Wishes for the One billion

Recently, the world’s population has surpassed 7 billion and unfortunately,

One billion are still hungry

Although the number of undernourished people worldwide has decreased since 2009, nearly 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night. In fact, malnutrition contributes to the death of half a billion children under age 5 every year. In Africa alone, one child dies every six seconds from hunger. 

One good initiative is the home-grown school feeding (HGSF – World Food Program) that works to alleviate hunger and poverty. HGSF programs connect local producers with schools, helping to provide children with nutritious and fresh food while providing farmers with a stable source of income.

One billion tons of food is still wasted

Roughly 1.3 billion tons of food – a third of the total food produced for human consumption – is lost or wasted each year.

Within the USA, food retailers, services, and households waste approximately 40 million tons of food each year – an amount that has been estimated to be enough to feed the close to 1 billion hungry people.

In Canada, $27 million in food is wasted each year. “This wasted food represents approximately 40% of all the food produced in Canada (http://www.homemakers.com/blog/ecologic/2011/01/25/food-how-not-to-waste-it/). In England, about 1/3 of food purchased in the UK is thrown out every year. This equates to £10bn (about CDN$19.5 billion) (http://www.worldvision.ca/Education-and-Justice/advocacy-in-action/Pages/what-a-waste-the-food-we-throw-away.aspx).

Between 25-40% of most fruit and vegetable crops are in fact rejected by Western supermarkets. One British supermarket insists that all carrots be perfectly straight—“so customers can peel the full length in one easy stroke,” a store manager explained to Tristram Stuart, author of a new book, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal.

Supermarket waste is just one part of a colossal and growing environmental problem: food waste. Consumers share the blame. Food production in the West has changed more the past 50 years than in the previous 10,000. The agricultural industry can now produce unlimited quantities of meat and grains at remarkably low prices, creating an abundance of food and profits. Consumers, lulled by cheap prices, are unaware of the hidden costs of this means of production, or the staggering waste involved in stocking the supermarkets (http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/11/09/what-a-waste/).

Thankfully, organizations around the world are working to educate people on the importance of preserving food or collect surplus food from food providers and distribute it to shelters and other agencies. A great sustainable initiative!

In sub Sahara Africa, some projects teach farmers to use the power of the sun to dehydrate fruits. Experts estimate that, with nearly all of their moisture removed, the fruits’ nutrients are retained for up to six months, allowing farmers to save the 100,000 tons of mangoes alone that go to waste each year.

One billion are still micronutrient deficient

Nearly 1 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, including lack of vitamin A, iron, and iodine. Between a one quarter of a billion to half a billion children with vitamin A deficiencies become blind every year, and 1/2 of these children die within 12 months of losing their sight.

These problems could be fixed by ensuring access to nutritious foods. Organizations such as AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center and the Developing Innovations in School cultivation (Project DISC) have been working to combat this problem. AVRDC works to expand the vegetable farming sector across sub-Saharan Africa, increasing access to nutrient-rich crops. Developing Innovations in School Cultivation, Project DISC, educates youth in Uganda on the importance of agriculture and nutritious diets. Students in the program learn about vegetables and fruits indigenous to their communities, as well as how to process and prepare these foods for consumption.

One billion are overweight

Lack of access to healthy food does not only result in hunger. More than 1 billion people around the world are overweight. Of these, nearly half are obese. And nearly 43 million children under the age of five were considered overweight in 2010. Surging international rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis are being attributed to unhealthy diets, and 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter has urged countries around the world to make firm commitments to improving their food systems. In Mexico, where 19 million are food insecure and 69.5% of the country is overweight or obese, De Schutter has called for a “state of emergency” to tackle the problem. He attributes the hunger-obesity combination to the county’s mono-cropping and export-led agriculture and argues that a change to agricultural policies could tackle these two problems simultaneously.

One billion are still illiterate

More than three quarters of a billion people – 793.1 million adults – are illiterate. Although the number of people unable to read has decreased from 1 billion in 1990, illiteracy prevents millions of people from moving out of poverty. For farmers, being illiterate can limit access to information such as market prices, weather predictions, or training to improve their production.

But there are innovative solutions!

Scientific Animations Without Borders, was developed by a team of researchers to educate illiterate farmers across the world.  Farmers are able to view educational training on how to create natural pesticides or prevent crop damage using solar treatments through the use of short animated videos accessible on mobile phones.

In India, farmers can receive daily updates via text or voicemail on weather and crop prices through subscription services set up by major telephone companies. Kheti, a system operated by the Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, even allows farmers to take pictures of problems they are having with their crops and send them in for advice. With more than 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions globally, projects such as these have the potential to reach and improve the lives of many around the world.

This article first appeared at Nourishing the Planet, a blog published by the Worldwatch Institute  and also by the Monitor (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Making-a-difference/Change-Agent/2011/1226/One-billion-holiday-wishes).

More information at http://www.worldwatch.org/sow11

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To Create Food Security in Africa, Focus on the Value Chain

Over the past few months, there was a lot of discussion around the problem of food insecurity in the horn of Africa and why nothing was done to prevent the current food insecurity through appropriate agriculture development projects.

Questions That Arise
How can we create long-term food security in Sub-Saharan Africa? What important aspects in agriculture projects were missing in the previous decades to really give long-term dividends and impact the life of small farmers?

There are many facets to this issue, and many solutions. None are easy.

Meanwhile in Africa
In a recent article, C.M Dlamini the Swaziland’s Minister for Agriculture takes his country and the agriculture sector as an example of what can be done to create long-term change:

Swaziland, a country about the size of New Jersey located in Southern Africa, has not been immune to food insecurity. It is an economy with a large agricultural sector, and thus highly dependent upon both natural forces and human innovation to sustain and increase their income and wealth.

With the assistance of US and other investors, and well-developed trade links with South Africa and other neighboring countries, Swaziland has embarked on a systematic effort to add more value to their agricultural output through the development of additional manufacturing and service sectors.

The ministry believes this “value chain” approach holds much promise for the entire African continent, as well as agriculturally based economies in other areas of the world.

An example of a successful project is a commercial community garden initiative funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by International Relief & Development (IRD – http://www.ird.org/), a private global development organization. Working with Swaziland’s Ministry of Agriculture, National Agricultural Marketing Board, farming associations and other stakeholders, IRD has helped establish 39 commercial community gardens.   The produce grown and harvested in these gardens—in the US, they would be called small farms—is sold in local and foreign markets.  The key to the gardens’ success is data gathering and analysis that enables farmers to tailor output to specific markets.

It’s not enough to simply “grow enough food.”  The goal is to grow enough food and sell it in a way that increases the incomes of farmers and their communities.   This means understanding the varying levels of demand in local and foreign markets, learning about alternative methods to control pests and unwanted plants, establishing relationships with distributors, marketing firms, processors and other market participants.

To read more about this interesting point of view, go to:  http://www.newstimeafrica.com /archives/23849

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Kenya: Orange-fleshed sweet potato

The Rome-based Global Crop Diversity Trust and the International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru are finalizing a US$1 million five-year renewable grant to support, maintain, conserve, and make available sweet potato varieties.

WHY?
Sweet potatoes grow in marginal conditions, requiring little labor and chemical fertilizers. It is a cheap, nutritious solution for developing countries needing to grow more food on less area for rapidly multiplying populations.

“Conserving available farmers’ varieties is urgent for exploitation for traits such as drought tolerance in the face of climate change,” Dr. Robert Mwanga a sweet potato breeder for sub-Saharan Africa at CIP.

A SUPER FOOD
The orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are a particularly important source of beta-carotene, carbohydrates, fiber, and an inexpensive source of vitamin A. Research shows that just 250 grams of the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes can provide the recommended daily requirement for vitamin A. This is particularly important in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness and premature death among pregnant women and children under five. With its cocktail of benefits – especially for women and children, who are most vulnerable to malnutrition, disease and hunger – it is important to initiate projects to enhance farmers’ uptake and adoption of orange fleshed sweet potato technologies.

DIFFERENT COLOURS=DIFFERENT HEALTH BENEFITS
Varieties exist with a wide range of skin and flesh color, from white to yellow-orange to deep purple-fleshed roots. The various colours are a rich source of Anthocyanins, which are compounds that have medicinal value as Anti-oxidants and Cancer Preventing Agents.

INCOME DIVERSIFICATION
Patrick Makoha, the Secretary for Siwongo Drainage and Irrigation Self-help Group, Busia, Kenya started multiplying orange fleshed sweet potato vines from less than a quarter acre, which have expanded to seven acres in three years. He earns US$ 293.5 a month from the sale of the potatoes and US$ 195.7 monthly from the sale of vines. Multiplication and distribution of clean planting materials or vines has many levels. It involves individual farmers, farmer groups that manage secondary multiplication sites, national agricultural research institutes, and supply-side partners such as extension and non-governmental organization staff that do the monitoring. So far, about 10,000 farmers across the five countries- Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda- have been reached by the project with planting materials and training on the technologies.

 A DELICIOUS SNACK
In Rwanda, the nutritional value of the orange-fleshed sweet potato has gotten non-governmental organizations working with people living with HIV/AIDS to urge their clients to grow and consume this vegetable.

To read more about this interesting story, go to: http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=91228

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Nigerian Agric Researchers Develop Vitamin-A Cassava

Cassava(pictured left)–also known as yuca, mogo, or manioc–is a staple food for many African families. It is their equivalent of rice in Asia or bread in Europe. Cassava originated in South America and was brought over to Africa in the 16th century, where it quickly adapted to the soil climate and was incorporated into diet patterns. More than 200 million people in sub-saharen Africa rely on this carbohydrate for over half of their daily energy intake .

This is terrific crop for the region because it requires very little water, can grown in poor soil, and can be harvested year round. Though maize has often overshadowed cassava, the latter is increasingly making its way into the African diet. Cassava produces the largest amount of food calories per hectare among all food crops, other than sugarcane.

In Nigeria where the average consumption of cassava is 600 grams per capita per day, about 30% of children under five suffer from vitamin A deficiency. In Ghana where cassava represents 30% of daily caloric intake, and cassava and yam combined represent 46% of GNP, about 26% of children under five suffer from vitamin A deficiency. Resultant health implications include low immunity and impaired vision, which often lead to blindness and even death.[1]

An international research team, guided by  the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), has developed three new strands of Vitamin A enriched cassava. The hope is that this will help alleviate Vitamin A deficiency malnutrition experienced by millions in Africa.

The yellow cassava is already being multiplied through stem cuttings. In 2013, when sufficient certified stems will be available, HarvestPlus and its partners will then distribute these to about 25,000 farming households initially. Farmers will be able to grow these new vitamin A varieties and feed them to their families. They can also multiply and share cuttings with others in their community, amplifying the nutritional benefits. After the mid-2014 harvest, more than 150,000 household members are expected to be eating vitamin A-rich cassava.

To read more about this, go to: http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/11166687-nigerian-agric-researchers-develop-vitamina-cassava

HarvestPlus is the global leader in developing biofortified crops and now works with more than 200 agricultural and nutrition scientists around the world. It is co-convened by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). HarvestPlus focuses on three critical micronutrients that are recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as most limiting in diets: iron, zinc, and vitamin A. HarvestPlus envisions that in fifteen years, millions of people suffering from micronutrient malnutrition will be eating new biofortified crop varieties.

To learn more about Harvestplus, go to: http://www.harvestplus.org/


[1] http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/vad/en/

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Mark Your Calendar: Oct 11 is now International Day of the Girl

It’s Official: October 11th will now be known as International Day of the Girl

As a much needed holiday gift, U.N. policy makers recognized October 11th as a day to realize the difference girls make in their families, communities, and countries. Accord to Nigel Chapmen, CEO of Plan International, girls are at a huge disadvantage simply because of their gender. The creation of a day that recognizes the importance of respecting, educating, and empowering girls will help put a focus on girls’ rights to equality.

We at CKi look forward to celebrating this day to recognize and benefit the most vulnerable citizens of the world: girls.

To read more: http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2011/12/25/International-Day-of-the-Girl-Child-agreed/UPI-68491324869817/?spt=hs&or=hn

~~Stay tuned for updates about the wonderful things happening around the world~~