Posts Tagged ‘Malnutrition’

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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Feb01

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.

Sep12

Chase Campaign: Feeding and Educating Our Youth

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By Devon Ericksen 

This month, The Worldwatch Institute celebrates the role of youth in the creation of a just and sustainable future. Nourishing the Planet knows that we must not only teach our children about proper nutrition to ensure that they live healthy lives, but also to care about the future of sustainable agriculture. Around the world, children face problems ranging from malnutrition and lack of access to education in developing countries, to obesity and poor school lunches in developed countries.

The future of the world’s food system depends on what we teach and feed our children today (Photo Credit: Food Network)

Though the problems may differ, the solution remains the same: develop local agriculture systems with which to sustainably produce nutritious food for our children. In August, we highlighted ways that people are working to bring agriculture closer to home in our post, “From a Garden in South Africa to a Cafeteria in California: Sharing Meals and Good Ideas”. By making fresh produce more accessible, whether it is delivered from a local farm or grown in the schoolyard, organizations such as Abalimi Bezekhaya in South Africa, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers in California, and the Washington D.C. Farm to School Network are all working to feed our youth healthier food, whether they live in situations of poverty or wealth, whether they are obese or malnourished.

Just in time for school to start, we provided ideas and examples for improving school lunches in our post 15 Innovations to Make School Lunches Healthier and More Sustainable. These changes are badly needed at a time when one-third of American children are overweight or obese—a recent study found that children who eat school lunches are much more likely to be obese than children who bring lunch from home. From school gardens to healthy vending machines, change is happening across the country as people realize the importance of feeding our children healthier food.

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Sep11

Chase Campaign: Empowering Women

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By Devon Ericksen  

As the Worldwatch Institute celebrates women and youth in September, Nourishing the Planet highlights the many ways that women contribute to agriculture all over the world. Women play a crucial role in creating a just and sustainable future, but still face significant barriers around the world. They are underpaid, typically earning about 17 percent less than men, and undereducated, comprising two-thirds of the world’s 776 million illiterate adults. And although women make up over 40 percent of the world’s agricultural workforce, they own less than 15 percent of the world’s farmland. Because women make up such a large part of the agricultural workforce, and yet have significantly less access than men to resources such as education and technology, women’s empowerment must be an important part of future agricultural development policy.

Although women make up over 40 percent of the world’s agricultural workforce, they own less than 15 percent of the world’s farmland (Photo Credit: UNEP)

Our post, “Six Innovations Lifting the World’s Agricultural Workers out of Poverty,” shows that although women often lack access to the same educational and technological opportunities as men, they are just as innovative when it comes to solving problems, such as inventing safer and more efficient technologies that help female farmers.

In August we posted an article by Carolyn Raffensperger, Executive Director of the Science and Information Health Network, previewing the Women’s Congress for Future Generations to be held in September in Moab, Utah. Raffensperger and the Women’s Congress focus on the idea that women have an important role in restoring the ecology of the Earth, and that their voices must be heard in order to do so. From political discourse in the United States to the farms of developing countries, Raffensperger and the Women’s Congress call for a new civil rights movement where women’s voices can speak on behalf of future generations.

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Aug24

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.

Jul11

Indian Food Policy: A Plentiful Harvest while Millions Starve

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By Keshia Pendigrast

According to a recent New York Times article, agriculture policy in India is shaped by two central goals: to achieve higher, more stable prices for farmers than they would normally achieve in an open market, and to distribute food to the poor at lower prices than is available from private stores. India ranks second in the world in agricultural output, and the sector employs 52 percent of the labor force. Yet one-fifth of its people are malnourished, double the rate of countries like Vietnam and China.

Sacks of rice that have suffered decay and weather damage. (Photo credit: New York Times)

India’s technical innovations and generous wheat subsidies have lead to massive success in the production of rice and wheat. According to a Reuters article, in 2011 Indian Food Minister K.V. Thomas said that wheat and rice exports would only cease after they had reached 2 million tons. August 2011 brought Indian wheat stocks over 35.87 million tons, substantially higher than its target of 17.1 million tons, set for the July-September quarter. Government warehouses were overwhelmed with over 25 million tons of rice.

But according to a World Bank study, only 41.4 percent of food stocks in warehouses reached Indian homes.

“It’s painful to watch,” said Gurdeep Singh, a farmer near Ranwan India, in an interview for the New York Times. Singh recently sold his wheat harvest to the government. “The government is big and powerful. It should be able to put up a shed to store this crop.”

“The reason we are facing this problem is our refusal to distribute the grain that we buy from farmers, to the people who need it,” said Biraj Patnaik, principal adviser to the Supreme Court on the right to food, in an interview for the New York times. “The only place that this grain deserves to be is in the stomachs of the people who are hungry.”

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Jun01

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.

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Apr10

The One Campaign Urges “Final Push” to Break Cycle of Poverty and Malnutrition

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By Laura Reynolds

As part of its THRIVE campaign, the grassroots organization The One Campaign has released a report, FOOD. FARMING. FUTURE. Breaking the Cycle of Malnutrition and Poverty. The report offers concrete steps to lift communities out of extreme poverty and food insecurity, and highlights success stories from Malawi and Tanzania.

Proper nutrition is vital for child development. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Malnutrition, or not getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals in one’s diet, can contribute to stunted physical development and shorter, less-productive lives. According to the World Bank, individuals suffering from malnutrition lose an average of 10 percent of their potential lifetime earnings.

Around 1.4 billion people, or 20 percent of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty, earning less than US$1.25 per day. One billion of these people also suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition. Children suffer disproportionately from malnutrition: 2.5 million children will die in this year alone from not getting enough food, and the development of 178 million children will be irreversibly impaired.

The report points out that reactive measures, such as early warning systems, safety net programs, and coordinated humanitarian responses have not been enough to eradicate the food crises and famines that result from drought and national disasters. A more preventative approach, beginning with increased investment in agriculture—and the financial and infrastructure systems that support it—is needed to increase incomes and eradicate food security.

Agricultural investment has proven to be the most effective means of lifting entire communities out of poverty. When connected to markets, smallholder farmers can generate income, send their children to school, and boost their community’s economy over the long-term. For this reason, investments in agriculture are estimated to be around two to four times more effective in reducing poverty than investment in other sectors.

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Mar09

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: partnership-africa.org)

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.

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Mar03

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.

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