Category Archives: Food Security

Traditional crops puff hopes for climate resilience in Kenya

Screenshot_2020-01-09 Traditional crops puff hopes for climate resilience in Kenya
Workers wash millet to prepare it for popping in Embu, Kenya, September 9, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Wesley Langat

EMBU, Kenya,  Two years ago, Michael Gichangi launched a business he hopes will help his rural community better cope with climate change stresses: making puffed cereal from climate-hardy traditional grains.

Using a $1,000 machine he bought, he pops millet – a drought-tolerant grain, but one not as widely eaten as staple maize – and turns it into a popular snack.

Over the last two years he has sold about $1,500 worth of the popped grain, and is the first in the district to have one of the machines, he said.

“I started popping millet to produce very delicious snacks, by mixing it with groundnuts, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon powder and simsim (sesame) oil”, he said.

The combination has won particular approval from students looking for an after-school snack, he said, and is now sold at the local Embu market.

As many households in sub-Saharan Afria struggle with poverty and food insecurity, climate change is hitting harvests and making life even harder.

But finding new markets for hardy grains that can better stand up to extreme weather and changing pests, and produce a reliable harvest, can help, agricultural scientists say.

Gichangi’s effort began when he joined a women-led agribusiness group in his village and started buying and selling traditional cereals such as millet, sorghum and green gram, all more drought-resilient alternatives to maize.

Previously, maize dominated farming in the area – but that dominance is gradually declining as weather extremes linked to climate change make getting a harvest more difficult, he and others said.

Patrick Maundu, an ethnobotanist at the National Museums of Kenya and an honorary fellow with Bioversity International, an organisation that promotes agricultural biodiversity, said millet is a traditional Kenyan crop – just one that, over the years, lost ground to maize.

The change came as a result of the intense promotion of maize production by governments, research groups and multinational companies selling products in Africa, he said.

“Millet is well adapted to dry parts of Africa but has been neglected because of … key policies focused on maize, taking over indigenous cereals,” he said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But in the recent years, wilder weather linked to climate change and the high cost of farm inputs – which farmers can struggle to pay if harvests fail – has made maize farming less reliable, particularly for small-scale farmers like those in Embu, Maundu said.

That has pushed many farmers to diversify back into drought-resistant traditional crops.

The amount of farm acreage planted with maize in Kenya has fallen by about a quarter in recent years, according to data from Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Still, finding a ready market for crops like millet – and getting people to resume eating them – can be a challenge.

Gichangi, an entrepreneur and millet farmer, said he realised that the key to making the new crops pay was adding value to what was harvested – hence the popping machine.

MORE JOBS, MORE RESILIENCE?

The puffed millet, besides being tasty, has boosted employment opportunities in Embu and helped reduce food waste because it can be stored longer, he said.

Stella Gathaka 30, who formerly worked as a food vendor, is now one of four workers at Gichangi’s small factory.

She said that, besides earning a salary, her new job allows her children to eat the millet snacks, which are more nutritious than their previous snack of sweet wheat biscuits.

These days, “I’m very knowledgeable on the importance of millet as a nutritious crop,” she said.

Daniel Kirori, operations director at DK Engineering Ltd., which assembles the popping machines, said his company had sold about 15 of them so far to women’s groups and other entrepreneurs around Kenya.

According to a 2017 United Nations report on the state of food security and nutrition, climate change pressures, from worsening droughts to floods, heatwaves and storms, are a key reason about 800 million people still lack access to enough food.

Liz Young, a senior researcher with the International Food Policy Research Institute noted in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that Africa’s farmers urgently need help to adapt to the threats and grow enough to feed the continent’s rising population.

Producing more millet and other traditional hardy crops, and finding ways to process them to produce more income, is one way of doing that, Young said.

Emily Wawira, a small-scale millet farmer in Embu who sells her produce to Gichangi, said she sells 10 to 20 sacks of grain each year, each weighing 90 kilos, and earns $25 to $30 per sack.

That income “is enough to pay school fees,” she said – and an improvement on her former loss-making maize farming.

Gichangi’s millet snacks are slowly gaining ground on traditional favourites such as sugary wheat biscuits, his sales team said.

“It wasn’t easy popularising the products,” admitted Lucy Njeru, one of Gichangi’s saleswomen – though free samples helped.

Now, however, Gichangi has partnered with four local schools and an agricultural show to offer his healthier snacks.

Anthony Sawaya, Embu County’s director of trade and chief executive of the county Investment and Development Corporation, said his office is keen to help innovators like Gichangi access markets.

The county government, for instance, is promoting local foods at nearby and international trade fair exhibitions, he said.

 

Farmers in Zimbabwe facing severe droughts, hunger crisis, CRS says

FoodYoung girl in Zimbabwe. Credit: milosk50 / Shutterstock

.- As severe drought conditions continue in Zimbabwe, close to 7 million people are facing food shortages, a Catholic aid agency warned this week.

“Families have run out of options to put food on their tables,” said Dorrett Byrd, Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) regional director for Southern Africa.

With repeated droughts over the past five years, many of Zimbabwe’s small farmers have found themselves unable to feed their families. The United Nations estimates that nearly half of the 16 million people in the country are urgently in need of food aid, and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network ranks the country as experiencing a “Phase 3 food crisis,” signifying widespread acute malnutrition.

The droughts have increased in frequency and intensity due to climate change, Byrd said. In addition to widespread crop failure, inflation has decimated many families’ savings.

Byrd warned that the struggle to find food has led many young people to leave the country, adding, “Migrating parents often leave their young children behind with grandparents who struggle to provide for them.”

Catholic Relief Services is working with farmers in Zimbabwe to teach soil and water conservation methods. The agency is also offering drought-resistant crops to farmers and is cooperating with the government in a notification system warning farmers about threats to their harvest.

Even with these steps, however, Byrd warned that more action needs to be taken in order for the people of Zimbabwe to recover.

Other countries in the region are also facing an escalating hunger crisis. The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that more than 45 million people in Southern Africa are currently faced with food insecurity.

“This area of the world needs help and it needs help now,” Byrd said. “We hope the economic situation improves soon, but if climate change is not addressed, countries like Zimbabwe will continue to suffer.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/farmers-in-zimbabwe-facing-severe-droughts-hunger-crisis-crs-says-56240

Top Global Scientists Call for ‘Profound Food System Transformation’ to Combat Extreme Malnutrition

malutrition
A new multi-paper World Health Organization report published Monday in The Lancet details the need to overhaul global food systems to address mass malnutrition. (Photo: Bartosz Hadyniak/Getty Images)

A multi-part World Health Organization report published Monday in the British medical journal The Lancet detailed the need to urgently transform the world’s failing food systems to combat the coexistence of undernourishment and obesity—or the “double burden of malnutrition.”

Based on global data from recent decades, the WHO report estimated that more than 150 million children are stunted worldwide while nearly 2.3 billion children and adults—about 30% of the planet’s human population—are overweight.

Dr. Francesco Branca, the report’s lead author and director of the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, said that “we can no longer characterize countries as low-income and undernourished, or high-income and only concerned with obesity.”

As he put it: “We are facing a new nutrition reality.”

This new reality “is driven by changes to the food system, which have increased availability of ultra-processed foods that are linked to increased weight gain, while also adversely affecting infant and pre-schooler diets,” said co-author and University of North Carolina professor Barry Popkin. “These changes include disappearing fresh food markets, increasing supermarkets, and the control of the food chain by supermarkets, and global food, catering and agriculture companies in many countries.”

Considering these changes, Branca explained that “all forms of malnutrition have a common denominator—food systems that fail to provide all people with healthy, safe, affordable, and sustainable diets.”

“Changing this will require action across food systems—from production and processing, through trade and distribution, pricing, marketing, and labeling, to consumption and waste,” he added. “All relevant policies and investments must be radically re-examined.”

This is especially true for the more than a third of low- and middle-income countries that face “the two extremes of malnutrition.” A WHO statement highlighted the following regions: sub-Saharan Africa, south and east Asia, and the Pacific.

Authors of the WHO report urged world governments, the United Nations, civil society, academics, the media, donors, the private sector, and economic platforms to pursue fundamental changes to global food systems with the aim of ending mass malnutrition. Doing so, according to the authors, means seeking assistance from grassroots groups, farmers and their unions, faith-based leaders, advocates for planetary health, leaders of green companies, local politicians, and consumer associations.

“Given the political economy of food, the commodification of food systems, and growing patterns of inequality worldwide, the new nutrition reality calls for a broadened community of actors who work in mutually reinforcing and interconnected ways on a global scale,” said Branca. “Without a profound food system transformation, the economic, social, and environmental costs of inaction will hinder the growth and development of individuals and societies for decades to come.”

The report acknowledged that fighting malnutrition requires successfully promoting healthier diets, which WHO defines as: optimal breastfeeding practices in the first two years; a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fiber, nuts, and seeds; and limited amounts of animal products—particularly processed meats—as well as foods and beverages high in sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, and salt.

“Today’s publication of the WHO Series on the Double Burden of Malnutrition comes after 12 months of Lancet articles exploring nutrition in all its forms,” wrote The Lancet editor-in-chief Dr. Richard Horton in an editorial accompanying the report.

“With these and other articles across Lancet journals throughout 2019, it has become clear that nutrition and malnutrition need to be approached from multiple perspectives,” Horton continued, “and although findings have sometimes converged, there is still work to be done to understand malnutrition’s multiple manifestations.”

In January, as Common Dreams reported, more than three dozen experts with the EAT-Lancet Commission called for a “global agricultural revolution” and people worldwide to adopt a “planetary health diet” to tackle the harmful nutritional and environmental impacts of the world’s unhealthy, unsustainable food system.

Co-lead commissioner Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University explained at the time that “to be healthy, diets must have an appropriate calorie intake and consist of a variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/12/16/top-global-scientists-call-profound-food-system-transformation-combat-extreme

Rubio: Blocking aid to Venezuela is a ‘crime against humanity’

Rubio photoSen. Marco Rubio. Credit: Rich Koele_Shutterstock

Washington D.C., (CNA) – Sen. Marco Rubio has called the humanitarian and political impasse in Venezuela “unsustainable,” and compared a blockade stopping food and medical aid from entering the country to a war crime.

The senator said leaders of the country’s security forces must choose between their orders and the needs of their families, neighbors and fellow citizens.

In a Feb. 8 interview with CNA, Rubio said that orders to prevent aid from crossing the border are illegitimate and should be refused by officers.

“They are being asked to do something that is illegitimate, they are being asked to do something that – if this were an armed conflict – would be a war crime,” Rubio said.

“Under the Geneva Conventions, the denial of the transit of food and medicine to civilian populations would be a war crime – that’s what they are being asked to participate in.”

The Republican senator from Florida is a key strategist and advisor to the Trump administration on the U.S. response to the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

Rubio said that while international support is important, the escalating humanitarian and political crisis can only be ended by Venezuelan leadership.

“Ultimately it falls upon the Venezuelan people, and by that I include members of the National Guard, the armed forces, and the police forces, to decide their own destiny and their own future.”

“The international community is here to help and support, but this is their cause.”

On Jan. 23, President Donald Trump recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president of the country. Nicolas Maduro has refused to recognize Guaidó, and clings to power through his control of the military.

Maduro succeeded Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in 2013. In 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department called Maduro “a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people.”
Rubio told CNA that Maduro must relinquish power to bring stability to a country that has seen more than 3 million people flee the country since 2015 amid spiralling inflation, food shortages and mass demonstrations.

The circumstances under which Maduro might be persuaded to abandon power are unclear, the senator said.

“Do I think Maduro is going to exit power eventually? Absolutely. Do I think he is going to do it willingly? I don’t know. But a lot of that depends on the people holding him up,” the senator said.

“Here’s the bottom line: the rank and file military does not support Maduro, but they are not willing to face the very grave consequences of breaking with him.”

These leaders, Rubio said, have the opportunity and responsibility to allow aid into the country.

“There are four or five senior military leaders, starting with the defense minister [Vladimir Padrino López], who if they were to recognize the interim government, that would be the end of the Maduro regime.”

If military leaders recognize the interim government, Rubio told CNA, they could also benefit from amnesties offered by the interim government but “that window is closing, on them and on the country.”

“The further this goes, the likelier it is that senior military leaders like [defense minister Vladimir] Padrino will disqualify themselves from the ability to receive domestic and international amnesty: because they deny food and medicine and thereby commit a crime against humanity; because they try to follow orders and attack unarmed protestors and civilians.”

“It’s in their hands, they can decide to change the trajectory of Venezuela.”

In the meantime, protests continue in the country and, according to Rubio, the Venezuelan people “are well aware” that the Maduro and his loyalists stand between them and the flow of foreign aid into the country.

“There is no way, if current trends continue, that Maduro holds on to power,” Rubio said. “The question becomes: how does he leave? Does he leave through a negotiated exit or does some other even occur that forces his hand?”

Earlier this week, Maduro issued a request for Pope Francis to act as a mediator in resolving the political standoff.

While the pope said that such a request for mediation would have to come from “both sides,” Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo, Apostolic Administrator of Caracas, appeared to pour cold water on the notion of papal intervention, telling Argentina’s Radio Continental Feb. 6 that the suggestion was “non-viable.”

Rubio told CNA the request for papal mediation is a delaying tactic on the part of Maduro.

“He’s already done this before, the Vatican tried to mediate [in 2016] and it was a fiasco – they walked away from it knowing that he wasn’t sincere.”

“Maduro has a very simple plan: to buy time until he can fracture the opposition and the world’s attention is diverted to some other crisis and away from Venezuela.”

“That’s the model he has followed and he’s trying to pull it off one more time.”

The Venezuelan standoff began Jan. 10, when Maduro was inaugurated at the start of his second term. Both the National Assembly and the Venezuelan bishops’ conference declared at that time Maduro’s 2018 reelection to be invalid. Guaidó declared himself the nation’s interim leader Jan. 23.
Rubio paid tribute to Guaidó and other opposition leaders in the country, noting the real dangers they face.

“I have tremendous admiration for the risk that they are taking,” Rubio said. “They have always been at risk, there are a significant number of opposition leaders dead, in jail, or in exile as a result of this regime.”

But, he said, those committed to seeing genuine democracy in Venezuela recognize that they have had no other practical option than to put themselves at risk.

“As they themselves will tell you, the alternative would be for them to surrender and give in and live under this tyranny or have to leave their country.”

The senator told CNA that direct intervention by U.S. personnel – military or otherwise – remains “a controversial concept.”

“What there is a strong international consensus behind is that Maduro should not stand in the way of humanitarian relief reaching people who are literally dying,” Rubio said, but the moral imperative lay primarily on those carrying out Maduro’s orders.

“If Maduro is going to order that aid be blocked, then it is incumbent upon those that he is ordering not to follow those orders.”

“The military and its leaders are going to have to choose: do we follow these illegitimate orders that are hurting our own people or do we actually help them to reach the starving people of Venezuela, in many cases their own parents, their own siblings, their own families, their own neighbors.”

Rubio said that direct intervention is not something currently being contemplated in Washington. But, the senator noted, it remains an option to protect American personnel, including those trying to deliver food, medicine, and other aid to the country.

“Any U.S. personnel who comes in danger as a result of actions of the Maduro security forces- there will be grave consequences for it, they are well aware of it and they should govern themselves accordingly.”

“The plan here is not to have a caravan of American soldiers or aid workers entering Venezuela, the plan is to hand this over to whoever the interim government directs so that they can distribute in a non-political way.”

“The goal is to distribute the aid through non-governmental, non-political organizations inside Venezuela, for them to distribute through Caritas for the Catholic Church, the Red Cross and other NGOs that are operating within the country.”

Maduro’s security forces, who have erected roadblocks to prevent aid from entering the country, stand between food and medicine stockpiled across the Colombian border and Venezuelan organizations ready to distribute it.

Rubio said that while international pressure and consensus is important, responsibility for resolving the impasse lies with the soldiers blocking aid from entering the country. The senator suggested they should stand down.

“The choice is theirs.”

 

 
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/rubio-blocking-aid-to-venezuela-is-a-crime-against-humanity-21754

When women have land rights the tide begins to turn

IPS
By Manipadma Jena

This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Women’s secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India’s Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

NEW DELHI, Jun 12 2017 (IPS) – In Meghalaya, India’s northeastern biodiversity hotspot, all three major tribes are matrilineal. Children take the mother’s family name, while daughters inherit the family lands.

Because women own land and have always decided what is grown on it and what is conserved, the state not only has a strong climate-resistant food system but also some of the rarest edible and medicinal plants, researchers said.

While their ancient culture empowers Meghalaya’s indigenous women with land ownership that vastly improves their resilience to the food shocks climate change springs on them, for an overwhelming majority of women in developing countries, culture does not allow them even a voice in family or community land management. Nor do national laws support their rights to own the very land they sow and harvest to feed their families.

The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow.

Continue reading When women have land rights the tide begins to turn

In a “World of Plenty,” G7 Must Fight Famine

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
IPS

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A child from drought-stricken southern Somalia who survived the long journey to an aid camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Credit: Abdurrahman Warsameh/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 2017 (IPS) – World leaders must step up and take action in fighting famine to prevent further catastrophic levels of hunger and deaths, said Oxfam.

Ahead of the 43rd G7 summit, Oxfam urged world leaders to urgently address the issue of famine, currently affecting four countries at unprecedented levels.

“Political failure has led to these crises – political leadership is needed to resolve them…the world’s most powerful leaders must now act to prevent a catastrophe happening on their watch,” said Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.

“If G7 leaders were to travel to any of these four countries, they would see for themselves how life is becoming impossible for so many people: many are already dying in pain, from disease and extreme hunger,” she continued.

In northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, approximately 30 million people are severely food insecure. Of this figure, 10 million face emergency and famine conditions, more than the population of G7 member United Kingdom’s capital of London.

After descending into conflict over three years ago, famine has now been declared in two South Sudan counties and a third county is at risk if food aid is not provided.

In Somalia, conflict alongside prolonged drought – most likely exacerbated by climate change – has left almost 7 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Drought has also contributed to cholera outbreaks and displacement.

Byanyima pointed to the hypocrisy in a “world of plenty” experiencing four famines.

These widespread crises are not confined to the four countries’ borders.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, almost 2 million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya, making it the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Due to the influx of South Sudanese refugees, the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda is now the largest in the world, placing a strain on local services.

Escaping hunger and conflict, Nigerians have sought refuge in the Lake Chad region which shares its borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger only to once again face high levels of food insecurity and disease outbreaks.

Among the guest invitees to the G7 meeting are the affected nations, including the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Oxfam called on the G7 countries to provide its fair share of funding. So far, they have provided 1.7 billion dollars, just under 60 percent of their fair share. Meanwhile, only 30 percent of a 6.3-billion-dollar UN appeal for all four countries has been funded. If each G7 country contributed its fair share, almost half of the appeal would be funded, Oxfam estimates.

In 2015, the G7 committed to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition. Oxfam noted that they should thus uphold their commitments and focus on crisis prevention.

However, some of the G77 nations’ actions do not bode well for accelerated action on famine.

For instance, the U.S. government has proposed significant cuts to foreign assistance, including a 30 percent decrease in funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The proposal also includes the elimination of Title II For Peace, a major USAID food aid program, which would mean the loss of over 1.7 billion dollars of food assistance.

Former US Foreign Disaster Assistance chief Jeremy Konyndyk noted that the cuts are “catastrophic.” “So bad I fear I’m misreading it,” he added.

International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) President David Miliband highlighted the importance of continuing U.S. foreign assistance in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering abroad and protect the interests and security of the U.S. and its allies.

“Global threats like Ebola and ISIS grow out of poverty, instability, and bad governance. Working to counteract these with a forward-leaning foreign aid policy doesn’t just mean saving lives today, but sparing the US and its allies around the world the much more difficult, expensive work of combating them tomorrow,” he stated.

President Trump also called for the elimination of the U.S. African Development Foundation which provides grants to underserved communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has suggested cutting funds to climate change programs such as the UN’s Green Climate Fund which aims to help vulnerable developing nations combat climate change.

Meanwhile, UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May has already abolished its climate change department.

In addition to scaling up humanitarian funding, G7 nations must commit to fund longer-term solutions that build resilience and improve food security to avoid large-scale disasters, Oxfam stated. This includes action on climate change, “no excuses,” said Oxfam.

President Trump is expected to announce whether the U.S. will remain in the Paris climate agreement after the G7 summit.

“History shows that when donors fail to act on early warnings of potential famine, the consequence can be a large-scale, devastating loss of life….now clear warnings have again been issued,” Oxfam stated.

“The international community have the power to end such failures—if they choose to—by marshaling international logistics and a humanitarian response network to work sustainably with existing local systems to prevent famine and address conflict, governance, and climate change drivers,” Oxfam concluded.

The G7 summit is hosted by Sicily, Italy and will be held from 26-27 May.

Change the Goal – Doughnut Economics

YES Magazine

David Korten

I see a lot of books presuming to explain what’s wrong with the economy and what to do about it. Rarely do I come across one with the consistent new paradigm frame, historical depth, practical sensibility, systemic analysis, and readability of Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth. Especially unique and valuable is her carefully reasoned, illustrated, and documented debunking of the fatally flawed theory behind economic policies that drive financial instability, environmental collapse, poverty, and extreme inequality.

Doughnut Economics opens with the story of an Oxford University student. Recognizing the inseparable connection between the economy and the environmental and social issues of our time, she did what many students with such concerns do. She signed up for an economics major hoping to learn how she might contribute to creating a better world.

What she learned instead is that the theory taught in textbook economics is hopelessly simplistic and largely irrelevant to her concerns—and to those of many of her fellow students. Rather than just shift to a more relevant major, however, she started what has become a spreading global student movement demanding reform of university economics curricula.

On a fast track to becoming one of the world’s most influential economists, Raworth has produced a book that more than validates the reasons for the student revolt. She fills in yawning gaps in current textbook economic theory to make the connections for which these students—and many of the rest of us—are looking. More