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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 Warns Millions in South Sudan to Face Acute Shortage of Food in Coming Weeks

The United Nations estimates nearly 7 million South Sudanese, or 61 percent of the population, will face acute levels of food insecurity in about six weeks' time

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A refugee from South Sudan transports food she received from the World Food Program (WFP) in Palorinya settlement camp for distribution, in Moyo district northern Uganda, Oct. 26, 2017. VOA

U.N. agencies warn millions of people in South Sudan will face acute shortages of food by the end of July, with tens of thousands experiencing famine-like conditions. A new report released Friday by the U.N.’s World Food Program, Food and Agriculture Organization and UNICEF, along with the government of South Sudan, assesses the food situation in the world’s youngest country.

Food is always in short supply during South Sudan’s lean season. But, this year, the situation is worse than usual because of a much-delayed rainfall on top of an economic crisis and population displacement due to conflict.

south sudan, hunger
The agency currently is providing food for 2.77 million people. Pixabay

The United Nations estimates nearly 7 million South Sudanese, or 61 percent of the population, will face acute levels of food insecurity in about six weeks’ time.

World Food Program spokesman Herve Verhoosel tells VOA the crisis will be especially dire for thousands of people living in inaccessible parts of former Jonglei, Lakes, and Upper Nile states.

“Twenty-one thousand people in the country are in a very catastrophic situation.  They need very urgently access to that food,” said Verhoosel. “We know that urgent food assistance is needed in most of the country, especially because of the conflict and because of the season. And, that is at the end of July that we will have a very difficult time and most of the people will need that food assistance.”

hunger, south sudan
The United Nations estimates nearly 7 million South Sudanese, or 61 percent of the population, will face acute levels of food insecurity in about six weeks’ time. Pixabay

Verhoosel says people living in the worst-affected areas are experiencing famine-like conditions, with little or nothing to eat or to feed their families.  The agency currently is providing food for 2.77 million people. Verhoosel says the WFP plans to scale up aid to reach more than 5 million by the end of the year.

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The U.N. children’s fund and partners say they too will scale up services to reach more children affected by severe acute malnutrition with therapeutic feeding.

The Food and Agriculture Organization reports it is providing new varieties of seed suited to local conditions.  It says it also is training farmers in techniques that will reduce losses from drought and flooding. (VOA)