Posts Tagged ‘Income’


From a Garden in South Africa, to a Cafeteria in California: Sharing Meals and Good Ideas

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By Molly Theobald

Usually a conversation about world hunger conjures images of starving children in Africa. But while sub-Saharan Africa may be the epicenter of world hunger, the U.S. has a lot to learn from the agricultural practices in use there.

Right now there are countless organizations working on the ground to improve access to food, increase incomes, and provide nutritional education. And their successes hold lessons that we can benefit from right here at home.

Abalimi Bezekhaya is helping to end hunger in Cape Town, South Africa (Photo Credit: Marie Viljoen)

The organization Abalimi Bezekhaya, for example, a non-profit organization working in the informal settlements outside Cape Town, South Africa, is just one of many organizations that has found its own way to reduce local hunger in Africa.  Abalimi Bezekhaya is helping to turn the settlements into areas that produce food—and money—which in turn generates green spaces in order to alleviate poverty and protect the fragile surrounding ecosystem.  Providing training and materials, Abalimi Bezekhaya helps people to turn school yards and empty plots of land into gardens. Each garden is run by 6 to 8 farmers who, with support and time, are soon able to produce enough food to feed their families.

But while Abalimi Bezekhaya is bringing agriculture and food into the townships, it is also helping the townships to bring fresh produce into the city. With support from the Ackerman Pick n’ Pay Foundation, and in partnership with the South African Institute of Entrepreneurship (SAIE) and the Business Place Philippi, Abalimi Bezekhaya founded Harvest of Hope (HoH) in 2008. HoH purchases the surplus crops from 14 groups of farmers working in Abalimi Bezekhaya’s community plots, packages them in boxes and delivers them to selected schools where parents can purchase them to take home.

For families in Cape Town, HoH means fresh vegetables instead of the older, and often imported, produce at the grocery store. And for families of the farmers working with Hope of Harvest, it means a source of food, income, and improved quality of life.

There are similar projects in the Bay Area of the United States. Since 2001, for example, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) has been helping to coordinate relationships between school cafeterias and local food producers. These relationships bring nutritious meals to students who might not otherwise be able to afford them, and provide a consistent source of income for local small-scale farmers who are struggling to make a living in the face of a national agricultural system that increasingly favors large, industrial farming operations. The Veggielution Community Farm is working with volunteers and youth to create a more sustainable food system in the Santa Clara Valley and in East San Jose.

Other cities are taking notice. In Washington, D.C., for example, the local farm to school program spent almost a year looking at programs all over the United States, including those in Portland, Oregon and others on the West Coast, as models to follow.  “There are so many people and organizations involved that it takes a lot of care and trial runs and screwing up to develop a successful farm to school program,” said Andrea Northrup, the Program Coordinator for the Farm to School Network in DC. “But it’s so valuable for the students, the farmers, and the entire community that we really wanted to get it right. So we looked to other cities and other programs for guidance.”

The DC program has learned valuable lessons and experienced success. Founded in 2008, it has already held a Farm to School Week in order to introduce farmers to schools and parents, and students to local food producers. This year the Farm to School Week plans to engage all 123 city public schools and all 70 charter schools and has plans for a more permanent program that would bring 60,000 meals containing fresh produce to the DC public school system every day during the school year.

In Cape Town, Washington, D.C., California, and all over the United States, successful programs are working on the ground to alleviate global hunger and poverty, improve livelihoods, and teach children healthy eating habits. Instead of viewing world hunger as a distant problem with no solution, we should pay attention to those fighting it all over the world. We just might learn a thing or two.

Molly Theobald is a Food and Agriculture research fellow at the Worldwatch Institute.

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


Innovation of the Week: Aqua Shops

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By Eleanor Fausold

Aquaculture has potential to stimulate economic growth and increase food production in Kenya. (Photo credit: Lilian Kamola Kaivilu)

In Western Kenya, where nearly 60 percent of households depend on fish as a source of income, dwindling fish supplies are hurting the economy and those who rely on fish as a source of food. Lake Victoria currently provides over 90 percent of Kenya’s fish supply, but a combination of overfishing and pollution have led to a decline in fish stocks, causing prices to rise because supply is not keeping up with demand.

As a solution, Kenya’s government is supporting the development of aquaculture in an effort to promote economic growth and stimulate food production. In addition to providing basic infrastructure and supporting research and development, the government is also providing funding for the construction of 46,000 fish ponds in 160 of the country’s 210 constituencies and has given farmers catfish and tilapia fingerlings, or very young fish, and fish feed to help get them started. Despite these governmental efforts, however, many farmers still lack access to the support and inputs required for long-term success.

In an effort to supplement and further the Kenyan government’s initiatives, FARM-Africa, in partnership with Natural Resources International, the University of Stirling, Imani Development, the U.K. Department for International Development Research Into Use Programme, and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, has established a series of six Aqua Shops in western Kenya. These shops provide farmers with technical advice about aquaculture practices and give them the materials, including fish feed and manure (for fertilization), needed to set up and maintain healthy fish ponds and lakes.



Farmer Cooperative Promotes Education, Nutrition, and Prosperity in Nicaraguan Communities

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By Julio Montealegre

On a farm in the northern Nicaraguan town of Chagüite Grande, Melvin Estrada tends to his cabbage crop. He and his hired workers pick the plants, inspect them for quality and load them into a truck bound for a local collection center – and eventually a major supermarket.

TechnoServe helps farmers receive more income from their crops and land. (Photo credit: TechnoServe)

Melvin used to earn an average of five cordobas – about 20 cents – from each cabbage plant. After joining the Tomatoya-Chagüite Grande cooperative about five years ago, he learned more-effective production practices and gained a reliable market for his crop. He now earns 12 cordobas per cabbage, double what he used to receive.

The extra income has helped Melvin buy medicine and nutritious food, improve his home and send his 10-year-old son to school.

“An education is the best inheritance he can receive,” Melvin says.

With TechnoServe’s assistance, and with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development and Catholic Relief Services, farmers in the small communities of Tomatoya and Chagüite Grande have turned their cooperative into a successful business. They have learned to grow superior produce and become a competitive supplier in the national market. As a result, their cooperative is growing and creating new prosperity in the communities.



Farmworkers Fast for Fair Food in Florida

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By Alison Blackmore

On March 5th, more than 50 members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) began a 6-day fast in Lakeland, Florida, hoping to urge Publix Super Markets to implement the Fair Food Program.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has organized a fast to protest unfair wages and working conditions in Florida. (Photo credit:

The program focuses on implementing strategies to improve wages and working conditions for Florida tomato pickers. It challenges major tomato buyers to pay a premium of one penny more per pound for their tomatoes and works directly with farm laborers to establish a just code of conduct. The fast will culminate on May 10th in a three-mile procession to Publix headquarters.

These CIW members join faith leaders, students, and community leaders from across the country with hopes of bringing attention to Publix’s refusal to support measures ensuring the fundamental rights of farmworkers who labor in America’s fields. By entering into a partnership with the CIW, Publix will take a big step toward providing Florida farm workers more fair wages.

The CIW is a community-based organization of farmworkers working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. Since 1993 they have organized hunger strikes, boycotts, interfaith prayer vigils, rallies, and marches calling for fairer wages and better working conditions that have led major food companies such as Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to sign Fair Food Agreements.



What You Need to Know About Hunger

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Check out this latest video brought to you by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Ending Hunger campaign.

The video highlights that to eliminate global hunger, we need to address the core underlying cause—poverty. Increasing global food production and food aid are not enough if basic rural infrastructure and employment opportunities are insufficient. Efforts to boost the rural economy by improving roads, building irrigation canals, supporting rural banking, improving rural communication, training farmers, and empowering women can improve agricultural production and increase incomes.

Click here to view the video and here to sign the campaign’s petition to end hunger.

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.


Strengthening Food Security with Grain Amaranth Production

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By Moses Tenywa 

Moses Tenywwa is the Director of the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) in Uganda. This article was originally posted in Uganda’s Daily Monitor.

A crop indigenous to Africa, amaranth is highly versatile—it grows easily and prolifically in the humid tropics, survives in high altitudes and is a well-known “drought crop” that thrives in hot and dry weather. In Uganda, there are over 60 varieties of amaranths (locally known as dodo) but most of these are eaten as leafy vegetables yet other varieties are just fed to animals and others are regarded as weeds.

Indigenous to Africa, amaranth is a versatile, nutritious and lucrative crop. (Photo credit: MUARIK)

In the past two years, Access for Action Uganda (ACFA), a local nongovernment organization operating in Wakiso district and Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) has been promoting the production of grain amaranth. This is one of the fastest growing amaranth varieties with a maturity period of only 75 days, as compared to other grain crops, such as maize, millet, and sorghum whose maturity period is between 115–120 days.

When planting grain amaranth, a farmer will only require one kilogram (around 2.2 pounds) to plant one acre of land which costs UGX 2,500–3,000 (US$1–1.30). In order to attain maximum yield, a farmer needs to thin the seedlings twice: after 2–3 weeks of germination and after 2–3 weeks from the first thinning. After 75 days, one can harvest the head using a knife and then dry the grain for 4–5 days. After drying, one must sieve the grain and ensure that it is not contaminated with dust.



Thistle Farms: In the Street, Cultivating an Alternative to the Streets

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By Molly Theobald

The thistle is the perfect symbol for Magdalene, a two-year private rehab facility for women with criminal histories of prostitution and drug addiction in Nashville, Tennessee. The thistle flower, says Penny Hall, a former prostitute and resident of the facility, “comes up out of the concrete, and it transforms in to a beautiful flower.”

The products made by Thistle Farm are sold in stores in Nashville and across the country. (Photo credit: Thistle Farms)

The thistle, it turns out, is also the perfect tool for helping women who live on the street improve their health and their livelihoods.

Founded in 1997 by Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest, Magdalene provides housing, food, medical treatment, therapy, education and job training to women who find their way to the facility from prison and the streets. The six homes at Magdalene are managed by the residents themselves who work together to create a clean, comfortable and supportive living environment. The residents range in age from 20 to 50, and most have abused alcohol or drugs, been arrested more than once,  and many have prostituted themselves for money and drugs.  And before coming to Magdalene, most of these women did not imagine that their situation could possibly change. This is where the thistle plant comes in.

One way Magdalene helps women go from living and working in the streets to gainful employment is Thistle Farms, the organization’s social enterprise.  At Thistle Farm, the residents of Magdalene participate in therapeutic workshops where they learn to make bath and body oils, candles, and paper. The paper is made from thistle plants that the women collect on roadsides and fields, and every product that Thistle Farm produces is sold wrapped in it.



Nourishing the Planet TV: Creating Farms that Produce Food and Energy

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In this week’s episode, we discuss how incorporating an Integrated Food and Energy System (IFES) can give rural and impoverished communities better access to food and reliable energy. Farmers can incorporate IFES in two ways–by using intercropping methods and growing food and fuel-generating crops, such as acacia trees, or by integrating livestock onto their farms and using biodigesters from their manure to generate energy.


To read  about IFES, see: Innovation of the Week: Creating Farms that Produce Food and Energy.

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.


Food Price Instability hurting millions

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By Bryan Dorval

Rising food prices represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. Hardest-hit are the poor, who often have to spend up to 70 percent of their income on food. According to the World Bank , in 2010-2011 rising food costs pushed nearly 44 million people into extreme poverty and recent price hikes could lead to an additional 30 million more.

The smallest rise in food prices can be a huge burden to bear for many farmers in developing countries. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

There are many causes to the latest spike in the cost of food, according to the World Bank’s Food Price Watch including changing weather patterns, the increase in the demand from emerging economies, and the growing production of agrofuels.

The food crisis is also intimately linked to the current economic crisis—food and agriculture have become heavily dependent on oil. With the markets in flux and ongoing conflicts in regions where petroleum is widely produced, oil has steadily increased in price. The rise in the price of oil has had a direct impact on the rise in the cost of basic foods.  According to The World Bank, when the price of oil is over fifty dollars a barrel, a 1 percent price increase in oil causes a 0.9 percent increase in the price of corn.

With poor families in developing countries spending large percentage of their incomes on food, the smallest rise in food prices can be a huge burden to bear. The food price index, the measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, showed a small dip of 1 percent in September, but it is still 19 percent above its September 2010 levels.



Real Food, Real Jobs: An Interview with Chris Bohner

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By Sheldon Yoder

Name: Chris Bohner

Affiliation: Director, UNITE HERE’s Sustainable Food Project

Bio: Chris Bohner has been a labor activist for 15 years, organizing workers in a wide range of industries, including food service, hotels, and casinos.  He is also a passionate cook, gardener, and amateur food pickler.  A few years ago, he started reading Michael Pollan and other food writers and realized that he was quite ignorant about where his food came from, how it was produced, and the health and environmental implications of our food system. He found it ironic that while calling attention to the deplorable working conditions of hospitality workers, he was not doing the same when it came to his food and those who prepare it. He didn’t see a way to marry his interest in food politics with labor activism until the president of UNITE HERE, John Wilhelm, pointed out that the Union had been active in a number of campaigns to connect worker justice with sustainable food. At Yale University, for example, the members of the Local 35—a union organized by UNITE HERE—played an important role in pushing the university to adopt what is now one of the leading models of sustainable food in higher education.  By organizing students, farmers, workers, and other concerned individuals, the Sustainable Food Project hopes to improve working standards for food service employees and access to healthy, sustainable food for all.

Location: Washington D.C. and nationwide

Image credit: Unite Here

What are the goals of the Sustainable Food Project and how do you go about accomplishing them? 

Our goals are similar to others working to create a sustainable food system.  For example, the Real Food Challenge, an amazing national group of students changing food at universities, defines real food as “food which truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth.  It is a food system—from seed to plate—that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice, and environmental sustainability.” Our long-term goal is to make that vision a reality.