Posts Tagged ‘Hunger’

Dec16

FAO lauds Nelson Mandela as Champion of Right to Food

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By Sophie Wenzlau

“We have lost one of the world’s passionate defenders of the right to food,” said UN Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva, upon learning of the death of Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa.

Nelson Mandela recognized hunger as a moral issue. (Photo Credit: Pulitzer Center)

“Mandela understood that a hungry man, woman or child could not be truly free,” he said. “He understood that eliminating hunger was not so much a question of producing more food as it was a matter of making the political commitment to ensure that people had access to the resources and services they needed to buy or produce enough safe and nutritious food.”

Graziano da Silva said that he and others at the FAO had been inspired over the years by Mandela’s repeated calls to address hunger, a systemic global problem.

A total of 842 million people, or around one in eight people in the world, suffered from chronic hunger in 2011-13, according to the FAO’s State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013.

This figure represents a 17 percent decline in the overall number of undernourished people since 1990-92, a marked achievement. Programs designed to increase access to education, school meals, agricultural inputs, small-scale loans, market information, fortified grain, and emergency rations have all contributed to this reduction in chronic hunger. Organizations, governments, farmers, and innovative community leaders deserve praise for this accomplishment.

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Oct10

Oxfam’s GROW Method Engages Individuals in Building a Better Food System

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By Carol Dreibelbis

Oxfam International’s GROW campaign launched the GROW Method in July 2012 to encourage individual action toward a more just and sustainable food system.

The GROW Method’s fourth principle encourages individuals to support small-scale farmers through their buying habits. (Photo Credit: Oxfam)

The  campaign envisions a global food system that contributes to human well-being and ensures food security for all as the world grows to accommodate a projected 2 billion more people by 2050. As described in a previous blog post, GROW focuses on three major shifts: protecting and investing in small-scale farmers, ensuring a fair and safe food system that produces enough for all, and protecting the environment.

The GROW Method offers individuals “a brand new way of thinking about food—and the way we buy, prepare, and it eat,” according to Oxfam. The Method centers around five principles that can be incorporated into everyday life:

  1. “Save Food.” According to Oxfam, wealthy nations throw away almost as much food as sub-Saharan African nations produce each year. To combat food waste and the large expenditure of resources that accompanies it, the GROW Method encourages individuals to create shopping lists, to bring food home from restaurants, to label leftovers with “eat by” stickers, and to reuse leftovers in creative ways.
  2. “Shop Seasonal.” Oxfam encourages individuals to plant a garden or buy seasonal produce from local farms. Rather than simply promoting local foods, the GROW Method’s focus on seasonality can help reduce energy and resource losses. According to researchers at the University of Texas, “Eating locally is not always the greenest option if it means a food item is grown out of season…. For example, lamb grown in New Zealand with native rainfed grasses and shipped to the United Kingdom is less energy intensive than lamb locally raised in the United Kingdom on feed produced by use of energy-intensive irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides.” To find out which foods are in season across the United States, use this map.
  3. “Less Meat.” According to the FAO, livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and according to Oxfam, urban households in the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Brazil could reduce emissions equivalent to taking 3.7 million cars off the road by swapping beans for beef once each week for a year. The GROW Method recommends replacing meat and dairy products with vegetables or legumes once a week.
  4. “Support Farmers.” This principle helps to ensure that small-scale farmers are paid fairly for the food they produce. Oxfam points out that many small-scale farmers in developing nations spend more money buying food for their families than they earn from selling their harvests. But, if Americans in urban areas bought Fair Trade chocolate bars twice each month, 30,000 small-scale cocoa farmers would reap the benefits. In addition to buying Fair Trade products, the GROW Method suggests buying produce from farmers markets.
  5. “Cook Smart.” This principle is aimed at saving water and energy when storing and preparing food. Oxfam points out that taking the following three steps when cooking vegetables on the stove could reduce energy use by up to 70 percent: using just enough water to cover the vegetables, using a flat-bottomed pan with a lid, and reducing the cooking heat once the pot begins to boil. The GROW Method also recommends preparing more cold foods and turning off appliances when able.

Oxfam’s report on the GROW Method indicates that household decision makers are receptive to changing their everyday habits. The report surveyed more than 5,000 women with families in six countries—Brazil, India, the Philippines, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States—on their willingness to implement elements of the GROW Method. The majority of respondents in all countries (except the United Kingdom) were concerned with how and where their food is produced. Likewise, the vast majority of respondents in all countries wanted to know how to make a difference in the food system through their food choices.

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Sep29

Sowing the Seeds of a Food-Secure Future

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By Dana Drugmand

Worldwide, 195 million children suffer from malnutrition, which adversely affects their development and overall well-being. Approximately 26 percent of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa. And according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the number of malnourished children in the region will rise 18 percent between 2001 and 2020. Fortunately, innovations such as school feeding programs and kitchen vegetable gardens are working to combat malnutrition and hunger in African children.

Schoolchildren in Uganda are learning how to grow fruits and vegetables in kitchen gardens funded by Seeds for Africa. (Photo Credit: Kellogg)

One organization, Seeds for Africa, has been instrumental in helping children gain access to local, nutritious fruits and vegetables. A central part of this organization’s work is teaching children the value of growing their own food by helping them to establish kitchen gardens and fruit tree orchards. Seeds for Africa funds kitchen vegetable garden development at primary schools in Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, and Sierra Leone.

In Kenya, Seeds for Africa coordinator Thomas Ndivo Muema has helped primary schools in the Nairobi region establish vegetable gardens and orchards of 200 fruit trees and has also supplied water tanks. In Uganda, fruit trees and vegetable gardens have been established at 77 schools around Kampala, the capital city. And in Sierra Leone, Seeds for Africa coordinator Abdul Hassan King has helped oversee tree planting projects in 50 primary schools and advised kitchen vegetable gardens operating at 15 other schools.

In 2011, Kellogg UK donated £6434 (US$9,946) to Seeds for Africa to fund “breakfast clubs” in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia—clubs in which schoolchildren are fed breakfast if they attend class. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, some 60 percent of children come to school without having eaten breakfast, if they attend school at all. By providing a nutritious breakfast, the initiative helps to improve attendance as well as academic performance and student well-being. Results from breakfast club trials indicate that students who participated scored better on school tests and were happier overall than students who did not participate. School attendance also increased to 95 percent.

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Aug19

Reducing Food Waste While Feeding the Hungry

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By Carol Dreibelbis

According to a report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) last year, 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten. Americans throw away about US$165 billion worth of food each year—or about 9 kilograms of food per person each month—which then ends up in landfills, where it accounts for about a quarter of U.S. methane emissions.

Americans throw away about 9 kilograms of food per person per month, which ends up in landfills, where it accounts for roughly a quarter of U.S. methane emissions. (Photo Credit: Frank Pascual)

The NRDC’s farm-to-fork-to-landfill report makes clear that Americans not only eat more than other nations, but they also waste more. In fact, the average American wastes 10 times as much food as the average Southeast Asian. While one in six Americans is food insecure, only 60 percent of the nation’s food is consumed. The report also points out that reducing food waste by just 15 percent would save enough food to feed more than 25 million people annually.

As of November 2011, American schools are fully equipped to do their part in both cutting food waste and feeding hungry people. While food donors who give to food pantries and food banks are protected from all liability under the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, recent legislation went a step further by explicitly protecting public schools that donate unused food. Now that schools can donate food without risk, they are free to put their unused food to good use.

Schools of all kinds are answering the call for food donations. Dranesville Elementary School in Herndon, VA implemented a new donation program in March of 2012 to donate unopened cafeteria food to local shelters and food banks. Previously, the school cafeteria threw away about 12.25 kilograms of food each day. Many colleges and universities also have food donation programs through their volunteering or civic engagement programs. Student volunteers at Princeton University pick up unused food from campus dining halls several times each week and deliver it to a local soup kitchen. (more…)

Jan17

Urban Agriculture Helps Combat Hunger in India’s Slums

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By Catherine Ward

In 2010, nearly 830 million people around the world lived in slums, up from 777 million in the year 2000, according to the United Nations.

Back street of an Indian slum. (Photo credit: http://shabanaadam.wordpress.com/)

The New York Times describes Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, as a “cliché of Indian misery,” with approximately 1 million slum dwellers living on 8 percent of the land in the western city of Mumbai. Although Dharavi lacks sufficient infrastructure to provide sewerage, water, electricity, or housing for residents, this dense community in the heart of India’s financial capital has a thriving informal economy with an annual economic output of up to US$1 billion.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development observes that “slum dwellers may be at the bottom of the urban heap, but most are better off than their rural counterparts.” Urban centers, both in India and around the world, offer economic opportunities that rural areas do not. For this reason, some migrants voluntarily move to slums in hopes of learning new skills, setting up businesses, and sending their children to school.

India has a massive population of 1.2 billion, second only to China, and is home to an estimated 93 million slum dwellers. According to WaterAid, the country’s slum population has doubled in the past two decades. Slum communities can be hotspots for hunger, with an estimated 36 percent of slum children in Mumbai malnourished, reports the website Urb.im.

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Oct16

On World Food Day, Supporting Agricultural Cooperatives in the Fight against Hunger and Poverty

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By Danielle Nierenberg and Laura Reynolds

Some one billion people belong to cooperatives in nearly 100 countries worldwide guarding consumers, producers, and workers against hunger, bankruptcy, and rights abuses. Agricultural cooperatives help farmers access and share information, get fair prices for their goods, and participate in local decision making. This October 16, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will celebrate “Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World” for World Food Day.

World Food Day is a global day of action against hunger (Photo Credit: Oxfam America)

Agricultural cooperatives are part of a larger movement to make food more environmentally and socially just and sustainable. Agroecological practices enrich soils, improve yields, increase incomes, and support the people, animals, plants, and entire ecosystems affected by agriculture.

An infographic released recently by the Christensen Fund highlights how industrial agricultural practices—including raising meat in factory farms, adding pesticides and chemical fertilizers to fields, and shipping food to markets across the globe—contributes to increased incidences of chronic diseases and severe air and water pollution.

By contrast, agroecological practices—including composting and agroforestry, conserving wildlife habitats, and selling products within a localized food system—can build resilience to climate change, increase nutritional and biological diversity, and double or triple agricultural yields over the long term.

Agricultural cooperatives and agroecological practices go hand-in-hand to support a more sustainable food system. By encouraging worker empowerment, farmer training, and consumer awareness, this year’s World Food Day theme is showcasing one of the most promising elements of a more sustainable food system.

World Food Day is a global day of action against hunger. FAO suggests a variety of ways you can become involved in the day of action, including:

  1. Host a World Food Day meal: As part of its GROW Method, OxfamAmerica promotes 5 very simple actions to help create a better food system: save food, eat seasonally and locally, eat less meat and dairy, support small farmers, and cook smart. If you sign up to host a meal, OxfamAmerica will send you everything you need to host a great event: free World Food Day recipe cards from famous chefs, placemats, videos, and more.
  2. Join your local hunger coalition: The Alliance to End Hunger has created the Hunger Free Communities Network, an online platform for coalitions, campaigns, and individuals committed to ending hunger in their local communities.
  3. Activate a school campus: Why Care? is a student-led campaign of Universities Fighting World Hunger to spark a global conversation about hunger and to build momentum to World Food Day campus events. The campaign offers several simple suggestions on how to spread the word about world hunger on a campus.
  4. Arrange a food and fund drive: the World Food Day website can help you find your nearby food bank or pantry, and gives tips on donating food or funds to maximize your positive impact.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

Oct09

Investing in Global Food Security: CGIAR Food and Agriculture Research Agenda Worth US $5 Billion

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By Sophie Wenzlau 

According to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the world’s largest publicly funded global agricultural research partnership, “feeding a global population of 9 billion people by 2050 will require at least a 70 percent increase in global food production and a 50 percent rise in investments in the agricultural sector.” At the Fourth Agriculture and Rural Development Day gathering, CGIAR unveiled a new global research portfolio worth US$5 billion over five years. The announcement was made two days prior to the commencement of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, where food security and sustainable agriculture were identified as international priorities. According to the UN, “a profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed if we are to nourish today’s 925 million hungry and the additional 2 billion people expected by 2050.”

CGIAR research aims to increase the productivity of small farmers in developing countries (Photo Credit: CGIAR)

This past summer the partnership officially launched 15 new programs, which include research intended to mitigate climate change, enhance agricultural productivity and boost food security; intended to promote the conservation and restoration of water, land, forests, and ecosystems; and, more specifically, to augment the cultivation of rice.

CGIAR’s ambitious portfolio aims to “deliver the scientific, policy, and technological advances needed to tackle the major global development challenges of the century for the benefit of the poor and the planet.” A top priority of the new research agenda is to increase the productivity of small farmers—who, according to CGIAR, provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in developing countries—without damaging the environment.

CGIAR researches ways to reduce rural poverty, increase food security, improve health and nutrition, and ensure the sustainable management of natural resources. The CGIAR Consortium is composed of fifteen member centers, which are responsible for conducting research on behalf of the partnership. For the past 40 years, CGIAR’s research has promoted the conservation, revitalization and sustainable management of natural resources, and has simultaneously boosted yields on farms around the world.

Frank Rijsberman, the new CEO of the CGIAR Consortium, claims that, “science and the environment need to be best friends if we are to achieve a food secure future.” He notes, “investing in agricultural research is a critical first step to kick-start the innovation engine for a sustainable, food secure future.”

Sophie Wenzlau is a research associate with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

Sep15

From Farms to Families: Curbing Hunger in the Driest Regions

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By Hitesh Pant

This year the Convergences Conference in Paris is housing a photo exhibition that sheds light on new innovative agricultural practices that are enabling poor farmers in Africa and India to feed their families. “Innovate Against Hunger” focuses on the work of the International Center for Research in the semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and its efforts to provide improved seed varieties, empower women and smallholder farmers, and introduce sustainable agricultural practices to combat famine in some of the most arid regions on the planet.

Bounty chickpea harvests from improved seeds in Ethiopia (Photo Credit: ICRISAT)

The exhibition also shows how partnerships between farmers, local governments, NGOs, and the private sector can ensure that agricultural innovations are accessible throughout poor, remote communities.

ICRISAT’s research has helped farmers adopt new resource management techniques, increase the market demand for pest resistant varieties and reduce hunger.

Check out these pages to preview some of the images that will be part of “Innovate Against Hunger” and learn more about ICRISAT’s work:

http://www.cgiar.org/consortium-news/innovate-against-hunger-access-and-adoption-of-tools-practices-and-opportunities/

http://www.impatientoptimists.org/Posts/2012/09/PHOTOS-How-to-Help-Farmers-Fight-Hunger

Hitesh Pant is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project. 

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

Sep10

Coping with Climate Change and Food Insecurity in East Africa

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By Carol Dreibelbis

A landmark study published recently by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security surveyed over 700 farming households in East Africa about how they are coping with climate change. Researchers set out to answer the seemingly simple question, “Are households that are more innovative more likely to be food secure than less-innovative farming households?”

Agroforestry was one of the most common innovations found in the survey of East African farmers (Photo Credit: A Tribute to Trees)

According to the report, more than half of all households surveyed made innovative agricultural changes over the past decade. These farmers have been adopting a wide variety of strategies and technologies to protect against heat, water scarcity, eroding landscapes, depletion of soil nutrients, and other factors that can decrease yields and increase food insecurity. For instance, 55 percent of households planted one faster-maturing crop variety, while 56 percent planted one drought-tolerant variety; at the same time, 50 percent of households took up agroforestry, or incorporated tree crops into a farming system; 50 percent introduced intercropping, or planting multiple crops in a small space; and 25 percent used crop rotation techniques.

But even as these farmers were willing to embrace certain farming strategies and technologies, the report shows that there is a limit to the innovation taking place. Many yield-boosting strategies have yet to take hold in these villages. Only 25 percent of farmers used manure or compost to improve soil fertility; only 16 percent of households used terracing, ridge-building, or other soil management techniques to conserve water; and only one-third of households in Ethiopia and one-fifth in Tanzania are taking steps to manage pasturelands to better support livestock. All in all, most households made minor, non-transformational changes to their farming practices.

Patti Kristjanson, one of the study co-leaders, explains that “for generations, farmers and livestock keepers in East Africa have survived high levels of weather variability by testing and adopting new farming practices. As this variability increases, rainfall patterns shift, and average temperatures rise due to climate change, they may need to change faster and more extensively.” So what is keeping these farmers from making more dramatic changes?

The study found that food insecurity is a key obstacle to innovation. As might be expected, households that struggle to feed themselves are not in a strong position to innovate. Unfortunately, the study was unable to determine the direction of causality in this relationship—in other words, it is unclear whether food insecurity results in decreased innovation, or whether limited innovation results in food insecurity.

Given that small-scale farmers in the developing world are particularly vulnerable to the weather and ecological changes associated with climate change, such as decreased rainfall or wider temperature variation, future research to better understand the relationship between innovation and food security will be crucial.

What agricultural innovations are effective for coping with the effects of climate change in your experience? What are the biggest barriers to their implementation? Please let us know in the comments.

Carol Dreibelbis is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

Sep03

Festivaletteratura: Nourishing the Planet in Mantova, Italy

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From September 5 to 9, the Italian city of Mantova will welcome authors and book-lovers alike for the highly anticipated festival of Festivaletteratura—the festival of literature. Writers from all over the world will host inspiring presentations in historical palaces and squares, inviting attendees to listen and ask questions about topics ranging from particle physics, to philosophic poetry, to international food procurement.

Nourishing the Planet director Danielle Nierenberg will speak alongside Andrea Segrè, professor of agricultural policy at the University of Bologna, about noteworthy innovations in sustainable agriculture. The talk is titled, “A Sustainable Hunger,” and will feature discussion of the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition’s (BCFN) new book, Eating Planet: Challenge for Mankind and the Planet, which examines the effects of individual eating habits on health and the environment.

Click here to learn more about Festivaletteratura.