Our Perspective

      • Rural women key in fighting hunger | Helen Clark

        05 Mar 2012

        A few weeks ago I spoke with women farmers in Niger who are growing vegetables in some of the harshest climatic conditions on earth.  With severe drought a recurring problem in their country and across the Sahel, access to water for irrigation and to appropriate seeds, fertilisers, advisory services, and credit are all important for overcoming food shortages and malnutrition.  Rural women account for nearly half the agricultural labor force and are custodians of traditional knowledge about the land and their local environment.  Backed by small development investments, rural women can lead the way in building food and nutrition security for their families and communities, and thus in building resilience to future extreme weather events. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if women farmers have equal access to fertilizers, seeds, and tools, the number of hungry people in our world could reduce by as many as 150 million, and the total agricultural output in developing countries could rise by up to four percent. In general, rural women in developing countries have the primary responsibility for cultivating crops, raising livestock, collecting water and firewood, and caring for families. Their family and domestic responsibilities are often heavy, leaving them with little Read More

      • Rwanda: Gains made against poverty, a lesson for others | Auke Lootsma

        27 Feb 2012

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        Building Capacity in Rwanda. Photo: UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

        Rwanda’s latest data release this month shows enormous improvement in the living standards of citizens over the past five years, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight internationally-agreed goals aimed at reducing poverty and improving education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability by 2015. Over the past half a decade, Rwanda has posted an average annual growth of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 8.4 percent, driven mainly by higher productivity in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Critically, the poor have benefited from this growth spurt.  Rwandans have developed their own homegrown initiatives in order to tackle poverty at the most local level. The “one-cow-per-family” programme, just to name one, provides families with milk for consumption and what is left over is sold for profit, improving nutrition and income at the household level.     Through government-led efforts the poverty rate fell from 56.7 percent in 2006 to 44.9 percent in 2011. If maintained over the longer term, this annual poverty reduction rate of 2.4 percent could put Rwanda in the company of Asian Tiger economies such as China, Vietnam and Thailand that have been able over many years to lift millions out of poverty while sustaining growth. There has Read More

      • Breaking the food crisis cycle in Africa's Sahel | Tegegnework Gettu

        14 Feb 2012

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        Photo Credit: WFP/Phil Behan

        A food crisis is looming in the West of the Sahel, a semi-arid belt stretching from Africa’s Atlantic coast to the Red Sea. In the lean season, which starts in April, millions of people from Mauritania to Chad will likely require food and nutritional support. For instance, it is estimated that more than a million children will need life-saving treatment for severe and acute malnutrition in 2012. Across the Sahel, extreme weather events, leading to failed harvests and food price increases, have created pockets of acute food insecurity. In addition, the crisis in Libya and the current fighting in Mali have aggravated the security and humanitarian situation in the region. But the key issue is chronic poverty. In the Sahel, the most vulnerable people struggle to feed themselves even in good years, because they lack the livelihoods to buy or produce sufficient quantities of nutritious food. Lack of investment in rural infrastructure; limited access to credit, markets and insurance schemes; and poor social protection coverage, including health services, cause many households to break down when times get even tougher. Later this week, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, and the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, Read More