about the author
Martin Penner, a former journalist, has worked for WFP since 2008. He is based at WFP's Rome headquarters, where he manages content on the organization's website and other online platforms.
For many of the 842 million hungry people in the world, the answer is not a hand-out of free food. It's more about making local food 'systems' more productive and reliable so that nutritious food is always available, even to the poorest of the poor. But what is a food system precisely? And how can you make it stronger?
ROME -- In the developing world, the processes through which food is grown, sold and distributed are sometimes fragile. The land may be dry and unsuitable for farming. The farmers themselves may lack the skills or techniques they need. There may be a shortage of storage capacity. Markets may be badly connected or even inaccessible.
All of these things form what can be called a ‘food system’. Problems anywhere in the system will affect people’s ability to get the food they need. The importance of building robust food systems, that can provide communities with healthy diets, is the key theme of World Food Day this year.
Here are three examples of WFP projects which are contributing to creating ‘healthy’ food systems:
In a village in Mali, a lack of water during the dry months of the year has prevented local farmers from growing as much food as they need for the community to be ‘food secure’. It has also restricted the types of food they can grow. WFP gave farmers food while they built a dam to conserve water, which they could then use to irrigate their crops. This meant they were able to grow different things, including more vegetables. This, in turn, meant they were able to diversify their diets and eat better. The result is that the entire community now has an asset (the dam) which will make their food system as a whole healthier. Read more
In one school in Bhutan, WFP has been providing food for two of the three meals students get each day a day. This supports the school as it teaches students how to grow nutritious foods. WFP also provided some expertise in crop production. Right now, the school supplements the food supplied by WFP with their own home-grown vegetables, producing a more nutritious diet. In a couple of years, WFP will no longer be needed and the programme is scheduled to be handed over to the government. When this happens, a healthy food system will have been created which should help local people eat better for years to come. Read more
In a community in El Salvador, small-holder farmers had for years been forced to sell their low-quality maize and beans for low prices because they lacked the knowhow or connections to access bigger markets. But, with the help of an initiative coordinated by WFP, the 65-member El Garucho farmers’ association has learned to improve the quality of its production and developed business skills which mean they can now sell to big buyers, including an important Salvadorian flour producer and WFP itself. As a result the farmers now have an approach which is economically sustainable -- and their community is becoming less food insecure. Read more
If you want to support WFP projects such as these, consider making a small donation.Donate now