Stories tagged: hunger

Book Review: The First 1,000 Days

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.

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

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)


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

Gates Urges Support for Innovation in Agriculture

The launch of Bill Gates’ 2012 Annual Letter, released yesterday, has seen the Microsoft founder and philanthropist address audiences across the world on the importance of tackling poverty. One of his primary concerns in his 2012 letter is agriculture, and the crucial role it plays in international development.

Currently, over 1 billion people – about 15 percent of the world – are hungry. Smallholder farmers are unable to produce enough food to feed their families and lack the support to work themselves out of poverty. In his letter, Gates highlights the responsibility developed countries have to not only invest in agricultural aid, but in agricultural research. Between 1987 and 2006, agricultural aid fell from rich countries from 17 percent to just 4 percent.

At the same time, demand for food is increasing because of population growth and economic development, with the world’s population set to hit 9 billion in 2050. Supply growth has not kept up, leading to higher food prices and climate change threatens farmers’ ability to produce enough food to meet the growing demand.


Agricultural innovation, Gates argues, is a vital way forward. During the ‘Green Revolution’ of the 1960s and 1970s, new seed varieties for rice, wheat, and maize were developed that helped many farmers greatly improve their yields. In some places, such as East Asia, food intake went up by as much as 50 percent. Globally, the price of wheat dropped by two-thirds. The same process can happen again:

We can be more innovative about delivering solutions that already exist to the farmers who need them. Knowledge about managing soil and tools like drip irrigation can help poor farmers grow more food today. We can also discover new approaches and create new tools to fundamentally transform farmers’ lives. But we won’t advance if we don’t continue to fund agricultural innovation, and I am very worried about where those funds will come from in the current economic and political climate.

He also stated that agricultural research is ‘chronically underfunded’.  Climate change is becoming an increasing threat; studies show that the rise in global temperature alone could reduce the productivity of the main crops by over 25 percent. Climate change will also increase the number of droughts and floods that can wipe out an entire season of crops. Increased investment in agricultural research can unveil new seed varieties that can survive extreme weather conditions, as well as combat plant diseases that destroy crops.

Click here to read Bill Gate’s 2012 Annual Letter letter in full. Follow the debate on Twitter with the hashtag #BillsLetter.

New Report Predicts Food Insecurity Rise in Sub-Saharan Africa

A report published recently by the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service entitled “International Food Security Assessment 2011-21” lays out predictions for global Food Security over the forthcoming decade.

The study found that, despite global food commodity prices, strong domestic food production and low price transmission from global to domestic markets contributed to a decline of 9 million in the number of food-insecure people from 2010 to 2011. Yet there are still notable regional differences.

According to the report, whilst Asian countries are set to see a decrease of food-insecure people by 33 per cent by 2021, the number of food-insecure people in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is projected to increase by 17 million. By 2021, it is predicted that SSA will see a rise of six per cent in its food-insecure population.

The report also found that the food distribution gap in SSA – the difference between projected food availability and food needed to increase consumption in food-deficit income groups – is also up by 20 per cent, whilst the distribution gap is projected to decline by half in Asia and by 30 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Click here to read the full report.

Sharing and spreading agricultural knowledge as a way of combating malnutrition

The first of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. According to the World Bank report World Development Indicators 2003, one sixth of the world’s population suffers hunger due to extreme poverty. Part of the hunger problem that is increasingly receiving attention is nutrition insecurity, or malnutrition, which affects one billion people around the world and is responsible for almost 10 million deaths a year. With the increase in food prices, this number is likely to increase.

Agriculture must play a role in addressing nutrition security. Promoting and improving agricultural productivity and farming practices can bring positive impact on malnutrition levels. While technological and scientific innovation are key tools for producing a sufficient supply of healthy and nutritious food to satisfy the world market, another issue must be addressed as a priority: the problem of information flow. Education and knowledge share are vital to fighting malnutrition. Some independent initiatives have been taking place in Africa, as reported by Agfax, a radio and press service that reports on recent developments in farming and rural livelihoods, that are successful examples of getting information out to those who need it most.

Share Fair is an organisation that helps to spread and improve agricultural knowledge amongst African farmers through workshops and presentations at events; literally “Share Fairs”. In an interview with Agfax, Jacqueline Nnam, a knowledge-sharing officer in Ghana, pointed out that the biggest challenge facing African farmers is the “packaging of information”, meaning that the phrasing of the language employed and the jargon used – especially related to scientific research – are a barrier to effective communication. “Another thing is providing exactly the type of information the farmers want” says Nnam referring to the amount of information given to farmers that can be irrelevant for their businesses and may only create confusion.

Another example is the Healthy Learning Programme, run in the arid and semi-arid districts of Kenya. In order to ensure that information on nutrition and farming is passed on to the younger generation, the country is investing in health teaching for primary school children. The programme aims to teach kids basic knowledge ranging from hygiene to production of crops for food and for generating income. Children are also encouraged to implement their newly found knowledge at home. In an interview with Agfax, Veronica Mugure, a Class Seven student in Narumoru Primary School, said that the programme had changed their lives for better. In addition to learning how to grow and harvest their own crops, the students were taught to cook the food and were also fed at the school. Another student from the school, Veronica Wamboi from Class Six, said that the project had helped them on many levels. They benefited from the sale of the crops they harvested and were also taught business skills.

Understanding how to effectively communicate and share relevant information with farmers can have a direct impact on the production of food and improvement of nutrition as can basic education for tackling the underlining causes of malnutrition and hunger itself. Initiatives like the Healthy Learning programme and the approach taken by Share Fair are great examples of small schemes that can go a long way in combating hunger and malnutrition and addressing basic health education.