Developing strategies to end hunger
 

138 posts categorized "Climate Change"

“Nutrition for Growth” At One Year: Tracking Global Pledges

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Nutrition and education link in Guatemala school feeding. (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World)

We recently marked the first anniversary of the historic global nutrition event “Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger Through Business and Science” (N4G), held in London in conjunction with the 2013 G-8 Summit. Co-hosted by the governments of the U.K. and Brazil and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the event brought together leaders from business, government, science, academia, and civil society. They made ambitious financial and political commitments to provide better nutrition to women and children in the 1,000 Days “window of opportunity” from pregnancy to age 2; reduce the numbers of stunted children; and help put an end to deaths from severe acute malnutrition. More specifically, they agreed to prevent at least 20 million children from being stunted and to save at least 1.7 million lives by 2020.

How pervasive a problem is malnutrition? The number of people suffering from chronic hunger declined from 868 million in 2012 to 842 million in 2013. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the number of undernourished children has been reduced by 17 percent in 20 years. Yet undernutrition is still the cause of nearly half of the deaths of children under age 5.

Globally, nearly one in four children younger than 5 is stunted due to chronic micronutrient deficiencies. Stunting is a condition linked to increased susceptibility to common illnesses, lower levels of academic achievement, and lower lifetime earnings, said UNICEF in its recent report, "Improving Child Nutrition: The Achievable Imperative for Global Progress".

Severe acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. According to the World Health Organization, there is a 30 percent to 50 percent mortality rate for children younger than 5 who develop severe acute malnutrition.

How ambitious were the N4G commitments? Altogether, leaders pledged an historic $4.15 billion to tackle malnutrition via investments in multiple sectors: agriculture; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); education; and social protection programs. They did so in the realization that nutrition is intertwined with all these sectors -- and that a person who is malnourished in early childhood can never reach her or his full potential.Commitments were made to new partnerships and scaled-up research. An annual Global Report on Nutrition was announced (the “first annual” report will be released in November 2014 at the Second International Conference on Nutrition). An annual global nutrition meeting alongside the UN General Assembly was initiated.  A Global Nutrition for Growth Compact puts nutrition at the center of the world’s development agenda. A group of businesses has pledged to improve the nutrition (and hence the productivity and health) of 927,000 employees in 80 countries. See a complete list of commitments.

A year after N4G, what progress has the United States made? The U.S. government has made nutrition a higher priority in meeting our global development assistance commitments. In a time of almost universal budget cuts, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement to boost funding for nutrition in the FY 2014 federal budget. USAID recently announced a new global multisectoral nutrition strategy. The agency credits the “strong advocacy and dedication” of civil society organizations such as Bread for the World Institute for the release of the strategy, which will “align our important global nutrition commitments.” The USAID strategy will be used to develop a U.S. Government Global Nutrition Coordination Plan, to include USAID, four cabinet-level departments (Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Treasury, State), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Peace Corps, and the White House. The plan is designed to accelerate “progress toward relevant WHA targets and other U.S. government commitments by maximizing the impact of government actions.” 

Civil society organizations, including those in the nutrition stakeholder community such as the Institute, are clearly a driving force in getting this high level of U.S. government commitment to nutrition. Legislative and non-legislative advocates are working seamlessly to increase funding for nutrition activities and to shape an effective policy and program operations agenda. USAID operational partners are designing nutrition projects that encompass several sectors of development assistance.

Of course, commitments and action by the governments of countries with high burdens of malnutrition are essential to success. To date, 51 such countries have come together in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement in order to work -- governments and civil societies together – to expand successful nutrition programs. 

Working together, civil society will monitor the pledges made at N4G to ensure that they are honored. We will help ensure that diverse government nutrition policies and programs come together in the most effective way possible. Malnutrition is a major component of global hunger, so tackling it more effectively will bring us much closer to our very feasible goal, ending global hunger by the year 2030.

In a recent blog post, David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and Rick Leach, CEO of WFP-US said: “From climate change to civil liberties, the world is at a critical point right now with many issues. Global nutrition is no different, and, as such, deserves adequate attention as its reach is vast and implications deep. Future generations depend on decisions we--governments, NGOs, faith leaders, community leaders, investors, scientists, educators, and others--are making and actions we are taking right now to ensure that they can reach their full potential. Not only can we reduce undernutrition--we must if our children's children are to thrive.”

Scott Bleggi

Data to End Hunger: Hacking for Women’s Empowerment

Data Do-Gooders Heading Photo

Bread for the World Institute is excited to announce our first live HelpMeViz Hunger Report hackathon event. On Saturday, June 28, the Institute, in partnership with the website HelpMeViz, will bring together coders, data scientists, and data visualizers in Washington, DC, as we tackle two data visualization challenges for our upcoming 2015 Hunger Report. The report, currently being drafted, explores why women’s empowerment is essential to ending global hunger. We hope to feature the visualizations developed at the event in the report, either in print or online at hungerreport.org.

HelpMeViz is a website open to anyone who is searching for feedback on visualization designs, from seasoned designers and data visualization specialists to individuals seeking to improve their graphic displays.  It offers an online community where all types of visualizations are welcome, including simple bar or single-line charts, full-blown infographics, and interactive visualizations.

Here are the visualization challenges that we will tackle:

Exposing Gaps in Data on Women’s Empowerment

Over the past few decades, we have learned a lot about the marginalization of women around the world and its costs to human development. Data authorities such as the World Bank and the United Nations have set out to develop holistic ways of measuring women’s empowerment and gender equality across countries, defining a minimum set of 52 indicators for doing so. But even the most advanced women’s empowerment indexes available today still miss critical elements of what it means for women to be empowered in the developing world. Far too many of the indicators that compose women’s empowerment indexes depend on largely unreliable, old, or inconsistent data for far too many countries. This significantly compromises the accuracy and integrity of the index and makes it much less reliable for policy makers who base decisions on it.

In our upcoming 2015 Hunger Report, Bread for the World Institute will identify key missing data in current women’s empowerment indexes and explain why better data are essential to continued progress. We’ll need help from hackathon volunteers to visualize where those gaping holes in the data lie.  

Women’s Empowerment and Stunting

Childhood stunting (far below average height for one’s age) is a condition that indicates long-term malnutrition. It currently affects one in four of the world's children. When a child is stunted, she is prevented from growing, learning, and later earning to her full potential. As we begin to explore years of data on women's empowerment from the World Bank and United Nations, we want to ask the question: Do countries that significantly improve the status of women also eventually see lower rates of stunting? Research from countries around the world has shown that when women are empowered to earn more and have a greater say in home finances, they are more likely than men to invest additional income in promoting the welfare of their children -- through nutritious food, for example. Are there data that support a relationship between women’s empowerment and improvements in stunting?

HelpMeViz Hunger Report Hackaton

Up to 25 guests will be invited to the HelpMeViz Hunger Report Hackathon. We will provide participants with the datasets, work space at Bread for the World’s offices, and breakfast and lunch during the event. Participants will also receive a printed copy of the 2015 Hunger Report when it is released, and an invitation to the report’s launch at the National Press Club in November, 2014.

The event will be blogged live on HelpMeViz. We hope that interested people all over the world will want to lend their voices and skills to these challenges. Data will be made available when the event begins, and visualizations, conversations, and comments will be posted to the site in real time.

If you would like to attend the event in Washington, DC, email HelpMeViz with a short paragraph that describes your interest and your skillset (statistics, programming, design, etc.) with the phrase “Bread for the World” in the subject line.

You can check out the most recent 2014 Hunger Report, complete with interactive stories and data, infographics, and featured stories online at hungerreport.org. Derek Schwabe

Highlights: “Hunger in the Age of Climate Change”

Bill Hohenstein and Katharine Hayhoe listen to Lewis Ziska's presentation
Photo: Joe Molieri/Bread for the World

The cost, availability, and nutritional content of foods are factors that affect hungry and poor people more than anyone else – and climate change is already changing these for the worse. That was the message of a May 14 panel hosted by Bread for the World Institute and the Alliance to End Hunger.

As we said earlier this month in Institute Notes, the new National Climate Assessment details the impacts of climate change in the United States. 

At the panel discussion, one of the report’s lead authors, climate scientist and evangelical Christian Katharine Hayhoe, explained the science of climate change briefly and noted that the world’s poorest countries and people, who are already suffering the most, will continue to be most vulnerable even as climate change begins to affect everyone.

Two scientists from USDA presented their findings. William Hohenstein (whose father John was a Bread for the World board member in the 1980s!) explained that food availability, access, utilization, and stability are all challenged by rising temperatures and by more frequent droughts and other extreme weather. Lewis Ziska described how rising C02 levels could lead to more food spoilage and contamination; for example, he said, pesticides could become less effective. However, both scientists expressed some hope for the future, with Hohenstein describing new agricultural technologies and Ziska emphasizing the potential benefits of better educating and empowering women and girls (the focus of the Institute’s next Hunger Report, to be released in November 2014). 

Sam Myers of Harvard University discussed his research team’s findings that many crops have less protein, zinc, and iron when they are grown in air with higher CO2 concentrations. This may mean that as CO2 rises in Earth’s atmosphere, people will need different amounts and types of food to maintain good health. Finally, Margaret Wilder of the University of Arizona described her work discussing climate change with low-income people in Arizona. Climate change is already making life harder for many Americans struggling to pay higher utility bills, facing a greater risk of asthma and heat-related illness, and noticing that farmers are donating less of their surplus crops to food pantries. As one person interviewed put it, “If it's a matter of feeding my kids and my health, then climate becomes a real issue instead of being an abstract, out-there concept.”

 You can listen to the whole discussion and see the slides online here. Bread for the World continues to work to draw attention to the disproportionate effect of climate change on hungry and poor people. This very well-attended event is a gauge of advocates’ increasing awareness that as the global community seeks ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change, we must ensure that the special needs of developing countries and low-income Americans are kept high on the agenda.

 

Stacy Cloyd

Feed the Future: The Untold Success Story

What is the U.S. government doing to reduce global hunger? Many people would answer – correctly, of course -- that our country provides food aid to save lives during emergencies. And, in fact, the United States has been the leading provider of emergency food aid for decades.

But it is not the whole story, particularly for the past few years. From May 19-21, I attended the first-ever Feed the Future Forum -- deepening my knowledge of an effective and influential program that most Americans have never heard of.

Feed the Future, the U.S. global hunger initiative, was launched in 2009. When G-8 leaders gathered in L’Aquila, Italy, in July of that year to respond to the global food price crisis, the Obama administration’s proposal to invest significantly more effort and resources in agriculture won support from other donor countries, who committed to providing $22 billion in financing for agriculture over three years. This became known as the L'Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI), and Feed the Future is the primary U.S. contribution to it.

As a whole-of-U.S.-government initiative, Feed the Future is laying a foundation for lasting progress against global hunger by focusing its investments within agriculture on three areas: improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, strengthening maternal/child nutrition, and building the capacity of governments and civil society to promote long-term growth.

Bread for the World members have played a vital role in supporting Feed the Future and advocating for improvements to enable it to reach more of the most vulnerable people on the planet. Bread President David Beckmann was invited to give a keynote speech at Feed the Future’s first Global Forum, which brought together stakeholders from around the world to highlight progress, address challenges, and chart a way toward more progress against hunger and poverty.

 

In his address, Beckmann called on participants to be active in sharing Feed the Future's good-news story.  He stressed that while many Americans know about the U.S. leadership in addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic through PEPFAR, very few people know about the role that the United States has played over the last few years to reduce world hunger.

Four Years later-- What Has Feed the Future Achieved?

At the Forum, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah announced that in 2013 alone, Feed the Future reached nearly 7 million smallholder farmers and helped to save 12.5 million children from hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.

For example:

  • In Bangladesh, Feed the Future reached 3.3 million smallholder farmers with improved seed, fertilizer, and farm management practices, helping farmers increase rice yields by up to 20 percent and creating additional rice sales of $25 million.
  • In Senegal, the initiative helped farmers produce enough additional rice to meet the consumption needs of more than 400,000 Senegalese for a year.
  • In Honduras, the initiative helped more than 4,300 families move well above the $1.25-per-day global poverty line, in part by enabling them to increase their horticulture sales by 125 percent.
  • With Feed the Future assistance, Ethiopian company Guts Agro Industry developed a ready-to-use supplementary food made with specialty chickpeas sourced from 10,000 smallholder farmers, with plans to expand to 52,000 smallholder suppliers.

Read more in the 2014 Feed the Future Progress Report, which outlines how Feed the Future is working to scale up proven technologies and activities, expand nutrition interventions and programs, and conduct research to create the next generation of innovations that can change the lives of food producers and their families.

USAID Launches a New Nutrition Strategy

Today at the Chicago Council’s Global Food Security 2014 event in Washington, DC, Senior White House Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice announced the release of the USAID Nutrition Strategy.

This is a landmark step toward ensuring that nutrition concerns remain at the heart of the U.S. development assistance agenda.

Bread for the World Institute has been an active participant in the development of the nutrition strategy, along with other members of the nutrition stakeholder community (both advocacy and operational partners of USAID). The draft strategy was first released for public comment in December 2013.

The nutrition strategy recognizes the essential role of nutrition in human development (especially in the “1,000 Days” period from pregnancy to age 2). Moreover, the strategy acknowledges that high rates of chronic malnutrition can cause significant losses in a nation’s GDP and carries other economic costs. The USAID strategy also lays the foundation for the development of a comprehensive “whole-of-U.S.-government” nutrition strategy later this year.

Improving maternal and child nutrition has been a major part of the Institute’s non-legislative advocacy efforts for the past three years. The USAID nutrition strategy comes after our successful efforts to clarify exactly where nutrition programs are funded within the federal budget, to persuade the administration to identify a high-level spokesperson for nutrition in the U.S. government (Administrator Shah was named), and to help win needed reforms in U.S. food aid policies and programs.  The Agricultural Act of 2014 (the “farm bill”) authorized changes that will increase the efficiency of food aid programs and delivery, allow greater flexibility to purchase food for distribution closer to where it is needed, and provide additional options for using new specialized food products that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals.

The strategy recognizes that nutrition is “multi-sectoral”-- meaning that effective nutrition interventions can be done not only in health programming, but also in agriculture, education, and water, sanitation and health (WASH) projects. Direct nutrition interventions can be complemented by indirect nutrition actions for maximum impact. Key direct actions include 11 “essential nutrition actions” articulated by the World Health Organization and identified as particularly effective in fighting malnutrition in the research published in the Lancet Maternal and Child Nutrition series. Indirect nutrition actions are nutrition-sensitive activities that target the underlying causes of undernutrition. Combining direct and indirect actions by “bundling” projects that include both has been found to be the most effective development investment a country can make.

USAID is committed to the World Health Assembly 2025 Nutrition Targets (see box), and is developing additional nutrition targets it will use to track and evaluate its development assistance. Included in these is a target in Feed the Future programs of reducing stunting in the regions where Feed the Future works by 20 percent in five years.

WHA Targets

The Nutrition Strategy will ensure flexibility (as new evidence of successful interventions becomes available) by including a robust learning agenda that supports research to fill knowledge gaps, a rigorous program of monitoring and evaluation, and a means of quickly disseminating and apply lessons learned to ongoing programs. USAID will immediately begin issuing guidance for its overseas missions on how to implement the strategy. A framework document for the wider whole-of-U.S. government nutrition strategy, called the Global Nutrition Coordination Plan, has been completed, and additional information on this plan and a request for public comment have now been released

Scott Bleggi

A Global Day of Action for Nutrition

2013 was an historic year for nutrition advocacy. As part of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world committed to supporting and holding their governments accountable on plans of action to improve nutrition. SUN focuses on pregnant women and children in the “1,000 Days” from pregnancy to age 2, since this is the most critical period for human nutrition. CSOs can range from small groups working in community settings to nationwide alliances that advance common interests. The SUN Civil Society Network (SUN-CSN) was formed to establish and support SUN Civil Society Alliances (SUN-CSA), as well as to facilitate, communicate, and coordinate across the network.

In the lead-up to the 2013 G-8 summit in London and its Nutrition for Growth event, nutrition CSOs coordinated actions as part of a “Global Day of Action”. Their goal was to show global support for decisive actions at the G-8 to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition. CSOs from Bangladesh, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia led events in their countries to increase awareness of the need for governments to make greater investments in programs and policies to overcome malnutrition.

This year marks an alignment of several key moments in global nutrition. The 67th meeting of the World Health Assembly takes place the week of May 19-23 in Geneva. This is an opportunity for countries to report on progress in achieving global nutrition targets that were set in 2012. The African Union Summit in June will focus on agriculture, food security, and nutrition. The Second International Conference on Nutrition will be held at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in November.

During the week of May 4-11, 2014,  a second “Global Day of Action” was held in many of the SUN-CSA countries. The goal was to influence both national nutrition policies and regional development agendas while also highlighting SUN-CSN as a “global, impactful, and agenda-setting network.”

The Global Day of Action’s objectives were:

  • Advance multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral efforts to address nutrition as a priority and to scale-up nutrition intervention efforts;
  • Add to continued, growing public pressure on national leaders to continue their focus on nutrition, increase progress toward the 2013 WHA global targets, deliver on commitments to SUN and commitments made at the Nutrition for Growth event;
  • Increase the public and political profile of nutrition in member countries;
  • Highlight SUN-CSN as an effective international campaigning network; and
  • Show an inclusive, global constituency in support of nutrition.

We’ve already seen effective social media and press coverage of Global Day of Action events by SUN-CSAs using the Twitter hashtag of #ActingTogether4Nutrition in Zambia (@wchilufya), Bangladesh (@SUNCSABD), Ghana (@ghaccssun), Malawi (@CSO_Nut.Alliance), and Uganda (@UCCOSUN).

Zambia for blog
Village heads in Zambia participate in the Global Day of Action for nutrition. Photo credit: William Chilufya

 Altogether, 19 country-level CSOs committed to displaying strong public support for nutrition issues.

At the inaugural meeting of SUN-CSN, in June 2013 in Washington, DC, I witnessed a real commitment from advocates from all over the world to share ideas and build a Community of Practice on efforts to scale up nutrition. SUN countries are those with the world’s highest burdens of malnutrition. They are working together with very limited resources in ways that are most impressive. I hope political leaders will take note of their advocacy and live up to their governments’ commitments to meet global nutrition targets by 2015.

Scott Bleggi

President Obama: Power to the Young and Optimistic

As we all know, the people who will shape global development in the future -- the people we need to finish the job of ending hunger -- are today’s children, adolescents, and young adults. Their most productive years are ahead of them.

Africa is the youngest continent: nearly one-third of Africans arebetween the ages of 10 and 24, and about 60 percent of the entire population is younger than 35.

A young population can be a resource that leads to innovation and supports governance and political reforms. However, a large youth population that is educated yet frustrated could potentially cause instability which would undermine growth prospects.

The recent  Arab Spring is a good example.

 The African Union (AU) acknowledges the fact that the burgeoning youth population on the Continent could be a “demographic dividend or a big challenge. The AU has established several youth-focused goals including:

  • To reduce youth unemployment by 2 percent per year from 2009–2018;
  • To elaborate on a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) framework; and
  • To provide adequate funding to advance the youth agenda.

These are all good ideas, but there must be greater committment in moving them from policy positions to action.

Our world is increasingly interconnected. This means that global prosperity depends on the contribution of all economies, both large and not so large. The reverse is also true—that instability in one part of the world, even though it may be far away, may cause far reaching negative global consequences.

It makes good sense therefore that President Obama’s Administration is investing in the next generation of African leaders. The President launched the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.

 

YALIMs. Maness Nkhata Ngoma (in red) a newly selected 2014 YALI  Fellow, poses with Ms. Wabwire (immediate left) of Bread for the World Institute during the Institute's recent field trip to Malawi.

Beginning this year, 2014, The Washington Fellowship, the new flagship program of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative will bring over 500 young leaders to the United States each year, for leadership training, academic coursework, and mentoring. The Fellowship is organized as follows:

A 6-week Academic and Leadership Institute: Fellows will be placed at U.S. colleges and universities for academic and leadership institutes. Institutes will focus on skills development in one of three areas: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management. Institutes will take place from mid-June to late-July 2014.

A Presidential Summit with President Obama in Washington, DC: At the conclusion of the academic and leadership institute, all Fellows will participate in a Presidential Summit in Washington, DC. The Summit will take place in late July 2014. 

An optional 8-week U.S. Internship: As part of the Fellowship application, 100 Fellows will receive practical training at a U.S. business, civil society organization, or public agency in the United States.

Alumni Activities in Africa: Fellows will have the opportunity for continued networking opportunities, ongoing professional development, access to seed funding, and community service activities upon their return home after the Fellowship.

Bread for the World believes that Obama’s YALI program presents a great opportunity to engage the next generation of leaders on global issues including feeding a growing global population amidst shrinking resources such as water and agricultural land. It is particularly critical at this time as conversations continue on the Post-2015 Global Development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) –which include halving the proportion of hungry people by the September 2015 deadline.

“No matter how old you grow, I say to all of you today, don’t lose those qualities of youth—your imagination, your optimism, your idealism. Because the future of the continent is in your hands."

 --President Barack Obama, South Africa, June 2013

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Climate Change is Happening, and It’s a Hunger Issue

field with old barn and newly planted crops under blue sky
photo by Frederic Rivollier

Climate change is big news this week. The National Climate Assessment, released on May 6, found definitively that human activities have already changed the climate of the United States and continue to do so. The effects are not the same everywhere: some parts of the country will get drier, others wetter. Temperature will increase more in some regions than others. However, the nation as a whole will experience more severe weather events, and changes in the climate will affect every industry and every person.

Climate change influences how much food is grown, where it’s grown, and the nutritional quality of crops. All of these, of course, matter to efforts to end hunger. So do the economic and health-related implications of climate change. That’s why Bread for the World Institute and the Alliance to End Hunger are co-sponsoring a panel on May 14 to discuss Hunger in the Age of Climate Change. Panelists come from academia, advocacy organizations, and the federal government. They include Katharine Hayhoe, one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

Register to attend the event today, or sign up for the webinar version if you live further away. 

And if the Bread/Alliance event makes you want to learn even more about climate change and food security, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Global Food Security Symposium on May 22 is on “Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of Weather Volatility and Climate Change.” It’s by invitation only, but everyone can follow along on Twitter @globalagdev and #globalag.

As Bread for the World has said for a long time now, climate change disproportionately affects poor countries and poor people. We cannot reduce hunger and poverty without finding ways of coping with climate change. This is why we are excited to see more discussion of how we can all reduce activities that contribute to destructive climate change effects and adapt to the changes that have already come.  

Stacy Cloyd

A Climate to End Hunger: Climate Change, Food & Nutrition Security, and Poor People

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said recently that there is increasing scientific evidence that food and nutrition security are at risk from climate change. The report concluded that African countries are the most vulnerable from the “profound and irreversible” changes that have already taken place.   Blog1 

In a world projected to have a population of 9 billion by the year 2050, requiring an increaseof 70% in food production, climate change could instead cause losses of up to 25 percent in the world’s major cereal crops: corn, wheat, and rice. This, clearly, will lead to grain shortages and increasing hunger unless steps are taken to better manage natural resources dedicated to farming and pasture land.

Another danger in an era of climate change is increases in “hidden hunger,” defined as malnutrition caused by deficiencies in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). In its two landmark series on maternal and child nutrition, The Lancet medical journal helped bring the world’s attention to vulnerable people – especially pregnant women and children under age 2, those in the 1,000 Days window where nutrition is most critical – who eat enough calories but have hidden hunger. This is primarily because their diets are composed primarily of corn or rice and contain few micronutrients. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 2 billion people globally already suffer from hidden hunger.

  Blog2

So how can we get additional nutritious foods to people in an era of rapidly growing population and climate change? In the past generation, research scientists have developed seed varieties with traits that make them more drought resistant, or more heat resistant, or ready to harvest more quickly, or biofortified (meaning that micronutrients have been added). In the last decade, though, a new generation of seed varieties that combine two or more of these desirable traits have been developed. These more resilient and “climate smart” seed varieties are adapted to different climactic conditions.  So far, though, poor farmers in the developing world don’t have access to seed containing multiple, or “stacked”, traits and improved genetic profiles.

The challenge today is to bring sustainable farming practices together with efforts to increase crop production in ways that are resilient to climate change. This will require a renewed Green Revolution. The pioneering plant science research done by Dr. Norman Borlaug and others did a great deal to reduce mass hunger in Asia in the 1960s and 1970s. To extend the work of the Green Revolution and ensure that plants can survive under new conditions will require major investments in plant research. The World Bank and regional lending institutions can lead efforts to make these investments.

In the words of Nigerian Minister of Agriculture Akinwumi Adesina, who leads agricultural research efforts in a country where 240 million people are undernourished, “We invest in roads, in power, in ports, and we must recognize that building this infrastructure along with improving nutrition is investing in the economy today and in the future of our societies.”

Blog3


A Climate to End Hunger: What’s Cooking?

Stove9
Photo: Todd Post

In the developing world, women and girls are expected to collect firewood for cooking. The amount of time they spend on this chore varies depending on the local environment, but it is not uncommon to have to travel for hours to collect firewood several times a week.

A lot of trees are cut down as a result. The collection of firewood contributes to deforestation, and deforestation is a major contributor to global climate change.

We all want to reduce our carbon footprint. But what are the real-world choices of people in developing countries? It is one thing to gripe about people in rich countries who won’t part with their gas-guzzling automobiles, but quite another to expect people in poor countries to cook fewer meals in the interest of staving off climate change. I’m not suggesting that we should ignore the effects of their reliance on firewood. There are cost-effective ways to help solve the problem -- and nobody has to go hungry as a tradeoff.

In Malawi just last week, I saw how a simple clay stove—sold for less than a dollar—can significantly reduce the amount of firewood families use. And in turn, it frees up the time women and girls spend collecting it – time that they can now devote to more productive activities, such as work that produces an income or attending school.

A group of women I spoke with, participants in a program implemented by the National Association of Smallholder Farmers of Malawi (NASFAM), had been using open fires to cook their meals. They estimated that before they received clay stoves, they spent about 10 hours a week collecting firewood. With the new stoves, though, they’d reduced that time to less than an hour.

In addition to the stoves, NASFAM gave members of the group some seedlings to grow trees. If only the stoves had been provided, the women and girls would still have needed to walk for hours to get to the forest to collect their wood. They would not have needed to make as many trips as when they cooked over open fires, since the stoves need only a fraction of the firewood – but with trees right outside their homes, they can get firewood without going to the forest at all. Similarly, it would not make sense to plant trees without providing the stoves, since all the wood required to cook using open fires would have decimated the trees in no time.

But here’s the best part of the story: the community is now building stoves themselves and selling them in volume to a buyer, who in turn sells them in other villages for $1 each. They were able to do this because they pooled their resources to purchase the molds needed to make these clay stoves. They’ve also built a kiln. The enterprise is lifting families out of poverty, increasing their food intake, diversifying diets, and making it possible to keep children in school.

This story shows that it’s quite possible to improve people’s lives in significant ways without increasing the size of their carbon footprint. A little bit of technology goes a long way. Todd Post

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