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UN food agency Pushes ‘Smart Crops’ as Rice Alternative to defeat Hunger in Asia

Soaring rice prices, slowing economic expansion and poorer growth in agricultural productivity have been blamed for the slowdown in efforts to tackle hunger

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FILE - A worker carries a bale of dry millet at a field on the outskirts of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, Nov. 17, 2011. VOA

Asia needs to make extra efforts to defeat hunger after progress has slowed in the last five years, including promoting so-called “smart crops” as an alternative to rice, the head of the U.N. food agency in the region said.

Kundhavi Kadiresan, representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Asia, said the region needs to focus on reaching the most marginalized people, such as the very poor or those living in mountainous areas.

The Asia-Pacific region halved the number of hungry people from 1990 to 2015 but the rate of progress slowed in many countries – such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Cambodia – in the last five years, according to a December FAO report.

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“The last mile is always difficult.. so extra efforts, extra resources and more targeted interventions are needed,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of a business forum on food security in Jakarta on Tuesday.

She said government and businesses needed to develop policies to help make food more affordable, while changing Asians’ diets that rely heavily on rice.

“We have focused so much on rice that we haven’t really looked at some of those crops like millets, sorghum and beans,” she said.

A campaign is underway to promote these alternatives as “smart crops” to make them more attractive, Kadiresan said.

“We are calling them smart crops to get people not to think about them as poor people’s food but smart people’s food,” she said, adding that they are not only nutritious but also more adaptable to climate change.

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Soaring rice prices, slowing economic expansion and poorer growth in agricultural productivity have been blamed for the slowdown in efforts to tackle hunger.

More than 60 percent of the world’s hungry are in Asia-Pacific, while nearly one out of three children in the region suffers from stunting, according to the FAO.

Achieving zero hunger by 2030 is one of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals adopted by member states in 2015. (VOA)

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UN Report on Rohingya Hunger Crisis Suspended on Order of Myanmar Government

The current crisis began on August 25 when Rohingya insurgents attacked police checkpoints on Myanmar's Rakhine state and killed 12 security personnel.

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Rohingya refugees collect aid supplies including food and medicine, sent from Malaysia, at Kutupalang Unregistered Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Feb. 15, 2017, VOA

United Nations, October 17, 2017: The UN food aid agency withdrew a critical report revealing desperate hunger among the Rohingya Muslim minority after the Myanmar government ordered it to be taken down, the media reported on Tuesday.

The July assessment by the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that more than 80,000 children under the age of five were “wasting” – a potentially fatal condition of rapid weight loss, reports the Guardian.

The six-page document has since been replaced with a statement saying Myanmar and WFP were “collaborating on a revised version”.

That process would involve “representatives from various ministries, and will respond to the need for a common approach” that was in line with “WFP’s future cooperation with the government”.

When asked why the July report was removed, the WFP said it was withdrawn from the website “following a request by the government to conduct a joint review”, the Guardian reported.

In a statement, the agency said: “The WFP stands by its original assessment, which was conducted jointly with local authorities in Rakhine state… However WFP recognises that in a dynamic and evolving situation, it is important to coordinate closely with all partners, including the government.”

Meanwhile, the UN’s most senior official in the country is scheduled to leave at the end of the month amid allegations she suppressed another report and also attempted to shut down public advocacy on Rohingya suffering.

The current crisis began on August 25 when Rohingya insurgents attacked police checkpoints on Myanmar’s Rakhine state and killed 12 security personnel.

It resulted in over half a million Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, many alleging that the Myanmar Army conducted a counter-offensive that included mass killings and rapes.(IANS)

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Annual Global Hunger Index : Global Hunger Levels Rise for the first time in ten years ; Africa tops the list

The index is based on levels of hunger in the general population, and rates of wasting, stunting and deaths among children under 5 years old.

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A mother holds onto her emaciated infant at an emergency feeding clinic in Maradi, Niger. (VOA)

Rome, October 12, 2017 : Global hunger has fallen more than a quarter since 2000, but conflict and climate shocks are beginning to reverse these gains, an annual global hunger index said.

Nearly half of the 119 countries surveyed had “serious,” “alarming” or “extremely alarming” hunger levels between 2012 and 2016, with war-torn Central African Republic worst affected, followed by Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar and Zambia.

“Conflict- and climate-related shocks are at the heart of this problem,” said Dominic MacSorley, chief executive of Concern, which compiled the report along with the International Food Policy Research Institute and Welthungerhilfe.

About half of the populations in the hungriest countries were short of food, it said.

South Sudan and Somalia, which are at risk of renewed famine, were among 13 countries excluded from the index because of lack of data.

The United Nations said last month that global hunger levels had risen for the first time in more than a decade, now affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, or 815 million people.

Famine struck parts of South Sudan earlier this year, the U.N. said, and there is a high risk that it could return there, as well as develop in other countries hit by conflict: northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

Yemen came sixth in the index as its hunger crisis has spiked since 2015, when civil war erupted and the data cover the period 2012 to 2016.

ALSO READ Global Hunger on Rise Again: UN Food Agencies

Although most of Nigeria is relatively food secure, the eight-year Islamist Boko Haram insurgency has left millions in the northeast at risk of starvation.

“We must build the resilience of communities on the ground, but we must also bolster public and political solidarity internationally,” MacSorley said in a statement.

The survey found that 14 countries — including Senegal, Azerbaijan, Peru, Panama, Brazil and China — had made significant improvements since 2000.

The index is based on levels of hunger in the general population, and rates of wasting, stunting and deaths among children under 5 years old.

Women, girls and ethnic minorities are most at risk of hunger, which causes nearly half of deaths in under 5s, it said.

“The world needs to act as one community with the shared goal of ensuring not a single child goes to bed hungry each night and no one is left behind,” MacSorley said. (VOA)

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Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah thanks India, slams Pakistan

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Afghanistan leader abdullah abdullah
Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. ians

New Delhi, Sep 29: Afghanistan Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah on Friday thanked India for its “generous contributions” in reconstructing the war-torn nation and slammed Pakistan for its role in destabilizing the country.

However, he added, Afghanistan would continue to extend hands of friendship to all its neighbours including Pakistan.

Delivering the 24th Sapru House Lecture here, Abdullah, who is on a visit to India to enhance ties between the two countries, said terror was a threat to all nations and that a stable Afghanistan would benefit all countries in the region.

He said Afghanistan faced some “serious challenge” when it came to its relations with Pakistan.

“The fact that there are groups based in Pakistan which are threatening the security of Afghanistan and (they) continue to receive support and continue to embark upon destabilizing activities and acts of terror in Afghanistan. That is a very serious challenge for us and for the whole region,” Abdullah said.

Referring to Pakistan, he added that there were some “very clear lessons in the past when some of the terrorist groups created for other purposes turned against those who created them and started to pose a threat and continue to do so.

“Our message is very clear: Afghanistan’s civility and prosperity is in the interest of the region. Afghanistan has no bad intention towards any neighbouring country.

“We have extended and will continue to extend hands of friendship to all its neighbours and countries of the region. And we expect reciprocation,” Abdullah said, adding his country would continue the dialogue process with neighbours to address common challenges.

He said countries needed to decide that “terrorism would not be used as a tool for foreign policy”.

Referring to India, the Afghan leader said its contributions had made a difference to lives of millions of Afghan people.

“Relations between Afghanistan and India, which are founded in the bonds of history and culture of both nations, have been strengthened in the past 16 years with your generous contributions that made a difference to lives of millions of people,” he said.

Abdullah added that India’s support in many fields including education, infrastructure and security had “contributed in its own way in stabilization of our country and pursuit of our democratic aspirations and also betterment of lives of our people”.

He said while he was supposed to arrive in India a day earlier, his visit was delayed “because of the terrorist attack on Kabul International Airport”.

“But I was determined to come. Terrorist attacks may have caused us some delay but they could not stop us.”

He said while on one side there were aspirations and efforts of millions to create a stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, on the other there were efforts of a “tiny minority” to destroy lives of people through acts of terror.

“But our wisdom says that human dignity will prevail and acts of terror would be condemned to fail.”

He said “terror is terror” and that there should be no differentiation when it comes to terror: “good and bad terrorist groups”.

Abdullah said Afghanistan can play its “rightful” role as a bridge between South Asia and Central Asia.

“We are working together – India and Iran have taken lead – towards operationalisation of Chabahar. We hope, as India has annouced, it would contribute further, that one year target of full operationalisation of Chabahar would be met.”

He said India, Iran, Afghanistan and other countries would benefit from this.

“We will witness the first act of operationalisation by receiving shipments of wheat through Chabahar in a few days time. But further work would continue,” Abdullah added.

Iran’s Chabahar port lies outside the Persian Gulf and is easily accessed from India’s western coast, bypassing Pakistan. Once operationalised, India can bypass Pakistan to transport goods to Afghanistan.(IANS)