Posts Tagged ‘Food Aid’


Innovation of the Month: Gardens for Health

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By Carly Chaapel

Around the world, gardens provide food for local communities, serve as educational tools, and empower the poor. In sub-Saharan Africa, where 22.5 million people live with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), humanitarian and environmental organizations are turning to community gardens for nutritional and social benefits for HIV patients.

Rwandan farmer harvests plants for her family with the help of Gardens for Health. (Photo credit: Gardens for Health International)

In Rwanda, the most densely populated sub-Saharan country, the average citizen lives well below global average health, education, and income standards. The Human Development Index ranks Rwanda 166 out of 187 countries, indicating “low human development.” According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), nearly 170,000 people (3 percent of adults) suffer from HIV in Rwanda.

Numerous organizations are, however, generating hope for the poor and the sick in Rwanda. Gardens for Health International, for example, partners with local health clinics to provide agricultural solutions for health problems, including malnutrition. Patients who arrive at rural clinics in need of food aid and emergency treatment often leave with the resources necessary to both address their immediate needs and sustain themselves and their families in the future. Gardens for Health experts routinely visit families in their homes, bringing the tools and knowledge needed (e.g., seedlings and market access knowledge) to increase yields, diversify diets, and prevent future malnutrition.

In Swaziland, the International Red Cross has donated money to support community gardens with similar goals. According to USAID, 25.9 percent of adults in Swaziland live with HIV, and nearly 70,000 children have been orphaned due to the virus. Although food crises are prevalent in this drought-prone country, donations from the Red Cross have enabled communities to both develop food gardens and access valuable adaptation technology, such as drip irrigation, which can increase agricultural productivity and boost year-round food security for families living with HIV.

By disseminating resources and information, organizations such as Gardens for Health and the International Red Cross can increase access to healthy foods for the poor, hungry, and sick, and enable families to develop productive and sustainable food gardens just outside their front doors.

Do you know about a garden that is used as a healing space for the sick? Tell us more in the comments below.

Carly Chaapel is a former research intern with the Worldwatch Institute’s Food and Agriculture Program.


Wasted Food Aid: Why U.S. Aid Dollars Aren’t Going as Far as They Could

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By Eleanor Fausold

An article recently published in The Atlantic suggests that U.S. food aid money is not always being spent in the most efficient way possible. U.S. food aid programs can be extremely beneficial to struggling families in Africa, but aid dollars could go even further if they were better dedicated to supporting local supply chains in the regions they serve.  

U.S. food aid programs help small farmers in times of drought. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The article tells the story of 60-year-old Abdoulai Mohamed, a small businessman in Turkana, Kenya who, instead of working on a farm, chose to take out a loan and opened a store selling food staples such as corn and flour.  When drought struck the region in 2011, Mohamed allowed customers to purchase food on credit so they would have enough to eat.  But Mohamed’s business suffered when the drought worsened and many customers were unable to repay their debts, forcing Abdoulai to find a way to keep his shop running without bringing in revenue from customers.

But a program funded, in part, by USAID  helped save Mohamed’s business. The program, which focuses on assisting local businesses and keeping food supply chains intact, helped repay many of the customers’ outstanding balances, allowing families to buy the food they needed. So far, this program has helped 5,500 drought-stricken families and has helped the local economy by preserving supply chains that source food from local farmers, through local businesses, and into needy households.



New Oxfam/AJWS Report Shows U.S. Food Aid Reform Could Save 17M Lives

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By Alison Blackmore

Debates regarding the reauthorization of the 2012 United States Farm Bill are well underway in the U.S. House and Senate. This bill is widely known for dictating U.S. national agricultural policy, but it also contains provisions that steer the U.S. government’s global food aid programs. More than 65 million people worldwide received U.S. food aid in 2010, but a recently released report and infographic from OxFam America and American Jewish World Service (AJWS), shows that simple changes in U.S. food aid policy would allow the U.S. to respond to crises up to 14 weeks faster and lifesaving food aid could reach more than 17 million people, at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers.

Infographic explaining inefficiencies in U.S. Food Aid programs. (Image credit: American Jewish World Services)

Current provisions in the U.S. Farm Bill impede the government from buying food from the local and regional markets, mandating that, in most circumstances, the government must use U.S. produced commodities in its Food Aid programs. Unfortunately this system tends to highly inefficient and wasteful. Oxfam and AJWS cited a 2012 study conducted by Cornell University which found that if the U.S. sourced its food aid from local and regional markets, there would be a 23 percent reduction in costs because transportation would be great reduced and the aid would reach the people in need significantly faster. It would also mean recipients would receive familiar and culturally appropriate food and the aid would not drive down the food prices in local markets, helping these areas become self-sufficient and less dependent on food aid in the future.

The U.S. administers much of its food aid through a process called monetization, where the U.S. government purchases food from the U.S., sells it in developing countries’ markets, and gives the money to development projects managed by US nongovernment organizations, who may or may not be involved in food aid. Research from OxFam and AJWS showed that not only are tens of millions of dollars lost between the cost of purchasing and shipping U.S. goods abroad, but local farmers are often undermined and hurt by the influx of cheap goods in their markets.  If the losses associated with this practice were eliminated, 2.4 million more hungry people could have benefitted from U.S. food aid in 2010.



All for one aim: Multi-pronged approach to fight hunger

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The volatility of food prices, in particular price upswings, represents a major threat to food security in developing countries and typically affects poor populations the hardest. According to the World Bank, during 2010–11 rising food costs pushed nearly 70 million people worldwide into extreme poverty.


This year’s theme for World Food Day is “Food Prices—from Crisis to Stability. (Photo credit: Julie Carney, Gardens for Health International)

World Food Day is a global event designed to increase awareness and understanding and to create year-round action to alleviate hunger. Since 1981, the event has been observed on October 16 in recognition of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a specialized agency that was established in Quebec City, Canada, in 1945. This year’s World Food Day theme is “Food prices – crisis to stability,” with the purpose of shedding some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable.

Since the inception of World Food Day, organizations have taken advantage of the occasion to inform the public about what they can do to help end world hunger. Although the number of undernourished people worldwide has decreased since 2009, to nearly 1 billion, it is still unacceptably high. According to a recent FAO report, in Africa alone, nearly one-third of the population is undernourished and one child dies every six seconds because of the problem.

On October 16 of this year, countries, organizations, and communities are organizing events to educate and raise awareness, with the aim of addressing widespread problems in food supply and distribution systems. These events are raising money to support projects that focus on initiatives such as measures to ease population growth, boost incomes, and prepare farmers to protect their harvests against the negative effects of climate change, among others.



Manufacturing success: an interview with Navyn Salem

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Navyn Salem, founder and director of Edesia, talks about her July  field diary reflection and explains the global impact that  emergency food aid programs have.

 Name: Navyn Salem

Affiliation:  Founder and Executive Director of Edesia

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Bio: In 2009 Navyn Salem founded Edesia -a non-profit factory that specializes in producing Plumpy’nut- a high calorie edible paste made of peanuts that is rich in vitamins and provides nutrition to starving children. As a manufacturer of Plumpy’nut and other nutritional supplements including, Supplementary’Plumpy, Plumpy’doz, and Nutributter, Edesia is a member of Nutriset’s PlumpyField Network, a global network of partners that produce these ready to use foods.

Photo credit: Boston College Magazine

By way of background, can you talk about why you founded Edesia and how you decided to focus your efforts on producing Plumpy’nut?

When I first started, I was certain of one thing- I wanted to have a big impact on children but get there by using a smart business approach. For over a year, I traveled, consulted and spoke with some of the most amazing development and global health leaders to gather ideas.

Edesia was created with the purpose of creating jobs and contributing to economic development as well as having a social mission that contributes to a global health challenge. We first got started with this model in Tanzania where 38 percent of the population is stunted due to malnutrition, most of the raw materials needed to make Plumpy’nut are available locally and products were being imported from France.  We began back in 2007 to develop this project and our factory there called Power Foods has been operational since December 2010.  They can now produce enough Plumpy’nutto fulfill the demand in Tanzania and some of the bordering countries.



A call for increased financial aid to end the famine in the Horn of Africa

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Earlier today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C. to discuss the current food security issues in eastern Africa.

The Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) shows the severity of eastern Africa’s food crisis (Image Credit: USAID)

“What is happening in the Horn of Africa is the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world today,” Secretary Clinton said. Over 12 million residents of Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti are currently at risk of starvation. Compounding problems in Somalia, the only part of the continent in which famine has been declared, is the absence of central governance and the presence of a regional paramilitary organization hostile to Western organizations in the country.

Secretary Clinton is confident that increased financial assistance, in-country aid work, and policy tools can all be used effectively to end the short-term crisis and establish long-term governmental and agricultural self-sufficiency.

Click here to watch Secretary Clinton’s remarks.

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.


New report recommends more flexibility in food aid funds, and better coordination of programs, to improve effectiveness

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By Matt Styslinger

A new report commissioned by the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa aims to inform U.S. policymakers, as they debate the 2012 Farm Bill, of important changes in the policies and practices of U.S. food aid since the 2008 Farm Bill was passed. The largest international food aid program, the Food for Peace Act, is incorporated into the U.S. farm bill process, and the report hopes to encourage further improvements in the effectiveness of food aid. The report was written by former Chief Economist for the Democratic staff on the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Stephanie Mercier.

New report aims to encourage improvements in the effectiveness of food aid in the 2012 Farm Bill. (Photo: Bernard Pollack)

In the report Mercier discusses the use of innovative tools that were first used in the 2008 Farm Bill, which she says improved the efficiency and effectiveness of food aid. These new tools include local and regional procurement of commodities, greater focus on the nutritional qualities of food assistance, stronger ability of non-emergency development aid to address root causes of food insecurity, and better use of information generated by USAID’s Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET). According to the report, however, the effectiveness of food aid funds could benefit from more flexibility and better coordination among new and existing programs, the report says. Mercier emphasizes the growing interest in using development aid money and resources to achieve food security goals.

“Food aid and food security are going to face a lot of challenges in the next couple of years,” Mercier explained at a June 10 event in Washington D.C. Mercier says that the Obama administration’s Feed the Future food security initiative, for example, faces budget pressure from the U.S. House of Representatives, which has been pushing to cut funding for the program significantly. Recent global commodity price volatility has also created challenges for U.S. food aid, as the amount of aid that can be given in the form of in-kind commodities is dependent on relative prices. Finally, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha Round of international trade negotiations—which could include restrictions on in-kind donations of food commodities and higher requirements for needs assessments in food aid—has made little progress towards completion, creating an environment of uncertainty.



Briefing serves up food for thought on global hunger

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By Philip Newell

At a Global Hunger and Food Security briefing held by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and the Interfaith Working Group on Global Hunger and Food Security, several experts offered a bounty of ideas to fortify food security around the world.  In attendance were representatives from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and American Jewish World Service (AJWS), as well as keynote speaker and U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter.

Planting different kinds of crops in a field (multi-cropping) is a main tenant of Agroecology (Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

De Schutter was on hand to discuss his most recent report, Agroecology and the Right to Food in which he lays out a series of recommendations for national and international development policy.  “We are not facing a food crisis” explained De Schutter, “We are facing three crises,” poverty, environment, and nutrition. But according to De Schutter, agro-ecology can help address all these problems.

Agroecology can help alleviate  the poverty crisis by encouraging small farmers to grow a variety of complimentary crops to be sold locally, instead of growing grains exclusively for sale in the global market.  This transition to more diversified agricultural systems can also help alleviate the ecological crisis by helping to  reduce dependence on artificial fertilizers and other inputs.  And when farmers grow a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, their families eat better. According to De Schutter, governments and donor groups should increase investment in public goods. Instead of doling out seeds and fertilizer through subsidies, donors should be focused on helping to  establish markets and infrastructure, such as roads, that allow farmers to sell their produce. Regional and local markets need to be established, thereby “linking rural local producers with urban consumers” said De Schutter.

De Schutter also explained how investing in knowledge systems will help connect farmers with researchers, as well as helping connect farmers to one another. And, said De Schutter, aid and development programs need to include  the “gender dimension” to make sure women farmers are getting the resources they need.  In many developing nations, women lack the access to most means of production, notably land ownership and financing.



Sustainable Agriculture takes root in Oxfam’s GROW Campaign

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By Philip Newell

According to Oxfam President Ray Offenheiser, making sure that “everyone has enough to eat.  Always.” is the main goal of Oxfam’s new Grow campaign.  Oxfam seeks to drastically reduce the number of people suffering from malnutrition across the globe. It’s aiming to solve the dilemma of “how to feed nine billion people by 2050 without breaking the planet.”

Establishing local food markets connects small farmers with local customers, strengthening food security and is key to sustainable food systems. (Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

The Grow campaign will address the food crisis by attempting to reduce the vulnerability of farmers to climate change and increase food security across the globe. According to Offenheiser, we need a determined effort to bring together diverse stakeholders in order to cooperatively, “grow our future.”  “We’re on the brink of a serious crisis”, says Offenheiser, with increasing price shocks and volatility in the food commodity market, price hikes in the oil sector, and large-scale land acquisitions or land grabs.

Oxfam’s Grow campaign focuses on a few key areas.  First is increasing the amount of investment in small-scale producers.  Given that most of the world’s poor and hungry are small-scale farmers, it is important to ensure they receive a reasonable amount of support from governments, private companies, and the international funding and donor communities to help farmers develop and implement sustainable and resilient agricultural systems. This sentiment was echoed by Kenyan Ambassador Elkanaha Odembo, who spoke briefly on the paradox of coffee production.  Every company in the coffee supply chain, from roaster to packager to shipment to brewing, brings home large profits from the coffee business. Unfortunately, producers get very little of the profit from coffee production.  “Why is it?”, asked Ambassador Odembo, “that third generation coffee farmers die poor” while every other link in the supply chain is able to reap such profit? The answer, he says, is global supply chain economics.

According to UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter, the best way to empower the impoverished is through strengthening or creating networks which serve to organize farmers.  This increased organization serves not only to spread agroecological and indigenous knowledge regarding specific growing practices or products, but more importantly to give these small-scale farmers a voice loud enough to be recognized by the global market.  If these farmers are better organized, says De Schutter, they will be capable of negotiating a more equitable price for their crops and more equitable treatment from the global economy.  He also suggested that we need better accountability of our governments.  By ensuring that public officials are held accountable for the decisions they make regarding food and agriculture, the public is capable of penalizing inaction and rewarding positive policies.



Delivering Improved Nutrition

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By Janeen Madan

A new report released by researchers at the Freidman School for Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University highlights ways to improve the nutrition quality of U.S. food aid.


A new report highlights ways to improve the nutrition quality of U.S. food aid. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

According to the lead author Patrick Webb, “There was a bit of an impression that as long as you delivered food, that was enough. And really, what we have been arguing and demonstrating is that, no, just any old food isn’t enough.”

The report, commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Food for Peace program, was released in April in Washington, D.C.

The report emphasizes the importance of targeting nutritious foods to pregnant women and young children. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed the report’s findings saying, “While good nutrition throughout life is important, science tells us that it is most critical during the 1,000 day window of opportunity.” Adequate nutrition during the first 1000 days of a child’s life—the period from pregnancy to age two—is critical to ensure healthy development and end the cycle of malnutrition. Each year, we can save the lives of one million children by ensuring that pregnant women and young children have access to nutritious foods.

The report also recommends using ready-to-use products when appropriate, adding vitamin D to vegetable oil, and reformulating milled cereals.

Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, said, “Implementing these proposals will help children learn better, grow stronger and achieve their full potential. Optimizing our food aid programs, combined with our Feed the Future Initiative can help us build toward the goal of ending hunger in a generation.”

But some critics argue that the report’s recommendations are not clear enough and that some of these changes will be difficult to introduce. Susan Shepherd of Doctors without Borders says, “While the report acknowledges the value of nutrient-packed ready-to-eat foods for treating malnutrition, it continues to rely on cheaper fortified grain and soybean blends that do not provide enough nutrition for young children.”

USAID will host the International Food Aid and Development Conference in June where policymakers, scientists, development professionals, and industry executives will discuss strategies to implement the report’s recommendations.

How do you think government agencies can make their food aid more effective in promoting food security of vulnerable populations?

Janeen Madan is a communications associate with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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.