in infants. However, it is lesser-known that breastfeeding stimulates hormone responses that establish bonds crucial to healthy emotional development. There is a general lack of awareness surrounding the global inequalities of breast milk, particularly in nutrient quality and status. Society perpetuates the cycle of poverty when they remain naive of the issues affecting poor women.

Not only is the nutritional value of breast milk unequal across nations, but women in developing countries are disproportionately affected by poverty and malnutrition. This further hinders the production of nutrient-rich human milk in low-income areas. Women are also less likely to receive health and nutrition education than men. Despite the fact that women are natural suppliers of infant nutrition, they forfeit nutritional intake under the given circumstances.

Women’s issues in developing nations also face a disparity in the quantity of data. Lindsay Allen, a scientist who studies human milk and micronutrient deficiencies in developing countries, addresses this issue with the MILQ Project. She emphasizes that understanding differences in human milk condition is key in bridging the human milk and infant nutrition gap.

The MILQ Project in a Nutshell

To study the human milk quality of women in developing countries, Allen collected samples from well-nourished lactating mothers in Bangladesh, Brazil, Denmark and The Gambia. With these reference values, she gained a better understanding of the quality of breast milk concerning maternal nutrient intake and infant status. Allen used a consistent frame of reference for extracting research (from the time of delivery until nearly 9 months postpartum) to increase the accuracy of results. She found that there is considerable variance in micronutrient value in breast milk, an issue that remains a misconception among common social ideology.

More specifically, the concentration of thiamin in breast milk and infant status was found to be closely linked to maternal intake. Maternal deficiencies are likely the cause of correlating infant deficiencies, but with supplementation, thiamin levels and infant status were able to adjust accordingly. Research shows that vitamin B6 concentration in infants is also strongly linked to breast milk amounts and maternal status. Additionally, supplementation also improves human milk concentration in a short amount of time.

Sociocultural Norms Leave Women’s Issues Unattended

In addition to the limited evidence base for human milk and infant nutrition, there is also an extreme lack of resources when it comes to nutritional recommendations for lactating mothers. The only mentioning of nutritional lactation support given by the World Health Organization (WHO) was in 2016. The WHO asserts that postpartum women may be prescribed supplementation of iron and potentially folic acid to reduce the risk of anemia for areas in which it is considered a public health concern.

Regarding iron deficiency statistics, the WHO states that “data indicates that while iodine status has improved among pregnant and lactating women in Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions, there has been little progress in the African region.” Researchers are learning that lactation nutrition goes beyond iron and folic acid. Studies like the MILQ Project are progressive steps towards bridging the gap in human milk and infant nutrition.

Breast Milk Goes Beyond Nutrition

The biochemical correspondence that takes place between a mother and her infant is a complicated interaction. The recent developments have made it possible to explore the molecular chemical structure of breast milk and infant nutrition. Various other health and therapeutic benefits that extend beyond its nutritive assets can now be validated through research. Infants that receive breast milk of optimal nutritional quality gain access to profound benefits. Areas where infants face micronutrient deficiencies may encounter more of a struggle. This creates a gap between the nursing mother and her infant in terms of the health benefits, as well as their biochemical interaction. Nursing, along with skin to skin contact, allows both mother and baby to produce oxytocin, a hormone that triggers other positive chemical reactions in the brain and is essential in forming bonds.

Recent improvements in methodology have allowed for the study of the chemical nature of breast milk. However, it is still not surprising that few studies have been carried out on this subject. These scientific advancements can aid in developing strategies surrounding nutrition, healthy feeding practices and therapeutic methodologies for infants. These societal advancements will further assist in bridging the gap in human milk and infant nutrition.

In Allen’s MILQ Study, vitamin concentrations in breast milk in developing areas were considered insufficient to obtain adequate infant status. Nutrient deficient mothers are not able to provide all of the necessary nutrients and micronutrients to their infants. The review shows that vitamin concentration levels are often less than half of optimal levels in comparison to the U.S. When it comes to human milk and infant nutrition, there is a global and gendered gap limiting the world’s understanding of the inequalities of human milk.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr
 

 

Global Infancia

Global Infancia is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that specializes in protecting children from abuse in Paraguay. It was founded in 1995, “Global Infancia works towards creating a culture which respects the rights of children and adolescents in Paraguay.”

It has attempted to promote the human rights of children in a myriad of ways, ranging from creating a branch of the government tasked with protecting children to founding a news agency focusing on children’s rights. Global Infancia represents the blueprint for a successful NGO because of its ability to form partnerships with governments, influence local communities, and follow through with its goals.

Partnerships with Governments

Studies have estimated that roughly 60 percent of children in Paraguay have been victims of violence. Faced with this fact, Global Infancia worked with the National Secretariat for Childhood and Adolescence along with the Paraguayan Government to pass a law stating “all children and adolescents have the right to be treated properly and with respect for their physical, psychological and emotional well-being. This includes protections for their image, identity, autonomy, ideas, emotions, dignity and individual values”.

Additionally, Global Infancia spearheaded the forming of Municipal Councils for the Rights of Children and Adolescence who have become instrumental in protecting children’s rights throughout Paraguay. Global Infancia’s work is proof of how a successful NGO can form fruitful partnerships with local governments.

Integration into the Local Community

Since the end of authoritarian rule in Paraguay, it has been working to integrate itself into local communities and promote the recognition of children’s rights. In the town of Remansito, Global Infancia is providing supplementary nutrition and school support to over 1,000 children. Approximately 22 percent of Paraguayans live below the poverty line. The child labor force of participation with a rate of 25 percent, shows that the conditions for many children in Paraguay are not ideal.

However, Global Infancia recognized these problems and has created national media campaigns to raise awareness for children’s rights and used training forums around the country to educate the public that violence against children will no longer be tolerated. Finally, Global Infancia has harnessed the power of local communities by “installing an alert system which reduces the demand for childhood labor”. These actions illustrate how a successful NGO employs the power of the communities they are working in.

Accomplishing Goals

At its inception, it was primarily focused on fighting the trafficking of babies and children. Today it has evolved into a children’s rights organization with a bevy of goals. Whether it be their success at establishing legal rights for children in Paraguay or the founding of CODENIS bodies which protect children throughout the country today, Global Infancia has had a considerable impact on Paraguayan society. In a 2017 report by the United States Department of Labor, experts found significant advancement in Paraguay’s fight to end child labor.

However, the current situation still puts many children in danger, requiring more resources to fully end child labor. With the help of Global Infancia and the multitude of other successful NGO’s, there are no doubts that Paraguay will continue to see improvements to children’s rights.

Overall, Global Infancia is a perfect example of how a successful NGO operates. From its crucial government and community partnerships to their impressive track record of accomplishing its goals.

Myles McBride Roach

Photo: Flickr

Significance of Street Food CultureThailand has refreshing somtam, Mumbai, India has bhel puri and South Africa has a snack of bunny chow. What do these diverse dishes all have in common? They are some of the most notable street foods in their respective countries and vital to the daily lives of citizens, demonstrating the significance of street food culture.

Resourceful but innovative, street foods have a long history in many countries around the world. The foods are reflective of local and traditional cultures. Around 2.5 billion people eat street food around the world. It is one of the few things yet to be significantly touched by capitalist influence.

Perceived Risks

Not everyone thinks so positively about street food and its vendors. Some government officials around the world are concerned about food safety, sanitation problems, traffic congestion and taking up physical space. The greatest fear is of diseases caused by food lowering tourism rates.

Though these risks should not be disregarded, there is much more to street food culture that should be recognized by the greater public. In 2006, the International Labour Office did a thorough report of street food vendors in Bangkok, Thailand by interviewing numerous case studies from mobile to fixed vendors. Specifically, with fixed vendors, the report says: “More than 80 percent of vendors reported that their earnings were adequate,” and “88 percent reported to be satisfied with their occupation.”

The significance of street food culture in preserving global communities is evident in the following areas of cultural empowerment, employment opportunities and accessibility.

Cultural Empowerment

A large part of the significance of street food culture is its ability to create a familial network within specific global communities and enhance levels of inclusivity. The liveliness of street food makes streets vibrant and daily routines colorful. It catches the attention of those from every social class which breaks down barriers.

Additionally, the street food industry protects traditional recipes that run through ancestry lines. Food stalls are often owned and handled by a family. This makes the business an opportunity for multiple generations in the present and the future. Current generations are able to learn about where they have come from and where their country is going, culturally and socially.

Employment and Business Opportunities

Since street food stalls are micro-businesses, it is possible for newcomers to create their own stalls with only a small amount of money. They also have the potential to earn back gains in the long run. Cooking or selling food is commonly the first job for many migrants and women, providing real-life opportunities. Vendors also aid the businesses of small farms and markets by buying ingredients from them. The street food industry has offered new positions for employment. Therefore, it has prevented vulnerable social groups from slipping further into poverty.

A city authority report in Tanzania found that the street vending industry employed more than one million people in 2014. Also, in Hanoi, Vietnam, street vending makes up a six percent share of total employment and an 11 percent share of informal total employment, making the vending sector a significant employer.

Street food is considered part of the informal sector of the economy. However, the industry has developed its own self-sufficient economy without outside assistance. The underestimated sales of street food are contributing to the economy of developing countries. This is another aspect of the significance of street food culture.

Food Accessibility

The significance of street food culture also includes improved access to food across countries, including their poor communities. In the 1990s, the United Nations recognized street food as an overlooked method of distributing food to communities. Street food provides sustenance and nutrition to major groups of the population and helps to keep food security stable.

Since the cooks have low operation and maintenance costs, street foods are low in cost. People with very little to no income depend on street foods every day to support themselves and their families.

Nonprofits like InnoAid are supporting the street vending sector. The organization co-created an educational toolkit for street vendors in India that promotes alignment with the National Act of Urban Street Vendors. It includes training materials on hygiene, collaboration and workspace improvements. Adhering to these aspects of the project will add to its sustainability and benefits for vendors. The project has already helped more than 600 vendors through these entrepreneurial activities and is in the process of implementing a large-scale development project.

With support and increased research on the significance of street food culture, assumptions and overall suspicion of the industry can be reduced. Improving the reputation of street foods could help to preserve culturally significant recipes, provide employment opportunities and supply low-cost food options.

-Melina Benjamin

Photo: Flickr

Africa_agriculture_health

In Africa, sweet potatoes are proving to be invaluable in the fight against malnutrition. According to a publication by HarvestPlus, the Vitamin A rich Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) was introduced in 2007 to 24,000 farming families in Mozambique and Uganda. The program was presented by HarvestPlus and its partners, specifically targeting women and children who suffer most from vitamin A deficiency.

African farmers are no strangers to sweet potatoes, but they have always grown the paler varieties: yellow and white, which lack beta carotene and other nutrients, while the OFSP does not. The OFSP is a crop that has gone under biofortification.

According to a HarvestPlus research brief, “Biofortification is the process of breeding staple food crops that have a higher micronutrient content.” This process can be carried out conventionally or through genetic engineering. “All crops being released by HarvestPlus and collaborators are conventionally bred.” The seeds and vines of the OFSP can be shared.

Since the sweet potato was already a staple in the diet of Africans, introducing the OFSP was a deliberate strategy to cater to the existing market. In Mozambique and Uganda, the effort succeeded in raising Vitamin A levels by an appreciable margin in women and children.

The sweet potato requires less work than the other staple crops of cassava, wheat and rice, according to the International Potato Center (CIP). It tolerates poor growing conditions better than the other crops and produces better yields with more edible energy per hectare. The sweet potato has previously been grown in small plots but the CIP sees this changing as the OFSP grows in popularity and importance.

USAID, with the support of Feed the Future has introduced the OFSP into Ghana. They hope to eventually reach 300,000 households with women of reproductive age and children under the age of five.

Feed the Future works directly with the government of Ghana to target the poorest households to give them access to the Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato. Feed the Future wrote a Multi-Year Strategy for Ghana (2011-15) to outline its goals, including improved nutrition, especially of women and children, and improved agricultural production in Northern Ghana, especially for small farm holders.

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr

Global Communities Poverty in Ghana
A non-profit organization called Global Communities works to end poverty in Ghana with a 5-point plan in conjunction with USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy.

The non-profit organization works in more than 20 countries around the world, with Ghana being a focus of the recent programs. Global Communities, created about 60 years ago, works with the private sector, governments and local communities to provide the “means and ability to live and prosper with dignity,” something it ensures under its organization’s vision.

The Maryland-based organization paired with USAID in support of the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy to be implemented over the years 2014-2025. The program’s goal seeks to reduce chronic malnutrition by 20 percent over those 11 years. Global Communities has put forth these five goals in hopes of accelerating the fight against malnutrition in Ghana.

1. Provide more opportunities for economic growth through microfinance

Individuals who do not have access to the capital provided by large financial services corporations can gain access to funds through various microfunding institutions. These smaller companies allow a more intimate relationship between the lender and the borrower. Global Communities works through Boafo Microfinance Services in order to provide low-income Ghanaians with the money for new businesses, education and homes.

2. Build a more “resilient” Ghana by improving the nutrition in local diets

In order to reach this goal, Global Communities has partnered with the USAID/Ghana Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) program to “reduce poverty and improve the nutritional status of vulnerable populations.” The introduction of the sweet potato in local Ghanaian farms was a successful implementation of the partnership. Both USAID and Global Communities hope to educate communities on the importance of good nutrition instead of just providing temporary relief.

3. Create pathways for urban youth to become financially independent

Global Communities has joined the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative For Employment in opening up the construction sector to Ghana’s youth. In five of the biggest cities in Ghana, the initiative hopes to “reach more than 23,000 youth” by teaching them the skills for employment. Because Africa’s youth makes up a majority of the population, targeting this demographic is the most effective way to reducing poverty in Ghana.

4. Improve access to clean water and sanitation

Working with both the public and private sector, Global Communities is working to enhance the current water and sanitation infrastructure. With focus on “slum communities” in three cities, the non-profit seeks to optimize every individual’s condition while constructing water and sanitation services that can be sustainable. These efforts are paired with USAID’s Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene for the Urban Poor (WASH-UP) and USAID’s WASH for Health (W4H). An important part of the relief is affecting a change in behavior which can help create a poverty-free society that operates without relief.

5. Upgrade local neighborhoods and reinforce political and social institutions

After the basic needs of food, water and shelter are met, a society can begin to upgrade its political, economic and social conditions. Global Communities, with the Bill & Melinda Gates SCALE-UP program, echoes this idea as it reinforces educational and financial institutions for residents in the low-income communities of Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi. The expansion of government services, such as female inclusivity and public transportation, in those regions is being implemented through the Our City, Our Say project.

Global Communities is just part of a larger non-profit coalition fighting against global poverty in Ghana. The process includes numerous programs with funding from various foreign governments, each generating results through their focus on different parts of the Ghanaian society. Readers can follow the various programs and outcomes on the Global Communities website.

Jacob Hess

Sources: Global Communities 1, Global Communities 2, USAID 1, USAID 2
Photo: Borgen Project

Sweet-Potato‘Alafie Wuljo’ – otherwise known as healthy potato – has recently become one of Ghana’s most famous crops. This sweet potato variety was introduced in a USAID project in order to counter vitamin A deficiency, a condition that weakens the immune system and can lead to blindness. The project’s main goal is to improve the livelihood and nutritional status of Ghana’s most vulnerable populations.

Sweet potatoes are primarily beneficial to children, whose vitamin A requirements can be met simply by eating the healthy potato. Notably, the 2008 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey states that “28 percent of Ghanaian children under the age 5 are stunted, 7.5 percent are wasted, and 13.9 percent are underweight.” Therefore, the emerging sweet potato is necessary to improve the health of starving and malnourished children.

The International Potato Center (CIP) plans to reach 15 million households in the next 10 years by responding to the demand for the orange-fleshed sweet potato. The CIP director states, “We can soon claim to have reached a milestone in our history by reaching one million households in Africa with sweet potato – preventing blindness and stunting in children along the way.”

The little orange potato has assisted Ghana’s vulnerable communities while also bringing camaraderie to villages. At one of the communities’ harvest celebrations, young children were taught how to cook the potatoes and now everyone wants to grow these crops.

The expansion of crops in Ghana, however, is not the only focus of USAID’s project to diminish malnutrition in Ghana. Aside from agricultural initiatives, efforts to improve the lives of villagers include areas such as clean water, sanitation and hygiene. All of these factors are interrelated and can work together to improve standards of living.

Through the use of new crops in Ghana, USAID aims to decrease chronic malnutrition, measured by stunting, by 20 percent through the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Initiative and Global Health Initiative, the Office of Food for Peace development programs, resilience efforts and other nutrition investments.

Megan Hadley

Sources: USAID 1, USAID 2, JSI, The World’s Healthiest Foods, My Joy Online
Photo: Google Images

Ghana Vitamin A Deficiency
As a leader in fighting extreme global poverty, government agency USAID is currently revolutionizing health and nutrition for northern Ghanaians. In order to counter the vitamin A deficiency from which many people in Ghana suffer, USAID introduced the sweet potato to the country. Since its introduction, the sweet potato has become one of the region’s most popular vegetables, USAID reports.

The implementation of the sweet potato is part of USAID’s 2014-2025 Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy. The project is aligned with the 2025 World Health Assembly Nutrition Targets and focuses on decreasing chronic malnutrition and improving other nutrition investments. According to USAID, over one-third of children under the age of five, in five northern districts, suffer from stunted growth resulting from poor nutrition, so the strategy is crucial for bettering the future generations.

USAID team members visited Ghana last year and taught 439 women in 17 districts how to grow the sweet potato. The crop instantly became admired, with villagers calling it “Alafie Wuljo,” or “healthy potato” in the Dagbani language. Ghanaians have also been taught different ways to cook the potato, such as schoolchildren enjoying sweet potato fries.

“Now everyone wants to grow orange-fleshed sweet potatoes,” said the head of the project, Phillipe LeMay, in a USAID article.

The Nutrition Strategy goes beyond just the sweet potato. The project also focuses on educating farmers about other nutritious crops, linking farmers to markets, helping community members create savings and loans, promoting better hygiene and improving water and sanitation infrastructure.

USAID and the government of Ghana aim to change the lives of roughly 300,000 people with this project. Northern Ghana is an area of particular focus because it is relatively remote with a harsh climate and limited resources. This work will also be assisting with the goals of the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. Feed the Future aims to decrease child stunting by 20 percent and double incomes of vulnerable households. With USAID tactics, this is becoming a reality.

The project has received positive responses thus far. The Ghanaian government has taken the initiative to promote a solution to vitamin A deficiency and nutrition in general, according to USAID, which has beneficial long-term effects. The organized training provided by USAID has also educated many people on how to practice proper sanitation and good nutrition.

“I now understand the links between poor sanitation, diarrheal diseases and nutrition,” said West Gonja District member Ama Nuzaara, in a USAID article. “I also make sure that my children wash their hands with soap and water after they use the toilet. I do this for my family’s health and well-being.”

Kerri Whelan

Sources: USAID 1, JSI, USAID 2, Feed the Future
Photo: Feed the Future