Posts Tagged ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’


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.


Innovation of the Week: Tunnel Farming to Boost Food Security

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By Carly Chaapel

In places where severe weather and pests threaten crop yields, farmers are turning to tunnel-shaped greenhouses that improve the quality of their vegetables, decrease the need for pesticides, and promise higher yields by protecting the plants from severe wind, frost, and hail.

Tunnel farming can increase food security in regions with harsh environmental conditions (Photo Credit: Hartwood Farm)

CEDE Greenhouses manufactures greenhouses and tunnels to be implemented throughout southern Africa. Over the past 30 years, they have helped over 350 farmers start their own greenhouse businesses. Recently, CEDE partnered with Klein Karoo Seed Marketing Company to create the Africa Tunnel. Its simple design consists of plastic cloth and supporting beams, and makes it possible for new farmers to enter the business.

Greenhouses can be valuable tools for protecting plants from harsh environmental conditions while also extending the growing season. Where sunlight is lacking, the structure can optimize what light it receives by trapping the long-wave-length heat radiation that is reemitted by objects within the greenhouse walls. In arid or semi-arid regions such as Kenya, greenhouses can lower temperatures by blocking some light with shade cloths and encouraging swift ventilation. Greenhouses may also limit the amount of water that plants lose through transpiration, which can significantly improve yields where water is in short supply. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 0.2 percent of the total agricultural land is irrigated.

In addition to manufacturing the materials necessary for tunnel farming, CEDE also offers training sessions for sustainable crop production. The company teaches farmers how to sow seeds, manage plant growth, and finally market their own fruits and vegetables.



Five food guides that are combating malnourishment

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By Jenna Banning

If you are what you eat, our world is certainly unhealthy. People across the globe are not getting the nutrients that they need, resulting in high levels of both hunger and obesity. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 925 million people were undernourished in 2010. At the same time, the World Health Organization estimates that over 1 billion people are overweight, and at least 300 million obese. (Such estimates are based on Body Mass Index measurements, which compare one’s height and weight. Individuals with BMI’s over 25 are considered overweight, and over 30 are obese).

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can prevent obesity and malnutrition (Photo Credit: Carol Lee)

In order to tackle this issue, food pyramids and other guides have been used by organizations and governments to suggest better nutrition for the needs of their populations for many years. Today, Nourishing the Planet shares visual food guides from five countries (and one organization) being used across the world.



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.



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

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

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

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

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

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

A Brighter Future for Cassava

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By Yassir Islam 

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

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

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

So what’s not to like?

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

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



A Year in Africa Unearthing Stories of Hope and Success

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Check out this article recently published in Tufts University’s Now publication.

During her trip, Dani met with many small-scale farmers who shared their agricultural innovations and stories of success with her. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The piece highlights Nourishing the Planet project director Danielle Nierenberg’s journey to sub-Saharan Africa, where she visited dozens of projects that are improving livelihoods, while preserving natural resources and protecting the environment.

The article was originally published in the spring edition of Tufts’ Nutrition Magazine.

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.


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

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


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

Creating a Global Partnership to Tackle Desertification: An Interview with William Dar

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By Supriya Kumar

Name: William Dar

Affiliation: Director General of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), India

Location: Andhra Pradesh, India

Bio: Dar has had a long and distinguished career as an educationist, agricultural scientist, administrator, and humanitarian in his native Philippines and abroad in the Asia Pacific region and sub-Saharan Africa. He holds the distinction of being the first Filipino and Asian to be Director General of ICRISAT. He was Chair of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) from 2007 to 2009 and a member of the UN Millennium Task Force on Hunger. Prior to joining ICRISAT, he served as Presidential Adviser for Rural Development in the Philippines, Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD), Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) of the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) and Professor of Benguet State University (BSU), Philippines.

Photo credit: ICRISAT

In a recent article in The Guardian, you stated that a “global partnership” was needed to tackle the problem of desertification. What will this partnership look like and how can we encourage countries to get on board?

For many years, desertification is spreading in many parts of the world, threatening more and more people. In sub-Saharan African countries, we are at a critical stage and global warming will worsen the degradation of land. On the positive side, some of our research projects are showing successful ways to tackle land degradation locally and reverse the desertification process before it is too late.



Agricultural Development Key to Ending Hunger in Africa

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In this interview with Roger Thurow, senior fellow at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, he discusses the need for effective agricultural development for smallholder farmers in Africa as an important step in eradicating hunger in the region.

Name: Roger Thurow

Affiliation: Senior Fellow for global agriculture and food policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Location: Chicago, IL

Bio: Roger Thurow joined The Chicago Council on Global Affairs as senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy in January 2010 after three decades at The Wall Street Journal.  He is the editor and principal contributor to the Council’s Global Food for Thought blog, part of the Global Agricultural Development Initiative. For 20 years, he served as a foreign correspondent, based in Europe and Africa.  His coverage of global affairs spanned the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the release of Nelson Mandela, the end of apartheid, the wars in the former Yugoslavia and the humanitarian crises of the first decade of this century – along with 10 Olympic Games.  In 2003, he and Journal colleague Scott Kilman wrote a series of stories on famine in Africa that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting.  Their reporting on humanitarian and development issues was also honored by the United Nations.  Thurow and Kilman are authors of the recent book ENOUGH: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty.  In 2009, they were awarded Action Against Hunger’s Humanitarian Award.

Photo credit: Luther College

The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing a devastating famine. What factors contributed to this famine, and what needs to be done both in the short term and long term to help those that are suffering? 

Conflict and drought have precipitated this famine.  The long-running conflict and turmoil in Somalia has crippled agriculture activity, disrupted markets and displaced many, many people.  This has spread hunger across a wide area of the country, forcing refugees to flee into neighboring countries.  Add to this a devastating drought throughout the Horn and famine was sure to follow.

Emergency food aid has been pouring into the region, which is necessary to feed the swelling ranks of the hungry and save countless lives.  But we also need to display similar urgency in addressing the desperate need for agricultural development.  This isn’t an either/or proposition.  We must do both emergency food aid AND agriculture development.  Emergency food aid won’t prevent the next crisis; only agricultural development can.