Ensuring global food security by fostering local entrepreneurship
The Russian invasion on Ukraine is something that has rattled the entire globe and its effects are very palpable. This geopolitical shift, that is happening right now, is affecting the globe with increasing consequences. Not only the energy-security is more and more in danger but also the food-security, which has already been scrutinized by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially people from the global south, who often spend over 80 percent of their income on food have been hit hard by the effects of the war. One of them is Dousa, a farmer living in the South Sudanese Refugee settlement Bidibidi, Uganda. He already faces hardships daily:
“The challenges that I'm facing in the village are lack of arable land for farming, drought, insects destroying crops, and transportation difficulties of the products to the markets around the community.”, explaining further, “The deduction of the food rations in the settlement due to the war have forced me to move deep into the village looking for fertile land from host communities. This is necessary to cultivate food to increase the food supply for my family and the community."
Now facing the war in Ukraine, in which two of the top 10 wheat producers are the main actors, the consequences will become even more severe. Russia and Ukraine make up approximately one third of the world’s wheat production and since the war has started the price for wheat has increased significantly. Besides wheat, both countries are also major exporters in corn and oilseeds, all basic foods important for daily nutrition. On top of that, due to the fact that nobody knows how long the war is going to last, farmers in Ukraine either have to work in very difficult conditions or are not able to work at all. This endangers the upcoming harvests which could lead to catastrophic consequences. To make things worse, India also saw itself forced to ban wheat exports to meet its own food security needs.
The world is faced with increasing shortages in the supply chain of food and energy which are interrelated. We do not only need fossil energies to export and import commodities, but also to produce foods like wheat and grain, and for the preparation of our meals. Now that both commodity prices – energy and food - are skyrocketing, it becomes significantly more difficult for countries in the global south. So, what happens if the demand can no longer be met when it comes to essentials like energy and food? The UN estimates that around 9 million people have died of hunger in 2020, and it is expected that the number is going to further increase in the next months. Additionally, the number of people affected by undernutrition, for instance in Uganda or Ethiopia, is going to increase in the upcoming year(s).
Bridging Gaps empowers people like Dousa with starting capital to become self-sufficient in the long run. Now more than ever international aid needs an upgrade: to give local communities the opportunity to take charge of their own future. Giving them a microloan to finance their business idea is just the first step to become more independent. Once paid back successfully, the loan goes to the next person in the community, creating a ripple effect and stronger financial markets with more projects in the future.
To take a broader look: Global inequality is on the rise, since the Western World is taking steps to unwind itself from the Russian economy, and consequently faces global supply chain challenges which are affecting the entire globe. Firstly, because food and energy take much longer to be delivered to the importing countries. And secondly, because the sanctions against Russia and consequently thereof its payment systems make it very difficult, in many cases even impossible, to pay for the commodities. Tim Prewitt from The Hunger Project states:
"Both countries are essential food suppliers for low- and middle-income countries in which tens of millions of people are already food insecure. […] In 2020, African countries imported nearly $7 billion worth of agricultural products from Ukraine and Russia. A significant enough prolonged price rise will reproduce the 2008 food crisis."
So what could be done to prevent such catastrophic consequences? Is it possible to change the sanctions in a way that the global south and other developing countries are not compromised in their food security in the short run? And in the long run, is it possible like Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) elaborated in an article of The New Humanitarian that
“[…] countries ultimately need to reduce their dependence on imports of just a few key agricultural commodities, by diversifying their own local food production and food supply chains”?
Our initiative is to do exactly that. By giving out microloans to our applicants and guiding them in their journey of entrepreneurship we want to empower people and give them the opportunity to become more independent. Dousa states:
“I already have some knowledge of farming and hope to expand it through this project. With this loan I want to rent a field and grow a variety of vegetables. I plan to sell these products to the nearest communities in the local markets. For me, Bridging Gaps offers a way to minimize the challenges that I'm facing because taking this microloan will make me work hard in order to achieve my goals as a farmer and pay back the loan to the community.”
It is safe to say that the war in Ukraine set off and increased many challenges and consequently entails many changes in the future. It has now become even more important to work together as a global community and provide support for the countries which are going to be affected the most by the terrible events. As anthropologist Jane Goodall said in her ‘Hopecast’:
“Act locally first, see that you can make a difference. […] Taking that first step gives you hope that your actions do make a difference. And then you want to do more as you do more. It’s like a feedback loop and you inspire others to join you. […] And we have a choice: Do we want to make the place better or don’t we care?”
Author: Katharina Korte