This morning while walking with the puppy, we came to a hill. Not a big hill, mind you, just an average hill. I laboriously lumbered up that hill each step requiring increased effort. It was as if the bone marrow in my legs had been replaced with cement. And I’m not hauling water or carrying wood! I know I’ve asked this before, but how in the world do people living in hunger manage? Part of this question was answered during my interview with Scott Killough of World Neighbors who talked with me about long term food security.
Meanwhile, I watched my dog effortlessly race up and down, up and down, several times until I reached the top. I watched, in awe of her energy. She is, of course, eating more food than I am. My 45lb puppy is eating more than I am. Something seems inherently unjust about that.
I feel like I have caloric-deficient onset of Multiple Personality Disorder. These mood fluctuations are taking almost as much of a toll on me as is the lack of food. This morning, Dismal-Hopeless-Whiny girl emerged. I’m not so fond of her. I’m hoping Inspired-Hopeful-Hardy girl comes back real soon.
Today I weigh in at 115 – one pound less than yesterday. My husband expressed some concern over the fact that I’ve lost five pounds in eleven days. Frankly, I think he just wants me to eat cookies so he can eat cookies too.
While I may still mention Africa in upcoming posts, today my attention shifts to Latin America and the Caribbean. I mentioned to Dr. Roba of the International Fund for Africa (IFA) about this shift in focus; sharing how I feel like I didn’t give Africa enough justice – enough floor time – across the continent. Most of my focus was on Uganda and Ethiopia, and I know there are dire conditions throughout much of Africa.
He responded with a comforting thought: You could spend a life time talking about the misery of Africa, there are too many problems and it is too vast a continent to cover it all. You take one or two representative countries and you use them as an example of what happens in the rest of Africa, and that is what you did. You have done more in this one series than a lot of people who cover Africa for a living.
While I do not agree with Dr. Roba about my doing more for Africa in this series than others covering Africa for a living, his point about focusing on one to two representative countries makes sense. It helps me rationalize the lack of mention for all those millions of people struggling throughout Africa.
About 5:00 pm, my stomach cramped up. I’m not sure why, but it felt quite bad. Too much water on an empty stomach? I don’t know. I was hoping to eat at 6:00, but I messed up on the rice. The rice! This delayed dinner to an agonizing 7:00 pm. It was, however, a delight. We were giddy with familiar foods – tortillas, rice, black beans, pinto beans and salsa. The husband, in eager anticipation about our new Latin American food focus, made a massive batch of salsa yesterday. I opened the fridge several times today just to smell it and torture myself. Albeit a relatively small meal, I was uncomfortably filled after eating tonight.
So far the grocery list for our Latin American move has included:
- Rice (okay, we should’ve bought white rice to eat closer to what the rest of the planet eats, but we bought Lundberg’s Organic Brown Basmati Rice instead)
- Corn Tortillas (El Anguila GMO-Free)
- Jalapeno Peppers
My husband is a master bean maker. His beans are so darn good that his recipe is included in Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s The Vegan Table.
He uses pinto and black beans and all kinds of peppers and spices, and we happened to already have a couple quarts of his oh-so-yummy beans stored away in the freezer. We calculate his beans to be $1.92 a meal per person.
Total grocery bill (this is an estimate, because the husband shopped and recycled the receipt before I could get to it): $14.00
My husband, let’s call him Scott, because well, that’s his name, made a spectacular salsa.
Here’s the salsa recipe:
- 3 tomatoes diced
- 3 jalapenos chopped fine
- ½ onion (red) chopped fine
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 3 Tablespoons cilantro chopped fine
- 2 Tablespoons of lime juice
If you make this recipe, prepare yourself for a lip-smacking treat!
This is the food summary of what I ate today.
|Chai Tea||12 oz||192||4.25||30.5||0.75||0.75||65||25.5||0|
|Black beans and pinto beans||1 cup cooked||236||1||43||15||15||205||1.5||600|
|Tofutti sour cream||2 Tbsp||85||5||9||0||1||160||2|
Yeeeees, I added some Tofutti sour cream to my meal. I had some in the fridge and don’t want it to go to waste.
Latin America and the Caribbean
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), almost the entire population of the world’s undernourished live in developing countries. In Latin America and the Caribbean 53 million people are undernourished or downright living with hunger.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview with Scott Killough of World Neighbors. Today’s post includes part of my interview with Killough. I aim to share the remaining portion of the interview tomorrow.
World Neighbors is a grassroots international development organization striving to eliminate hunger, poverty and disease in the poorest, most isolated rural villages in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
World Neighbors has a mission to inspire people and strengthen communities to find lasting solutions to hunger, poverty and disease and to promote a healthy environment. In more than 58 years of experience, more than 25 million people in 45 countries have transformed their lives with the support of World Neighbors and our partners. If you’d like to see some compelling videos, check out this link on World Neighbors’ site.
World Neighbors currently works in the following countries:
- Mesoamerica/Caribbean – Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti
- Andean South America – Bolivia and Peru
- West Africa – Burkina Faso and Niger
- East Africa – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda
- South Asia – India, Nepal
- Southeast Asia – Indonesia and Timor Leste
Scott Killough, who is the Vice President of Learning and Innovation for World Neighbors, is also a member of their headquarters staff in Oklahoma City. His background in rural development is based on a particular focus around livelihoods and agriculture, including field experience and expertise in program development and management, agricultural extension education systems, and sustainable agriculture practices within the tropics. His focus is largely on program work around the world. He also plays a role in strengthening and increasing the numbers of partnership programs with which World Neighbors is involved.
Q: The partner organizations, are they more NGO’s or government organizations?
It’s a mix. A lot of NGO’s. But also a lot of networks and alliances. I am the chair of our advocacy team. A relatively new area of work for World Neighbors is trying to see directly how our community-based interactions, results and outcomes from what we learn – supporting community based work around the world – can be linked to influencing policy and engaging some of the policy dialogues around the world supporting or challenging some of the assumptions about rural developments around the world. We work with different alliances/networks and in some cases partnering with research and education institutes particularly in-country but sometimes with research or NGO institutions that are based in the North, in either the US, Canada, or Europe or other industrialized parts of the world.
In looking at world hunger, some important things to consider are the ideas of food security and nutrition security. Nutrition security is looking at not only the quantity of foods but also the quality of foods and the ability for people to actually put the food to good use – the idea of well-being and good health. Our work includes the role of trying to achieve nutrition security with a focus on food security.
Regarding food security, there are three ways you can acquire food:
1) Growing your own food
2) Buying food or
3) Receiving food from donations
Option 3 is not an option World Neighbors supports – outside of emergency situations. As a long-term strategy and certainly as a sustainable development strategy, it’s not something we pursue.
The other two, growing your own food and purchasing your own food certainly make sense within almost any context, and how those fit within a particular rural livelihood or a particular rural context, varies from country to country. Because our programs focus exclusively on rural areas, rural communities and rural people, then we tend to have a bit of a bias towards the produce your own food strategy. In recent years we have broadened our programs to look at the broader set of rural livelihood strategies that might be relevant even in particularly isolated rural areas; that second option – purchase your own food – also becomes viable in some cases. Historically we focused on the idea of producing food, using sustainable agriculture, but then in looking at the kinds of food whether you purchase it or produce it, again, nutrition being an important part.
Q: Tell me about your work with nutrition security.
When we look at nutrition security, we consider three dimensions:
1) Do you have access to enough food (amount of food).
2) Do you have access to and is the right quality of food available (staple food diets are, often largely, the source of carbohydrates).
3) The state or ability to be in good health.
One of the key issues is the source of protein. With World Neighbors communities, we don’t go in and tell them what we think they should or should not produce or eat. We try to support what the community is already producing. In adding to that, on the agriculture side, we look at their agriculture system and seek ways to improve the system and increase productivity - practices to reduce soil erosion or improve soil fertility to help improve agriculture production.
Looking at it from a nutritional perspective and seeing if the food they produce meets their needs in quantity and quality. Again, we don’t come in and tell them what they should or should not grow. A lot of traditional diets around the world are well-rounded, and are in fact quite well-balanced in terms of protein and carbohydrates. Sometimes they are limited on vitamins. For instance, one of the strategies that we work with in many of our programs around the world is the idea of home gardens, including kitchen gardens and backyard gardens. They are known by different names in different parts of the world. These are usually very small scale, family-level home gardens that focus on vegetables. Anything from chili and garlic, in some cases to more exotic crops that might include carrots and cabbage. Looking to the kitchen gardens as sources of vitamins to help supplement the diet which is already usually quite matched in terms of carbohydrates and proteins.
While we do work with integrating livestock into agriculture systems because it’s either already there or makes sense, we also focus quite a bit of work on food legumes. Food legumes are specifically produced for human consumption. Not all legumes produce food consumed by humans – alfalfa and clover are legumes, but not commonly consumed by humans. So my emphasis on ‘food legumes’ is just to emphasize this distinction.
And again, being a vegan, you can understand the strategic importance of legumes. Both as a source of protein, because you’re right all plants have proteins, but legumes have a much higher percentage compared to other plant sources. Legumes are critical for helping to improve the caloric value of food but also they play a very important agricultural role in that they are a special kind of plant that they can fix nitrogen and improve soil fertility with very little effort on the part of people. If we can be accused of having a bias in terms of working around the question of food security and nutrition security, it is the critical role that food legumes can have in trying to promote more legumes in the production system and in the diet, introducing food legumes if they’re not already there, introducing improved varieties of food legumes, introducing the idea of planting legumes in different places on the farm. So, if we had a bias of any type of food that we try to push, that would be food legumes.
Food legumes have adapted to different climatic conditions around the world. You can grow food legumes in very temperate conditions, and they have been adapted to the most extreme conditions as well.
Q: I see that World Neighbors currently reaches out to Africa, Mesoamerica/Caribbean, South Asia and Southeast Asia. How could you briefly compare the plights of each of these regions?
There are a couple different ways to look at this question. One is at the macro-economic indicators level. FAO, UNICEF, World Food Program have a whole host of data on different indicators and how those play out across South Asia in comparison to East Asia, for example. At the macro-economic level, people living in hunger and affected by poverty then obviously Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia compare most poorly to other regions.
It also important to look within any regions and within any country and you can see pockets of hunger and poverty. Kenya, for example, the overall socio-economic indicators of poverty and hunger in Africa, it is not nearly as poor as other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa like Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique or others. But at the same time that’s at an aggregate, national level. When you look at Kenya (for example), then you’ll be able to break that down even further and look at indicators of hunger and poverty within that country. That’s kind of the way World Neighbors looks at our programs. When we initiate programs or work in a country, we look at the broad macro-economic indicators of hunger, but we move beyond that very quickly and try to look within the country and try to look at either providence or district levels and to look more carefully at which of the rural areas of the country, either because of isolation or lack of infrastructure, or cultural marginalization, what are those areas of the country that are even more affected by hunger and poverty than say the country as a whole.
Q: Which region has been the most challenging to assist?
Each region presents its own unique challenges. Look at a country like Haiti, obviously the needs there were tremendous before the earthquake and now so much more. So that obviously provides a very unique situation. Over the more than 50-year history of World Neighbors, we have worked in over 45 countries – fairly evenly spread across the regions of the developing world. In recent years we have dropped programs or phased out of programs in countries that either the overall economic condition of the country was improving or there were local organizations who could pick up the work and could sustain that work more effectively.
Africa presents special challenges to all development organizations both in terms of the vastness of the region as compared to Asia and SE Asia and even parts of Latin America where there are high population densities but also better infrastructure, better public education systems that then build capacities at the community level and a societal-level that can move those countries forward. Africa has presented a challenge. When World Neighbors works with partner organizations, the capacity of local partner organizations that we see would probably be the weakest in Africa. The methodology that World Neighbors uses with our work in Africa presents special challenges.
Q: What obstacles in overcoming world hunger exist today that may not have existed a decade ago? Where do you see world hunger in a decade from now?
While it was there a decade ago, a special challenge that is coming up is increased globalization of food markets. Ten or twenty years ago was the beginning of when food and agriculture production in the Global South became linked to global markets. Coffee from South America, for example, or cassava being grown in Thailand or Vietnam being shipped to Europe – as a food for fattening cattle. This is increasing, and it causes, in many cases, real threats to food production at local levels. It may improve the overall productivity and even the overall economic power of agriculture as a sector within a particular country, but it also can create threats to addressing food and nutritional security at local levels and even at household levels.
I was just in the Netherlands last week, and a senior official from the Dutch Minister of Development Cooperation gave a speech about a great success story for development: This is a case of growing roses in Ethiopia with Dutch support and exporting the roses to Europe. Sure enough later in the week we were walking around, and I saw a dozen roses for sale for 5 Euros. That’s great for the men and women of the Netherlands who want to have cheap roses, but what does that mean in terms of highly productive agriculture in Ethiopia? The Netherlands is one of the more generous and most sophisticated global donors to international development; and here they were making a statement that this (rose exports from Africa) is a development success. They wanted to investing in producing roses to export to Europe rather than investing in producing food for Ethiopian communities.
The question of globalization: Who is investing? What kinds of agricultural production are they investing in? And how are those priorities being set? These are real challenges that are becoming more acute than in recent years.
One of the very positive things that has happened in the last 3-4 years is that agriculture is back onto the global agenda for development. In the past we’ve not heard – even among broad sectors of American society talking about ideas and priorities at the national level – we’ve not heard people talking about agriculture and food production or quality of food in the way we have the last 2-3 years. Not only is agriculture back on the agenda for development in the Global South, but I think globally it’s on the agenda. That’s a good thing. But again, who is making those investments, what are their priorities, what are they investing in. Those are the things that are concerning. The 2008 World Development report of World Bank focused on agriculture and after about 20 years of saying no agriculture is not important to the development of the South or it’s not as important in terms of overall economic productivity but it is also important in terms of moving countries forward. So that’s changing.
Q: I’ve spent the past week focusing on World Hunger in Africa and will soon be putting my focus on Latin America, Asia and Southeast Asia. I am eating the staple foods of these regions and attempting to eat a similar quantity (this part has been hard). What are the staple foods of those regions?
It varies in Southern Africa it’s cassava and maize. In West Africa and increasingly across Africa, rice is becoming more important as a food crop. They have some quite good success in West Africa to in terms of improved rice varieties, and in terms of improved water management to raise productivity in rice. Rice is being promoted in Africa as a food crop to address food security. In the more dryland area of Africa, it’s more pigeon peas, millets or sorghum – which do very well in dryland conditions. In higher rainfall areas, it may be cowpeas, even various peas and beans.
Rice is very important in Asia. When you talk about upland non-irrigated areas, then rice is less important. You go back to things like maize, sweet potatoes or cassava as the important staple crop foods.
In Latin America, generally in Mesoamerica, in Central America, it is maize. In the Andean region it’s potatoes. That’s the biological home for the potatoes. Maize does not grow at the very high altitudes. Meat may play a role as a source of protein in any of thse places. But almost invariably most countries grow food legumes as a source of protein. So, throughout Central America it’s the black beans, and the Andean region has a wide variety of the high mountainous beans such as lupines and peas.
Typical meals in Latin America may consist of corn tortillas with a vegetable such as cabbage, spinach or kale on side. Kales are likely to be more prevalent, but cabbage is grown quite a bit throughout Latin America. Other important vegetables include onions, peppers, tomatoes and garlic.
In Southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, the green leaves of amaranth are grown and put into soups –very nutritious.
Throughout the world there are local vegetables in which there is no English name for them. That exists in Central America, and in Southeast Asia there are a lot of herbs and greens that we wouldn’t even recognize as foods; and they eat them.
Q: I have a difficult time seeing the FAO statistics as being a realistic picture of people living in hunger. I’m sustaining myself – even if minimally – on 1100 calories a day. What is your experience with people you have worked with who haven’t eaten in a couple of days?
In extreme situations during what’s sometimes called the Lean Season or the Lean Months (at the end of the dry season and beginning of the rainy season), adult men and woman may only eat every other day or only once a day. Of course the irony is that the lean period comes during rainy season –everything is growing and it appears there’s lots of food. But in fact they don’t have much food, because they are waiting for it to be harvested. It’s very typical for women to forgo meals so their children can eat twice a day. Even typically during periods when there is food in the house, they may only eat twice a day. The other factor to consider while you’re on a reduced caloric intake: Are you walking two miles to get your water? Are you spending four hours working out in the hot sun in a maize field?
No, as a matter of fact, I’ve been conserving my energy!
There are other factors as well. Sure you can maintain your body at a certain level of energy with that low caloric intake. That’s oftentimes not what people around the world even in hunger situations are doing. They’re actually having to get out and work and move and survive. And, of course, there is the critical factor of overall health status of the body – over time, poor food quality and low amounts of food result in under-nutrition and that can have devastating effects on the body.
Q: I don’t know how they’re doing it. I really question how do they do it?
It takes a hard toll on the human physiology. That’s one reason why people who are in hunger situations, they’re overall life expectancy is much lower than ours. And yes, they have the mindset they must survive. They put it in their minds that they do what they need to do.
Tomorrow I will share the rest of this interview.
Thank you Scott Killough of World Neighbors for your time and the work you do.
And World Neighbors shall continue to be a person-centered program. For unless the individual is inspired, all the schemes designed for his improvement are destined to fail. Only that program which can speak to him completely and directly, with respect and concern, but without condensation or paternalism, can house him, challenge him. We need only to go out to serve rather than to sell, to demonstrate rather than to denounce.
- World Neighbors founder Dr. John L. Peters
To support the organizations I write about in the series, purchase a World Hunger: Be the Solution Tee. Proceeds from the shirt will go to the Small Planet Institute Fund and the International Fund for Africa. All tees are sweat free and available in organic cotton. To see the selection of World Hunger tees at Conducive’s Humanitarian & Human Rights Tee store, click here
To follow this series from the beginning, you can click the links below:
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 1
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 2
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 3
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 4
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 5
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 6
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 7
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 8
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 9
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 10
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 12
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 13
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 14
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 15
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 16
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 17
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 18
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 19
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 20
21 Days for World Hunger: Day 21
Solutions for World Hunger: Part I
Solutions for World Hunger: Part II
Solutions for World Hunger: Part III