How Many People are StarvingMost people have an idea of what global starvation is. Nonprofit marketing campaigns aim to tug at the heartstrings of the developed world. And, as a whole, they have done their job. People know about the existence of world hunger. But what about the details? How many people are starving?

This is where knowledge of global hunger ends for many. Despite seeing it in advertisements, global hunger seems like a distant idea to most. Few people know that undernourishment impacts 795 million people globally. Even though this number has decreased by 167 million over the last ten years, that number is still large.

For certain areas, the problem is worse than others. One out of every five people in the developing world struggles with undernourishment. Looking forward, there is reason to believe that the situation will not become easier to solve. To meet forecasted demand, food production in developing countries must double by 2050.

The need for action is clear. Several countries have undertaken efforts to diminish how many people are starving globally. Yet, given the size of the problem, the solution has proved to be complex.

The U.N.’s 1996 World Food Summit met to develop methods to cut world hunger in half by 2015. The summit included almost 200 countries committed to helping global food security.

Unfortunately, the meeting was not able to cut hunger in half by 2015. The majority of the failure was due to a lack of concrete plans for implementation. Despite falling short of its goal to cut hunger, the summit engaged world leaders on food issues. It offered a forum to brainstorm solutions to global questions about food disparity.

Turning questions about how many people are starving into action to help is key. Indeed, there is a fair amount of momentum pushing forward the solution to food disparity. Total calories per person have risen since the 1960s. Yet, despite rising calories per person, certain issues with food security remain.

What is the solution? To increase global food access, many believe the answer lies in technology. A few of these methods include:

  • A “seawater greenhouse” that is able to use nearby saltwater to grow crops in the desert
  • Precision agriculture that utilizes GPS for fertilization and watering
  • Robot farmworkers to maximize efficiency and profit

Yet, despite being marvels of technology, these solutions are costly. An easier way to lessen food inequality is through the proper education of farmers. In developing nations, teaching avoidance of slash-and-burn agriculture can make a noticeable difference. This farming practice is common in areas where growing is difficult or education is lacking.

Farmers in certain regions cut down and burn the land before planting a crop. In doing this, the ash acts as a fertilizer, producing crops without investment. But despite producing short-term yields for regions, the practice is destructive over time. Lack of biodiversity, increased carbon emissions and massive deforestation can result from slash-and-burn. To combat this, programs to educate farmers on sustainable farming practices are essential.

Solutions to this destructive method exist. The Inga Alley Cropping method of farming is one such example. In this method, farmers plant Inga trees to balance the soil’s nutritional content. The result is a sustainable way to grow in places where slash-and-burn is the norm.

Education is a key part of solving food disparities. And with the numbers showing a decline in undernourishment, there is hope on the horizon. Education programs continue to lessen food insecurity in the developing world. Working with technology, there is great potential for increasing global food access.

These factors, combined with continued government efforts, could be the answer. Working together, a world with dinner on every table might be obtainable. Asking questions is the first step.

– Robert Schacht

Photo: Flickr

Preservation of Ocean Water: An Unusual Way to Mitigate Poverty
Oceans all over the world represent an almost infinite reservoir of water — they have limitless potential in terms of offering a source of food and income through fishing, aquaculture, shipping and export.

Despite the incredible range of functions that oceans serve, they are constantly being threatened on a daily basis. This occurs through processes such as eutrophication which occur as a result of excessive fertilizer use.

In eutrophication, an algal bloom on water surfaces prevents adequate oxygen reaching marine life, consequently resulting in the death of aquatic organisms. Ocean water is also being contaminated on a daily basis by pollutants released into the water by sewage plants, factories and farms.

In developing countries, oceans can offer a source of employment not only for fishermen but also for professional boatmen and retailers who rely on sales of aquatic produce. It is estimated that approximately 3 billion people globally depend on oceans for their nutritional needs, including vital protein and minerals.

Marasmus and Kwashiorkor are two important protein deficiency conditions that prevail in developing countries. Inadequate protein intake in these conditions may be boosted by the protein sources harvested from oceans. Globally, 740 million people suffer from iodine deficiency, resulting in clinical implications such as goiter and brain damage. Iodine deficiencies may be corrected by iodine-fortified salt, which can be obtained by chemical crystallization and purification of ocean water.

Coastal regions have the added benefit of income acquired through tourism. It is also estimated that 90 percent of fishers come from developing countries alone, and hence oceans represent vast hubs of employment that require urgent conservation.

Preservation of ocean water may help in the reduction of hunger, especially in developing countries, which are greatly contingent upon this natural resource. Humanitarian organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, are increasing their collaboration with other countries to support strategies that ensure a sustainable supply of seafood, conservation of aquatic ecosystems and preservation of highly targeted areas such as coral reefs.

Oceans also have therapeutic value, as many medicines that can be used to treat a disease can be acquired from ocean water. These medicines include antibiotics, that can be used to supplement cure of bacterial infection in developing countries. Oceans also contain substances that can act as anti-inflammatory therapies to treat inflammatory pathologies such as asthma.

In recognition of the integral importance of oceans to stability and balance in the ecosystem, ocean conservation is currently one of the Sustainable Development Goals pursued by the United Nations. As ocean water constitutes approximately 97 percent of all water present on Earth, it is our responsibility to pay heed to judicious preservation of ocean water.

Tanvi Ambulkar

Photo: Flickr

Education in Ghana
The education system in Ghana is divided into three parts: basic, secondary and tertiary education. There are 18,530 primary schools, 8,850 junior secondary schools, 900 senior secondary schools, 28 training colleges, 20 technical institutions, four diploma-awarding institutions, six public universities and over 10 private universities.

Most children in Ghana have easy access to primary and secondary education. However, the costs associated with receiving an education, such as school fees, uniforms, school supplies and equipment, continues to make education a problem that the government must deal with. Additionally, the pressure for children to work in order to support their families disrupts their ability to complete education.

Over the years, the literacy rate has risen and the number of children out of school has dropped, thanks to efforts Ghana’s government has made to permanently benefit the education program.

One program that has been implemented is The Ghana School Feeding Program. The objectives of this program are to reduce hunger and malnutrition, increase school enrollment, attendance and retention, and improve domestic food production in deprived communities of the country. The goal is to provide children attending public primary schools with a free meal, prepared by locally grown farmers.

By providing school children with a free meal, the program provides children and their parents with an incentive to both attend and stay in school. Additionally, this program helps the domestic Ghanaian government by supporting local businesses and farms.

Additionally, USAID has an education development program in Ghana that seeks to, “Improve reading performance in Primary School.” According to USAID, the three outlined objectives in the Education Development Objective are: enhanced reading and math instruction, strengthened basic education management and increased government accountability and transparency.

USAID also supports efforts to increase the involvement of parents and community members in advocating for a higher quality of education.

This program makes a huge impact on Ghana’s education because it works to improve the root of the problem. Through targeting schools and government as the platform for change, the program is making adjustments that will make a significant and permanent impact to the education program, not just alleviate the symptoms of a poor education program.

Overall, the programs that have been implemented in order to better the education in Ghana have reflected important changes and the country is moving in a positive direction. These programs and their advancement for education in Ghana can serve as examples for other countries where educational programs need improvement.

Julia Arredondo

Photo: Flickr

Food Waste in Italy
Each year, about one-third of the food produced worldwide, 1.3 billion tons, is lost or wasted — enough to feed the one billion people who are malnourished and two billion more. Including food waste in Italy and France, the food wasted in Europe alone could provide for 200 million people.

“The problem is simple — we have food going to waste and poor people who are going hungry,” French politician Arash Derambarsh said to the Independent.

France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from disposing of unsold foods and require them to instead donate the products to charities and food banks. The Italian Parliament has become the second to introduce food waste reform.

In contrast to its French counterparts, however, Italy’s bill rewards supermarkets for helping reduce food waste instead of punishing them for not doing their part.

Current law requires stores to declare each donation five days in advance, preventing supermarkets from giving away excess. Once the new bill becomes law, markets will only need to submit a document detailing what was given at the end of the month. The donations will go to public authorities and non-profit organizations.

The new legislation also allows markets to donate mislabeled food products if the expiration date and allergy information are properly indicated. A food education program for schools, a national awareness campaign and a take-out system for restaurants will follow within the next three years.

According to La Reppublica, 43 percent of food waste in Italy happens at the consumer’s home. Each person wastes an average of 76 kilograms per year, costing the country $18 million. Maruzio Martina, the Italian agriculture minister, said he hopes to increase Italy’s food recovery from 550 million tons to 1 billion.

Many hope the bill will not only reduce food waste in Italy but also benefit the 6 million Italians living in poverty who rely on donations to survive.

The waste-bill, brainchild of Italian member of parliament Maria Chiara Gadda, has received bipartisan support, and was passed in the Senate on August 2.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr