Monday, October 22, 2012

Ethiopia | WFP | United Nations World Food Programme - Fighting Hunger Worldwide

Published on 16 October 2012
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners celebrates World Food Day (16 October) by reaffirming their commitment to helping communities overcome hunger. In Ethiopia, WFP is helping smallholder farmers become more productive and gain better market access through its Purchase for Progress initiative.
ADDIS ABABA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) honours World Food Day (16 October) by reaffirming its dedication to work with communities, civil society, governments and the private sector to end hunger in our lifetimes. Over the last year, communities on almost every continent have felt the devastating impacts of high food prices, natural disasters, climate emergencies and conflict, which have exacerbated hunger and poverty. Fortunately, working with partners across the globe WFP’s food assistance has brought hope and relief to millions.
“WFP faces many challenges as we work to ensure that the hungry poor receive the right food at the right time,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “From the Sahel region stricken by the third drought in recent years, to unrest in the Middle East, to communities whose imported staple foods have become inaccessibly expensive, WFP delivers life-saving food assistance where it is needed most.”
In 2011, WFP reached almost 100 million people in 75 countries, including over 11 million children who received special nutritional support and 23 million children who received school meals or take-home rations.
The theme of this year’s World Food Day is “Agricultural cooperatives - key to feeding the world.” WFP works with agricultural cooperatives and farmers’ organizations in many countries around the world, providing training to help improve crop quality, strengthen business practices and increase access to markets. In particular, WFP’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) pilot project has worked with more than 800 farmers’ organizations, comprised of more than one million smallholder farmers, in 20 countries to build capacity and maximize the developmental impact of food procurement.
“In Ethiopia, WFP has injected over US$6 million in the pockets of over 33,000 smallholder farmers though P4P purchases since the launch of the programme in 2010, in addition to WFP’s regular food purchases,” said Abdou Dieng, WFP Country Director in Ethiopia. “We have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to form a Maize Alliance with key partners, where WFP has signed forward delivery contracts with 16 cooperative unions in Ethiopia for a total of 30,000 metric tons for the 2012/2013 season."
Through this memorandum, together with partners, WFP has trained some 1,700 farmers providing technical assistance to farmers associations for storage and post-harvest handling, logistical support to unions, and increase the warehouse capacities of cooperative unions by 10,000 metric tons. P4P is also building cooperative unions’ capacity to take part in the National Commodity Exchange.
One of the lessons P4P has generated to date is that cooperatives can supply high-quality food provided there is an investment in their capacity and they have an assured market. WFP celebrates World Food Day along with its sister UN food agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The three Rome-based agencies often work closely together to invest in and boost the production of smallholder farmers and increase people’s access to nutritious food.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Global food security governance linked to food price volatility' Food & Beverage News

Continuing food price volatility requires improved global governance of food security, José Graziano da Silva, director-general, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told a ministerial meeting on food price volatility today attended by some 20 ministers. 

"Food prices and volatility have increased in recent years. This is expected to continue in the medium-term," he said. 

"In this context, it is important to improve governance of food security. In the globalised world we live in, it's not possible to have food security in one country alone," Graziano da Silva added.

Stéphane Le Foll, a minister in the French cabinet and the moderator of the meeting, said, "In the course of its G20 presidency and in the face of the risk of tension on the grain market, French president François Hollande called for a high-level meeting on global agricultural governance. Discussions were held on transparency in agricultural markets, the coordination of international actions, response to the global demand for food and the fight against the effects of volatility. France will continue to support any political initiatives and any concrete plans in this direction."

Important advances
Important advances have already been made in governance, Graziano da Silva said, citing the reform of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the most inclusive inter-governmental platform on food security and nutrition, the establishment of the High Level Task Force on Global Food Security by Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general, United Nations (UN) and the creation last year by the G20 of the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) to ensure improved international coordination, information and market transparency.

Graziano da Silva said, "The new global governance system of food security that we are building together, that has the CFS as its cornerstone and AMIS as one of its components, is a part of a new world order that needs to emerge."

Better coordination
“AMIS is fully functioning and has contributed to better international coordination, information sharing and transparency,” he continued.

"This allowed us to react quickly to the price rise we saw in July 2012, preventing panic, avoiding unilateral actions and further spikes in those initial tense days," he declared.

"We are still in a complex situation but we are handling it successfully, Graziano da Silva added. 

AMIS was created as part of a G20 Action Plan on Food Price Volatility approved in Paris in June 2011. The presidency, initially held by France for a year, passed to the United States on October 2.

World Food Day
Today's ministerial meeting on food price volatility coincided with celebrations of World Food Day at FAO Headquarters and round the world. Ministers from the following countries took part – Bangladesh, Brazil, Chad, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Lebanon, Mozambique, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sri Lanka and United Republic of Tanzania. 

Their discussions, covered three main topics – how transparency in agricultural markets can be increased and how international action can be better coordinated; how increasing demand for food can be addressed; and how the effects of excessive food price volatility on the most vulnerable can be limited. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ethiopian crops satisfy hunger for home - SFGate

This is the first in an occasional series on farmers working to preserve their cultural foodways by growing heritage crops in the Bay Area.
Whoever we are, wherever we're from, we're all exiles, if only from that foreign place, the past. Hunger is part of that experience - not for calories, necessarily, but for tastes. It could be a delicious but unshippable fruit you miss, a wild herb or a fish that must be fresh out of the Gulf of Mexico or the Mekong. Through history, displaced peoples have re-created the foodways of their lost homelands in diaspora communities, starting with seeds or tubers that make it through the filters of distance and hardship. It's still happening, in places like Ethiopian-born Menkir Tamrat's Fremont backyard.
Tamrat's garden showcases the diversity of Ethiopian crops. His homeland may have been one of nine places where agriculture was independently invented, thousands of years ago. In early fall, the garden blazes with red mitmita peppers that give the raw-beef dish kitfo its fire. There's besobila, sacred basil, an essential ingredient in the seasoning mix called berbere ("the backbone of the sauces"); gesho, a flavoring agent in tej (honey wine); and assorted culinary herbs and greens. A grass called tej sar resembles lemongrass but is used as soap. The leaves of the endod vine contain a chemical that kills the aquatic snails that spread bilharzia, a chronic disease widespread in developing countries.
Tamrat, 61, came to the United States in 1971 as a student, worked for IBM as a business manager, and became a full-time farmer after being laid off three years ago. In addition to his home garden, he has a plot at the Sunol AgPark for the milder berbere peppers. The land is leased from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and managed by Sustainable Agriculture Education, a Berkeley-based nonprofit. Tomato-grower Fred Hempel does the tilling at the AgPark. Tamrat, who has no farming background, handles everything else there and in his garden: "It's part of my exercise regimen."

Traditional teff

Near Wheatland in the Sacramento Valley, he's also growing teff, the endemic grain from which injera, Ethiopian flatbread, is made.
Or should be. Tamrat says most Ethiopian restaurants in the Bay Area use mixtures of wheat, barley and sorghum for their injera. "There are more than 2,000 varieties of teff," he explained. "White teff is revered; growers brag about who has the whitest teff. But a few things were thrown overboard when we crossed the ocean, and one of the first was white teff. The quality of injera was sacrificed." During the Mengistu regime (1974-91), teff exports were restricted and the grain could only be obtained in the black market, via neighboring Djibouti. For a long time, there were no American growers. The traditional preparation is also labor-intensive. Tamrat's dream is to have teff injera as the standard. "It nags at me when I go to a restaurant and can't have it," he said. "It's not the full experience without it."
An added bonus: Teff is gluten-free and might be attractive to a wider market, beyond the Bay Area's estimated 40,000-strong Ethiopian community. Tamrat hopes his sales operation, Timeless Harvest, can tap into it. Other products for potential e-commerce include berbere and other spice mixes and, further down the road, seeds for home gardeners.
Beyond teff and peppers, he's experimenting with Ethiopian collards and kales, collectively called gomen; his seeds come from Ethiopia and from a seed bank at Washington State University. "The scientists want the naming details," he said. "We just want the good taste." He can't grow those year-round in the South Bay, so he's negotiating with a retiring farmer for land on the foggy San Mateo County coast, where the climate is more like the Ethiopian highlands.

New ideas

He's also speculating about a special barley that's used to brew tela, a beer-like fermented drink. Tamrat's own tej brand, Yamatt, is already available in some Berkeley and Oakland restaurants and stores.
Networking with chefs, he's found new contexts for some of the heritage crops. Young green berbere pods are mild and can be pan-fried like Spanish padron peppers: "It's not used traditionally until it ripens and turns red or burgundy." East Bay restaurants like Gather and Sea Salt have featured the peppers.
Tamrat also supplies mitmita powder and shiro, a legume-based powder, to Finfiné, an Ethiopian restaurant in Berkeley. Owner/chef Charlie Zawde calls the mixes "completely different, with unbelievable flavor." Zawde, who uses all-organic ingredients, pairs the mitmita with ahi tuna and wild salmon. His supplies used to come from Ethiopia, but it was hard to get the quantities he needed and ensure consistent quality. Some batches of mitmita were too hot for the American palate. "The quality of Menkir's product makes a big difference," he said.
"The cuisine needs work to become sustainable in a foreign land, without waiting for the boat to come in," Tamrat said. "You have to have these things available when you need them. When I was younger, I used to call my mother and get recipes, get stuff shipped." She's deceased, though, like many of her generation, and Tamrat and other carriers of culinary tradition need to become self-sufficient. "It's tough for first-generation immigrants to think they're really immigrants, not just visitors," he reflected.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Burundi, Eritrea, Haiti top 2012 global hunger index - AlertNet

By Katie Nguyen
LONDON (AlertNet) - Twenty countries have "alarming" or "extremely alarming" levels of hunger with Burundi the worst affected, followed by Eritrea and Haiti, according to this year's Global Hunger Index which examines the problem of producing more food with fewer resources.
Demographic changes, increases in income, climate change and poor policies are worsening a shortage of natural resources like land, water and energy that threatens food production, the accompanying report said.
"It is an absolute must that we start now to produce more food using fewer resources and to use the harvest more efficiently. But we also face the reality that decades of effort and rhetoric have so far failed to eradicate hunger," the foreword to the report said.
Progress in reducing the proportion of hungry people in the world has been "tragically slow" and 20 countries are experiencing "alarming" or "extremely alarming" hunger levels, the report said.
About 12.5 percent of the world's population, one in every eight people, is chronically undernourished, according to new figures unveiled by the United Nations' food agencies this week.
The U.N. agencies said 868 million people were hungry in 2010-2012, down more sharply than previously estimated from about 1 billion, or 18.6 percent of the global population, in 1990-92.
South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa continue to face the highest levels of hunger, the Global Hunger Index report said.
But because of  time lags in obtaining data, the report does not reflect last year's hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa or the unfolding food emergency in West Africa's semi-arid Sahel region.
The index, now in its seventh year, combines three indicators – the proportion of the population that is undernourished, the proportion of young children who are underweight and the mortality rate for under-fives.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for:
  • smallholder land and water rights to be secured
  • subsidies for fuels and fertiliser to be phased out
  • technical solutions that conserve natural resources to be scaled up
The report, compiled by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide is released ahead of World Food Day on Oct. 16.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ethiopia worried over potential famine next year

ADDIS ABABA: Fears are growing in Ethiopia that famine could find its way to the East African country next year in devastating fashion.
Those worries were highlighted in an article by Alemayahu G. Mariam, a leading figure on Ethiopian politics and society, that the country could face a potential devastating famine as early as next year if action is not taken to alleviate the struggles rural areas face as a result of drought.
“For the past several months, there has been much display of public sorrow and grief in Ethiopia,” he began. “But not for the millions of invisible Ethiopians who are suffering and dying from starvation, or what the “experts” euphemistically call ‘acute food insecurity’. These Ethiopians are spread across a large swath of the country.”
According to the international “experts”, he said, “starving people are not really starving. They are just going through ‘scientific’ stages of food deprivation. In stage one or ‘Acute Food Insecurity’, people experience ‘short term instability (‘shocks’) but are able to meet basic food needs without atypical coping strategies.’ In stage two or ‘Stressed’ situations, ‘food consumption is reduced but minimally adequate without having to engage in irreversible coping strategies.’ In stage three or ‘Crises’ mode, the food supply is ‘borderline adequate, with significant food consumption gaps and acute malnutrition.’ In stage four ‘Emergency’, there is ‘extreme food consumption gaps resulting in very high acute malnutrition or excess mortality’. In stage five or ‘Catastrophe’, there is ‘near complete lack of food and/or other basic needs where starvation, death, and destitution are evident.’
“When are people in ‘famine’ situations?” he asked.
But the government is taking notice, and has said that new efforts to combat the growing problem of climate change and its adverse results in Ethiopia are paramount to their success in delivering the desired needs to the people.
Water and Energy Minister Alemayehu Tegenu told a workshop late last month on upgrading hydro-metererological networks that the ministry was looking at boosting data collection, processing and analysis in order to develop new action-plans for the country.
Ethiopia, he said, “is implementing sustainable development in all directions to end poverty.”
He added that the role of the “water and energy sectors in enhancing the country’s development was immense.”
Environment experts present at the workshop told they hoped that the ministry would follow through on the goals, citing recent upsurges in drought and potential famine as a result of climate change.
The Minister said information to be collected regarding the country’s water basins “had paramount importance in enhancing development and attaining Ethiopia’s vision to be a middle income country.”
He said the ministry was “currently operating 489 water gauging stations in 12 river basins of the country. The data collection activities focused on stream flow data, suspended sediment data, ground water depth and quantity and quality.”
According to the ministry, it has a plan to expand the hydrological observation network to satisfy the minimum requirements of the World Meteorological Organization and improve data dissemination with existing technology.
The Director for Food Security and Sustainable Development Division of the United Nations EconomicCommission for Africa (ECA) Josue Dione, said at the workshop “the ECA had taken the lead to conceive and establish the knowledge hub and technical secretariat of the ClimDev-Africa program, namely the African Climate Policy Center (ACPC), which has been operational for two years now.”
The ClimDev-Africa program and, therefore, the work of the ACPC, focused on making widely available and disseminating high quality climate information, generating enhanced scientific capacity through analytical work and ensuring informed decision making and effective awareness and advocacy.