Five vital foods that support vulnerable populations
15 Oct 20214 Min Read
The world has set a challenge to achieve Zero Hunger and improve nutrition by 2030. But Covid19, Climate Change and Conflict are driving millions more into poverty and hunger every single day.
Cassava plant (Manihot esculenta) cut up and ready to be cooked and eaten, Uganda, Africa Photo credit: Shutterstock
32.62% of the world is food insecure. The Food & Agriculture Organisation of the UN says a staggering 811 million faced hunger in 2020. That represents almost one in five of the Irish population. Today, we shine a spotlight on five vital foods which help tackle world hunger and malnutrition in the countries in which we work.
Cassava in Uganda
Cassava is a ‘survivor’ crop, able to thrive in the expected higher temperatures caused by climate change. Research has showed how the tuber becomes even more productive in hotter temperatures. It outperforms some of Africa’s main food crops such as Maize and Bananas. Cassava, introduced in Uganda between 1862 and 1875, is currently one of the most important staple food crops in the country. It is recognized as the main crop for poverty alleviation, increasing food and nutrition security, and for animal feed manufacturing.
Sweet Potato in sub-Saharan Africa
Sweet potatoes – which are popular here in Ireland – are nutritious, high in fibre, and are very filling. They are being used to fight vitamin A deficiency in developing countries.
In sub-Saharan Africa, around 48% of children under five suffer from vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to weakened immune systems, increased risk of blindness, diarrhoea, and other health problems. While all types of sweet potato are very nutritional, only orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) has large amounts of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A.
Sweet Potato in Africa Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Honey in Kenya
In Kenya, bee keeping is a source of income for many rural households. However, the bee-keeping sector in Kenya is still performing below its potential. There is a very real opportunity to improve this and boost the health and economy of the country in the process.
Honey is packed with healthy micro-nutrients, and for thousands of years has been used for its medicinal value. Beekeeping offers multiple potential benefits to the rural poor such as increasing household income, for use in nutritional and medicinal products. It also improves pollination which is essential for increased crop yields.
Beehive on a stand Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Climbing Beans in Rwanda
In Rwanda, beans are a priority crop taking up the largest arable land and consumed by nearly all urban and rural populations. They are high in essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins, particularly among the rural population.
Traditionally Rwandans used to farm bush beans but today climbing beans are taking over. In the late 1970s and early 1980s climbing beans were grown by 1 – 5% of farmers in the country. But this dramatically increase after a combination of climatic factors and an outbreak of bean diseases wiped out bush bean crops, especially in the cool, wet and humid highlands of the North, Northwest and South. Climbing beans proved to be more resilient in these conditions.
Red Climbing Beans Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Sorghum in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, sorghum is a major staple food crop, ranking second after maize in total production
There are 25 diﬀerent species of Sorghum, which is a cereal which comes in different colours. Half of the species are native to Australia, with other species originating in Africa and Asia. Sorghum bicolor originated in Africa and some varieties can grow up to 15 feet. Sorghum is an important source of ﬁber, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B3 and manganese.
At present, approximately 811 million people in the world are undernourished, and the majority of these hungry families live in rural areas dependent on agriculture to survive.
Sorghum dry red grains. It's a traditional African crop that is drought resistant and heat tolerant. It's a staple food in some parts of the world. The variety Sorghum bicolor is native to Africa Photo Credit: Shutterstock
The majority of these hungry families live in rural areas where they widely depend on agriculture to survive.To permanently end poverty and hunger by 2030, the world needs a food system that can feed every person, every day, everywhere; that can raise real incomes of the poorest people; that can provide safe food and adequate nutrition; and that can better steward the world’s natural resources.
We need a food system that is more resilient and that shifts from being a major contributor to climate change to being part of the solution. All these aspects are closely interlinked, calling for a more comprehensive approach to delivering a healthier and more prosperous future.
If you found this article interesting then do check out our post on Agroecology and how it can be used to fix our food systems.