Stories tagged: hunger

SDG 2.2 in 2 Minutes: Kate Van Waes, ONE International

For every $1 invested in nutrition, you get $16 back. This is just one reason ONE International argues that investing in nutrition pays off. Hear more about ONE’s work to encourage African governments to invest in agriculture and nutrition.

Filmed as part of Farming First’s #SDG2countdown campaign, exploring SDG2.2 on ending malnutrition.

Music: Ben Sounds

SDG2.3 in 2 Minutes: Matt Shakhovskoy, Initiative for Smallholder Finance

There’s a $200 billion deficit of financing for smallholder farmers. Find out how groups working with the Initiative for Smallholder Finance are bridging this gap.


Filmed as part of Farming First’s #SDG2countdown campaign, exploring SDG2.3 on doubling agricultural productivity and incomes.

Music: Ben Sounds

We Need to Put More Biodiversity on the Sustainable Development Menu

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In this guest blog post, Ann Tutwiler, Director General of Bioversity International kicks off our brand new series “SDG2 Countdown“. For five weeks, we will count down to the United Nations’ meeting that will track SDG progress, by exploring the five targets related to SDG2: ending hunger. This week, we explore SDG2.5: protecting genetic diversity. 

When the UN announced its Decade of Action on Nutrition in 2016, hot on the heels of the Sustainable Development Goals, many media outlets used a picture of a child eating a bowl of white rice, to illustrate the promise of better nutrition for all.

There’s just one problem. Rice alone is not enough. Yes, it will prevent the most basic form of hunger but rice lacks many of the vitamins and minerals essential for good health.

Credit: Wagner T. Cassimiro

Credit: Wagner T. Cassimiro

Without these vitamins and minerals, this child’s growth will be stunted, his immune system weakened, and his intelligence lower than it ought to be, costing him a lifetime of lost income and productivity. That is why the Sustainable Development Goal’s Target 2.1 of “access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round” is so important, because it adds “nutritious” to “sufficient”.

I don’t want to downplay the importance of “sufficient”; we face a great challenge in ensuring enough food for everyone in the face of both climate change and population growth – a challenge that Bioversity International and agricultural biodiversity are helping to meet. For now, though, let’s concentrate on “nutritious” food.

The most important factor in a nutritious diet is diversity. That concept is enshrined in national dietary guidelines around the world, with their advice to eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pulses and so on. Research conducted by Bioversity International in collaboration with the Earth Institute shows that increasing food supply diversity is associated with lower levels of acute and chronic child malnutrition (stunting, wasting and underweight) at a national level. Agricultural policies and funding for research, however, generally focus on the four or five commodity staples that supply the bulk of calories. From the 5,538 known plant species, just three – rice, wheat and maize – provide more than 50% of the world’s plant-derived calories.

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And although people may be aware that they should make healthier choices, the food system that surrounds them – which is the product of both food industry and government policy – often makes it difficult to choose a more diverse and more nutritious diet.

Nutritious staples

One successful approach is to diversify staples – mainstay foods – in the diet to include more nutritious alternatives.

For example, bananas are the fourth most important food crop in Africa, which is also home to high levels of vitamin A deficiency, a major public health problem in many developing countries. Every year, a half a million children go blind from the lack of vitamin A, and half of those die from infections.

Orange-fleshed Fe'i bananas from the Pacific. Credit: Bioversity International

Orange-fleshed Fe’i bananas from the Pacific. Credit: Bioversity International

‘Mining’ banana diversity to find varieties with a higher content of vitamin A could be part of the solution. It is estimated that there are over 1,000 varieties of bananas in the world, which range from green to pale yellow to orange to dark red. The genetic diversity in these varieties determines not just these differences you can see and taste, they also determine micronutrient levels. For example, the orange-fleshed. Karat banana contains 1,000 times more of the pigment which the human body can convert into vitamin A (carotenoids) than the Cavendish banana, which is the variety of bananas most Western consumers see in their supermarkets.

Bioversity International is conducting research with partners in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to see how using this banana diversity can help increase the levels of vitamin A in diets.

In India, we are also working to bring different kinds of nutritious and resilient millets, which were once part of traditional diets, back to plates and markets. While widespread famine in India is a thing of the past, malnutrition is not. India has high levels of stunting in young children and, by contrast, equally high levels of overweight, obesity and illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.

Children in Kolli Hills enjoy eating millets. Credit: Bioversity International/ G. Meldrum

Children in Kolli Hills enjoy eating millets. Credit: Bioversity International/ G. Meldrum

Foxtail millet, for example, contains almost twice the protein of white rice, and little millet almost nine times the iron. In just three months of replacing white rice with millets in school meals, children gained weight and had improved haemoglobin levels.

Results such as these, and many more from Bioversity International’s work on neglected and underutilized species, helped prompt the national and state authorities in India to amend their food legislation. Millets are now included in some state school feeding programmes and have been incorporated in the national public distribution system. This is obviously a good thing for the poorer and nutritionally vulnerable people who receive subsidised food, and it also benefits the farmers who grow millet, which is much less ecologically demanding than other staples. Nutrition, local economies, the environment and food security: all thus gain from expanding the diversity of diet.

We can do it

There is no single solution to combat malnutrition, but using more diverse crops and varieties in our fields and on our plates must be part of the solution.

To make this a reality, we need to take action at multiple levels. Consumers can influence production by choosing nutritious, fresh, local and diverse foods. Agricultural research should increase knowledge on the use of agrobiodiversity to make farming systems more nutritious, resilient and sustainable. Governments can make the difference by creating food and agricultural policies that promote and integrate agrobiodiversity as an essential tool to achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals.

Use #SDG2countdown to search for more content and share your own biodiversity stories on Twitter, or visit farmingfirst.org/sdgs for more!

Featured photo credit: Bioversity International/A. Drucker

Book Review: The First 1,000 Days

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When people think of malnutrition, many think only of the distended bellies of the protein deficient children in sub-Saharan Africa. It is easy to forget that malnutrition comes in many forms, has many manifestations and knows no boundaries, race or gender.

The First 1,000 Days by Roger Thurow is the story of four mothers in the four corners of the world, and their plight to ensure their babies get the correct nutrients for a happy and healthy life. But it is also a snapshot of the hidden hunger haunting childhoods and limiting adults from reaching their full potential all over the world.

Continue reading

Enough Food IF – Hunger Summit Pledges £2.7bn to tackle malnutrition

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On Saturday 8th June 45,000 people gathered in London’s Hyde Park to campaign against the devastating hunger and malnutrition suffered by millions all over the world. The Enough Food IF campaign, set up by Bill Gates in partnershipwith organisations including Oxfam, UNICEF and Twin, aims to raise awareness of the main themes due to be discussed at the G8, including:

  • AID: Life saving aid is needed to help the world’s poorest receive vital resources to alleviate hunger;
  • LAND: Stop land grabs and enable farmers to grow essential crops instead of being forced to produce biofuels;
  • TAX: Companies need to stop dodging tax in poor countries so that people can free themselves from hunger;
  • TRANSPARENCY: Governments and big companies need to be honest about their actions that keep the world’s poorest in a cycle of hunger;

Speakers such as Bill Gates, Satish Kumar, Danny Boyle and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams urged campaigners to do their bit to end hunger and malnutrition, as well as highlighting the need to empower smallholder farmers. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said:

In the last 50 years we have seen huge progress, but still 20,000 children die everyday needlessly…just ask yourself what you can do and then go do it!”

Satish Kumar, a long-time peace and environment activist who has walked around the world to promote peace, urged the crowd to think about the rights of smallholder farmers around the world, stating:

Land belongs to the farmers, it should be in the hands of the farmers and not businesses.”

Empowering female farmers was also shown to be key to alleviating hunger, poverty and malnutrition, as women often lack land rights and access to the right tools and knowledge, preventing them from reaching higher yields.

In response to the Enough Food IF campaign UK Prime Minister David Cameron led a high-level hunger summit where £2.7bn was pledged to tackle global hunger and malnutrition. The pledged money aims to save 20 million children from chronic malnutrition, which is currently the biggest underlying cause of death in under fives around the world.

250,000 paper flowers were also planted at the event, with each petal representing a child’s life lost to malnutrition.  (see image below)

Flowers

To improve global food security and nutrition Farming First urges G8 leaders and policymakers to:

  • Promote a clear joint focus on a common goal for food security at the global level through policy and operational coherence
  • Encourage increased transparency on how much of pledged funding has been committed and to what types of programmes
  • Engage a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that efforts are coordinated, clear, collaborative and ultimately successful.

The Enough Food IF campaign will continue in Belfast on 15 June ahead of the G8 taking place 17-18 June at Lough Erne Northern Ireland.

Find out more about global food and nutrition security initiatives here

 

 

 

Investing in Climate-Smart Agriculture for Africa

Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is a term that has been coined to position agriculture as vital in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Our previous blog post on the subject reported that agriculture is currently responsible for 70 percent of water use globally, as well as up to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. As demand for food and thus farming is rapidly increasing due to growing populations, it is essential to not only increase agricultural productivity, but to ensure that the environmental impact of agriculture is minimal. It is equally important to adapt existing agricultural practices so they are able to withstand the extreme weather conditions climate change will bring.

A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published last month, entitled “Identifying opportunities for climate-smart agriculture investments in Africa” looks at how CSA is being applied to Africa. Africa’s population has just passed 1 billion and is due to double by 2050. As a consequence, the FAO has estimated that Africa will need to provide adequate food supplies for over 20 million additional people each year and improve the nutritional status of  more than 239 million people. Increasing food production in Africa is essential, but are current farming processes in Africa climate smart?

The governments of 14 African countries (Benin, Ethopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda) have put into place “National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans” (NAFSIPs) in order to adapt to slow-onset climatic change and extreme events, and mitigate climate change. The report has assessed these plans to identify investment needs and options for climate-smart agriculture financing in Africa.

Key findings of the report:

Of the National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans in African countries examined…

  • 60 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of slow-onset climate change
  • 18 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of adaptation to extreme events
  • 19 percent are expected to generate climate benefits in terms of climate change mitigation

Gambia and Malawi lead the African countries in terms of number of projects that address slow onset climate change as well as climate change mitigation, whereas Liberia and Niger ranked higher in terms of number of projects that address adaptation to extreme events.

In an assessment of the potential for quick deployment of climate-smart agricultural practices, Ghana and Kenya were both ranked as having a high potential, whereas Senegal, and Benin were ranked as low.

The results of the analysis highlight that NAFSIPs already include many climate-smart activities, however there is the need to consolidate and integrate these findings by providing country-specific inputs such as:

  • analyzing the most promising CSA agricultural investment options and estimating their cost-effectiveness also considering the expected climate benefits
  • outlining investments needed to transform ongoing and planned programmes, activities and  projects into proper climate-smart interventions, also identifying the corresponding (public and private) financing sources
  • analyzing the profitability of the investments in order to determine the type of finance required
  • leveraging existing financing instruments in agriculture with innovative climate financing mechanisms
  • designing result-based monitoring and accounting procedures and national registries related to identified financing option

To read the full report click here

Find out more about Farming First’s principles on climate change