News / Africa

Grassroots Innovation Helps Fight Hunger in Africa

Report highlights what is working and what can work in other countries

Urban farmers grow spinach, kale and other vegetables in simple soil-filled sacks in a slum of Nairobi, Kenya.
Urban farmers grow spinach, kale and other vegetables in simple soil-filled sacks in a slum of Nairobi, Kenya.

Multimedia

Sub-Saharan Africa harbors most of the world’s hungriest countries. But the report from the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group, says the continent is also home to a wealth of ideas that can help the rest of the world fight hunger and poverty.

Report co-author Danielle Nierenberg spent a year on a 25-nation tour of innovations in African farming and found them in some surprising places.

In Kibera, the largest urban slum in Nairobi, Kenya, and one of the largest on the continent, she found women farmers growing nutritious vegetables just outside their doorsteps using nothing more complicated than old sacks filled with soil.

It saves money. And what they don't eat, they sell, using the revenue to put their children through school.

They even helped feed Kibera through the turmoil and violence that followed Kenya's 2008 election dispute.

Women farmers in Kenya grow nutritious vegetables just outside their doorsteps. What they don't eat, they sell, using the profits to pay for their children's schooling.
Women farmers in Kenya grow nutritious vegetables just outside their doorsteps. What they don't eat, they sell, using the profits to pay for their children's schooling.

Cities feeding citizens

"It’s a slum," she says. "It’s depressing. It’s crowded. It’s dirty. It’s noisy. But these people are finding ways to make their lives better."

With half the world’s population now living in and around cities, experts are increasingly looking to these kinds of ideas in urban agriculture to feed malnourished city dwellers -- not just in Africa, but around the world.

And with nearly a billion people worldwide going to bed hungry, Nierenberg says that’s the point of the 237-page report: "I think there are a lot of lessons that we in the Western world can learn from Africa. And what they are doing is certainly applicable to other developing countries."

Transforming cassava into processed foods preserves the harvest and increases incomes.
Transforming cassava into processed foods preserves the harvest and increases incomes.

She says the report, entitled, "Innovations that Nourish the Planet," is intended as a roadmap for increasing agricultural investment to alleviate global hunger and poverty.

Saving the harvest

For example, in many developing countries, farmers lose 25 to 40 percent of their harvest to pests, spoilage or inappropriate handling before it can reach the market. That aggravates hunger and pushes up prices.

But in Nigeria, some farmers have cut losses in half with the help of village processing centers, set up to turn cassava into staple foods. As an added bonus, they earn more money from these processed products.

Nierenberg says the world’s hunger fighters should pay more attention to preserving the harvest.

"Given all that we invest in producing food in the first place," she says, "we need to devote the same amount of attention to making sure that it’s not wasted."

Work with what you have

"These innovations really focus on what you can do with what you have, with some additional inputs from the outside, of course," says Daniel Gustafson, head of the Washington, DC office of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. He says that's especially important for poor farmers, who are among the most at risk of hunger.

And Gustafson adds that with programs for developing-world farmers so often driven by outside interests, the focus on African farmers brings up another key point: "How important it is for researchers and donors and governments to pay attention to farmers and what they know and what they’re trying out."

Hopeful

Having grown up seeing images of hunger and conflict dominating news from the continent, Nierenberg says her year-long excursion was much different than she expected.

"I went to Africa with very little hope in my heart, and was so surprised by everything I saw," she says. "So I do see hope in all the innovations we saw on the ground."

However, she says she is less optimistic that farmers will get the support they need. Although several African countries have recently begun devoting significant portions of their national budgets to support agriculture, Nierenberg says greater commitments are needed to make these innovations that nourish the planet succeed.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid