Heifer International follows the “teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime” philosophy.

The charity organization teaches families living in hunger and poverty how to practice sustainable agriculture and trade. Heifer International provides livestock and other agricultural resources that support financial independence. It also works with public and private partners to ingrain the entrepreneurial drive into the hearts of many developing nations.

Founded in 1944 by Dan West, Heifer is an exemplar in the fight against global poverty.

So far, Heifer has joined forces in more than 125 countries, helping more than 22.6 million families break the cycle of poverty.

In investing in local economies, Heifer has had incredible success.

In 2013, Heifer instituted its Global Impact Monitoring System that collects reference data related to its development work. With this system, the impact is more greatly measurable. This “values-based” system monitors all projects at the group-level and global-level. Heifer further reviews its work by evaluating its projects on five key elements: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability.

Heifer projects cover Africa, Asia and the Americas.

The Sahel Program in Africa develops local livestock production in the Sahel region. By providing sheep and goats, the program will impact 516,000 families between 2014 and 2024. The goal is to build resilient and sustainable farming livelihoods.

The Southern Africa Goat Value Chain Program targets food and income security by establishing producers associations, cooperative management and market infrastructures, according to the Heifer site.

The Africa Climate Change Adaption and Mitigation (ACCAM) Program also tackles food security. On the Heifer website, the ACCAM profile lists its goals: creating adaptive climate resilient food systems, increased access to renewable energies, sustainable management of natural resources, increased access to water for agricultural production, sanitation and hygiene, and increased women’s participation in control of resources, leadership and decision-making.

In Asia, Heifer launched similar value chain programs in Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Nepal, the Philippines and Vietnam. They focus on increasing supplies and management of local commodities such as beef, dairy, goat, swine, chicken and other staple foods.

The GANASOL Agricultural and Livestock Program in Central and South America connects local farmers to market resources. The PROMESA Coffee and Cocoa Program revolves around the coffee, cocoa, cardamom and honey value chains. The PROCOSTA Coastal and Mangrove Ecosystems program addresses climate change, income and food security, and the subsequent issues that affect the mangrove and coastal zones.

This work continues in several other programs, all of which foster self-reliant livelihoods in primarily agriculturally dependent regions.

Heifer International believes in achieving zero hunger by supporting small-scale farmers.

Lin Sabones

Sources: Heifer, Vimeo
Photo: The Global Journal

As of June 2014, 2.7 million Ethiopians experienced “Crisis and Emergency” levels of food insecurity according to the World Food Programme. Only a quarter of arable land in Ethiopia is being used for agriculture and the limited technology available to subsistence farmers means many crops rely on rainfall for water. This is an increasingly risky move as droughts the world over get longer and harsher. Yet, a low-tech, self-watering greenhouse designed by the nonprofit Roots Up could help Ethiopian farmers increase their yields.

The Dew Collector greenhouse is designed to collect both rainwater and condensation. As temperatures rise during the day, water evaporates from the plants inside the greenhouse. The farmer can open a flap at the top of the building to allow cool evening air in, which causes the water to condense into dew that is then redirected into a collection tank for re-use. The water collected from the greenhouse’s condensation is so pure that it can be used for drinking and bathing, not just irrigation.

According to Mathilde Richelet, the co-founder of Roots Up, “People have access to very little drinking water all year long… They have a long way to the river, which is practically dry during the dry season, and this water has a very high level of turbidity. So the dew-collector greenhouse has several purposes. First, it will allow farmers to collect the appropriate amount of safe drinking water needed for the body a day. Then, farmers can irrigate their plants.”

Elegant solutions like the Dew Collector greenhouses are going to be vital in the next few years. Ethiopia is facing an ongoing drought and an influx of refugees from neighboring countries gripped by violent conflict. The world at large faces similar problems. The World Food Programme reports that 805 million people are undernourished worldwide, and 2013 saw the world’s population of refugees top 50 million for the first time since World War II. A growing population of displaced people combined with a growing water shortage due to climate change spells trouble for countries in conflict-ridden parts of the world.

Roots Up aims to launch the first of its greenhouses in Northern Ethiopia this year, with support from the University of Gondar. Its long-term goal is to train farmers in northern Ethiopia to use affordable technology to become financially and technologically independent. This training will help wean the community off expensive food aid programs and set them up with a sustainable alternative. Eventually, Roots Up hopes to help farmers in north Gondar establish profitable agricultural enterprises of their own, such as growing fruit trees.

Amazing innovations like the training programs and greenhouse that Roots Up have created are fantastic and will eventually improve the lives of many people. However, these alone will not solve the underlying problems causing these challenges. The international community must continue its efforts to stop climate change and peacefully resolve conflicts if countries like Ethiopia are to continue to grow and thrive. Hopefully the next decade will see progress on all fronts.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: Mic, Roots up, Inhabitat, Fast Company
Photo: Inhabitat

There are approximately 1.02 billion undernourished people in the world today, with hunger and malnutrition as the leading causes of death in the developing world. Yet, despite the overwhelming magnitude of this problem, global hunger can be solved. By addressing the factors behind widespread hunger – poor agricultural systems, poverty, environmental exploitation and economic crises – we can come closer to ending it. Below are just five practical ways to end global hunger.

1. Decrease the production of meat.
The intense rate at which many countries focus on producing meat has taken a serious toll on resources. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s valuable agricultural resources go towards feeding livestock. If the production of meat was reduced, those resources could go toward ending undernourishment instead.
2. Food for Life and the human responsibility. 
Food for Life is an organization committed to putting a stop to world hunger. Based on simple, yet powerful, principles of human spirit, humility and compassion, Food for Life has developed a number of programs that bring both food and education to malnourished countries.
3. Stop land grabbing. 
Wealthy countries without extensive landholdings have started seizing land in underdeveloped countries to use as allotments. This “land grabbing” prevents people living in the region from using that land to grow crops and sustain their communities, further perpetuating hunger and malnutrition in the area.
4. Small-scale farming. 
Family farmers play a vital role in the development of food sustainability. Small farmers are more likely to produce crops rich in nutrients as opposed to conventional agribusiness that grow mostly starchy crops. Organizations such as AGRA, which works towards a green revolution in Africa, focus heavily on small farmers, providing them with education, quality soils and the seeds necessary to build a prosperous farm.
5. Eliminate infant malnutrition. 
Infant malnutrition is rampant in underdeveloped countries that lack the resources and education necessary to nourish healthy children. Educating families and mothers living in these regions on proper feeding techniques and providing them with the right nutrients at every stage of the pregnancy will make a huge difference in alleviating infant malnutrition.
– Chante Owens

Sources: The Guardian, Food for Life, Living Green Magazine
Photo: Greenpeace

With the publication of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in 1906, the unsavory side of the American meat-packing industry was unveiled. More importantly, the book raised awareness for a serious problem in the United States and one that would be observed and ignored in the following decades.

Our farmland is being victimized by erosion and domesticated animals are nurturing the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which are clearly hazardous to animal health. As efforts are being made by aid organizations around the world to alleviate poverty through the implementation of sustainable agriculture, it would be wise to confront the ways in which unsustainable agriculture has negatively impacted the United States, and focus on the ways in which sustainable agriculture could make conditions better in the third world.

The immediate need for cheap, filling food has overshadowed the epidemic of obesity that is collectively costing American citizens  $147 billion a year to maintain. Fortunately, a portion of the population is starting to pay attention to the problem of unhealthy food in the United States. Investigative journalists such as Eric Schlosser, as well as First Lady Michelle Obama, have made a concerted effort to bring awareness to this growing problem.

However well-intentioned these counteracting efforts may be, less than 1% of American agriculture is organic. This contributes to the high price of organic food products, which discourages consumers from purchasing healthier food and perpetuates the problem.

If a large percentage of of agriculture in a poverty-stricken country is organic, then organic food would become more affordable, thus contributing to poverty reduction in that area.

If sustainable agriculture was introduced as the primary method of agriculture in these fledgling nations, food would become more affordable and poverty could be alleviated. It may be too late for America, but developing nations can utilize the wonders of sustainable farming to their advantage.

– Josh Forgét

Source: Eric Schlosser

What Does CRS Do?
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) was founded in 1943 by the Catholic Bishops of the United States to serve WWII survivors in Europe. The organization now serves over 100 million people in over 100 countries. Their mission is to serve impoverished and disadvantaged people, working in the spirit of Catholic social teaching to promote the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human person. Although CRS is a Catholic based organization, they help whomever they can regardless of their race or religion, employing Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

CRS works to ease suffering, provide development assistance, and foster charity and justice. They have a set of guiding principles including: the sacredness and dignity of humans, preservation of basic human rights, supporting the social nature of humanity, promoting the common good, subsidiarity, solidarity, stewardship, and strengthening the options of the poor. CRS is governed by a board of directors including clergy, elected bishops, and Catholic lay men and women.

CRS provides both emergency and long-term relief to countries. They work to provide basic necessities, healthcare and education to the poorest and most vulnerable populations in the world. CRS focuses on six key areas of services including: emergencies, hunger, education, health, peace and helping at home.

CRS assists in regions affected by natural disasters and wars, providing water, food, shelter, as well as attempting to bring about long lasting peace if possible. CRS fights hunger through development of agriculture, improved water and sanitation, sustainable work options and through providing microfinance loans to those in need. They build improved educations systems, especially for women and girls and develop community-based health care systems to improve medical conditions. CRS also fights HIV/AIDS and establishes programs to reduce child and maternal mortality.

CRS proclaims Peacebuilding as the most important thing they do, lying at the heart of their operations. Conflict resolution, education and prevention are incredibly important to CRS. However, CRS also believes that rebuilding civil society and civic organization encourages good governance and makes governments accountable to their populations.

Some good examples of their programs are their programs to improve agriculture in Latin America. They are connecting farmers with suppliers and vendors to agricultural cooperatives to help the poorest farmers thrive. They have introduced more efficient technology to increase profits by the means of bean processing plants and drip irrigation systems. This method has seen beneficial results in Nicaragua and Ecuador where farmers have seen an additional dollar in profit per pound of cocoa. CRS is looking to expand their programs to Haiti in the wake of their natural disaster. CRS is creating an exit strategy for farmers in poverty by helping them improve their products, expand their markets and become self-sustainable.

– Caitlin Zusy 
Source: CRS Blog, CRS

Niger's 3N Initiative to Improve Food Security
The African country of Niger, a landlocked nation in the north-central part of the continent in the Sahel region, has struggled intermittently with food security for the last fifty years. Before the 1960s, Niger was a productive agricultural region that was not only self-sustaining but exported cereal grains. Now, due to a rapidly growing population, recurring droughts and poverty, Niger struggles to grow enough food to feed its people.

The Nigerien government is implementing an ambitious agricultural transformation plan called the 3N Initiative – Nigeriens Feeding Nigeriens. It is estimated to cost $2 billion in the first three years and will address issues and reformations in the agricultural, environmental, industrial, and energy sectors. Initiatives range from providing farmers with technology and seeds to expanding market access and management.

Overcoming obstacles to food and nutrition security in Niger is no small task. Drought is the main impediment to productive agriculture: Niger experiences drought at least once every two years, although droughts have been increasing in the last decade. Only one percent of the country’s land receives more than 23 inches of rain each year, and just 12 percent of the land can sustain agriculture.

In a country where eighty percent of the population depends on agriculture for sustenance and livelihood, addressing agricultural issues is critical. Niger has one of the fastest-growing populations of any country, has doubled from 7 million in 1988 to 15 million in 2010. In addition to population growth and drought, unstable food prices have contributed to food insecurity throughout the Sahel region. The prices of staple cereal grains such as millet are well above the five-year average. For the world’s poor, food accessibility is just as important as agricultural productivity in improving health and quality of life.

Attempts by previous Niger administrations to achieve food security have clearly not been successful in the long run. Current national administrators say that political will, coordination, and centralized leadership set the 3N Initiative apart. The Nigerien government is working to draft legislation that will ensure the existence of the Initiative well into the future.

Both Niger and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) acknowledge the urgency of addressing food security throughout the Sahel region, which suffered a major drought and resulting famine in 2010. Niger’s FAO representative states that addressing food security is necessary for every country in the region. Niger’s 3N Initiative, if successful, can serve as an example for other African countries seeking to achieve food security through agricultural and political transformation.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: FAO
Photo: AusAID

A billion people in the world suffer from hunger or malnutrition. While most of the world’s hungry live in places with high rates of extreme poverty, such as Africa and the Middle East, many also live here in the United States. Some consider a billion hungry people the definition of a global food crisis. Others say that things could get much worse. Either way, hundreds of social, agricultural, and humanitarian organizations are working to alleviate hunger and improve food security in the world’s most vulnerable regions.

Over the last five years, droughts, extreme temperatures, and unusual weather in some of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, including the US, have caused prices for wheat, corn, soybeans, and other food staples to increase dramatically. This has led to higher prices for many food products, especially animal products. As usual, the world’s poor have been most affected by the increase in prices. For those who either spend a substantial amount of their income on food or rely on subsistence farming to feed themselves, a certain increase in the price of food directly results in ongoing hunger and food insecurity.

Different crops affect various populations in distinct ways. Rice and wheat are the two major cereal staples in the diets of the world’s poor. Therefore, as long as those prices remain stable, a global food crisis can be averted. While increases in the price of corn will affect gas prices and meat prices, this will not necessarily contribute to a global food crisis. Most corn grown in the US is either manufactured into ethanol or fed to livestock, and the world’s poorest people cannot afford to buy much meat or gasoline in the first place.

However, a low yield of one crop can put pressure on the production and export of other crops. When the corn crop suffered in 2012, this caused an increased demand for wheat as livestock feed. This demand drove up the price of wheat, and reduced the supply of wheat available for export to places such as the Middle East, where much of the population relies on imported wheat for sustenance.

Economists and food experts warn against overreacting to high prices, as panic can create tighter restrictions and more problems. In order to begin to solve the global food crisis, we must focus not on what has gone wrong, but on what can be done to increase agricultural yields, implement sustainable farming methods, improve consumer access to affordable, healthy food, and help more of the world’s poor achieve food security.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has recommended that structural causes of food insecurity be addressed through the complementary techniques of short-term emergency aid and long-term sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN
Photo: World Bank

Madagascar's Millennium Village is Independent
Madagascar’s Millennium Village, Sambaina, is functioning independently after five years of support and development from the UN Development Program and the Millennium Villages Project. With a donor investment of $400,000 per year, or just $50 per person per year, living conditions have improved dramatically.

The country of Madagascar has suffered in the last five years as a result of political upheaval. Following a coup in 2009, foreign aid to the country has remained frozen, and the government does not have sufficient funds for social programs or the salaries of civil servants. In the commune of Sambaina, where over 60 percent of the population was living in extreme poverty when the project began, residents say that their lives have improved.

Targeted investments in the areas of agriculture, education, sanitation, health care, infrastructure, technology, and local business have made a world of difference in Madagascar’s Millennium Village. Implementing the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has helped farmers increase yields to the point of achieving food security for eleven months out of the year. Previously, their harvests only lasted three months. About 70 percent of Sambaina farmers now use the SRI method, and have seen sustainably increased rice production.

Pumps have ensured access to clean drinking water, while health education has encouraged people to maintain good hygiene and utilize the village’s health care facilities. Other investments include computers in classrooms, renovations in schools and infrastructure, and funding to start-up businesses.

Now that initial investments have been made in developing Sambaina’s basic necessities, the villagers will be responsible for maintaining them. To this end, committees have been established, which will collect contributions from residents to fund maintenance projects.

The success of Madagascar’s Millennium Village is undeniable. Even in a country with almost no economic growth and four years of political crisis, targeted investment and development assistance has nearly eliminated extreme poverty in Sambaina within just five years. The country of Madagascar has no hope of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. But Madagascar’s Millennium Village Project in Sambaina proves that foreign aid, when responsibly managed, is instrumental in improving the lives of the world’s poor.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN

2Seeds Network pairs recent university graduates with African village communities in order to develop and implement small, sustainable, and efficient agricultural projects designed to meet the needs of each village. The projects aim to support and enhance food and income security by training rural farmers in effective agricultural practices. 2Seeds trains its young project coordinators in leadership, accountability, and cooperation for the betterment of local African communities.

2Seeds Network seeks a partnership between Africa and America for the improvement of both continents. It fosters globally engaged and empathetic leadership on the American side, while improving basic living conditions for those on the African side. African community leaders and farmers benefit from the energy, passion, and creativity of young Americans, who in turn will engage others in global, humanitarian action.

The ultimate goals of the 2Seeds Network are to:

  • promote self-directed initiative and ownership in African agricultural production and trade
  • initiate sustainable change in local and national African economies
  • develop critically-needed transformative leaders in America

2Seeds Network uses the metrics of food security and income security to measure its programs’ effectiveness  Though each project is tailored to the needs of its partner community, Project Coordinators work to achieve two primary goals: that every family grows enough food to eat throughout the year, and that each family increases its income to more than $1 per day.

Stay tuned for an interview with a 2Seeds Network Project Coordinator working on the Lutindi Project in Tanzania. For more information about the organization, visit the 2Seeds Network website.

– Kat Henrichs
Source: 2Seeds Nework
Photo:Agra Soils Research Group

This video of environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva explains how a seed monopoly in India creates poverty and destroys farming’s previous self-reliance on seeds.

First, a big corporation comes into a community and tells the local farmers that their seed is no good, “primitive,” and that they offer a better option. Companies even pay farmers to try the new seed – thus seed replacement starts. Gradually they go to every farmer in the area and do the same. The farmer no longer uses their own seed, the local small companies that did sell seed no longer have customers and go out of business, and now the corporation has a monopoly on providing seeds for an entire region.

Monsanto, the cotton seed supplier in this one case, then increases the cost of the seed by 8,000%. Of course a small farmer cannot afford these prices. The corporation then promises to provide seed that will make the farmer rich by producing huge harvests. The farmer barrows the money from the corporation to buy this new seed, mortgaging their land against the loan. And when the crop does not produce as promised, the farmer goes into debt and eventually loses her/his land – no income, no assets, no home, extreme poverty.

This is why Dr. Shiva started Navdanya, a network of seed keepers and organic producers, spread across 17 states in India. They have set up 111 community seed banks, trained over 5,000,000 farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades. They have helped set up the largest direct marketing, fair trade organic network in the country, and run a learning center on biodiversity conservation. Navdanya is a women-centered movement actively involved in the rejuvenation of indigenous knowledge and culture. They keep the power of self-reliance in the hands of the farmer.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Vimeo, Navdanya