Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

Dec10

5 Strategies the United Nations Special Rapporteur Suggests for Public Health

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By Alison Blackmore

With 1.3 billion people now overweight or obese, nearly 1 billion undernourished, and even more suffering from critical micronutrient deficiencies, it is no secret that our food system is broken. Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food released a report in 2011 urging governments to move away from the practice of merely prescribing health warnings and applying band-aids to public health challenges. Instead, he urged governments to address the root causes of the international health crisis.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food urges governments to address the root causes of the international health crisis. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia)

Today, Nourishing the Planet looks at the five actions that Mr. De Schutter suggests that governments take to protect the human right to adequate food around the world.

Taxing unhealthy products. De Schutter reported that taxing unhealthy products can be an effective strategy to encourage healthy diets, since price is an important determinant in consumption levels. Research published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2007 showed that a 10 percent tax on soft drinks could lead to an 8–10 percent reduction in purchases. Because foods high in fat, salt, and sugar are cheap while nutritious diets can be expensive, many consumers gravitate toward unhealthy food choices out of financial necessity. To ensure a more equal food system, the report advises governments to direct the tax revenues raised from foods high in fat, salt, and sugar toward making healthy food more affordable and accessible to poor communities.

Example: Despite strong opposition from retailers city-wide, in May 2010 the Washington, D.C. Council added sweetened soda to those items subject to the 6 percent sales tax. The city intended to use the tax revenue to support D.C.’s Healthy Schools Act, a landmark measure seeking to improve school nutrition and increase Physical Education programs.

Regulating foods high in saturated fats, salt, and sugar. Taxing foods high in fats, sugar, and salt is just one way of suppressing a sugar-high food system before it crashes. De Schutter also suggests that governments regulate junk food and fast food advertisements, especially those catered to children; provide accurate and balanced nutritional information to consumers; and adopt a plan to replace trans-fats with polyunsaturated fats in nearly all food products.

Example: In October of 2011, Denmark imposed a so-called “fat tax” on products high in saturated fats in order to repress rising obesity rates, which have led to increasing medical and social problems. Denmark has a long history of taxing unhealthy products to promote healthy diets, such as a tax on candy and a ban on trans-fats—perhaps a reason the country’s obesity rate in 2011 was 1.6 percent lower than the European average of 15 percent.

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Sep28

Bridging the Gap: The Need to Unite Global and Grassroots Approaches to Sustainable Development

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By Sophie Wenzlau

“Human actions are rapidly approaching or have already transgressed key global thresholds, increasing the likelihood of unprecedented ecological turbulence,” according to a report co-authored by scientists from the STEPS Centre, Stockholm Resilience Centre, and Tellus Institute. The report cites an urgent need to promote Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) uniting global and grassroots approaches to sustainable development.

The international community has neglected to emphasize community-led responses to sustainable development (Photo Credit: Antonio Lacerda/EPA)

At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, officials endorsed a document, Agenda 21, emphasizing the need for community-led responses to sustainable development challenges. However, in the 20 years that have since passed, local responses to sustainable development challenges have seldom been acknowledged at the international level.

In general, high-level international panels on sustainability have promoted development from the top-down, focusing on, “particular forms of technological fix, whereby advanced science and engineering are harnessed towards solutions that can be rolled out at a large scale—whether in biotechnology (to produce high yielding crops to feed 9 billion people), or geo-engineering and low carbon energy technologies (to mitigate climate change).” The international approach has tended to ignore small-scale, grassroots innovations. It has, “related only sporadically, if at all, to the array of innovative grassroots initiatives springing up in farms and forests, villages and municipalities, factories and homes,” around the world.

According to a press release from the STEPS Centre, “the targets, indicators and approaches being used to pursue progress towards sustainable development at Rio+20 are counterproductive,” because they rely on large scale technological solutions. Scientists at the STEPS Centre, Stockholm Institute, and Tellus Institute, are actively promoting the idea that the principles of sustainable development should emphasize a diversity of solutions, embracing both small-scale grassroots and large-scale technological innovations in a multidimensional way.

To effectively address food insecurity, for instance, these scientists suggest the dual promotion of large-scale innovations, like plant breeding and biotechnology, and small-scale innovations, like soil and water conservation education for indigenous farmers. They recommend dialogue that brings farmers, scientists, businesses, and policymakers together, for they believe it can help, “to clarify the roles of these different innovation pathways in addressing diverse national and local sustainability priorities.”

According to Professor Melissa Leach, director of the STEPS Centre, “science, technology and innovation can help avert catastrophic developmental and environmental damage. But only if we move beyond outdated notions of whose innovation counts, to empower the vital contributions of poorer people’s own creativity in building green and fair economies and contributing to resilient socio-techno-ecological systems.”

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.

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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Sep01

Saturday Series: An Interview with Aturinde Emmanuel

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By Molly Redfield

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Name: Aturinde Emmanuel

Affiliation: Hunger Fighters Uganda

Aturinde Emmanuel is the Executive Director of Hunger Fighters Uganda (Photo credit: Umuseke.com)

Bio: Aturinde Emmanuel is the Executive Director of Hunger Fighters Uganda (HF-UG). Before he worked at HF-UG, he worked as a Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant for the United Nations World Food Programme in Uganda. Emmanuel graduated from Duisburg-Essen University in Germany with a master’s degree in development and governance and from Makerere University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science. His research focuses on agriculture, development policy, and food and nutrition security with a special focus on development innovation.

In 2008, participants of a UN World Food Programme (WFP) and Continuing Agriculture Education Center (CAEC) course dubbed ‘Hunger in the 21st Century’ established Hunger Fighters Uganda.

What roles did the WFP and the CAEC play in the organization’s founding?

The most important thing about the WFP and CAEC course was that it focused on the causes, effects, and possible responses to hunger. By looking to address these issues, the course connected many of its participants. After the course training, myself and some of my classmates and instructors were able to initiate Hunger Fighters Uganda. We started out by monitoring the food that is given to refugees in Uganda. The WFP and CAEC course sparked the idea for HFU, but we’ve been able to do what we do because of our staff. This is especially true in regard to capacity building and having other resources to do our work. Our staff now includes people beyond the initial few who participated in the WFP and CAEC course.

What is the hunger situation in Uganda?

Hunger in Uganda affects over 8 million people. Many Ugandans face something referred to as hidden hunger, a deficiency in micronutrients. The lack of micronutrients, especially of vitamins, iron, and iodine, is referred to as ‘hidden’ because it does not show up immediately. It is only clear later when a person’s immune system is compromised and other opportunistic diseases manifest. So we focus on hidden hunger, most notably in the northern and northeastern parts of the country. These regions experience the highest level of malnutrition.

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Aug23

Innovation of the Week: Scaling up Nutrition

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By Isaac Hopkins

Scale Up Nutrition (SUN), a program of the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition, is part of a broader effort to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing poverty by 50 percent by 2015. SUN helps various organizations coordinate efforts to combat malnutrition in women and children—particularly malnutrition in children under two years old—by helping to maximize efficiency.

SUN helps various organizations combat malnutrition in women and children (Photo Credit: Martine Perret)

SUN emphasizes two approaches to solving hunger. The first involves immediate, direct intervention for malnourished pregnant women and children via food aid and nutritional supplements—intervention that could be provided by agencies from a local to a national scale. The second approach is broader, and emphasizes food security, access to health care, and other “support structures” such as information distribution and microfinance. The second approach is intended to promote long-term solutions, which are essential to the success of the MDGs.

More than 100 organizations, including Bread for the World and Save the Children, have endorsed SUN since 2010, when the Road Map for Scaling Up Nutrition was released. In the last two years, these organizations have actively worked with governments and organizations, and achieved measurable, long-term reductions in malnutrition. 1,000 Days, a SUN partner organization that launched in 2010, has focused on targeting malnutrition during a critical period of childhood: conception to two years of age. The organization works to inform women and policy makers at every level about the vital importance of appropriate nutrition early in life, and to encourage them to take immediate and appropriate action.

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Aug21

First Peoples Worldwide Awards Over US$1 Million in Grants to Indigenous Communities

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By Sophie Wenzlau

This past July, First Peoples Worldwide (FPW) reached a milestone of US$1.2 million in grants awarded “directly to Indigenous projects, programs, and communities” around the world. First Peoples, an international, Indigenous-led advocacy organization, seeks to promote economic determination and strengthen Indigenous communities by awarding grants directly to Indigenous Peoples. To fulfill these objectives, the organization provides “Indigenous Peoples with the tools, information and relationships they need to build community capacity to leverage assets for sustainable economic development.”

First Peoples Worldwide has surpassed $1 million in grants to Indigenous organizations. (Image credit: FPW)

According to the United Nations’ State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, “Indigenous Peoples all over the world continue to suffer from disproportionally high rates of poverty, health problems, crime, and human rights abuses.” In the United States, for example, Indigenous Peoples are 600 times more likely to contract tuberculosis and 62 percent more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Worldwide, Indigenous Peoples’ life expectancy is 20 years lower than the non-Indigenous average.

Despite these sobering statistics, Indigenous Peoples are responsible for some of the most vibrant and diverse cultures on earth. Of the world’s 7,000 languages, the UN estimates that over 4,000 are spoken by Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous communities are also strongholds of traditional knowledge, preserving ancient technologies, skills, and beliefs.

The grants awarded by FPW have funded innovative projects in countries like Botswana, Bolivia, Ghana, and Sri Lanka, and have focused on topics as diverse as land reclamation, water development, and traditional medicine.

In Ghana, FPW funded a project designed to prevent wild elephants from destroying farms located along the boundaries of Kakum National Park. The Association of Beekeepers in Ghana, the organization that received the grant, developed the novel idea of constructing a beehive barrier along the community’s perimeter. According to FPW, “the presence of the hives has naturally prevented elephants from crossing the grounds, and the honey production has increased income for farmers through sales, which has improved local commerce.”

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Aug17

Aquaculture Feeding World’s Insatiable Appetite for Seafood

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By Danielle Nierenberg and Katie Spoden

Total global fish production, including both wild capture fish and aquaculture, reached an all-time high of 154 million tons in 2011, and aquaculture is set to top 60 percent of production by 2020, according to new research conducted for Worldwatch’s Vital Signs Online service. Wild capture was 90.4 million tons in 2011, up 2 percent from 2010. Aquaculture, in contrast, has been expanding steadily for the last 25 years and saw a rise of 6.2 percent in 2011.

The global demand for farmed fish is increasing (Photo Credit: Vera Kratochvil)

Growth in fish farming can be a double-edged sword, however. Despite its potential to affordably feed an ever-growing global population, it can also contribute to problems of habitat destruction, waste disposal, invasions of exotic species and pathogens, and depletion of wild fish stock.

Humans ate 130.8 million tons of fish in 2011. The remaining 23.2 million tons of fish went to non-food uses such as fishmeal, fish oil, culture, bait, and pharmaceuticals. The human consumption figure has increased 14.4 percent over the last five years. And consumption of farmed fish has risen tenfold since 1970, at an annual average of 6.6 percent per year. Asia consumes two thirds of the fish caught or grown for consumption.

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May22

USAID to Use Permaculture to Assist Orphaned and Vulnerable Children

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By Stephanie Buglione

Nearly one quarter of children in the developing world are underweight, and one third are experiencing stunted growth, according to a UNICEF report. In addition, many of these children have a family member, or are themselves, afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

Jacob, a student in Malawi, explaining permaculture to other boys. (Photo credit: NeverEndingFood.org)

According to the Joint U.N Programme on HIV/AIDS, worldwide, 16.6 million children aged 0 to 17 have lost parents due to HIV. Families afflicted with HIV have less help harvesting and planting crops or selling them at the market. Additionally, when a parent dies prematurely, their children are denied their generational agricultural knowledge and skills. But this missing information, and other lessons on ethics, patience, and responsibility, can be taught in schools through the use of permaculture.

A new USAID project, Permaculture Design for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, is focused on providing long-term food security solutions to orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) that are coping with the challenges of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Permaculture is their means to achieving this food security.

Kristof Nordin is one of the co-authors of this initiative. He and his wife, Stacia, a registered dietician and previous School Health and Nutrition Advisor for the Malawi Ministry of Education, live in a home outside of Lilongwe, Malawi. On their land, they have been demonstrating permaculture practices for several years to help educate the community about indigenous vegetables and to reduce the cultural fixation on monocropping.

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May10

Slow Food President to Address the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

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By Alison Blackmore

On May 14, Slow Food President Carlo Petrini will be speaking on the right to food and food sovereignty at the 11th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). His invitation to speak is the first time an external guest has been asked to address the Forum.

Carlo Petrini speaking at the Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The UNPFII represents global issues pertinent to Indigenous Peoples. This year, at its annual two-week session, the Forum will focus on the “Doctrine of Discovery,” where Indigenous, governmental, and UN representatives will discuss the impact foreign conquests have had on Indigenous Peoples, and how to rectify these grievances.

At the Forum, Petrini will speak on the power Indigenous Peoples hold to deal with many of our most dire societal ills – from environmental crises to global health problems. For many years, Petrini and Slow Food have been working with Indigenous communities, learning from their agricultural approaches, supporting farming initiatives, and fostering connections between farmers. Petrini argues that returning to many traditional agricultural practices that work in harmony with the earth is one of the best ways to establish a food system that guarantees access to nutritional food without sacrificing the long term health of our environment.

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May08

Three Perspectives on the Status of Global Food Security

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By Laura Reynolds

On April 20, the Heinrich Böll Foundation hosted a meeting and discussion entitled, “Addressing the Global Food Crisis: Assessing Progress Since 2007.” Three speakers, Timothy Wise from Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute, Karen Hansen-Kuhn from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), and Neil Watkins from ActionAid USA, discussed whether on-the-ground progress has been made to provide greater food security around the world.

Agricultural development must focus on building the capacity of smallholder and women farmers. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Timothy Wise presented the findings of his recent report, “Resolving the Food Crisis: Assessing Global Policy Reforms since 2007,” co-authored with Sophia Murphy of IATP.

“This is considered a new era in agriculture,” said Wise, citing that the prices of rice, corn, soybeans, and wheat in the next decade are projected to remain 50-100 percent higher than they were at the start of the 21st century.

In the four years since the crisis, some encouraging signs of progress in the food system have emerged. Multilateral organizations and funders, including the United Nations and the World Bank, have increased their commitment to agriculture and rural development. These organizations have recognized that smallholder farmers are important in today’s food system, and can play a key role in achieving regional food security. And policymakers, nongovernmental organizations, and donors have more fully acknowledged the world’s resource constraints, including limited and changing water supplies in many regions, and the role that climate change will have in agricultural development in the coming decades.

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