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News, 10/18/2017

Hunger forces people to flee their homes

After a long period of positive development, the number of the world’s hungry has started to rise again. We see the effects as both internal and international migration flows.

More than 815 million people in the world do not have enough to eat, and malnutrition affects now 38 million people more than in 2015. Finland channels support to the countries most affected by famine through the World Food Programme WFP. In Ethiopia and Mozambique, support is targeted especially to women smallholder farmers to improve their production, productivity, market entry and land rights.

Food security is affected by conflicts, population growth, urbanisation, climate change, and the diminishing natural resources and natural diversity.

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The accelerating violence and hunger forced Rejoice Yguzu to flee from South Sudan to Kenya. Photo: Outi Einola-Head

The Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals define new requirements for food production. More food must be produced in more sustainable ways.

The Natural Resources Institute Finland, the University of Helsinki and the Lappeenranta University of Technology have together responded to this challenge by finding out how to raise food and nutrition security in Africa. Possible tools include the improving of soil quality by using leguminous plants, microbes, agroforestry and locally-produced lime.

Hunger is the cause and effect of conflicts

The WFP has recently studied the links between migration and food security by interviewing refugees and identified several reasons behind the 2015 migration crisis.

There is a clear link between hunger and migration, according to Arif Husain, Chief Economist at WFP and leader of the research project.

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Arif Husain explained the WFP’s research results in a seminar organised at the University of Helsinki. Photo: Marjaana Pekkola.

“Food insecurity is both the cause and effect of conflicts, and hunger increases the intensity of conflicts,” he says.

“The research results indicate that people want to stay in their home region. If we manage to improve food security and reduce malnutrition, we can also reduce people’s willingness to move to neighbouring countries or even further. Support is needed both in the countries of origin and in the neighbouring countries receiving migrants.”

The WFP study shows that support must be channelled to internal migrants and those who have crossed the border to neighbouring countries. Helping refugees as close as possible to their place of origin reduces the need for further displacement, and humanitarian aid is more cost-effective and produces greater socioeconomic benefits. The majority of support should be channelled to Africa and the Middle East.

“People who leave are risking everything, and their reasons are weighty. You need pressing grounds to cross the Sahara or put your family in a barely seaworthy boat, fully knowing that you might never reach your destination,” Husain says.

Boosting agriculture in Africa

The WFP report indicates that malnutrition is one of the driving forces behind armed conflicts.

People move to new areas to find food, but they run a risk of even greater hunger since travelling is dangerous and exhausting. Travelling long distances is also expensive, and people run into debt. After leaving their homes, people often need to move again and again to find work or humanitarian aid.

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WFP grants refugees mobile-phone-based cash assistance for buying food. Mobile money transfers help especially women, and many women have opened booths at the local market to sell their products. Photo: Outi Einola-Head

A fundamental reason for African migration is that agriculture is inefficient and dying, according to Husain. Nearly 80 per cent of the world’s poor live in the countryside and get their income from agriculture. Most of the poorest people are smallholder farmers or landless farm workers. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women are in charge of most of the agriculture and food production.

The Ethiopian government owns all the land, but registration guarantees that children can inherit their parents’ right of possession to a plot of land. This is important both for the people and the food production in rural areas. Finland has funded a project where around 400,000 plots of land were registered, single mothers accounting for a fourth of all registered plots.

Outi Einola-Head

Read more about the results of Finland’s development cooperation. 100 results in development cooperation:  https://kehityslehti.fi/en/100-kehitystulosta/

Research by WFP: 2017 - At the root of exodus: Food security, conflict and international migration

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