Archive for the ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ Category


UNDP Highlights Food Security in First Africa Human Development Report

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By Seyyada Burney

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has released its first-ever Human Development Report focused exclusively on Africa. The report, Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future, argues that establishing food security must become a top priority among governments to achieve sustainable human development in Africa.

The Africa Human Development Report is the first UNDP Human Development report to focus exclusively on Africa. (Image credit: UNDP)

Despite a wealth of natural resources and recent economic progress, sub-Saharan Africa remains the world’s most food-insecure region. According to UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, “the specter of famine, all but gone elsewhere, continues to haunt millions in the region.”  Report statistics reveal that even though GNP per capita was as high as $17,000 in countries such as Equitorial Guinea in 2011, gross economic disparities persist within sub-Saharan Africa — approximately one in four people still suffer from undernourishment. But, says Tegegnework Gettu, Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Director of the UNDP’s Regional Bureau of Africa, “Africa has the knowledge, the technology, and the means to end hunger and food insecurity.”

The report outlines four multidimensional strategies through which food security can be achieved:

1) Increasing and maintaining agricultural productivity.

With the population of sub-Saharan Africa projected to reach 2 billion by 2050, there is a dire need to improve access to and availability of food for current and future generations. Many previous development efforts have been held back by urban biases against the agricultural sector and rural populations. A realignment of government budget priorities towards improving efficiency, transportation infrastructure, and access to capital, markets, and insurance in the agricultural sector will improve availability and management of food, as well as improving access.



In Canada, New Innovation Helps Nourish the Needy

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By Graham Salinger

With more people living in cities than ever before—the United Nations projects that up to 65 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050—cities are relying on a number of innovations to boost food security. Meanwhile, the price of food in urban areas remains higher than that of rural areas. With food purchases taking up to 80 percent of a typical urban family’s income, the need for sustainable urban agriculture is clear. In the wake of recent shocks to food prices and the current economic downturns, urban dwellers are finding it harder and harder to find affordable, healthy food.

A patron purchases some fresh fruit from a Fruixi cart. (Photo credit:

In Montreal, Canada, a pilot program is underway to bring healthy vegetables and fruits to downtown residents. This summer, small carts called Fruixi  are delivering locally grown produce to people who lack access to grocery stores. The carts, which are mounted on three-wheeled bikes, were developed by Université de Montréal student Guillaume Darnajou. Six of the Fruixi carts deliver food to parks in Ville-Marie and Plateau Mont-Royal, areas in which residents may otherwise not be able to get fresh fruits and vegetables. The carts will also visit three hospitals – Hôtel-Dieu, Saint-Luc and Notre-Dame.

This innovation underscores the role that increased vegetable production should play in food security. Vitamin-rich vegetables are an important part of a diet, especially for the undernourished. They are also easier to produce than staple crops. Small-scale farmers can also make more money growing vegetables than other crops, demonstrating that local food movements, like the ones encouraged by the Fruixis program, also help to stimulate  local economies.



Chicago Council Symposium: Advancing Food and Nutrition Security. Notes on the “Improving Nutrition” Panel

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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ annual symposium, Advancing Food and Nutrition Security at the 2012 G8 Summit, is underway this morning. Tune in to the livestream here and follow the discussion on Twitter with @globalagdev #globalag

President Obama speaking at the Chicago Council's annual Symposium.

Opening remarks were given by Mike Froman, Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs. Food security will be the sole focus of the G8′s session on development this weekend, as leaders review progress made since the 2009 launch of the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative. Froman emphasized President Obama’s commitment to development—not just assistance—saying that agricultural development is up 8 times the global average where the L’Aquila Initiative has been working. He closed by saying that government assistance alone is not sufficient, and it will require commitment from the private sector, NGOs, and private citizens.

The first panel, Healthy Agriculture: Improving nutrition works for economies and communities, explored the challenge of how nutrition will be incorporated into the agenda of food security. Beverly Oda, of the Canadian International Development Agency, declared that we are in a critical moment and incorporation of nutrition and food security. We need to make sure that all programs integrate nutrition and no longer just focus on food and calories.



Scholarships Available for 2013 Women Deliver Global Conference

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Women Deliver—a global advocacy organization for women and maternal health—is offering scholarships to its third global conference, Women Deliver 2013. The conference will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from May 28 to 30, 2013. It will bring together more than 5,000 public- and private-sector participants from around the world, with the goal of mobilizing action, commitment, and investment to improve global reproductive health.  According to Women Deliver, the scholarships aim to “maximize participation from those who are traditionally under-represented; namely, young people and those from the Global South.”

Women Deliver is offering scholarships for its 2013 conference. (Image credit:

Women Deliver is offering both youth (applicants under 30 at the time of the conference) and regular scholarships (applicants aged 30 or over). The scholarships will include conference registration, round-trip economy-class airfare, hotel accommodations, and a stipend for visa fees and other expenses. Application for youth scholarships opened February 15, 2012, and regular scholarship application opens March 26. The deadline for both  scholarships is April 15, 2012.

Women Deliver is an international organization that advocates for maternal health as “both a human right and a practical necessity for sustainable development.” Reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health were designated a Millennium Development Goal in 2000, but according to the United Nations, around 350,000 women and girls still die from pregnancy-related causes each year. And huge disparities in maternal health exist between developing and industrial countries: a woman’s maternal mortality risk in sub-Saharan Africa is 1 in 30, compared to 1 in 5,600 in developed regions.

Click here to find out how to apply for scholarships for the 2013 conference.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Ending Africa’s Hungry Season for Smallholder Farmers

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By Jameson Spivack

Every year, in parts of rural sub-Saharan Africa, residents experience what is known as the hungry season. This is when people run out of food before the next harvest season and cannot afford to buy food. During this period of time, in which many experience malnutrition, the most vulnerable, including the young, the elderly, and the sick, are even more at risk of illness and death.

During the “hungry season,” yields from the harvest season die out, and many face starvation. (Image credit:

Many projects have attempted to provide assistance to Africa’s struggling agriculture and development sectors. Sometimes the approaches are top-down instead of bottom-up, or political and economic considerations interfere with the proper implementation of the project.

But Andrew Youn, founder of the One Acre Fund (OAF), believes using business models that support small-scale farmers, as opposed to large-scale, donation-heavy projects, is a more effective way to develop a sustainable solution to the agricultural difficulties people in sub-Saharan Africa face. “We are going to build the largest network of small holding farmers in Africa,” he projects.

OAF supports smallholder farmers by providing affordable “bundles” of goods and services to those in need of assistance. These “bundles” include fertilizer, seed, agricultural training, credit, and access to markets. By designing the organization with business principles in mind, instead of operating as a charity, OAF intends to develop a sense of independence and self-sufficiency among the farmers the organization is supporting. “I really believe in charging for a service, so that we know that farmers actually want it,” says Youn.



International Women’s Day: Celebrating the Power of Women to Nourish the Planet

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Women have proven to be a powerful force in the fight against global hunger and poverty, especially in agriculture. Worldwide roughly 1.6 billion women rely on farming for their livelihoods, and female farmers produce more than half of the world’s food. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, women account for 75 percent of all the agricultural producers. Today we observe International Women’s Day, a global celebration and recognition of women’s achievements.

Female farmers produce more than half of the world’s food. (Photos credit: Bernard Pollack)

Women farmers face a variety of obstacles, including a lack of access to information technology, agricultural training, financial services, and support networks like co-operatives or trade unions. Without these services, women cannot develop resilience to political, economic, social, or environmental upheaval, and they remain dependent on their male family members.

The good news is that women worldwide are developing and utilizing agricultural innovations to sustainably nourish their families and communities. Today we celebrate 12 innovations that are helping women get access to credit, improve their incomes, feed their families, introduce sustainable crops to markets, and reduce rural poverty:

  • Co-ops. Co-operatives, or co-ops, are a type of business characterized by democratic ownership and governance. In the war-torn country of Côte d’Ivoire, Marium Gnire partnered with Slow Foods International to organize a women’s farming cooperative that would provide quality local food for school meals in her village of N’Ganon, increasing both the women’s income and the health of the community. (more…)

Climate Change Exacerbates Scarcity in Already Food Insecure Regions

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By Grant Potter and Graham Salinger

A recent report by The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), offers new insight into the threat that climate change poses to the livelihood of millions of farmers worldwide. The report, Mapping Hotspots of Climate Change and Food Insecurity in the Global Tropics, maps areas at risk of crossing “climate thresholds—temperatures too hot for maize or beans,” by 2050. These threshold models were compared against food insecure countries, defined as places where over 40 percent of children under the age of five experienced stunted growth as a result of malnutrition. When these two factors overlap, the model “reveals places around the world where the arrival of stressful growing conditions could be especially disastrous,” says Polly Ericksen, a senior scientist at the CGIAR’s International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Crops sensitive to temperature, like wheat, will suffer in many food-insecure regions. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Within these hotspots, “there are 265.7  million food-insecure people living in agriculture intensive areas that are highly exposed to a potential five percent decrease in the length of the growing period” according to a press release announcing the results of the report.  This may sound like a small reduction but “these are areas highly exposed to climate shifts, where survival is strongly linked to the fate of regional crop and livestock yields, and where chronic food problems indicate that farmers are already struggling and they lack the capacity to adapt to new weather patterns,” explains Ericksen. CGIAR emphasizes that “growing seasons of at least 120 days are considered critical not only for the maturation of [wheat] and several other staple food crops, but also for vegetation crucial to feeding livestock.” But, according to their projections, “prime growing conditions are likely to drop below 120 days per season in intensively farmed regions of northeast Brazil and Mexico” by 2050.

Furthermore, according to the press release, “there are 170.5 million food-insecure and crop-dependent people in parts of West Africa, India and China who live in areas where, by the mid-2050s, maximum daily temperatures during the growing season could exceed 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).” At these temperatures maize, rice, and bean yields are expected to decline.



A Brighter Future for Cassava

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By Yassir Islam 

Yassir Islam is the Head of Communications at HarvestPlus, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that is working to address global micronutrient deficiency, by adding nutrients to staple crops and making those crops more accessible.

Cassava is possibly the most adaptable of all tropical food crops. It tolerates drought, does not need much land preparation or weeding, and thrives in poor soils without chemical inputs.  The leaves are nourishing, and the thick fleshy roots are used to make many different types of foods from cassava flour to tapioca pearls.

A girl enjoying yellow cassava. (Photo credit: International Center for Tropical Agriculture)

So what’s not to like?

Well, no matter how cassava is prepared, one fact remains: it is a good source of calories but provides few other nutrients.  Could this food that is so popular in the tropics, and a lifesaver in times of drought, be made more nutritious?   Scientists began investigating this question in 2003, focusing on a critical nutrient: vitamin A.

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is common in sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria, VAD afflicts almost 20 percent of pregnant women and about 30 percent of children under five. VAD lowers immunity which can increase the chances of getting ill or infected with disease. It can also lead to impaired vision, blindness, and even death. While Nigeria has mandated that foods such as wheat and maize flours be fortified with vitamin A since 2000, and provides vitamin A supplements to young children during national immunization day, coverage is low and vitamin A deficiency has decreased only marginally.



Reality show demonstrates how developing countries can make sustainability a reality

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By Graham Salinger

Move over “Man V Food”, there is a new cooking show in town. “Stoveman” is a four part documentary series that follows the efforts of Greg Spencer, co-founder of The Paradigm Project, to bring environmentally friendly stoves to developing countries. The Paradigm Project was founded in 2007 to bring rocket stoves to rural communities in developing countries. To date, 13,136 stoves have been delivered and the aim is to deliver 5 million stoves to the by 2020. The video series offers viewers a glimpse of the challenges faced by those living in the developing world and ways that such challenges can be overcome through innovations like the rocket stove.

Greg Spencer carrying firewood with Kenyan women in the first episode of "Stoveman." (Photo credit: The Paradigm Project)

In many developing countries, up to 35 percent of income can be spent on fuel for cooking. The stoves that the Paradigm Project supplies help reduce this financial burden by decreasing the amount of oil required for cooking by 40-60 percent, which allows for more money to purchase seeds to grow nutritional crops. The project estimates that over five years, each stove saves almost USD 283.

In the first episode of “Stoveman,” Spencer and his colleague Austin Mann work with women in northern Kenya to gather wood. In the rural developing world, over 90 percent of energy consumption is either wood or other biomass. In the country of Kenya alone this leads to the consumption of over 100 million trees annually. The World Health Organization has also estimated that harmful stove smoke is the fourth worst overall health risk factor in developing countries, killing 1.6 million women and childreneach year. The Paradigm Project also trains farmers about the benefits of reducing carbon emission and stresses that harming the environment also harms crop yields.



Nourishing the Planet TV: School Feeding Programs Improve Livelihoods, Diets, and Local Economies

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In this week’s episode, we discuss school feeding programs that are helping children and their families in many parts of Africa, where 60 percent of children come to school in the morning without breakfast, if they attend school at all. But, programs such as the The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), are helping to provides school meals for about 20 million children in Africa.


To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.