Hunger: Not enough food, the wrong food, or climate change?

Hunger: Not enough food, the wrong food, or climate change?
August 2010 Newsletter

This Month’s News
Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change: A Module of Four Online Courses Begins in September
OL 341. Adapting to Climate Change: Designing & Funding Community-Based Adaptation Projects.
OL 342. Adapting to Climate Change: Planning for Impact.
OL 343. Adapting to Climate Change: The Community Focus.
OL 344. Adapting to Climate Change: Sustainable Implementation.

Module 100: Creating a World Class Project
OL 101. From the Ground Up: Designing and Funding Sustainable Development Projects
OL 102. Project Architecture: Managing for Impact

200 people from over 50 countries have joined the new CSDi Development Community. Colleagues are actively exchanging information on adapting to climate change, food security, participation, conservation, health and hygiene, governance – and host of other topics. People from 169 different countries have visited the web site in the past 60 days.

Job Opportunity: Director de Programas Para Centroamérica y México – based in Quetzaltenango. Ecologic Development Fund works with poor, rural communities to conserve and restore forests, watersheds and wetlands in ways that improve people’s lives. Convocatoria.

Fan us on Facebook. Please visit our new Facebook Page – CSDi Development Community. We are looking for a volunteer savvy in social networking to moderate this site. Please contact us here: .

Hunger: Not enough food, the wrong food, or climate change?
I’m learning more from my online students than they are for me and that’s a fact. They give me a window into their worlds and the problems and challenges that their countries face. Two thirds of student projects relate to water, or food—however, many of these seem to be suspiciously linked to climate change.

For example, here is a very well done article “Climate Extremes Fuel Hunger in Guatemala” that illustrates these interrelationships between food, water and climate change.

I’m fortunate to have two students who are climate change specialists from the Inter-American Development Bank here in Guatemala. They are working on a climate change adaptation project researching declining yields in subsistence crops and widespread under nutrition in the Department of Izabal—in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment, MARN.

Another example of this seamless interface between water, food and climate change, comes from a partnership of four students – one in Columbia, one in Germany, one in Nigeria, and a Guatemalteca living in Washington DC – that are focusing on an adaptation project in Colombia dealing with low agricultural productivity caused by changes in temperature and changes in the distribution, frequency and intensity of rain.

What’s absolutely fascinating to me is that I have students that are investigating projects relating to chronic malnutrition in one course and students that are investigating projects on adapting to climate change in a different course—and with the seamless interface between their project themes—sometimes I get the classes mixed up!

Food security exists when people have enough basic food at all times to provide them with energy and nutrients for fully productive lives. In Guatemala, there are regions where food security is chronic, and areas where it’s seasonal. For example, the November maize harvest frequently isn’t large enough for a family and the harvest runs out by August creating a four month period of food insecurity. In other areas of Guatemala, chronic under nutrition runs the calendar year.

Sadly, another side of under nutrition relates to food diversity. Families may have enough of their staple crop to see them through the year, but they’re lacking vital vitamins and minerals. These come from eating a variety of foods that will provide essential fats, proteins, vitamins, and micronutrients. Chronic under nutrition can lead to stunting and children—lack of physical and mental development.

Two course participants, John Bosco Odongo in Western Kenya, and Conrad Otterness in North Carolina, are working to solve this problem on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, and sent me an assignment last week that is very well done that I would like to share. John and Conrad have partnered in our course, ‘Food Security, Nutrition and Home Gardens’.

In this course students are required to perform three baseline surveys within their communities: one on food security, one on food diversity, and one on home garden capacity. This information will help them better plan and launch a home gardening project and will also give them a baseline to compare to in a year to see if they’re having impact. John and Conrad’s assessments showed a severe level of food insecurity and low dietary diversity in their community. Further, unusually strong rains that began in 1997 have regularly flooded farm fields undermining farming activity and contributing to the food insecurity.

One of the single biggest contributing factors to under nutrition that we have discovered is a simple lack of knowledge of basic nutrition on the part of community members. Consequently, after gaining a better sense of where the community is nutritionally, students facilitate a four-hour community workshop on the basics of nutrition and how home gardens can increase both food security and food diversity for families.

As part of the workshop they prepare a luncheon for the group made up of nutritious food that can be grown in home gardens as an example of the delicious meals that can be made out of garden produce. John and Conrad did an exemplary job in their assignment as evidenced by the photos they sent.

In summary, under nutrition can be based on food shortages, or not eating the right things. And both of these two challenges can be exacerbated by climate change. You can learn more about these topics by visiting our food security working group and our adapting to climate change working group at our Development Community.

Enjoy the vacation month of August, I’ll see you again in September.

Tim Magee