Developing strategies to end hunger

6 posts from October 2011

Forward the Facts on Famine, War, and Drought

Bread for the World Institute policy analysts Faustine Wabwire and Scott Bleggi were invited to a roll out of USAID’s new campaign called “FWD”, which stands for Famine, War, and Drought.  They participated in a briefing by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and senior White House officials Gayle Smith and Jon Carson on how to help others learn about these issues, and to announce that information from the site may be freely used by individuals in social media and on personal web sites.

Shah addressed two issues that Bread for the World is strongly advocating – improving the nutritional value of food aid provided by the United States and elevating nutrition in Feed the Future programming.  He said food aid is being prepositioned around the world so that it can be delivered more quickly, and new, more nutritious formulations of Corn Soy Blend - the product most often provided in general distribution food aid - are being made available to donor organizations.  USAID’s Feed the Future initiative is a major development assistance effort to reduce poverty and malnutrition by sustainably improving economic, environmental and human security. 

A video produced in cooperation with the AdCouncil was also released faeaturing celebrity advocates:

Forward the information so others can become advocates for famine, war and drought relief in Africa!

Scott_BlogPicScott Bleggi is a senior international policy analyst with Bread for the World Institute.

Seven Billion and Counting

Remember Y2K, the moment of doom that never arrived? Clocks continued to tick. So much fear and trembling for naught.

A real milestone occurs next Monday, one few seem to be paying attention to and that’s unfortunate, especially because its consequences are serious. On Monday, human number seven billion is scheduled to arrive on Earth. This seems like an opportune moment to at least pause and consider the ramifications of rising population. By 2050, the population is expected to be at 9 billion.

One is tempted to say that population growth is a fizzling time bomb, but I don’t believe that metaphor is accurate. Humans will figure out a way to endure no matter how much we crowd the planet. It will become a more difficult place to thrive for some, but it is already difficult for many, such as the current billion who are chronically hungry.

There are lots of ways to control population growth. Empowering women, supporting family planning are getting lots of attention. Broadly speaking, the best way to control population is through economic development. The poorest 49 countries currently make up 18 percent of the world’s population. By 2100, it could rise to 34 percent, says John May, a demographer at the World Bank.

The reason everyone should be concerned about population growth is the pressure it puts on natural resources. Any serious discussion about population growth must inevitability get around to sustainability. Growth will occur regardless, but the difference between sustainable and unsustainable growth hinges on whether humans are ready to take serious how we grow.

In 1999, when the six billion threshold was crossed, there was a good deal of fanfare at the UN. I learned this morning in a Financial Times article that this time the UN is deliberately avoiding that kind of publicity. Too bad. I wouldn’t suggest we track down number seven billion for baby pictures, but I almost wish the child had some magical powers to shut down computers for a brief window of time to get people’s attention.

Linking Migration and Development in Latin America

Marvin Garcia Salas, a farmer in Chiapas, Mexico, twice migrated to the United States to do farm work before returning home for good. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl)

Bread for the World and Church World Service released a joint fact sheet today calling for integrating U.S. development assistance work in Latin America with domestic immigration policy reform.

The lion’s share of unauthorized immigration to the United States comes from Latin America. And according to the World Bank, “the main motivation for Latin American migration is economic – most people migrate in order to provide better economic conditions for their families.”

But U.S. development policy in Latin America and our domestic immigration policies are not synchronized. As the fact sheet states:

“In order to have a balanced foreign assistance agenda with Mexico and other migrant-sending countries in Latin America, the United States must increase its focus on addressing poverty as one of the causes of migration. These efforts should include poverty reduction and job-creation projects targeted to migrant-sending communities—particularly in rural zones, where poverty is concentrated.”

The analysis for the fact sheet was drawn from a Bread for the World Institute Briefing Paper, “Development and Migration in Rural Mexico.”

Who Will Succeed Our Aging Farmers?

20110725_RickyHortonFarmRobinRobbins_0410Fb (3) 
Migrant workers rest after picking cucumbers all morning on the farm of Ricky Horton (center) in Blackwater, Virginia, July 2011. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

The 2007 Census of Agriculture reported that the average farmer age was 57 and that 93.5 percent of farmers are white.

But while U.S farm operations are the domain of white, male Baby Boomers, the face of hired farm labor in America is Latino. Only 2.5 percent of farm operators are Hispanic but at least 71 percent of all hired farm laborers in the United States were born in Mexico or Central America. They are also a full two decades younger than farm operators with an average age of 36.

The Department of Agriculture states, “The U.S agricultural population is poised to make a dramatic change – half of all current farmers are likely to retire in the next decade.”  According to the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs (CRA), “Farmers under the age of 35 are fast becoming an endangered species.”

Who is going to replace this cohort of retiring farm operators? One possibility is the approximately 1.1 million hired farm workers currently working in U.S. agriculture and livestock, some of whom have decades of experience working on U.S. farms.

There are a variety of barriers for all prospective farmers: entry costs are high and training is scarce. Due to these barriers, farmers sometimes discourage their own children from succeeding them.

For immigrant farm workers interested in becoming farm managers and operators there’s an additional barrier: Many of them are in the country illegally.

Although they grew up on farms in Mexico, work on farms in the United States, and are accustomed to agricultural work, about half of all U.S. hired farm labor workers are barred from an agricultural career ladder due to their immigration status.

While some unauthorized immigrants would not choose to stay in agriculture – even in a managerial or supervisory role – certainly some would choose to continue on the farm and could be a key source of agricultural human capital renewal if there was a career path they could access.

The Center for Rural Affairs is exploring the issue of Latino farmers in Nebraska, many of whom are immigrants who have regularized their status. One CRA reports states that Latino farmers, “learned farming and/or ranching skills while being raised on a farm. This knowledge was passed on to them through family and cultural heritage.”

Mexican immigrants come disproportionately from rural communities and many of them were small farmers in their home countries. As farming has becomes less accessible and attractive to American youth, we have a source of human capital renewal already working on U.S. farms.

The only question is whether we’ll be foresighted enough to try to benefit from it.

Note: Bread for the World has not taken a legislative position on the issue/issues covered in this blog post.

Leading by Example: The 2011 World Food Prize Laureates

Former presidents John Agyekum Kufuor and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have been selected to jointly receive the 2011 World Food Prize for their personal commitment and visionary leadership while serving as the presidents of Ghana and Brazil, respectively. Their exemplary leadership demonstrates the crucial role of effective policies, proper institutional foundations, and partnerships in driving development progress.

Under President Kufuor's leadership, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to meet Millennium Development Goal 1 – by cutting in half both the proportion of its people suffering from hunger and the proportion living on less than $1 a day. Ghana saw a reduction in its poverty rate from 51.7 percent in 1991 to 26.5 percent in 2008, while hunger decreased from 34 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2004.

President Kufuor’s economic reforms, including the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy, provided incentives and strengthened public investments in the agriculture and food sector — the backbone of Ghana’s economy — which grew at a rate of 5.5 percent between 2003 and 2008. Growth in the agricultural sector drove expansion in the national economy, with GDP quadrupling by 2008.

Under President Kufuor, the Agricultural Extension Service was reactivated and special attention paid to educating farmers on best practices. As a result, Ghana’s cocoa production doubled between 2002 and 2005. Production of food crops such as maize, cassava, yams, and plantains, as well as livestock production, also increased significantly.

The Ghana School Feeding Program launched by President Kufuor provided one nutritious locally produced meal a day for school children in kindergarten to junior high school (ages 4 through 14). By ensuring nutritious food at school, the program dramatically reduced the level of chronic hunger and malnutrition while improving school attendance. By the end of 2010, more than 1 million primary school children were participating and benefiting from this program.

Photo: Office of former President John Kufuor

Ghana’s political stability, economic reforms, agricultural development, and significant reduction of hunger and poverty led to an award of $547 million from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation in 2006. The Kufuor government applied the entire grant toward modernizing agriculture for rural development, increasing the production and productivity of high-value cash and food staple crops, and raising farmers' incomes.

In Brazil, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made a commitment that fighting hunger and poverty would be a top priority of his government. He called upon all elements of Brazilian society to embrace his goals of ensuring three meals a day for all citizens, alleviating poverty, enhancing educational opportunities for children, and achieving greater inclusion of poor people in society.

President Lula da Silva’s national initiatives — embodied in his Zero Hunger strategy — were well aligned with the Millennium Development Goals. During his tenure, MDG 1 was exceeded before the 2015 deadline, as Brazil reduced by half its proportion of hungry people and also reduced the percentage of Brazilians living in extreme poverty from 12 percent in 2003 to 4.8 percent in 2009.

More than 10 government ministries were focused on the expansive Zero Hunger programs, which provided greater access to food, strengthened family farms and rural incomes, and increased school enrollment among children of primary school age. President Lula da Silva encouraged state and municipal governments to work together with civil society and the private sector--a strategy that was central to the rapid and significant decrease in the levels of poverty and hunger across the country.

Zero Hunger quickly became one of the most successful food and nutritional security policies in the world through its broad network of programs, including the Bolsa Familia Program, the Food Purchase Program, and the School Feeding Program.

Photo: Amy Margolies, Congressional Hunger Center

The Bolsa Familia Program, set up to provide cash aid to poor families, has been a major contributor to the reduction of poverty. Another important pillar of Zero Hunger was the Food Purchase Program, which linked local production directly with expanding food consumption and contributed to rural development by acquiring food directly from smallholder farmers. Distribution of food to poor families was through public schools, community restaurants, assisted living facilities, daycare centers, and related organizations. 

The national School Feeding Program has had a far-reaching impact on reducing child malnutrition by providing nutritious meals to children in all grades of Brazilian public schools. In 2010, 47 million students were being served and a minimum of 30 percent of the food was being supplied by local farms. Child malnutrition fell 61.9 percent between 2003 and 2009, and all age groups improved their access to quality food.

We can end hunger and poverty in our time!

Horn of Africa Receives a Funding Boost from the World Bank

Today, more than 13 million people in the Horn of Africa region are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. Emergency support is vital right now, as the crisis is expected to worsen in the coming months- escalating malnutrition, food insecurity, and displacement of people. According to the U.N, 750,000 people in Somalia are at risk of dying if they do not receive urgent intervention.

U.N. estimates indicate that the financial need for immediate, short-term drought relief assistance is $2.4 billion. While international appeals have resulted in $1.4 billion in pledges, there is still a gap of $1 billion.

Addressing short-term needs for these millions of people also calls for funding long-term recovery efforts- through programs such as Feed the Future and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). These initiatives aim to boost the resilience of communities by emphasizing the importance of agriculture and Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) to build healthy societies- so that humanitarian crises do not become cyclical. Reducing chronic hunger is essential to build a foundation for investments in health, education and economic growth.

Last week, the World Bank increased its support to the countries in the Horn of Africa that are facing a severe drought and conflict in Somalia. The revised World Bank allocation represents nearly four times the more than $500 million it initially announced in July. The allocation is based on a preliminary needs assessments conducted by Bank disaster experts in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somali Refugee camps and Uganda.

The resources will be allocated over a three-phase response period, which includes: rapid response ($288 million) in fiscal year 2012 (ends June 30), economic recovery ($384 million) through fiscal year 2014, and drought resilience ($1.2 billion) in the long-term.

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