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Youth Poverty and Hunger Eradication

Richard Seshie Ahedor

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At 923 million people, the number of undernourished in 2007 was more than 80 million higher than in 1990–92 with an exceptional 75 million hungry added in 2007 due to high food prices1. 94.1% of youth in Zambia are living with less than US$ 2 per day2; proving Hunger and Poverty are particularly afflicting young people today. In this paper, we offer explorative & provoking solutions that do not only limit and appeal to youth but seek the benefit of the overall society and where youth are given an increased role. Growing the food differently, empowering the farmers and the communities, improving the financing & distribution mechanisms and coping with food urgency in our opinion can make a difference.

1. State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008 p.6; 2. World Youth Report 2007 p.289;


Organic Food can be more profitable to farmers and produce plenty at the same time. More and more westerner consumers nowadays are vowing for food that can be pesticide-free, fertilizer-free, healthier and so are willing to pay an extra price. Organic farming can substantially increase young farmers’ revenues 3 and it is a mistake to say it produces less as commonly perceived. In India, many farmers have re-embraced Panchakavya4, a natural fertilizer used since ancient times as a solid alternative to chemicals while the Land Institute is promoting an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the prairie (evergreen) and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops5. We can use the discipline of Biomimicry6 that studies natures’ best ideas and imitate them to improve human activities (for example it has been learned how termites build tower-homes kept always cool inside in spite of the varying climate that now serves to re-engineer interior cooling). New lessons learnt can apply to make emerge new agricultural methods that produce plenty of food, healthy and profitable. The food basket can be made of crops (fruits, vegetables), meat and others. Pigs are fed with corn to get fat and then we eat the fat pig and the corns that fed him. This looks like an intermediary we can avoid. 40,000 pounds of potatoes can be grown on an acre with the same surface giving only 250 pounds of beef7. Just one kilo of beef requires 7-16 kg of grain or soy beans, up to 15,500 liters of water and 323 m2 of grazing land8; resources that could benefit more people. Many groups are offering vegetarianism support to consumers which is good but not to cattle-owners looking for a practical shift: say Moussa realized that growing his pigs demands too much from nature and want to grow maize, he actually do not know where to start. We could set up an International Initiative ‘From Meat to Crops’ that help cattle-owners to effectively transition the use of their land to grow crops, feed more people and make profits.

3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

EMPOWERING THE FARMERS AND THE COMMUNITIES Farmers can well perform as farmer-entrepreneurs with the environment surrounding them transformed into a living economic & social area. We advocate the necessity to form community support systems that enterprise social actions & seek financial strength while realizing many additional revenues can be generated within agriculture practice. Many collective bodies already exist among farmers, but too often to discuss day-to-day issues they face. We recommend a more proactive approach beyond reactivity where the farmers come together with an entrepreneurial zeal to improve social and economic conditions. In Ivory Coast, the national school canteens program9 (meant to feed all children and prevent non education) owes its relative success in rural areas, thanks partly to such groups. Here’s how the basic model works: an authorization request to open a canteen has to emanate from the village community and then is granted by the Ministry of Education. Beforehand, the village provides parcels to grow crops, small cattle and sometimes go even by building the canteen; other upfront costs are taken care by the government/international agencies. Then the village empower a women group (as non-export crops are traditionally grown by women) to exploit the land and provide local-grown goods on a regular basis to the canteen as well as divert a part for commercialization. Then, we have a committee formed by the school management and villagers to overview daily operations that appoints a canteen manager and women cooks. Both get remunerated with each child paying an affordable 5 cents per day, the excess serving to buy additional vegetables not grown on lands and support very poor children exempted from paying this sum on discriminative criteria set by the committee. The model has proven very successful in rural areas and in 2004, already covered 45% of the total number of schools with other countless benefits. Community support systems or groups also mean collective bargaining both in terms of selling their crops at a fairer price and to access funds such as microcredit schemes10. Many unseen additional revenues can be generated from agriculture. Rice husks are an example. Considered as plain throwaway in the past, it now serves as building material, fertilizer, insulation material in some countries11. Electricity (yes!) can even be generated with rice husks coupled with a small technology recently developed12. We have thousands of villages without electricity, what if we have farmers with an entrepreneurial mindset that decide to purchase with microcredit funds or

by pulling together money such non-proprietary, affordable technology; that in turn is managed by a community group that takes the challenge to bring electricity in every home with a small fee.

9. (article in french) 10. Read from the self help group movement in India; 11. 12.

Forest and natural resources management can be also transferred to local communities and with agriculture bring new revenues through a wise and sound carbon trading scheme13. We would finally point out to the fact any community group or support system should serve intergenerational knowledge transfer and be a form of democratic tribune that offer to young farmers and women a voice to be heard. IMPROVING THE FINANCING & DISTRIBUTION MECHANISMS Subsidies to western farmers are a big burden for developing countries agricultural sectors and no balanced solutions has been adopted yet during trade talks. On the other hand, governments of developed & strong emerging economies are finding new wealth in sovereign funds14, more aggressive in financial markets today. Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) is an investment strategy which seeks to maximize both financial return and social good. NEPAD launched in 2008 the Ai30 Socially Responsible Investment index with the aim to attract sovereign wealth funds to invest a mere 1 per cent - or $30 billion of the world’s almost $3 trillion in Africa15. We can adapt such a proposal to also ask developed countries to commit at least 1% of their sovereign funds to agricultural projects in Africa as part of their SRI agenda. On the distribution side, we offer two explorative solutions. New distribution channels such as food pneumatic tubes16(pipelines for solid goods) can serve to transport agricultural goods from collection centers to city wholesale markets. Too much often, farmers are proposed an unfair price by intermediaries who take advantage of their ignorance of market prices. Poor roads and expensive inter-city transportation in most developing countries reap out also income from farmers.

Farmers could get informed of the market price of the day through a technology-based information system such as the already existing models of K.A.C.E using mobile phones in east Africa17 or ITC e-Choupal computer access points in India18 that however need to be scaled up on a national level. Goods produced by farmers (in preference in groups) are then collected in villages through different means to semi-regional or regional collection points and then conveyed to city wholesale markets through underground or on-the-surface pneumatic tubes. The costs avoided from fuel, transportation and other benefits such as quick arrival, carbon certificates generation can be transferred or shared with farmers.

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An International initiative for ‘unused & near expired Food items’ could also help in reducing the amount of food thrown out by farmers, the food industry and even consumers. Traditionally, farmers are frequently forced to plough up or dispose of large amounts of good fruit and vegetables because of rigid contracts with processors or retailers; the food industry dispose of products not sold by retailers and near reaching an expiry date as waste or donation to food banks and consumers throw out often unused food. The idea is to create an online matching system where demands from NGOs, food banks and other associations collecting food to support the needy meet the requests of disposal of farmers, the food industry and consumers. Such a simple system can be time-effective and inform about the closest locations where to drop or get such goods collected. FOOD IN URGENCY Many developing countries can be deemed as poor but are rich indeed with natural resources. This is especially the truth for Africa and with the unexpected climate change effects the continent can suffer more floods, drought and other unprecedented events. The former UN Oil-for Food program to support the Iraqi population during the 1990’s19 can be revisited to introduce the concept of barter exchange20

into a formal commodity market. There should be an index of key commodities that can be bartered for key goods under a special international mechanism meant for emergency situations. Such a mechanism can be crucial for time-response, advantageous as unnecessary costs avoided in normal transactions can mean more food bought and could be tax-free.

CONCLUSION Modern agriculture today is struggling with many risks, challenges and opportunities such as market speculation, biofuels, genetically modified food, soil degradation, climate change effects, correlation between petroleum & food prices and much more. But there is a much bigger picture to be afraid of: a 21st century where we add to poverty and hunger a 3rd word THIRSTINESS – millions of people thirsty of clean water. And we know thirstiness on the contrary of hunger kills much more quickly. There are global challenges as to how we manage our natural resources and we hope this abstract has contributed to bring more awareness and inspire solutions to tackle hunger & poverty for a better world.

19. 20.