International Youth Day 2018: food security as a safe space for development

Author: Makafui Borbi (BSc Biochemistry, MSc Food Science)
(Email: bmmaborbi@gmail.com)
Date: 12 August 2018

One may consider running a 10km race adventurous or even a lifetime achievement, but it is excruciating or perhaps demoralizing for one to walk more than 10km (2hours) for a daily meal. A friend shared with me his traumatic experience in a suburb of Accra, Ghana, after completing senior high school. He roamed all day with an empty growling stomach for a job but failed to earn any income. His only resort was an aunt who lived in another town about 10km away. Having no money to board a commercial vehicle which charges less than a dollar, he trudged all the way in painful hunger pangs just to eat some noodles. He described his feeling after the meal as “my soul returned again”. This is most likely one of the best cases of the hunger pandemic. At best, he had an aunt to count on.

Hunger and malnutrition pose more threat to human health than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined [1]. Every night, 1 in 9 people retire to bed without having a meal and are famished due to extreme poverty and lack of access to food. This figure constitutes 815 million people across the globe. An even more alarming fact is that one in three persons suffer some form of malnutrition-malnourishment or obesity [2]. Malnutrition does not only impair the individual’s health but poses future consequences. In children, for instance, malnutrition impairs their cognitive function and later affects their general performance, earning capacity, and level of impact in society [2].

Mother Teresa, while advocating for love once said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread”. This statement while it’s meant to emphasize the need to show more love, also implies that eradication of hunger is feasible.

The theme for celebrating all youths across the globe this year is “Safe spaces for youth”. A safe space provides the youth with a formidable platform to interact freely, exchange ideas, grow and to have a say in transformational issues in their individual countries. Safe spaces can be viewed from different perspectives and can be social, personal, physical, political, etc. It may vary from youth to youth or even country to country. The key question is: Who is responsible for providing the safe spaces for the youth? Is it the government, Institutions or the youth?

Considering the chronic youth unemployment rate that has plagued many developing nations, it may be justifiable to think creating safe spaces for the youth is but a chimera. Interestingly, there do exist safe spaces, which the youth can play a critical role in creating for themselves and for the next generation. One such safe space is food security.

The United Nation’s Committee on World Food Security defines food security “as a situation in which all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” [3].

Many opportunities are available in creating and developing the food security space. These can be seized by the youth to make a difference in the globe. Six strategies are shared in this article.

  1. Behavioral change
    The youth can advance the cause of food security by avoiding excessive food waste. In the United States, for instance, 25% of foods purchased are trashed and are never eaten [4]. The youth must develop a zero tolerance for food wastage; purchasing only food items they can consume and refrigerating leftovers for another day. The savings from the cut down could be donated to an orphanage within or outside their countries. Thankfully for technology, a donation is easy. “ShareTheMeal” APP designed by the UN among many others, is a great platform to channel these resources. The opportunities to be an agent of change are numerous in developing nations. For instance, we have homeless children and refugees on the busy streets of Accra, Ghana. Sometimes, what these people need is a nutritious meal for the day.
  2. Technology
    The youth are respected not only for their physical strength but also for their positive energy, tendency to disrupt and ability to innovate. Peradventure, you are the tech-savvy minded youth and believe you could develop an App, a platform or a system that can be used to find a solution to an aspect of food insecurity. Why not digitize and monetize your idea to earn a living while saving lives. Do you have a technological idea but are an amateur? Take courses in this area or liaise with people in your network who possess the expertise and create your safe space together.
  3. Social Entrepreneurship/Business
    The area of interest to you could be humanitarian and you probably possess a deep passion for humanity or have a passion for building and sustaining new organizations. Your safe space could be creating or joining an already existing NGO that champion the cause of food security. The goal to achieve zero hunger by 2030 is a global agenda and resources are available or can be generated towards causes that are worthwhile. How about starting a food bank and developing systems to make it work? Just find or identify your niche. The youth also possess the capacity to develop revolutionary and transgenerational business models in this area to earn a living and eventually empower the starving demographic to fend for themselves. The ultimate result is a halt in the hunger and poverty cascade.
  4. Advancement in Agriculture
    The current world population is around 7.3 billion and this figure is expected to increase up to approximately 9.7 billion by 2050 [5]. This whacking increment means the world is going to experience a continuous upsurge in food demand, between 59% up to 98% [6]. How can the youth get involved to meet this call? This challenge is a great opportunity for youths in developing nations, which experience minimal conflict and are blessed with vast affordable fertile lands. According to IFPR, growth in the agriculture sector has the capacity to reduce poverty by 2 to 3 times compared to development in other sectors [7]. Can the youth leverage their physical strength, curious and innovative minds combined with technological advancement and networking to disrupt this sector and multiply food production? The youth need to take charge of this sector if we want to see a rise in food production. Thinking beyond the medieval strategies, methods and tools for cultivation is a golden key to achieving success in this sector. What types of cash crops and food crops can you adopt from other countries that will equally grow well in yours?
  5. Food Processing/packaging
    About 40% of food crops including fruits and vegetables are lost after harvest due to lack of adequate storage facilities and preservation methods [8]. Increase in food production must be accompanied by food processing in order to produce the optimal synergistic effect. Simple preservation and packaging techniques if employed in developing nations will successfully improve farmers’ income and help chart food security in the right direction. Since food security is of global interest, a well thought out idea and business plan will easily attract investors.
  6. Education/Information
    Making informative decisions in the area of healthy food choices and lifestyle cannot be ruled out in achieving this sustainable development goal. In this era of technology and social media, important information and messages are tweets away, ignorance is not an option. The informed youth must keep the uninformed enlightened by sharing accurate, validated and credible information and speak up against poor and bad practices, such as food adulteration which endangers the safety of our food systems. Creating awareness could be as simple as strategically educating a farmer who lacks nutritional knowledge; he cultivates a variety of vegetables but sells everything with none ending on his plate, except for starchy carbohydrates. Information is too abundant in our generation for anyone to be malnourished due to ignorance.

In conclusion, the youth need access to safe spaces to feel empowered and to empower others to make a significant impact in society. Creating these spaces require collective and inextricable effort from the government, responsible institutions, etc. and including the youth. Striving for food security as a safe space for development is perhaps one of the most important agenda for youths with a diverse background to connect and build an unstoppable positive force and voice, too loud to be ignored.

As youths, let’s always recall the profound statement made by Mother Teresa “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one”
Happy International youth day!

References

  1. World Food Programme. Why hunger? Available from: https://sharethemeal.org/en/values.html [Accessed 9th June 2018].
  2. World Food Programme on Zero Hunger. Available from: http://www1.wfp.org/zero-hunger [Accessed 9th August 2018].
  3. International Food Policy Research (IFPRI). Food Security. http://www.ifpri.org/topic/food-security [Accessed 8th August 2018].
  4. Buzby, J and Hyman J Total and per capita value of food loss in the United States. Food Policy, 2012; 37(5): 561¬-570.
  5. United Nations Department of Economic and Social affair, Population Division. World population prospects. 2015 revision, New York, USA.
  6. Valin H et al, 2014. The future of food demand: understanding differences in global economic models Agric. Econ. 45: 51–67.
  7. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Five new insights on how agriculture can help reduce poverty. 26th July 2018. Available from: https://www.ifpri.org/blog/five-new-insights-how-agriculture-can-help-reduce-poverty Accessed [10th August 2018].
  8. Badre Bahaji. World Food Program Insights. The 5 ways to help fight hunger you probably didn’t know existed. 17th July 2018. Available from: https://insight.wfp.org/5-solutions-to-fight-hunger-cc924480ac99?_ga=2.63417004.2008664395.1534009162-1141663934.1534009162. Accessed [11th August 2018]

©2018 Scientect e-mag | Volume 3 (1): A3

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