Category Archives: Global Hunger

Food, Dignity, and the Commons: Frances Moore Lappé

Charles W. Elliott

Frances Moore LappeCommon Dreams has published an insightful interview with activist and author Frances Moore Lappé that illuminates the foundations of the struggle for a just global food economy: democracy and human dignity. Ms. Lappé is perhaps best known for her ground-breaking work on global hunger, recognizing that world hunger is not the result of insufficient food supplies but rather our industrial model of food production and the inability of the poor to access the available abundance of food or its means of production. In short, the problem of global hunger is the problem of poverty, the mal-distribution of political and economic power, and inequality. Acting upon this recognition, rather than a myth of scarcity, undermines multinational corporate attempts to more deeply entrench industrialized control over the global food supply.

Lappé argues that a solution to this inequality-driven hunger is the expansion of “living democracy”, exercised individually and collectively by each person’s daily choices of how we live, thus “infusing the power of citizens’ voices and values throughout our public lives.”  Continue reading

Asia’s Quiet Land Transfers

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

January 2015: Indian farmers protest against displacement. Photo: National Alliance of Peoples Movements

The April 2015 issue of Against the Grain, the online bulletin of GRAIN, an international organization that supports small farmers in their struggle for social justice, features a report titled “Reform in Reverse: Laws taking Land Out of Small Farmers’ Hands.” The report details the changes in laws and land policies that in recent years have been gaining momentum in Asia, to the detriment of small-scale agriculture. Traditionally, Asia’s agricultural base has consisted of small farmers, who are among the most efficient and productive in the world, able to produce 44 % of the world’s cereals. This agricultural system, however, is being undermined from within by an agenda that puts the profit of large agribusiness corporations above the well-being of millions of small farmers and the populations they feed.

The changes in land policy discussed in the report testify to the tendency toward concentration in control over the global food system and its transference from the farmers who work the land to business conglomerates that seek profits rather than food security. According to the report, governments across the continent often collaborate in the schemes of dispossession, introducing changes to land laws that are displacing millions of peasants and undermine local food systems. Long-standing government promises to redistribute land more fairly have been broken. The article calls this “reform in reverse.” With scant regard for the people dependent on the land for their livelihoods, governments and corporations have been expropriating farmland for large-scale agribusiness projects as well as for dams, tourism, and mining. Highway construction and real estate developments also contribute to the process of dispossession.

The report contends that governments across Asia are approving legislative changes to remove the few protections that small farmers have traditionally enjoyed, exposing them to the takeover of their lands. The changes differ from country to country, but they are all designed to make it easier for companies to acquire large tracts currently possessed and worked by small farmers. The effect will be to displace millions of peasant families, undermine local food systems, and increase violent conflicts over land.

These legislative changes have already led to the transfer of at least 43.5 million hectares of farmland in Asia from small farmers to agribusiness concerns. The growing adoption of industrial farming systems and increasing corporate control of distribution of food —changes supported by the new land laws— have led to a reliance on expensive inputs, the degradation of land and biodiversity, and volatile price changes for produce. The impact on peasant farmers has been catastrophic, in some places triggering a wave of suicides among indebted farmers forced to give up their land.

The free trade agreements which Asian governments have signedhave accelerated this process, locking countries into policies that favor foreign investors and large-scale agribusiness over small-scale producers. Legislative provisions that prevent foreign and national companies from acquiring large areas of farmland are quietly being removed, to the dismay and destitution of local farmers. We see here still another example of the creeping concentration of power and wealth. In this case, corporate agendas pursued in high-rise office buildings, often on the other side of the world, trump the vital needs and often the very lives of ordinary people on the ground, who find themselves unexpectedly pitted against those driven by relentless greed and ambitions, and equipped with pernicious strategies.

The article distinguishes two types of changes that enable land to be transferred to corporate interests. One involves the enactment of laws or policies that permit governments to carve up large tracts of land into concessions and lease or sell them to companies—the trend in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Thailand. The other involves the creation of new schemes, through law or fiat, that consolidate small farms and transfer the lands to companies engaged in corporate farming. Since small farmers often do not possess deeds to the lands that they have worked for generations, it is relatively easy for those backed by political and economic power to challenge their tenancy and deprive them of their farms.

According to the report, the transfer of land in Asia represents a fundamental shift away from traditional agriculture and local food systems to a corporate food chain supplied by industrial agriculture. If these changes continue, they will have major impacts on everything from food safety to the environment, from local cultures to people’s livelihoods. In a struggle over the future of land and food, elected governments that should be defending the interests of their populations are yielding to the pressures exerted on them by large and powerful business interests.

Rural farmers have not been passively submitting to their fate, but have been launching David versus Goliath struggles to preserve their livelihoods. In unison with civil society organizations across the region, they are building coalitions to defend their interests against sinister trade agreements and national policies that facilitate the privatization and commodification of farmland. People across Asia are making it clear that they want farmland to remain with their farmers. They are demanding that their governments stop facilitating a corporate take-over of agriculture.

The report cites a number of cases that illustrate how such land transfers are taking place. The Government of Burma, in 2012, enacted the the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law – called “the land-grabbing law” by farmers – which aims to make lands the government considers “vacant” or “un-cultivated” available as concessions of up to 20,000 ha for companies.

In Cambodia, only 23% of the country’s 1.5 million small farmers have land. In 2001, the government passed a law that enables private companies to own concessions of 10,000 ha of land for up to 99 years. The law has allowed the transfer of 70% of the country arable land, equal to 2.1 million ha, to industrial agriculture firms and forced hundreds of thousands of farmers off their lands.

Under popular pressure, India adopted a law in 2013 that protected the interests of small agriculturists by requiring a social impact assessment and the consent of 80% of the people affected before land could be acquired for development projects. In December 2014, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a new ordinance that eliminates these requirements and eases land acquisition, including for development of mega-food projects that aim to integrate the entire food chain from farm to plate in the hands of single companies. Mass protests have since broken out, led by farmers and farm workers calling for what they describe as a pro-industry and anti-farmer act to be withdrawn.

Projects for Fiscal Year 2015–16—Part 4 (of 6)

BGR Staff

16. India: A Youth Hostel for Girls & Women

bcttanov2014 010
The Bodhicitta Foundation is a socially engaged charity established in 2001 by the Australian Buddhist nun, Ayya Yeshe, to help Dalits (scheduled classes) and slum dwellers in the state of Maharashtra. Last year, BGR partnered with Bodhicitta in establishing a girls’ hostel for thirty girls aged 14–20, who are being trained as social and health workers or to qualify in a vocation. The girls, chosen because of their dedication to their studies, come from the poorest regions in India: 10 girls from Bihar, 10 from rural Maharashtra, and 10 from urban Nagpur slums. The girls are being trained for three years, after which they will return to their villages with the skills to empower other young girls. In this way, the thirty girls will become agents of change and establish institutions that will benefit hundreds of girls and women in the future. Such a project is especially important in India because investing in girls’ education can alleviate poverty and the ignorance that oppresses poor girls and women.

The other portion of the BGR grant to Bodhicitta supports a women’s job training and community center, where women receive education, loans, and business training to empower them to start their own businesses and gain income that will directly increase the well-being of their children, families, and communities, lifting them out of poverty. The community center creates space for awareness-raising, health workshops, counseling, career guidance, and quality education that is currently lacking in the difficult environment of a large industrial slum. Year two of a three-year project.

17. India: Enhanced Food Security for Women Farmers

This project, partnered with Oxfam India, aims to increase food security for women farmers in the hill state of Uttarakhand, one of the poorest states in India. The region is extremely vulnerable to climate change; rain-fed lands are eroded and recent flooding has further damaged the land. Women play a crucial role in hill agriculture, as up to 90% of the total work in agriculture and animal care is done by them. The impact of the decline in productivity due to climate change and degradation of natural resources has affected the food security of women the most.

The project builds on a previous three-year project with Oxfam India in Uttarakhand, one that has already proven its success. The new project will be implemented in 14 villages in the blocks of Bhilangana and Jakhnidar of the Tehri Garhwal district, directly covering about 2000 households. In order to address the larger issues of food security and ecological sustainability, the project will promote the increased role of women in agriculture together with the practice of climate resilient agriculture models. It aims to ensure that 400 women farmers adopt better farming practices (Systems of Rice Intensification and Wheat Intensification); develop knowledge of climate change-resilient agriculture; and receive increased recognition of their rights.

Key components of the project are:

  • to form collectives of women farmers to strengthen rights and bargaining capacity
  • to develop field schools, support centers, and model farms for the women
  • to strengthen linkages between the farmers, suppliers, and markets
  • to create knowledge-sharing platforms for women farmers
  • to advocate for a more equitable policy for women farmers

Year one of a three-year project.

 18. Rwanda and South Sudan: Promoting Sustainable Agricultural

Ecology Action of the Mid-Peninsula is a US registered nonprofit (formed in 1971) that disseminates the GROW BIOINTENSIVE sustainable agricultural system worldwide through publications, classes, workshops, internships, apprenticeships and outreach programs. The techniques of GROW BIOINTENSIVE dramatically reduce inputs of water, fertilizer, and energy, yet can produce 2-6 times the amount of food, build up the soil more effectively, and reduce by half or more the amount of land needed for cultivation.

For 2015-16 BGR has renewed its partnership with Ecology Action on two projects, one in Rwanda, the other in South Sudan. The project in Rwanda is a continuation of a project started last year. It provides support for a garden manager, a garden assistant, Biointensive Training for two days, transportation and the hosting of Biointensive workshops, and administrative and program management. Second year of a two-year project.

NEW PROJECT. The project in South Sudan is the first that BGR has sponsored in this country, the world’s youngest nation. Following several decades of civil war with Sudan, industry and infrastructure in landlocked South Sudan are severely underdeveloped and poverty is widespread. The UN Humanitarian Response Plan says that some 6 million people are estimated to be in some degree of food insecurity.  Subsistence agriculture provides a living for the vast majority of the population, but South Sudan has a dramatically lower level of developed infrastructure for food production and distribution than either Kenya, Uganda or Rwanda.

Ecology Action is one of the few organizations that are addressing food security and nutrition in South Sudan from a local food production strategy.  Most international NGOs are only providing emergency food aid. Ecology Action partners with Mission Gardens for Christ (MGC) to deliver the knowledge of Grow Biointensive method of agriculture and provide master trainers (Community Resource Persons, or CRPs) in the system.  They have trained four South Sudanese at the Grow Biointensive Agricultural Centre in Kenya. Modest assets are in place with Mission Gardens for Christ. The  onsite staff can deliver more value with tools, seeds and follow-up training in Grow Biointensive in order to re-establish the training site and conduct farmer workshops. In two years, it is expected that 1,500 people can be directly trained in the system. Trainers can then go on to train others. Year one of a two-year project.

To be continued

Projects for Fiscal Year 2015–16—Part 3 (of 6)

BGR Staff

11. Ethiopia: Promoting Crop Intensification

Farmers harvest teff by hand near Negele, Ethiopia. Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson/Oxfam America

Our partner on this project is Oxfam America, a relief and development organization that works to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice. This is a one-year addition to a previous two-year pilot project in the System of Crop Intensification (SCI), which aims at increasing food production in ecologically sustainable ways. The effort, focused on Ethiopia’s Central Rift Valley, seeks to promote environmental friendly, economically feasible, and climate-smart agronomic practices among small-scale farmers by increasing the uptake of the SCI methodology. Our partners will identify 250 target farmers willing to adopt SCI (40% female); train 20 experts; train farmers in SCI; provide trial inputs (seeds, fertilizer); organize farmer-to-farmer learning and showcasing events; provide technical support to farmers; and document practices and lessons learned. Oxfam will be working with a local partner in Ethiopia, Sustainable Environment and Development Action (SEDA). A one-year addition to a previous two-year project.

12. Haiti: An Afterschool Feeding Program      NEW PARTNER

This is a new project with a new partner, Art Creation Foundation for Children (ACFFC), a US-based organization (founded 1999) whose mission is “to build a passionate community of future leaders, visionaries and dynamic thinkers who are empowered to better their lives and their world through the arts and education in Jacmel, Haiti.” ACFFC feeds over 100 kids daily. They had been providing two meals a day 5 days a week and three on Saturdays. Due to current funding shortages, however, they have been forced to reduce their feeding program to 2-3 minimal meals a week. This grant is expected to put the feeding program back at an acceptable operating capacity. Over a six month period, the grant from BGR would provide the necessary boost to ACFFC’s food budget to drastically improve its feeding program, returning to near the level it was previously.

13. Haiti: Expanding the System of Rice Intensification

This is another SRI project with our partner, Oxfam America. The project expands on a two-year BGR-funded effort focused in the Artibonite Valley in Haiti. Farmers in Haiti currently suffer from poor production, ineffective processing systems, and disorganized management in marketing, so 80% of Haiti’s consumed rice is imported. SRI will be promoted to a new set of farmers in the Bois Moreau and Grand Jardin crop blocks. Oxfam will be working with its new local partner, Association d’Irrigants Bas Mètre Rive Droite de la Petite-Rivière de l’Artibonite. The project aims to help 50 farmers (30% female) to achieve increased yields with fewer inputs using SRI. 425 farmers will benefit from irrigation and drainage infrastructure. The project will impart SRI trainer training, provide equipment, establish a credit fund, and offer technical and monitoring support. Canal rehabilitation will also be done.

14. Haiti: Meals and Schooling for Children in Port-au-Prince

girl and boy

This is a renewal of our long-standing partnership with our partner, the What If Foundation, a US-based nonprofit founded in 2000. With support from BGR, WIF sponsors a community-based food program in the Tiplas Kazo region of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. The majority of the lunch program participants continues to be children, for whom in many cases this is their only meal of the day. Half of the BGR grant will cover 29,000 meals at Lamanjay’s Food Program starting June 2015.

The other half will go toward the scholarship fund. WIF is presently supporting 163 young people through the School Scholarships program for the 2014-2015 academic year. Scholarships cover the cost of tuition, and occasionally assist with other associated costs, but generally families have to find a way to pay for other miscellaneous fees such as transportation, books, and uniforms. The BGR grant will provide $325 toward the scholarship costs of 29 elementary school students and $500 toward the costs of 21 high school students. Since tuition costs continue to increase, and the amount available for scholarships has remained level, the program’s goal is to continue supporting those current scholarship recipients to make sure that they are succeeding in school and working towards graduation.

To gain acceptance to the program, all students were carefully chosen by the Education Team and were selected based on core criteria of need, character, and desire, as well as on their performance in other educational programs. Our Haitian partners report that 96% of the high school and elementary students we sponsored in the past three years graduated or advanced to the next grade level. This high pass rate is likely the direct result of the support the students receive from the Education Team in Haiti.

15. Haiti & Jamaica: Trees That Feed People

Trees That Feed Foundation is a US-registered nonprofit whose mission isplanting trees to feed people, create jobs and benefit the environment with a focus on planting trees in school gardens in low income rural areas with food shortages.” TTFF presently works in Jamaica and Haiti and intends to branch out into Africa. The Foundation provides sustainable food sources to communities through fruit-bearing trees with edible fruit and high yields. TTFF supplies trees, equipment and training. This model improves nutrition and has the added benefits of providing long-term independence from food imports and agrochemicals.

With BGR sponsorship, Trees That Feed will distribute 400 breadfruit trees to Jamaica and Haiti (200 in each country) along with processing kits to extend use of breadfruit beyond the fruit-bearing season. Breadfruit bears a fruit somewhat smaller than a soccer ball. One fruit can easily provide the carbohydrate portion of a meal for a family of five. A mature tree can produce up to a half ton of fruit per year. Fresh breadfruit is prepared similar to starch vegetables (boiled, grilled, fried). The BGR grant also covers the cost of breadfruit processing kits and driers so that the dried and milled fruit can be used as a flour substitute for baking and porridge.

To be continued

Projects for Fiscal Year 2015–16—Part 2 (of 6)

BGR Staff

5. Cambodia: Food Scholarships for Girls to Stay in School

Lotus Outreach, a trusted BGR partner since 2009, is dedicated to ensuring the education, health, and safety of at-risk and exploited women and children in the developing world, especially in Cambodia. The long-standing BGR-Lotus Outreach partnership provides rice support to primary, secondary, and tertiary students receiving scholarships via the GATE and GATEways programs. This year the grant to GATE will provide rice support to 52 impoverished families so their girls can attend primary and secondary school. The grant will also provide food support to 89 university students enrolled in the GATEways scholarship program–an extension of GATE for those students who go on to higher education.

An extra year of primary school in Cambodia increases a girl’s eventual wages 10-20%; and an extra year of secondary school will boost wages 15-25%. Students enrolled in GATE program are more likely to attend and stay in school, lowering their likelihood of turning to exploitative labor. In 2013, 90% of GATE scholarship recipients passed their exams and advanced to the next level. These girls, chosen from the poorest families, can now look forward to a bright future of hope and opportunity.

6. Cambodia: Non-Formal Education for Former Sex Workers

A clearly happy employee of Vannah!
This ongoing project, also with Lotus Outreach as partner, provides non-formal education and training to girls and women in the sex industry in Cambodia; enabling them to leave the industry. The BGR grant will support 33 of a hundred women seeking skills training. Classes, given 2–3 hours a day for a full year, cover health, literacy, and life skills. The grant will also fund scholarships to three highly motivated students to undertake advanced training and apprenticeships. The children of sex workers living in brothel-based communities are at high risk of entering the sex trade before age 15. The NFE scholarship program provides money for the children to obtain books, bicycles, supplies, and uniforms so they can attend school, thus breaking this vicious cycle.

7. Cambodia: Expanding the System of Rice Intensification

In Cambodia, 80% of the country’s residents are farmers, and the majority of the labor is done by women who are excluded from family decision-making. This project, with long-time BGR partner Rachana, is designed to spread SRI and thereby empower women. Thanks to prior BGR grants, 1,483 families across 13 villages in two communes (Angkanh and Sanlong) have already adopted SRI and SCI (System of Crop Intensification). The goal of this grant is to phase out the Angkanh commune and continue spreading SRI and SCI in 12 villages in the Sanlong commune. The project aims to increase the incomes of target farmers by 150%. It will increase collaboration between local authorities and poor farmers, encouraging local authorities to adopt SRI and spread the technique. It will build the capacity of 524 farmers by teaching SRI techniques and allowing them to share skills with another 1,048 family and community members.

8. Cameroon: A Food Program for Poor Children

This is a new project with a new partner, CENCUDER (Centre for Community Development and Environmental Restoration), in a new project country, Cameroon. The mission of CENCUDER is “to especially enable rural youths and women to acquire survival skills in order to secure a better future for themselves through education and training in life and vocational skills.” The project is a feeding program for poor and disadvantaged children attending Ebase-Bajoh community primary school. Funding will cover kitchen equipment, consultants, and food for the students, increasing primary school attendance and improving the children’s learning capacity and general health. The project is expected to bring increased income for the community and increased capacity to address its problems through learning to work with NGO assistance.

9. China: First Job Experience Training for Young Women

The Shambala Foundation is a collaborative organization, registered in Hong Kong, working to alleviate poverty in China. This project is intended to benefit women of Tibetan ethnic stock living mainly in Qinghai province. Many women who receive high school or vocational education are still unable to find work; schools are inadequate and do not connect students to employers. The project aims to provide women with employable skills, work experience, and increased social responsibility. In winter 2015-2016, Shambala will select ten women to participate in the First Job Experience program. The training will provide work skills, social skills (work ethic, self-esteem, interviewing skills), and financial literacy. The women will complete a 6-week internship with a business of their choice. After receiving training, women will return to villages and conduct an educational session for children on their experiences and a financial workshop for forty other women.

10. Côte d’Ivoire: Enhanced Food Production

Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 170 out of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index (UNDP 2011). Over 48% of the 22 million population lives in poverty. Six million are children under the age of five. The under-five mortality rate in Côte d’Ivoire is 195 per 1,000 live births. The average lifespan is 54 years. Malnutrition, including vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies, contribute to the high child mortality. Chronic malnutrition affects 33% of children under five years, while 16% of children under five are vitamin A deficient, which compromises the immune system and, in turn, increases the risk of death.

This is the third year of a three-year project with partner Helen Keller International. This year the project will expand HKI’s Enhanced Homestead Food Production into Lokakro Village in the District of Bouaké. It aims to increase the availability and quantity of micronutrient-rich vegetables such as sweet potatoes, especially for young children and pregnant women. It will teach the production model to 30 women, who will then spread their learning to a total of 300 village women. It is expected to result in improvements in gardening practices, irrigation systems, income generation, and gender empowerment. Year three of a three-year project.

To be continued

New Report: Feeding the World Without GMOs

Charles W. Elliott

Feeding the World Without GMOsA new report, Feeding The World Without GMOs , by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) refutes the corporate biotech/industrial narrative that genetically modified organism (GMO) foods offer real solutions to global hunger and food insecurity.

Despite significant progress over the past 30 years, the world still faces an ongoing crisis of hunger and food insecurity. 805 million people continue to go hungry, according to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.[1] The world also faces a “hidden hunger” problem —micronutrient deficiency—which affects some two billion people, causing long-term, irreversible health effects and significantly impairing economic productivity. We face stark challenges posed by population growth: by 2050 the demand for food will be twice what it was in 2005.[2]

Feeding the World Without GMOs takes a hard look at ways to address this problem and concludes that GMO food is a non-solution. In nine pages of tight synthesis, it analyzes: (1) why GE crops don’t contribute to food security; (2) what would work to boost the global food supply; and (3) the unfulfilled promise of genetic engineering.
Continue reading

BGR’s 4th Concert to Feed the Hungry

BGR Staff


On Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 7:00 p.m., legendary saxophonist David Liebman, bassist Larry Grenadier, singer/songwriter Rebecca Martin, jazz and blues vocalist Sandra Reaves-Phillips, drummer Winard Harper, organist Akiko, and pianist Mijiwa Miyagima celebrate International Jazz Day as headlining artists at Buddhist Global Relief’s 4th annual Concert To Feed The Hungry. The Concert To Feed the Hungry perpetuates the global diversity of jazz in Harlem.

This annual concert, produced by jazz saxophonist Dan Blake, brings together an all-star lineup of leading jazz artists with a global mission to assist impoverished communities around the world. Buddhist Global Relief sponsors projects around the world that help poor communities overcome hunger and malnutrition and provides education for women and girls in at-risk communities.

The day-long event will commence with 2 music workshops organizaed by Jazzmobile and The New Heritage Theatre Group.

Visit for more information about the concert and the artists.