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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.

The Flying Greek

Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid