Archive for the Food Security Category

Back to the basics: Fighting hunger with conservation agriculture in western Zambia

Posted on Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 at 10:40 am

By Carl Wahl, Concern Worldwide Conservation Agriculture Coordinator, Zambia

Matumbo Yembe, 44, like so many Zambians, lives off the radar.

Handicapped from polio as a child, Matumbo Yembe lived alone without any support from aid programs until she was introduced to conservation agriculture. Today, she is growing her own food and slowly inching her way out of poverty.

Handicapped from polio as a child, Matumbo Yembe lived alone without any support from aid programs until she was introduced to conservation agriculture. Today, she is growing her own food and slowly inching her way out of poverty.

Her right leg withered and weak, Matumbo was tragically crippled as a child from polio and moves around with the help of a stick. She has scratched out a living doing whatever piecemeal work she could to get by. Because she lives alone and has little or no social connections, Matumbo, never benefited from any aid programs—that is until she was introduced to conservation agriculture.

Over the past few years, I have witnessed a transformation. With support from Concern Worldwide, Matumbo is now growing her own food and slowly inching her way out of poverty. What impresses me about her is that so many people in her position—alone, disabled, and poor—would lose all hope and fade away. But Matumbo, as my old football coach used to say, has “no quit in her.” Every time I visit her, there is not a single weed to be seen and the crops are perfect. She is nothing short of remarkable, and I continue to be amazed by how the techniques that we call “conservation agriculture” can be such a catalyst for people to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

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Passing the torch of political commitment to reduce hunger

Posted on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Tom Arnold with children from Mankhwazi Village, Nkhotakota District, Malawi

I am writing this blog some hours after a wonderful young Irish woman called Katie Taylor won an Olympic Gold Medal for boxing. The country is ‘en fete’ and all our economic problems seem a little lighter.

Britain has had a wonderful two weeks of the Olympics.  The magnificent opening ceremony set the tone. Since then, the organization of the Games has been outstandingly good. British athletes have won more medals than anyone expected.

In 1992, Queen Elizabeth spoke about her ‘annus horribilis’ or her horrible year during her 40thyear of her accession to the throne.  Twenty years on, as she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, this seems to be a year of wonders, an “annus mirabilis” for Britain.

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Fighting ‘Hidden Hunger’ in Uganda

Posted on Thursday, July 12th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Women queuing for food in Nabilatuk Health Center, Karamoja, Uganda. Distributions implemented by NGOs are a way of addressing the nutrition needs in the country.

By Cormac Staunton, Area Manager Karamoja, Concern Worldwide

The rains are a mixed blessing in Karamoja. They came initially as a relief in April, having not seen rain since last November. The dust settled, and the fields and hills turned green before our eyes. It was a welcome sight in a dry landscape that had become burnt and inhospitable. People began to dig and plant their crops.

It’s tempting to see the arrival as the rains as the beginning of something good, a positive moment in the annual cycle. But in Karamoja the rains also herald the start of something more worrying—the hunger season.

Karamoja, tucked in the north east corner of Uganda, is a vast, flat plain, dry and dusty for most of the year. It is home to nomadic tribes, for whom cattle are both a source of food and wealth, and the center of the cultural and economic life. Conflict has been a feature of life here, as heavily armed warriors raid cattle from each other, a practice that is both a tradition with social and spiritual significance, and a means of survival.

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Scavenging Anthills to Survive: A Dispatch from the Sahel Hunger Crisis

Posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2012 at 10:57 am

By Carol Morgan, Regional Director, Central Africa Region, Concern Worldwide

Hafiza Moussa is three years old and suffering from malaria. He is receiving treatment from a Concern-supported ward (CRENI) at the regional hospital.

I recently returned from the Sahel region of Africa, where a major humanitarian crisis is now unfolding, affecting an estimated 18.7 million people. In the Tahoua region of Niger, where Concern is responding, I saw children who, completely listless from the effects of malnutrition, could not hold down therapeutic milk in overcrowded feeding centers.

The United Nations now estimates that upwards of one million children are at extreme risk of severe acute malnutrition across this semi-arid belt of land along the Sahara desert. Even in ‘non-crisis’ years, 645,000 children die in the Sahel—35 percent of which are linked to malnutrition. This grim reality will never change unless we address the root causes of cyclical hunger.

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Pace of Progress Dangerously Slow on Climate Change

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 at 8:23 am

By Tom Arnold, Chief Executive of Concern Worldwide

The three-day United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which started in Rio de Janeiro today (Wednesday, June 20) presents world leaders with an excellent opportunity to adopt a new approach to climate change that reflects the priorities of the developing world. Called Rio+20, it marks the 20th anniversary of the historic 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development attended by 179 countries which put sustainable development on the global agenda.

The Sahel region of Africa is currently facing a food security crisis that threatens more than 18 million people

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. In the poorest countries where Concern works, the strains caused by climate change are increasingly evident. Erratic seasons, rising droughts and floods, uncertain planting dates, and shorter growing periods for essential staples are all having an impact. For the world’s poor, who overwhelmingly depend on rain-fed agriculture for their survival, the changing patterns of climate, land availability, and food production have caused chaos.

In the Sahel region of Africa, where a current food security crisis threatens more than 18 million people, rainfall has decreased by 25 percent in the last 30 years wreaking havoc on farming communities. Other factors like deforestation, overgrazing, continuous cropping, desertification, and poor water management have also contributed to a deteriorating environment.

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Deepening Food Insecurity Casts Shadow over South Sudan’s First Birthday

Posted on Monday, June 11th, 2012 at 8:29 am

By Paul O’Brien, Overseas Director, Concern Worldwide

In this region, malnutrition rates rise and fall along with the levels of food available pre- and post-harvest.

On July 9th, the Republic of South Sudan will celebrate its first Independence Day since its secession from the Republic of Sudan in 2011. I recently travelled, first to Juba, the capital, and then to the Aweil West and Aweil North areas of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state—a region bordering the Republic of Sudan where a staggering 800,000 people live below the poverty line.

In this region, malnutrition rates rise and fall along with the levels of food available pre- and post-harvest. In Aweil West, for instance, fluctuations in child malnutrition rates from harvest to the ‘lean season’—the time preceding the harvest when food supplies are at their lowest– doubled from 12 percent to 26 percent in November 2011. Given that a rate of 15 percent is considered to be at emergency-level, it is clear that communities in South Sudan are constantly confronting food insecurity, even in times of what they consider to be ‘plenty.’

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A New Commitment to Food Security from G8, but Empty Promises Remain

Posted on Friday, May 25th, 2012 at 7:58 am

By Tom Arnold, CEO, Concern Worldwide

Tom Arnold with Beverly Oda of the Canadian International Development Agency and Etharin Cousin of the UN World Food Programme

I have just returned from a whirlwind visit to Washington, DC and Chicago, where I participated in a number of events around the G8 and NATO Summits focused on food and nutrition security.  Among so many world leaders and high-level representatives from civil society and academia, I felt a sense of critical mass beginning to form in the fight to end global hunger.

It’s a feeling I’ve had before – perhaps not this strong – only to be disappointed when promises went unfulfilled.  We must keep calling our leaders to persevere, especially those in the G8, to ensure that does not happen this time.

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Too much at stake: The G8’s responsibility to tackle child hunger

Posted on Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 at 1:00 pm

By Tom Arnold, CEO, Concern Worldwide

Two month old Ejereya Kahale sitting with her mother in Kargi, Kenya

Almost 1,000 days ago, on July 10, 2009, the G8 met at L’Aquila, Italy and issued a joint statement  launching the ‘L’Aquila Food Security Initiative’ (AFSI), committing the member nations to a  $22-billion investment over three years aimed at  responding to the ‘urgent need for decisive action to free humankind from hunger.’

Of the roughly 385,000 children born on that day, many of the poorest of them would have died in infancy and early childhood.  Those who survived would now be nearing the critical 1,000th day between their mother’s pregnancy and their second birthday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cambodia’s Rice Banking System

Posted on Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 at 1:08 pm

By Moire O’Sullivan, Assistant Country Director Programs, Concern Worldwide Cambodia

Today, Dok Sareth went to the bank. He came home with a bag of rice.

“Before the rice bank was set up, I had to borrow rice seed to plant my rice crop,” Sareth told me on a visit to his village.  “Every time I borrowed, I had to repay the loan with a 100 percent interest rate.  Now because of the rice bank set up with Concern’s support, the villagers can help each other and the interest rate is much more affordable.  It has made a huge difference to my life and I am extremely grateful.”

Local farmer Dok Sareth proudly shows off his rice bank. Conor Wall / July 2011 / Pursat, Cambodia

The people who Concern works with in Cambodia depend heavily on rain-fed rice production for their income. They are rural farmers who grow and sell rice on the small amounts of land that they own. Those without land work on other farmers’ paddy fields for a small daily allowance. Read the rest of this entry »

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In the wake of the East Africa crisis, will help arrive in time for the Sahel?

Posted on Monday, February 27th, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Paul O’Brien, Overseas Director, Concern Worldwide

Last week, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg announced a contribution of $33 million to support food security, nutrition and short-term cash assistance efforts across the West African region of the Sahel, bringing USAID’s total humanitarian assistance to the region to more than $270 million in fiscal years 2011 and 2012.  The announcement caused barely a ripple in the US media, and many who heard the news may have even asked ‘What crisis?’ or ‘What’s the Sahel?’  As aid organizations, it is our responsibility to issue and amplify calls to action to respond in the Sahel, and to broadcast the important message that coordinated action now will save lives and prevent costly interventions later – and we have the evidence.

Millet is the staple crop that keeps most people alive in Niger, but this year, drought and poor harvests threaten to leave 13 million people in need of emergency food assistance by April. Photo: Tim Peek for Concern Worldwide US, Tahoua town, Niger

Right now, a series of factors—including volatile spikes in food prices, failed harvests and cyclical drought—have triggered widespread food shortages across the Sahel, according to the USAID Famine Early Warning System Network. Levels of malnutrition among children under five have already reached the internationally recognized emergency threshold of 15 percent in parts of many affected countries, which include Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania. Read the rest of this entry »

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