The world’s food systems are deeply flawed. These flaws affect us all, but they mostly affect the more than 811 million people who go to bed hungry every night. The very existence of millions of hungry people is a clear sign that our food systems are not functioning well enough.
Twenty percent of the world’s population facing acute famine live in East Africa, with Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan facing three of the ten worst global food crises today.
The World Food Program (WFP) already lives and breathes food systems throughout its work in East Africa with activities, programs and initiatives – from emergency relief to livelihood creation and sustainable ecosystems – affecting virtually all parts of food systems, directly and indirectly.
Initiatives to transform food systems have been supported by WFP in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Rwanda, and point to further opportunities for change. Here are three examples of WFP’s support to improved food systems in the region.
1. Improve access to finance
Giving rural communities simple ways to save and lend money promotes sustainable food systems, empowers women and youth, reduces dependency and helps communities become self-reliant.
For rural communities in Kenya, access to credit from financial organizations is minimal. Farmers are often seen as too high a risk for financial inclusion, as they rely heavily on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods and face the growing effects of climate change, irregular incomes and low levels of literacy. financial.
Financial inclusion through Village Savings and Credit Associations (VSLAs) is one of the many entry points through which WFP promotes sustainable food systems, strengthens community resilience and promotes economic empowerment. Through savings and loans, communities access credit to purchase materials to generate income from work other than agriculture. This provides a vital safety net in an emergency.
In partnership with county governments, WFP trains âvillage agentsâ to promote group savings programs, which facilitate access to loans and credit to invest in productive livelihood activities.
“When I got the money [from VSLA], I bought more stock for my store and started selling construction sand as well. Nobody had this idea to sell sand and so far I have earned 5,000 Kenyan shillings (US $ 45), âsays Nasra Galgalo, AVEC member in Isiolo County, in the north. from Kenya.
WFP is currently supporting 845 VSLAs in seven arid and semi-arid counties in Kenya, which save money by purchasing stocks. Eighty percent of those supported are women. Savings are invested in a loan fund from which members borrow.
At the end of each âcycle,â typically one year, accumulated savings, fines, and service fee income are distributed among members, in proportion to the amount each has managed to save during the cycle.
The groups have so far saved more than 5.6 million Kenyan shillings ($ 51,000) in 2021, with more than 2.7 million Kenyan shillings ($ 25,000) in loans – providing members with short-term solutions. term to access financial services, crop insurance schemes and investment in drought tolerant crops that generate sustainable income.
“[Before VSLA] The women stayed at home. They didn’t have any kind of work, and they didn’t have the work mentality that they have now either. Everyone now has a business thanks to VSLA, âsays Nasra.
2. Support local school feeding
Schools have enormous potential to transform local food systems. Rwanda is one of several East African countries implementing local school feeding programs. This school feeding model is a game-changer for learners, households and countries due to the multiple returns on investment in learning, nutrition, health and local economies.
WFP is helping the Rwandan government to provide daily meals to more than 80,000 primary school children in 108 schools in the four most vulnerable and food insecure districts of the country.
Children not only get a meal at school, but they also teach good nutrition and hygiene, through mixed approaches such as traditional dances, poems and arts. School vegetable gardens are also created for children to learn to cultivate healthy crops. A cost-benefit analysis of the program in 2017 showed that every US $ 1 invested yielded US $ 4.80 through improved health, education and productivity.
Linking school feeding programs to local food production capacity can have a transformative impact on food systems, improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers through local purchase of food and encouraging local farmers to produce. more nutritious crops.
This contributes to predictable markets and incomes, by supporting nutrition-sensitive supply chains and encouraging the adoption of nutritious diets and healthy eating habits across the lifespan in local communities.
âWFP doesn’t just train us, it also comes back to buy our products,â says ImmaculÃ©e, a farmer in Nyaruguru district, in the southern province of Rwanda.
âBefore, finding buyers was not that easy. What excites me the most is knowing that WFP buys these products for distribution in school meals. It feels good to know that your products are reaching the kids in your own community. “
3. Reduce food loss
In developing countries, up to 40 percent of produce is lost early in the food chain due to poor harvesting techniques and inadequate storage and cooling solutions.
In Sudan, where two-thirds of the population live in rural areas, post-harvest losses significantly affect the food security of smallholder farmers. The agricultural sector alone contributes a third of Sudan’s gross domestic product and employs 80 percent of the workforce.
Poor harvesting techniques and inefficient storage solutions mean Sudanese farmers lose between 30 and 40 percent of their crops to pests, insects and mold caused by moisture contamination. WFP reduces these losses by training farmers in best harvesting practices and efficient drying and storage solutions.
WFP has supported 200,000 farmers with airtight bags since 2020 and reached a total of 500,000 farmers through communication campaigns designed to raise awareness of the importance of reducing post-harvest losses.
The campaigns, which aimed to encourage farmers to buy airtight bags at a price of $ 1.4 – compared to $ 2 for traditional jute bags – were broadcast in national media across Sudan and used creative means to reach out to farmers, such as having famous Sudanese actors convey key messages about reducing crop losses. They also made the voices of WFP Sudan senior management heard to relay relevant information, including nutrition messages.
âWe used to lose around 30 to 40 percent of our harvest due to poor storage. Insects, rodents and molds preyed on our grain, inflicting heavy losses on various crops. Following the training [on post-harvest losses], we are now assured of a better quantity and quality of our grain, âsays Amna, a sorghum and groundnut farmer in White Nile State.