Solving Hunger in South Korea, From Its Own Borders to the International CommunitySouth Korea remains one of the most technologically and economically developed countries. Standing as the number one most educated country and the 14th largest economy, South Korea has a small rate of undernourishment and relatively low levels of poverty. The poverty rate in South Korea is 13% for the working-age population and 44% for the elderly, ages 66 and older. Additionally, the rate of hunger in South Korea is relatively low. As of 2019, South Korea ranks 29 on the Global Food Security Index and only 2.5% of South Korea is undernourished. Stunting in South Korea, which refers to a child who is too short for their age as a result of chronic malnutrition, is 3%. These low rates of undernourishment and stunting are due to the high presence and quality of South Korea’s Food Safety Net Programs.

Innovate Ways to Battling Hunger

South Korea has implemented excellent programs and initiatives for poverty and hunger-reduction. The South Korean government worked to alleviate hunger among the elderly by offering a retirement program where elderly individuals receive about $200 a month. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in South Korea also established a food safety management system to provide safer and healthier food. Foods that are made domestically go through a three-step process of manufacturing, distribution and consumption.

During the manufacturing stage, the business operator must submit a food and item report. Inspections are then conducted to ensure the safety of the products. In the distribution stage, food products are collected and inspected further to strengthen the safety of food distribution. The food is also traced through a system so that all distribution routes are tracked. Lastly, the program ensures that in the consumption stage, all false or over-exaggerated advertisements are monitored thoroughly and food standards are met. This three-step program is essential to ensure the food safety and nutritional needs are met.

Addressing Food Waste and Building Rice Self-Sufficiency

Today, the world produces enough food to sustain every single individual, but almost a third of all food produced every year never reaches consumption due to excessive food waste. To tackle this problem and maximize the efficiency of food distribution, South Korea has implemented food waste programs that recycle more than 95% of its food waste. Leftover food in major cities like Seoul is collected from residences, hotels and restaurants and deposited in sorting facilities. The food is then crushed and dried and used as fertilizer, animal feed and even used for generating electricity. This program has reduced food waste in districts by 30% and in restaurants by 40%.

One of the biggest contributions to hunger reduction in South Korea is the system of rice self-sufficiency, where rice consumption became a matter of “national duty.” In the late 1970s, South Korea grew self-sufficient in rice for the first time. Local consumers were prompted to buy local Korean produce through food campaigns that insisted on the consumption of rice as an important national responsibility. As a result of local rice production and consumption, the average rural income grew higher than the average urban income and South Korea became self-sufficient in its most essential food commodity: rice. This rice self-sufficiency contributed tremendously to food security in South Korea.

Helping Others

South Korea has come a long way since the Japanese colonization of Korea and the Korean War. The country has found innovative ways to strengthen its economy, reduce its poverty and establish food security and food safety net programs. These innovative programs and the resulting low rates of hunger have inspired the international community to take note of South Korea’s achievements and follow its lead. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), for instance, has joined forces with South Korea to encourage and strengthen its Zero-Hunger efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. South Korea has been working with FAO to help drought-stricken farmers in Afghanistan as well as provide training in rice production for farming communities in West Africa. In June of 2019, South Korea also responded to the severe food shortages afflicting 40% of North Korea by distributing $8 million in food aid to North Korea.

Today, the vast influence that South Korea has on the international community is clear. Not only did they create new critical ways to solve important issues such as poverty, hunger and food waste in their own country, but they also shared these strategies with other countries. South Korea continues to provide aid and assistance to countries like Afghanistan and communities in West Africa while ensuring that hunger in South Korea is managed.

—Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

Rice Self-Sufficiency

Côte d’Ivoire is a West African nation of 23.7 million people. It is the largest producer of cocoa in the world and has a significant agriculture industry. However, Côte d’Ivoire has struggled to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of rice, a staple crop for many Ivorian people. Côte d’Ivoire imports about half of its rice supply from other nations. This can lead to positive trade relationships, but relying on imports for staple crops can also create problems, as the government discovered in April 2019.

The Côte d’Ivoire Rice Ban

In April 2019, the government of Côte d’Ivoire banned rice imports from the Singapore-based company, Olam International, for a year after it found that an 18,000-tonne rice shipment from Myanmar was inedible. “The unique circumstances relating to the recent rejection of cargo rice were unfortunate and not representative of the shipments of rice,” a company spokesperson told Bloomberg.

“[W]e should exploit our natural potential,” said Agriculture Minister Mamadou Coulibaly, citing Côte d’Ivoire’s substantial agricultural resources and the fact that Ivorians consume an average of 63 kilograms (about 139 pounds) of rice per person per year. By comparison, Americans consume an average of 197 pounds of grains per person per year.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Economy and the CFA Franc

Côte d’Ivoire won its independence from French colonial rule in 1960. It has since become Africa’s fastest-growing economy, but times of prosperity and growth have been punctuated by authoritarianism and political violence.

Like many nations emerging from colonial rule, Côte d’Ivoire has also struggled with the legacy of colonialism, of which difficulties with rice self-sufficiency are one aspect. A 2017 report from an international coalition of NGOs found that business profits, debt payments and other financial flows to the rest of the world still outweigh the investment in and aid to African nations to the tune of $41 billion per year.

One difficulty that Côte d’Ivoire faces in achieving economic independence is the CFA franc. The CFA franc is an outgrowth of French colonial rule in Côte d’Ivoire and other African nations and is a common currency that 14 African nations use. Technically, the CFA franc refers to both the West African and Central African CFA franc, but these two currencies are, in practice, interchangeable. The system requires that member countries hold 50 percent of their foreign exchange reserves in the French treasury. People have long criticized this as a threat to member nations’ sovereignty, impeding development. “[F]or those hoping to export competitive products, obtain affordable credit, find work, work for the integration of continental trade, or fight for an Africa free from colonial relics,” writes development economist and former technical advisor to the President of Senegal Ndongo Samba Sylla, “the CFA franc is an anachronism demanding orderly and methodical elimination.”

One consequence of this system is that the French government can choose to devalue the currency without the consent of member nations, as it did in 1994. This led to widespread discontent, as it increased prices for many everyday goods. A 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that devaluation “did not stimulate local production, or decrease rice imports.” Indeed, concurrent policies required by the World Bank actively “recommended abandoning the goal of self-sufficiency.”

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) plans to replace the CFA franc with new shared currency next year. Demba Moussa Dembele, an economist, and president of the African Forum for Alternatives writes that, in order for the new currency to be successful, “[t]he consumption habits of citizens and states should focus on…goods and services produced locally. This is especially important for agricultural products in order to develop agriculture that can be both a great source of employment and increase demand for the industrial and service sectors.”

Other Initiatives to Increase Rice Self-Sufficiency

In addition to ECOWAS adopting a sovereign currency, there are many initiatives working to increase rice self-sufficiency for many African nations, including Côte d’Ivoire. For example, Mali, which borders Côte d’Ivoire, has seen great success from a subsidy program it adopted after the 2008 financial crisis increased the price of rice. This program subsidized both the purchase of fertilizer by rice farmers and the purchase of rice products by consumers. Today, Mali has not only achieved rice self-sufficiency but is actually a net exporter of rice, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The System for Rice Intensification is a method for increasing the amount of rice that farmers can grow in the same amount of space while maintaining eco-friendliness. A 2018 study of the method by the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development found that the method increased rice yields by 56 percent for irrigated rice and 86 percent for rain-fed rice. The researchers studied rice yields from more than 50,000 farmers in 13 different countries, including Côte d’Ivoire. ECOWAS has adopted a goal of achieving rice self-sufficiency by 2025, and the study projects that if all rice farmers in ECOWAS member countries adopted the method, not only could they achieve rice self-sufficiency, but there would be a five percent surplus in the rice supply.

So, while achieving rice self-sufficiency remains a formidable challenge for the people of Côte d’Ivoire, there are many reasons to be optimistic, including a new currency, the example of a neighboring nation’s stimulus programs and more efficient farming techniques.

– Sean Ericson
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in South Korea South Korea is largely considered among the most advanced and financially secure countries in the world.

It was ranked among the most innovative countries in 2015 and is known for dramatically transforming itself within the span of a generation.

Once known as a nation recovering from war with a fragile, precariously positioned economy, South Korea now enjoys widespread prosperity.

Although not all South Koreans enjoy equally in the country’s development, there are measures in place to work towards minimizing hunger, and South Korea is notable for its efforts in this area. In the text below, top 10 facts regarding hunger in South Korea are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in South Korea

  1. South Korea ranks 25th on the Global Food Security Index. This suggests it is among the most secure countries in the world when it comes to securing food for its population, and the majority of people in the country are not in danger of starvation.
  2. South Korea has among the lowest levels of stunting and other starvation based disorders in the world. Percentage of the prevalence of moderate and severe stunting is at 3 percent.
  3. The elderly, migrant workers and refugees are the demographic groups that are most likely to suffer from hunger in South Korea. These groups are most likely to be targeted by employment discrimination. In the case of the elderly, starvation may occur because of lack of familial or community support after retirement. These populations are an anomaly in an otherwise wealthy nation.
  4. According to a Yale study, South Korea has taken steps to reduce food waste by roughly 300 tonnes per day. Trial districts in Seoul have succeeded in reducing food waste by 30 percent in households and by 40 percent in restaurants. This has been beneficial in reducing hunger and in maximizing efficient use of resources.
  5. One major step towards food security in South Korea was achieving rice self-sufficiency. South Korea cultivated rice as a domestic product that would feed its people while also being a successful export to bolster its economy. It reached rice self-sufficiency in the 1970s.
  6. Although South Korea applied protectionist policies to its domestic rice and livestock industries, it also allowed international trade for products it did not cultivate at high rates, such as flour-based goods. This system of domestic development with openings for foreign imports allowed South Korea to grow as an economy while also sufficiently and effectively feeding the country’s population.
  7. South Korea has committed to contribute $20 million to the World Food Programme in an effort to end world hunger. This will allow funding for various food security programs around the world over a five year period.
  8. South Korea is investing in vertical farming to further promote food security. This process involves creating farms that will be two or three stories high, with the possibility of aiming higher as agricultural techniques advance. This investment allows for efficient food production at faster rates.
  9. South Korea has gone from one of the largest recipients of food security aid to one of the largest contributor to the cause. In many ways, it represents a success story of a country that formerly received aid. The aid funneled towards South Korea not only improved the lives of the country’s citizens but also invigorated its contributions in ensuring food security around the world in the future.
  10. Food banks are also successful and frequently utilized in South Korea. Many of them are community-based initiatives that are undertaken to combat hunger among underprivileged South Koreans.

Despite a few challenges, South Korea has fairly high food security and continues to embark on new projects to feed its population. Food security is among its primary concerns, and both government and community-based initiatives exist to prevent possible problems regarding this issue.

South Korea can serve as a model for struggling nations aiming to achieve food security, and also as a model for wealthy nations in terms of providing food security aid.

– Isha Madan
Photo: Flickr