The solutions to hunger are both simple and complex: What’s simple are the actual interventions themselves, many of which are steps that can easily be taken. More complex is making that change happen in a lasting and sustainable manner, and finding the right combination of solutions for each individual community. Here are 9 solutions that are helping us work towards Zero Hunger in 24 countries around the world.
1. Climate Smart Agriculture
We know that climate change perpetuates global hunger, with more frequent and longer-lasting periods of extreme temperatures, flood events, and dry spells. Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) a broad term that encompasses a number of practices that allow farmers to adapt and become more resilient to a less-predictable climate. These practices include diversifying crop varieties, conservation agriculture practices, and low-water sack gardens. Time and again, we’ve seen families benefit both nutritionally and financially from these solutions. Check out these stories from Ethiopia, Niger, and Malawi.
2. Responding to Forced Migration
Forced migration, brought on by conflict, is a key cause of hunger. Refugees and IDPs are some of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to hunger, as are their host communities. Much of the work to stop conflict needs to take place on a government and policy level, but one way Concern can help is through programs that facilitate new ways to generate income.
For example, Syrian refugee women and their Lebanese counterparts in host communities have been learning to make staples like cheese and yogurt, and how to sell them at market for a profit. For those refugee women who wish to return to Syria, this will also be an essential skill to have as the country rebuilds its infrastructure after a protracted conflict.
3. Fostering Gender Equality
Gender equality is another key solution to global hunger, in two key areas: agriculture and maternal and child health.
Women make up approximately half of the agricultural workforce in many of the countries where Concern works, and data from the Food and Agriculture Organization suggest that giving female farmers equal access to resources as their male counterparts could increase production on their farms by 20-30%. This could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by up to 150 million.
Female nutrition is also crucial. According to the World Food Programme, women are more likely than men to go hungry in nearly two-thirds of the world’s countries. By making women’s health and nutrition a priority, we can prevent not only health complications for them if and when they have children, but also for the children they bear. This begins with puberty and continues through pregnancy, breastfeeding, and on through healthy habits that children can maintain for the rest of their lives.
4. Reducing Food Waste
Currently, one-third of all food produced (over 1.3 billion tons) is wasted. Producing this wasted food also wastes other natural resources —requiring an amount of water equal to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River and creating 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases.
Ending food waste would be a radical shift, but it’s one that you can be a part of by simply reducing your own food waste. It’s especially important in countries like the United States (which contribute more to climate change but feel the effects less than more vulnerable countries) to take these steps towards climate justice. You can also ask your representatives to commit to reducing food waste on a policy level.
5. Disaster Risk Reduction
Investing in disaster risk reduction in vulnerable communities helps to mitigate potential losses in the wake of man-made or climate disasters for those who need it most. Most of the people with whom we work are involved in subsistence agriculture — they grow what they eat. For many, it’s never enough, and the prospect of losing what they do grow is the very definition of disaster. Simple techniques to protect and diversify crops can be very effective. Protecting the homestead and livestock is important too — losing vital shelter and assets can quickly lead to hunger.
6. Supporting Hygiene and Sanitation
Sometimes, people (especially children) appear to be eating enough. But if they live in an area with insufficient sanitation or poor hygiene practices, they may be susceptible to diarrhea or other waterborne illnesses that prevent them from absorbing those nutrients. Making sure that drinking and washing water are uncontaminated can save a life — in more ways than one.
7. Controlling Infestations and Crop Infections
Crops aren’t only threatened by drought and flood — they may also be decimated by pest or fungus invasions. As of this writing, eastern Africa (including Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan) is facing an unprecedented upsurge in locusts, which are creating swarms (some as large as 25 miles in diameter) that are now also invading central Africa and even parts of West Asia including Yemen, Iraq, and Iran. Over 13 million people could go hungry as a result.
In these extreme cases, aerial spray is the only way to effectively curb swarms, but other agricultural practices can confront smaller-scale invasions or even deadly funguses that can decimate crops. Again, disaster preparedness goes a long way here, too, as cash grants and new seeds and supplies can offset lost crops and inevitable spikes in food prices.
8. Enhancing Crops with Biofortification
With limited resources (including land, labor, and finances), the poorest farmers tend to focus on growing a limited number of crops, such as maize, rice, pearl millet, beans, and sweet potatoes. This also means that they often lose out on food rich in micronutrients like Vitamin A and iron. This can lead to significant micronutrient deficiencies that can leave lifelong impacts on young children.
Though Concern works with farming communities and households to diversify their crop production, we also promote the use of biofortified crops, including iron-enriched beans, iron-enriched pearl millet, and orange-fleshed, Vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes. All of the biofortified crops that Concern promotes are the result of conventional breeding in the countries where they are being promoted. These crops allow families to greatly increase their intake of those critical micronutrients in the short-term, and can be saved by farmers for subsequent replanting without loss of the biofortified traits.
9. Improving Food Storage Systems
What if you have plenty of food, but lack the storage solutions to make it last? This is another problem that, when solved, can make a big difference in closing the hunger gap. Sometimes this requires big interventions, like building or rehabilitating grain stores. Other times, this is a change that can happen at the household level. One innovation Concern has introduced into women’s groups around the world are solar dryers, which serve as one solution. Sun-drying vegetables, a traditional practice, preserves micronutrients and prolongs shelf lives. Solar dryers, which operate by (you guessed it) exposure to sunlight are eco-friendly devices that accelerate this process, while also reducing contamination and minimizing nutrient loss.
Help us get to #ZeroHunger
Supporting Concern means that $0.90 of every dollar donated goes to our life-saving work in 23 countries around the world. Last year, we were able to reach over 9.2 million people with our health and nutrition initiatives, and improved the food security and livelihoods of 4.5 million.