Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

25 posts from June 2010

Top Hunger News: High Food Costs Push More People into Poverty

Surging Costs Hit Food Security in Poorer Nations. Families from Pakistan to Argentina to Congo are being battered by surging food prices that are dragging more people into poverty, fueling political tensions and forcing some to give up eating meat, fruit, and even tomatoes. [AP] 

Why 100 Million More Indians May Soon Be Living in Poverty. The government is re-evaluating its measures for deciding which of its citizens live in poverty—a key definition that determines who has access to subsidized food and housing assistance. [NPR] 

EU Boosting Food Aid for Niger. The European Union is boosting food aid for Niger, where nearly 60 percent of the population is facing severe food shortages because of poor rains. [VOA News] 

Seventy States Hold Rallies to ‘End Hunger.’ Over 150,000 people in 70 countries participated in “End Hunger” rallies Sunday to support the United Nations Food Program to fight global hunger during the eighth annual “End Hunger: Walk the World Event.” [Dawn.com] 

USDA Announces Grants to Help End Hunger in America. New grants to foster hunger-free communities and deliver help to Americans in need. [USDA] 

Turning Poverty into a Multibillion-Dollar Industry. Rivlin goes behind the scenes of the payday lending industry in his new book, Broke, USA, which examines the $33 billion-a-year "poverty industry." [NPR] 

More Than 1 in 5 Kids Live in Poverty. The rate of children living in poverty this year will climb to nearly 22%, the highest rate in two decades, according to an analysis by the non-profit Foundation for Child Development. [USA Today] 

Climate Change/Environment
Gore: Saving Climate Will Save, Not Lose, Money. Poorer countries that have borne the brunt of climate change's effects will save, not lose, money by putting in place ways to rescue the environment… [AP]

Ending Hunger Tied to Political and Economic Stability

Statute of liberty For anyone who doesn’t “get” the moral and economic imperative of ending hunger through agriculture development, here’s another motivating imperative: security, both domestic and global.

The phrase “food security” and the mission of helping countries feed themselves are mentioned multiple times in the recently released National Security Strategy of the Obama administration. Its Feed the Future initiative is a key weapon in the deployment of American “soft power” around the world. And “development experts who can strengthen governance and support human dignity” are included with soldiers, diplomats, law enforcement officers, and intelligence gatherers as defenders of the nation’s security.

Over the past several decades, the U.S. (along with other wealthy nations) has beaten a hasty and precipitous retreat from the development front. In the extended era of cheap food and impressive gains in rich world agriculture, there had been a disastrous abandonment of the farmers of developing countries. The result was the 2008 food crisis, when shocking shortages of key staple crops and soaring prices led to riots in dozens of countries. (Students of history will know that food riots have triggered many revolutions down through the centuries.)

Continue reading "Ending Hunger Tied to Political and Economic Stability" »

She’s the Boss: Women are the Solution

Women's hands with beans As Rajiv Shah spoke at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, I thought about an image in his old office at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, before he became administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Hanging on the wall behind his desk was a photo of a child crouching in a blue wash-bucket somewhere in Africa. Only her head was visible above the bucket’s rim.

Tell me about the girl, I asked.

“She’s the boss,” he replied. She, and not the wealthy and influential Bill Gates, was essentially the one they all worked for at the foundation’s global agriculture development department.

“We’re working to benefit her,” Shah said.

In presenting the guidelines to the Obama administration’s Feed the Future initiative, Shah effectively indicated that that little girl -- and millions of children like her, and their mothers and fathers -- was still the boss. Not the mighty president, nor the secretary of state, nor members of Congress. They all need to listen to what the Africans – particularly those Africans struggling to feed themselves – have to say about the priorities of agriculture development.

The crucial aspect of Feed the Future is that the agriculture development spending will follow country-led investment plans.

“We know even the most expert donor is limited in its ability to transform systems,” Shah said. “Country-led efforts are the ONLY way to amplify the impact of donor projects and reach real scale. For years there has been talk about country-led planning. So even I originally asked: What’s new here?”

What’s new is the emphasis on the word ONLY (capitalized by USAID in the text of Shah’s speech), and that “country-led” is no longer mere talk. The donor countries and organizations need to abandon the philosophy that they know best -- the philosophy that reigned despite the years of big talk of country-led planning. Monuments to that folly litter the African countryside.

I once returned to a village in Mozambique that I had earlier visited while reporting a story for The Wall Street Journal. “What’s new?” I asked the village elders.

“We have a new well,” they said, pointing to a shiny contraption beyond a soccer field.
As we walked to the well, the beaten path became overgrown with grass and weeds. The well pump itself was surrounded by knee-high grass.

“Doesn’t look like anyone ever uses this,” I said.

Laughter erupted. Followed by much head-shaking.

“We haven’t used the well since a few weeks after it was installed,” the headman said. It turns out the fresh ground water had quickly turned to salt water from the nearby estuary of the Indian Ocean.

“We knew that would happen,” the headman said. “But they never asked us where they should drill the well. They just put it here. We would have told them to put it on the other side of the village.”

The donors didn’t know that on the other side of the village the salt water doesn’t run into the underground water supply. They never asked. They came from richer countries, they had studied at university. They thought they knew best. But they didn’t know the local topography.

At the symposium, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf applauded the more humble instincts of Feed the Future. “What is most appealing from the Liberian perspective about these U.S. initiatives,” she said, “is that they encourage the participation of key groups, including farmers, civil society organizations, especially women, and they also promote strong regulatory policies, governance and accountability.”

She would have been particularly heartened by these words of Raj Shah:

“As we know, the people who matter most aren’t the financiers, the ag ministers or the aid workers. They are the female farmers who are the undertapped solution to this problem. Women produce from 60 to 80 percent of the food in the countries where we work. And when women control gains in income, they are more likely to spend those gains on family needs.”

It is the women, the mothers, who know better than anyone the needs of the girl in the blue wash-bucket.

Roger Thurow’s blog post appears courtesy of the Global Food for Thought blog. Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, is a senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Top Hunger News: A Barefoot Challenge to End Child Poverty

Barefoot International
A Barefoot Challenge: End Childhood Poverty. Bilaal Rajan, 13, takes his shoes off to better understand the world millions of impoverished youth step into every day. [Tonic] 

Hunger in Asia-Pacific. Asia needs to wake up to the enormous challenge of feeding its population of 5 billion people by 2050. [Relief Web] 

Sugar Supplies in the Bag as Panic Ends. Not so long ago, the prospect of a global sugar shortage gave food manufacturers a panic attack. [BBC] 

Low-Income Californians Especially Vulnerable to Obesity Epidemic. A new study has found a direct causal relationship between income and obesity rates in Americans. [CAIVN] 

Restoring U.S. Foreign Aid to Health. President Obama, his foreign policy team, and Congress are on the cusp of redefining how the United States approaches foreign assistance. [The Hill] 

Letter Carriers Deliver Another Record Food Drive: 77.1 Million Pounds. The annual “Stamp Out Hunger Drive” delivered food to local pantries and shelters across the nation to help fight hunger. [AFL-CIO] 

Climate Change/Environment
Balancing Climate Fight with Poverty Reduction. Indonesia tends to draw global attention for all the wrong reasons—terrorism, tsunami and frequent earthquakes, forest destruction, haze and corruption. Now, in a marked positive shift, this nation of 17,000 islands is a major battle ground in the global climate war. [The Business Times] 

Top Hunger Headlines: Mobile Banking Closes Poverty Gap

Mobile Banking Closes Poverty Gap
. Mobile banking has transformed the way people in the developing world transfer money, and now it is poised to offer more sophisticated banking services that could make a real difference to people's lives. [BBC] 

Mozambique: Money Available to Develop Food Production. A fund of $20 million has been made available for Mozambique to develop the production of fruit. [AllAfrica.com] 

U.N.: Poor Harvests, Droughts Cause Nearly 10 Million Africans to Face ‘Extreme’ Hunger. The worsening situation was blamed on drought and poor harvests… [The Underground] 

Feed the Future. Through the Feed the Future program, the U.S. will invest at least $3.5 billion over a three-year period to boost the role of agriculture and nutrition in our development efforts, and to reduce hunger and food insecurity. [VOA News] 

Agriculture: Bumper Harvests Bring Stability. The spike in prices that caused the first global food crisis in 30 years in 2007-08 has led to large increases in production of foods such as corn (maize) and wheat. [Financial Times] 

Make Fighting Hunger a Priority. More children need nutritional assistance, thanks to the recession. [Baltimore Sun] 

Climate Change/Environment
New Round of Climate Negotiation Begins. A fresh round of negotiations kicked off Monday in another attempt to get global agreement on a treaty to meet climate change … [Business Mirror] 

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