Construyendo la resiliencia en un distrito propenso a la sequía en Etiopía

[Articulos Individuales de la edicion de Intersecciones de Verano de 2017 se publicaran en este blog cada semana. La edicion completa puede ser encontrada en MCC’s website.]

Boricha woreda (distrito) se encuentra en la zona de Sidama de la Región de las Naciones, Nacionalidades y Pueblos Sureños de Etiopía. Uno de los distritos más propensos a la sequía en Etiopía, Boricha es casi completamente dependiente de la agricultura alimentada por la lluvia. Boricha ha sido fuertemente afectada por el cambio climático, experimentando sequías recurrentes y variabilidad de las precipitaciones. La degradación de la tierra ha causado la formación de zanjas que están invadiendo tierras agrícolas y creando erosión significativa del suelo, lavando semillas, fertilizantes y plántulas de las tierras agrícolas, reduciendo la capacidad de producción, dañando la salud y productividad del suelo y afectando los ingresos de los hogares. Los impactos del cambio climático y la degradación de la tierra, junto con el alto crecimiento demográfico, pequeñas propiedades agrícolas y analfabetismo, son las principales causas de inseguridad alimentaria en la zona y han dado como resultado una baja capacidad de adaptación de la comunidad a los impactos del cambio climático. Este artículo comparte los esfuerzos de la Asociación de Alivio y Desarrollo de la Iglesia Meserete Kristos (MKC-RDA por sus siglas en inglés) para construir resistencia al cambio climático en Boricha y analiza hallazgos claves que indican que los esfuerzos del MKC-RDA en Boricha han contribuido a la conservación de suelos y agua, lo que a su vez reduce la vulnerabilidad a los impactos del cambio climático.

Durante más de una década hasta 2014, la MKC-RDA llevó a cabo un programa de reducción de riesgos de desastre y seguridad alimentaria orientado a la comunidad y medio ambiente en Boricha con el objetivo de abordar las causas a corto y largo plazo de la inseguridad alimentaria y de resiliencia al cambio climático. El programa adoptó la estrategia de “ayuda y desarrollo”, en la que se implementan intervenciones de alivio y desarrollo simultáneamente para proporcionar a las comunidades vulnerables redes de seguridad eficientes durante los períodos de hambre, junto con estrategias de seguridad alimentaria a largo plazo para ayudar a las comunidades a satisfacer sus necesidades alimentarias en el futuro y para que tengan la capacidad de hacerle frente a peligros tales como la sequía. Este enfoque enfatizó la preparación para desastres y construcción de la resiliencia de la comunidad a los desastres futuros al reducir la vulnerabilidad, en lugar de centrarse únicamente en el apoyo inmediato a las víctimas de desastres.

Uno de los componentes del programa Boricha fue la provisión de alimentos y transferencias de efectivo previsibles a través de iniciativas de alimentos por trabajo (APT) y efectivo por trabajo (EPT) diseñadas para contribuir al logro del objetivo general de adaptación y resiliencia al cambio climático. Este programa de la red de seguridad proporcionó pagos en efectivo o maíz y aceite comestibles a los hogares vulnerables, satisfaciendo sus necesidades alimentarias durante meses cuando la mayoría de la población experimentaba la inseguridad alimentaria. Estas estrategias de APT y EPT también aseguraron que los hogares tuvieran los medios para reconstruir y mantener sus medios de subsistencia con éxito después de la sequía crónica. Las personas participantes recibieron alimentos o efectivo por trabajo que ayudó a la rehabilitación de caminos y puentes para permitir a los miembros de la comunidad transportar sus productos al mercado e implementación de estrategias de conservación de suelos y agua, como la construcción de terrazas y estanques de recolección de agua. Otras iniciativas incluyeron la producción de plántulas para la agrosilvicultura en viveros y en tierras comunales y privadas, y construcción de bancos de semillas para asegurar el fácil acceso de las personas agricultoras a las variedades de cultivos adaptados a las condiciones locales.

Otro enfoque del programa Boricha fue la implementación de la agricultura climáticamente inteligente (CSA por sus siglas en inglés para Climate Smart Agriculture), incluyendo tecnologías de agricultura conservacionista. CSA se define como “la agricultura que aumenta de forma sostenible la productividad, resiliencia (adaptación) y reduce/elimina los gases de efecto invernadero (mitigación) donde es posible” (FAO). Las actividades del proyecto en el marco de la CSA incluyeron la optimización del uso de los recursos de la tierra, introducción de medidas anti-erosivas y tecnologías de recolección y ahorro de agua, promoción del forraje y desarrollo agroforestal y capacitación en técnicas de agricultura conservacionista como la cobertura, alteración mínima del suelo, rotación de cultivos y adopción de patrones de cultivo apropiados, como el cultivo intercalado. Además, el proyecto Boricha estableció y fortaleció grupos de personas agricultoras, grupos de ahorro, grupos de autoayuda y otras organizaciones comunitarias para apoyar la promoción de prácticas agrícolas sostenibles, aumentar la capacidad de conservación de suelos y agua, apoyar iniciativas de generación de ingresos e incrementar la alfabetización.

Un equipo independiente evaluó el programa de Boricha dos años después de que finalizó para determinar los impactos del programa. La evaluación encontró que, dada la degradación ambiental en Boricha, el manejo sostenible de los recursos naturales era fundamental para la búsqueda de la seguridad alimentaria y desarrollo económico dentro de la comunidad. Las actividades de conservación del suelo y del agua han permitido la rehabilitación de la tierra y de los recursos naturales: se han protegido más de setecientas hectáreas, lo que contribuye a mejorar la cobertura vegetal. Los beneficios incluyen una mayor disponibilidad de abono orgánico a través de follaje de plantas reforestadas o mantenidas, mejor disponibilidad de leña, minimización de la erosión eólica y disponibilidad de árboles para los medicamentos tradicionales. Las actividades del proyecto también contribuyeron a la restauración de los suelos y prevención de la salinización y pérdida de tierras de cultivo, incluso mediante la reforestación de tierras inutilizables. Las terrazas, montículos de tierra, represas de control de la escorrentía y otras actividades de control de inundaciones, erosión y de aprovechamiento del agua mejoraron la fertilidad del suelo y restauraron las fuentes de agua subterráneas y superficiales. Las técnicas de agricultura conservacionista, incluyendo la cobertura del suelo y adición de compostaje, también contribuyeron a reducir la erosión del suelo, mejorar la capacidad de retención de agua de las tierras de cultivo y aumentar la productividad del suelo. Incluso en años con lluvias tardías, esporádicas o escasas, las personas agricultoras que practicaban la agricultura conservacionista se beneficiaron de mayores niveles de humedad residual, lo que permitió germinar las semillas y mantener la madurez del cultivo. Como resultado de las actividades del proyecto, las comunidades han reducido el riesgo de desastres debido a las inundaciones, aumentaron la productividad agrícola y mejoraron el acceso al agua para el riego y uso doméstico, contribuyendo a la resiliencia a los impactos del cambio climático.

El proyecto Boricha resultó en la reducción de la pobreza y mejora de la seguridad alimentaria para la mayoría de los hogares participantes, aumentando su capacidad para enfrentar y manejar los efectos de los peligros. El setenta y tres por ciento de todos los hogares participantes declararon que lograron salir exitosamente de la pobreza extrema durante el término del programa; sólo el seis por ciento de los hogares que participaron en el proyecto informaron que siguen estando en situación de extrema pobreza. La reforestación de las cuencas hidrográficas y biodiversidad resultante contribuyeron a la expansión de las actividades de engorde, ganadería y apicultura para la generación de ingresos. Las plantaciones de árboles, así como la vegetación que surgió por las actividades de conservación de suelos y agua, crearon empleo y mejoraron los ingresos a través de la recolección forestal y venta de subproductos. Debido a los ingresos suplementarios obtenidos a través de la venta de productos sobrantes de los huertos del proyecto, miel y frutos cosechados de la agrosilvicultura, las mujeres experimentaron mejores medios de vida e ingresos. Estas mujeres reportaron mayor autoestima y mayor independencia financiera. Además, la situación general de seguridad alimentaria de la comunidad beneficiaria mejoró durante el período del programa. Por ejemplo, la frecuencia de la ingesta diaria de alimentos de tres comidas al día aumentó de 12,9 por ciento al inicio del proyecto a 77 por ciento al final, mientras que aquellas personas que consumían dos o menos comidas al día disminuyeron del 87,1 por ciento a 21 por ciento. En general, la evaluación encontró que el proyecto proporcionaba a los hogares oportunidades de medios de vida más exitosos y diversos, contribuyendo al aumento de los ingresos y seguridad alimentaria. Como resultado de diversas fuentes de ingresos, mayor capacidad para ahorrar dinero y mejorar la seguridad alimentaria, los hogares en Boricha son más resilientes, capaces de adaptarse a las condiciones cambiantes y hacerle frente a los efectos de los peligros.

Los resultados del programa MKC-RDA en Boricha demuestran que, la programación de alimentos y transferencia de efectivo para abordar la inseguridad alimentaria estacional, las intervenciones agrícolas climáticamente inteligentes y el manejo sostenible de los recursos naturales, desempeñan un papel importante en la protección de los bienes e ingresos de las familias pobres mitigando el riesgo de desastre y construyendo resiliencia a los impactos del cambio climático en las comunidades afectadas por la sequía.

Frew Beriso es especialista en agricultura conservacionista con el Banco de Granos Canadiense en Etiopía. Anteriormente trabajó para MKC-RDA como Gerente del Programa Boricha.

Aprende más

Pugeni, Vurayayi. “Sub-Dejel Watershed Rehabilitation Project, Ethiopia.” Canadian Coalition on Climate Change and Development. 2013. Available at http://c4d.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2013-CaseStudy-MCC-Ethiopia.pdf.

Nyasimi, M., Amwata, D., Hove, L., Kinyangi, J., and Wamukoya, G. “Evidence of Impact: Climate-Smart Agriculture in Africa.” 2014. Available at https://ccafs.cgiar.org/publications/evidence-impact-climate-smart-agriculture-africa-0#.WO_oNkdda72.

Building resilience in a drought-prone district of Ethiopia

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[Individual articles from the Summer 2017 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

Boricha woreda (district) is located in the Sidama zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region of Ethiopia. One of the most drought-prone districts of Ethiopia, Boricha is almost completely dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Boricha has been heavily affected by climate change, experiencing recurrent drought and rainfall variability. Land degradation has caused the formation of gullies that are invading farmlands and creating significant soil erosion, washing away seeds, fertilizer and seedlings from farmlands, reducing production capacity, damaging soil health and productivity and impacting household income. Climate change impacts and land degradation, along with high population growth, small land holdings and illiteracy, are the major causes of food insecurity in the area and have resulted in a low community capacity to adapt to climate change impacts. This article discusses the efforts of Meserete Kristos Church Relief and Development Association (MKC-RDA) to build climate change resilience in Boricha and analyzes key findings that indicate that MKC-RDA’s efforts in Boricha have contributed to soil and water conservation, improved livelihoods and increased food security, in turn reducing vulnerability to climate change impacts.

For over a decade up through 2014, MKC-RDA carried out a community- and environmentally-oriented disaster risk reduction and food security program in Boricha with the aims of addressing short- and long-term causes of food insecurity and of building resilience to climate change. The program adopted the strategy of “developmental relief,” in which relief and development interventions are implemented simultaneously to provide vulnerable communities with efficient safety nets during hunger periods together with strategies for long-term food security to help communities meet their food needs in the future and have the capacity to cope with hazards such as drought. This approach emphasized disaster preparedness and building community resilience to future disasters by reducing vulnerability, rather than focusing only on immediate support to disaster victims.

One component of the Boricha program was the provision of predictable food and cash transfers through food for work (FFW) and cash for work (CFW) initiatives designed to contribute to achieving the overall objective of climate change adaptation and resilience. This safety net programming provided cash payments or edible maize and food oil to vulnerable households, fulfilling their food needs during months when the majority of the population was food insecure. These FFW and CCW schemes also ensured that households possessed the means to successfully rebuild and sustain their livelihoods after chronic drought. Participants received food or cash for work that included the rehabilitation of roads and bridges to allow community members to transport their commodities to market and the implementation of soil and water conservation strategies, such as the construction of terraces and water harvesting ponds. Other initiatives included producing seedlings for agroforestry in nurseries and on communal and private land and constructing seed banks to ensure farmers’ easy access to crop varieties adapted to local conditions.

Another focus of the Boricha program was the implementation of climate-smart agriculture (CSA), including conservation agriculture technologies. CSA is defined as “agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience (adaptation), reduces/removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) where possible” (FAO). Project activities under CSA included optimizing the use of land resources, the introduction of anti-erosion measures and water harvesting and saving technologies, the promotion of forage and agroforestry development and training in conservation agriculture techniques such as mulching, minimum soil disturbance, crop rotation and the adoption of appropriate cropping patterns such as intercropping. In addition, the Boricha project established and strengthened farmer’s groups, savings groups, self-help groups and other community organizations to support promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, increase capacity in soil and water conservation, support income generation initiatives and increase literacy.

An independent team evaluated the Boricha program two years after it ended to determine program impacts. The evaluation found that, given the environmental degradation in Boricha, sustainable management of natural resources was critical to the pursuit of food security and economic development within the community. Soil and water conservation activities resulted in the rehabilitation of land and natural resources: more than seven hundred hectares were protected, contributing to improved vegetative cover. Benefits included a greater availability of organic manure through foliage from reforested or maintained plants, improved availability of firewood, minimization of wind erosion and the availability of trees for traditional medicines. Project activities also assisted in soil restoration and prevention of salinization and the loss of arable land, including through the reforestation of previously unusable lands. Terraces, soil bunds, check dams and other flood and erosion control and water harvesting activities improved soil fertility and restored ground and surface water sources. Conservation agriculture techniques, including soil cover, mulch and the addition of compost, also contributed to reduced soil erosion, improved water holding capacity of farmlands and increased soil productivity. Even in years with delayed, sporadic or poor rainfall, farmers practicing conservation agriculture benefited from higher residual moisture levels, which enabled seeds to germinate and sustained crop maturity. As a result of project activities, communities have reduced risk of disaster from flooding, increased agricultural productivity and improved access to water for irrigation and household use, contributing to resilience to climate change impacts.

The Boricha project resulted in poverty reduction and improved food security for the majority of participating households, increasing their ability to cope with and manage the effects of hazards. Seventy-three percent of all participating households stated that they successfully transitioned out of extreme poverty during the program’s duration; only six percent of households participating in the project reported still being in extreme poverty. Reforestation of watershed land and the resulting bio-diversity contributed to the expansion of animal fattening, cattle rearing and beekeeping activities for income generation. Tree plantations, as well as vegetation which emerged because of soil and water conservation activities, created employment and improved incomes through forest harvesting and sales of by-products. Because of the supplementary income obtained through the sale of surplus produce from the project gardens, honey products and fruit harvested from agroforestry, women experienced improved livelihoods and incomes. These women reported greater self-esteem and increased financial independence. Additionally, the overall food security situation of the target community improved over the program period. For example, the frequency of daily food intake of three meals a day increased from 12.9 percent at the start of the project to 77 percent by the end, while those consuming two or fewer meals a day decreased from 87.1 percent to 21 percent. Overall, the evaluation found that the project provided households with opportunities for more successful and diverse livelihoods, contributing to increased incomes and food security. As a result of diverse income sources, increased ability to save money and improved food security, households in Boricha are more resilient, able to adapt to changing condition and to with cope with the effects of hazards.

Results from the MKC-RDA program in Boricha demonstrate that food and cash transfer programming to address seasonal food insecurity, climate-smart agriculture interventions and sustainable natural resource management all play important roles in protecting the assets and income of poor families, mitigating disaster risk and building resilience to climate change impacts in drought-affected communities.

Frew Beriso is conservation agriculture technical specialist with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank in Ethiopia. He previously worked for MKC-RDA as the Boricha Program Manager.

Learn more

Pugeni, Vurayayi. “Sub-Dejel Watershed Rehabilitation Project, Ethiopia.” Canadian Coalition on Climate Change and Development. 2013. Available at http://c4d.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2013-CaseStudy-MCC-Ethiopia.pdf.

Nyasimi, M., Amwata, D., Hove, L., Kinyangi, J., and Wamukoya, G. “Evidence of Impact: Climate-Smart Agriculture in Africa.” 2014. Available at https://ccafs.cgiar.org/publications/evidence-impact-climate-smart-agriculture-africa-0#.WO_oNkdda72.

Cambio climático y seguridad alimentaria en América Latina y el Caribe

[Articulos Individuales de la edicion de Intersecciones de Verano de 2017 se publicaran en este blog cada semana. La edicion completa puede ser encontrada en MCC’s website.]

Los grupos asociados del CCM y sus comunidades en América Latina y el Caribe cada vez más sienten los efectos del cambio climático sobre la seguridad alimentaria. En febrero de 2017, el CCM reunió a representantes de once países de América Latina y el Caribe en un encuentro para compartir experiencias y conocimientos sobre los temas del cambio climático y seguridad alimentaria y aprender cómo el CCM puede apoyarles mejor en la adaptación al cambio climático. Si bien los desafíos que enfrentan son muchos, los grupos asociados del CCM y sus comunidades están respondiendo fortaleciendo los esfuerzos colectivos para la mitigación de desastres y aumento de la seguridad alimentaria, incluyendo el empleo de prácticas innovadoras de agricultura y manejo de recursos naturales y abogando para influir en las políticas que afectan a sus recursos naturales.

Aunque las personas participantes en esta consulta representaron a organizaciones de diversos contextos, surgieron temas comunes en sus conversaciones relacionadas con el cambio climático y su efecto sobre la seguridad alimentaria en sus comunidades. Los impactos del cambio climático observados por los grupos asociados incluyeron condiciones de sequía, patrones de precipitación impredecibles y temperaturas elevadas. Las fechas en que las lluvias han llegado normalmente, señalando el inicio del tiempo de siembra, se han vuelto poco fiables, mientras que las lluvias más tarde en la temporada se han vuelto esporádicas. La investigación científica confirma la evidencia anecdótica presentada por estas organizaciones de que el cambio climático está ocurriendo. El Grupo Intergubernamental de Expertos sobre el Cambio Climático informa sobre los aumentos de temperatura en América Central y América del Sur, así como la disminución de las lluvias en Centroamérica. Se prevé que las regiones vulnerables experimentarán cambios continuos en la disponibilidad de agua debido a la disminución de las lluvias en general. Además, los fenómenos climáticos extremos inusuales han afectado gravemente a la región de América Latina, aumentando la vulnerabilidad de las comunidades ante el desastre. Mientras que los estudios sugieren que, gracias al cambio climático, en el futuro será posible cultivar maíz, yuca, arroz y sorgo en áreas donde, actualmente, tales cultivos no son posibles, casi la mitad de los municipios perderán alguna aptitud climática para sostener los cultivos actuales, especialmente café, frijoles y plátanos. El cambio climático ha tenido un impacto negativo significativo en la seguridad alimentaria en la región debido a sequías, patrones estacionales impredecibles y nuevas infestaciones de insectos que afectan la producción agrícola. Un número cada vez mayor de personas, especialmente jóvenes, están migrando a las ciudades u otros países porque ya no ven los medios de subsistencia rurales como opciones viables.

Los efectos del cambio climático en la seguridad alimentaria han dado lugar a desafíos comunes para las organizaciones de desarrollo de América Latina y el Caribe al implementar programas de seguridad alimentaria. En primer lugar, si bien los grupos asociados del CCM desean crear conciencia sobre el cambio climático para que las comunidades locales no contribuyan al problema, la falta de entendimiento científico dentro de las comunidades sobre las causas del cambio climático plantea desafíos. Algunas comunidades tienen explicaciones culturales o no científicas para el cambio climático, atribuyendo el cambio climático a que “la lluvia está siendo atada” debido a la falta de fe o al trabajo de espíritus o maldiciones. Estos supuestos erróneos sobre el cambio climático aumentan la dificultad de concienciar y cambiar las prácticas actuales en las comunidades, ya que los miembros de la comunidad no disciernen con facilidad lo que pueden cambiar y cuando necesitan centrarse en la adaptación.

En segundo lugar, los grupos asociados del CCM y sus comunidades luchan para saber cómo equilibrar las necesidades inmediatas de hambre derivadas de las pérdidas de cosechas con la implementación de estrategias de desarrollo a largo plazo y cuidado del medio ambiente. Varias organizaciones han prestado asistencia alimentaria a corto plazo para ayudar a sus comunidades a superar la brecha en las necesidades alimentarias durante los períodos de hambre. Sin embargo, esta estrategia plantea interrogantes sobre la visión a largo plazo, y los grupos asociados preguntan cuánto tiempo puede o debe llevarse a cabo la asistencia alimentaria y cómo la asistencia alimentaria estacional podría integrarse mejor en los esfuerzos de seguridad alimentaria a largo plazo.

En respuesta a estos desafíos, los grupos asociados del CCM implementan estrategias comunes para proteger y fortalecer la seguridad alimentaria ante el cambio climático. Estas organizaciones enfatizan la importancia de desarrollar estructuras que conecten entre sí a pequeños agricultores y sus comunidades. Al trabajar en conjunto de manera organizada, las personas agricultoras pueden ser más eficaces para adaptarse al cambio climático y mejorar la seguridad alimentaria aumentando las oportunidades de comercialización, así como sus esfuerzos colectivos para buscar el apoyo del gobierno local y nacional. Los grupos asociados también destacan la agroforestería como una estrategia que, a través de la siembra de árboles frutales, proporciona alimentos e ingresos, al tiempo que mitiga el riesgo de deslizamientos de tierra mediante la reforestación de áreas degradadas y propensas a deslizamientos. Los grupos asociados del CCM buscan una mayor capacitación en diversificación de cultivos y técnicas agrícolas mejoradas, uso de cultivos resistentes a la sequía o variedades de semillas, mejoramiento de las cadenas de valor a través del procesamiento o transformación de productos agrícolas y estrategias de conservación de agua y suelo. Una mejor capacitación y aprendizaje permitirá a las personas agricultoras fortalecer su potencial para la producción de alimentos y adaptarse a los impactos del cambio climático. Por último, estos grupos asociados reconocen la importancia de abogar a los diferentes niveles de gobierno para que influyan en las políticas y prácticas que serán clave para la protección de los recursos de agua y suelo locales y, por lo tanto, para la adaptación al cambio climático.

Uno de los grupos asociados del CCM en Bolivia, OBADES (Organización Bautista de Desarrollo Social), está utilizando algunas de estas estrategias para mejorar la producción agrícola en la región montañosa de Cocapata con el fin de aumentar los ingresos y la seguridad alimentaria de las familias afectadas por la sequía. OBADES apoya a las comunidades en la construcción de zanjas de infiltración de agua con el fin de recoger el agua de escorrentía de pendientes empinadas. A su vez, esta agua se utiliza para regar la papa y otros cultivos de hortalizas, así como para alimentar los acuíferos en las zonas bajas. El personal imparte capacitación a las personas agricultoras sobre la producción de cultivos orgánicos, ordenación de los recursos naturales, conservación del suelo y uso eficiente del agua de escorrentía. El proyecto también promueve la producción de maca (una raíz rica en valor nutricional) como cultivo comercial y fortalece las asociaciones de productores comunitarios para proporcionar mayores oportunidades de procesar y vender productos de maca. Estas
estrategias proporcionan ingresos adicionales a las familias campesinas y les ayudan a hacer frente a la sequía, reduciendo así la pobreza, disminuyendo las tasas de migración y mejorando la seguridad alimentaria en la comunidad.

En Haití, los esfuerzos agroforestales han ayudado a mitigar los desastres. El CCM trabaja actualmente con 22 comunidades vulnerables en el valle de Artibonite para mejorar la seguridad alimentaria trabajando con pequeños agricultores locales y comités de viveros para cultivar y distribuir semillas de árboles frutales y no frutales, establecer huertos familiares agroforestales y reforestar áreas montañosas degradadas. Como parte de su programa de agroforestería, el CCM ha creado clubes infantiles para proporcionar jardines experimentales y prácticos para que la niñez participe en el aprendizaje sobre seguridad alimentaria, nutrición y protección del medio ambiente. Las niñas y niños, a su vez, influencian a sus madres y padres, quienes toman las decisiones en torno a la comida. Además, las personas agricultoras mejoran sus tierras de cultivo utilizando métodos de cultivo intercalado y plantando una diversidad de cultivos para aumentar y diversificar la producción. La producción agrícola se respalda a través de bancos de granos que permiten a las personas agricultoras almacenar semillas para la próxima temporada y que pueden servir como almacenamiento de alimentos en caso de sequías futuras. El trabajo de reforestación a largo plazo que el CCM ha apoyado durante los últimos 30 años en Haití probablemente mitigó los impactos del huracán Matthew en 2016. Después del huracán, el personal del CCM señaló que las comunidades con trabajos de reforestación significativos tuvieron menos huertos y casas destruidas, junto con menos derrumbes. La cubierta adicional de árboles de los esfuerzos de reforestación probablemente lentificó los vientos a nivel del suelo y aseguró la tierra para evitar deslizamientos. Las áreas más bajas que tenían reforestado la tierra a su alrededor también experimentaron menos inundaciones, probablemente como resultado de los árboles adicionales en las pendientes que ayudan al agua a absorberse más rápidamente en el suelo, lo que conduce a menos escorrentía hacia las zonas bajas.

Los grupos asociados le solicitan al CCM que les acompañe mientras enfrentan desafíos y desarrollan estrategias para responder al cambio climático. Durante el encuentro en Haití este invierno pasado, los grupos asociados enfatizaron la necesidad de que el CCM apoye la colaboración y fortalezca alianzas, redes y conexiones entre los asociados locales, comunidades y países para ayudar a estimular a la gente en su trabajo y promover el intercambio de conocimiento. Los asociados pidieron al CCM que se concentrara más en el trabajo de prevención y mitigación de desastres y produjera materiales educativos relacionados con las causas del cambio climático y estrategias clave para la seguridad alimentaria. Alentaron al CCM a utilizar su posición como organización internacional para apoyar los esfuerzos locales, regionales, nacionales e internacionales de incidencia con y en nombre de sus grupos asociados. Si bien el cambio climático y su impacto en la seguridad alimentaria presenta una multitud de desafíos para los grupos asociados de América Latina y el Caribe, sus esfuerzos diarios en las comunidades afectadas por el clima animan y desafían al CCM a apoyarles en la realización de este trabajo.

Darrin Yoder es coordinador regional de desastres para Centroamérica y Haití con el CCM. Vive en Managua, Nicaragua.

Aprende más

Carballo Escobar, C., Montiel Fernandez, W., and Ponce Lanza, R. Impactos y Alternativas de los Granos Básicos en Nicaragua ante el Cambio Climático. 2014. Available at http://www.humboldt.org.ni/node/1681.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2014. Available at http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/.

Schmidt A., Eitzinger, A., Sonder, K., and Sain, G. Tortillas on the Roaster (ToR) Central American MaizeBean Systems and the Changing Climate: Full Technical Report. 2012. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276099395_Tortillas_on_the_roaster_ToR_Central_American_maize-bean_systems_and_the_changing_climate_full_technical_report.

World Bank; CIAT. Climate-Smart Agriculture in Nicaragua. CSA Country Profiles for Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean Series. Washington D.C.: The World Bank Group, 2015. Available at https://ccafs.cgiar.org/publications/climate-smart-agriculture-nicaragua#.WRMKKGnyuUk.

Climate change and food security in Latin America and the Caribbean

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[Individual articles from the Summer 2017 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

MCC partners and their communities in Latin America and the Caribbean increasingly feel the effects of climate change on food security. In February 2017, MCC hosted partner representatives from eleven countries across Latin America and the Caribbean for an encounter to share experiences and knowledge around the themes of climate change and food security and to learn how MCC can best support them in climate change adaptation. While the challenges they face are many, MCC partners and their communities are responding by strengthening collective efforts for disaster mitigation and increased food security, including employing innovative agriculture and natural resource management practices and advocating to influence policies that affect their natural resources.

Although participants in this consultation represented organizations from a variety of contexts, common themes emerged in their conversations related to climate change and its effect on food security in their communities. Climate change impacts observed by partners included drought conditions, unpredictable rainfall patterns and elevated temperatures. Dates when rains have typically arrived, signaling the start of planting time, have become unreliable, while rains later in the season have become sporadic. Scientific research confirms the anecdotal evidence presented by these organizations that climate change is occurring. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports temperature increases in Central and South America, as well as decreased rainfall in Central America. Already vulnerable regions are expected to see continued changes in water availability due to decreased rainfall overall. In addition, unusual extreme weather events have severely affected the Latin America region, increasing the vulnerability of communities to disaster. While studies suggest that, thanks to climate change, it may in the future be possible to grow maize, cassava, rice and sorghum in areas where such cultivation is not currently possible, almost half of municipalities will lose some climatic suitability to sustain current crops, especially coffee, beans and plantains. Climate change has had a significant negative impact on food security in the region due to droughts, unpredictable seasonal patterns and new insect infestations affecting agricultural production. Increasing numbers of people, especially youth, are migrating to cities or other countries because they no longer view rural livelihoods as viable options.

Second, MCC’s partners and their communities struggle to know how to balance immediate hunger needs arising from crop losses with the implementation of strategies for long-term development and care for the environment. A number of organizations have provided short-term food assistance to help their communities bridge the gap in food needs during periods of hunger. This strategy, however, raises questions about long-term vision, with partners asking how long food assistance can or should be carried out and how seasonal food assistance might be better integrated into long-term food security efforts.

In response to these challenges, MCC’s partners deploy common strategies to protect and strengthen food security in the face of climate change. These organizations emphasize the importance of developing structures that link small-scale farmers and their communities with one another. By working together in an organized fashion, farmers can be more effective in adapting to climate change and improving food security by increasing small-scale farmer marketing opportunities as well as through collective efforts to seek support from local and national government. Partners also highlight agro-forestry as a strategy that, through the planting of fruit trees, provides food and income, while also mitigating the risk of landslides by reforesting degraded and landslide-prone areas. MCC partners seek increased training on crop diversification and improved agricultural techniques, the use of drought-resistant crops or seed varieties, improving value chains through the processing or transformation of agriculture products and strategies for water and soil conservation. Improved training and learning will allow farmers to strengthen their potential for food production and adapt to climate change impacts. Finally, these partners recognize the importance of advocating to different levels of government to influence policies and practices that will be key to the protection of local water and soil resources and thus to climate change adaptation.

One of MCC’s partners in Bolivia, OBADES (Baptist Organization of Social Development), is using some of these strategies to improve agriculture production in the highland region of Cocapata in order to increase income and food security for families impacted by drought. OBADES supports communities in constructing water infiltration ditches in order to collect water runoff from steep slopes. This water is in turn used to irrigate potato and other vegetable crops, as well as to feed aquifers in lower-lying areas. Staff provide trainings to farmers on organic crop production, natural resource management, soil conservation and the efficient use of water runoff. The project also promotes the production of maca (a root high in nutritional value) as a cash crop and strengthens community-producer associations to provide increased opportunities to process and sell maca products. These strategies provide additional income for farming families and help them cope with drought, thus reducing poverty, decreasing migration rates and improving food security in the community.

In Haiti, agro-forestry efforts have helped mitigate disaster. MCC currently works with 22 vulnerable communities in the Artibonite Valley to improve food security by working with local small-holder farmers and tree nursery committees to grow and distribute fruit and non-fruit tree seedlings, establish family agro-forestry gardens and reforest degraded mountainous areas. As part of its agro-forestry program, MCC has established kids’ clubs to provide experimental, hands-on gardens to get children involved in learning about food security, nutrition and environmental protection. Children in turn influence their parents, who make household choices around food. In addition, farmers improve their farmland by using intercropping methods and planting a diversity of crops to increase and diversify production. Agricultural production is supported through grain banks that enable farmers to store seeds for the upcoming season and that can serve as food storage in case of future droughts. The long-term reforestation work MCC has supported over the last 30 years in Haiti likely mitigated impacts of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Post-hurricane, MCC staff noted that communities with significant reforestation work had fewer destroyed gardens and houses, along with fewer landslides. The additional tree cover from reforestation efforts likely slowed down winds at ground level and secured the soil to prevent landslides. Lower-lying areas that had reforested land above them also experienced less flooding, likely resulting from the additional trees upslope helping water absorb into the ground more quickly, leading to less runoff rushing down to lower areas.

Partners call on MCC to come alongside them as they develop strategies to respond to climate change and support food security in their communities. During the Haiti encounter this past winter, partners emphasized the need for MCC to support collaboration and strengthen alliances, networks and connections among local partners, communities and countries to help encourage people in their work and promote sharing of knowledge. Partners asked MCC to focus more on disaster prevention and mitigation work and to produce educational materials related to the causes of climate change and key strategies for food security. They encouraged MCC to use its position as an international organization to support local, regional, national and international advocacy efforts with and on behalf of its partners. While climate change and its impact on food security present a myriad of challenges for partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, their daily efforts in climate-affected communities encourage and challenge MCC to support partners as they carry out this work.

Darrin Yoder is regional disaster coordinator for Central America and Haiti with MCC. He lives in Managua, Nicaragua.

Learn more

Carballo Escobar, C., Montiel Fernandez, W., and Ponce Lanza, R. Impactos y Alternativas de los Granos Básicos en Nicaragua ante el Cambio Climático. 2014. Available at http://www.humboldt.org.ni/node/1681.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2014. Available at http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/.

Schmidt A., Eitzinger, A., Sonder, K., and Sain, G. Tortillas on the Roaster (ToR) Central American MaizeBean Systems and the Changing Climate: Full Technical Report. 2012. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276099395_Tortillas_on_the_roaster_ToR_Central_American_maize-bean_systems_and_the_changing_climate_full_technical_report.

World Bank; CIAT. Climate-Smart Agriculture in Nicaragua. CSA Country Profiles for Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean Series. Washington D.C.: The World Bank Group, 2015. Available at https://ccafs.cgiar.org/publications/climate-smart-agriculture-nicaragua#.WRMKKGnyuUk.

Gender- and culture-sensitive nutrition programming

[Individual articles from the Winter 2017 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

Nutrition programs often target groups most visibly linked to desired nutrition outcomes. For example, since nutrition is key to children’s development during their ‘1000 golden days’, mothers with young children or women of childbearing age tend to be targeted to promote good nutrition for infants. As other articles in this issue contend, though, a narrow participant focus may limit the impact of nutrition programs and ignore the role that other family members play. At the same time, looking only at broad, household-level indicators of nutrition may miss different household members’ unique vulnerabilities. Nutrition programs are more effective and relevant when they are sensitive to family power dynamics, local practices and culture. This article offers ideas for integrating gender and cultural context into planning, monitoring and evaluating nutrition programs. While these ideas are not exhaustive, they offer a starting point for thinking through gender and cultural issues that affect nutrition.

Look within the household

Sufficient, nutritious food available at the household level does not ensure that all members will have access to enough food to meet their dietary needs. Intra-household distribution of food, family decision-making systems and cultural practices and taboos mean that the nutritional status of family members within one household may be widely different. As Gurung and Ghimire observe in their article, women in some households in Nepal eat after other family members have had their fill, which can limit their access to preferred foods like meat or vegetables. Looking simply at whether the household unit has enough food would miss this kind of variation in access to nutritious food within the household.

Collecting gender- and age-disaggregated data on diets for each member of the household using tools such as the Household Dietary Diversity Score provides insight into the unique nutrition status of different family members. Alternatively, Lee and Hembroom in their article describe a project in Nepal that has started to collect data on the number of times women in participant households skip meals. Since women eat last in this cultural context, the number of meals skipped by this population will be a more sensitive indicator than the number of times the entire household skips meals.

Disaggregated data may also reveal needs among populations who are not always targeted in nutrition interventions. While pregnant and lactating women and young children are generally known to be vulnerable to malnutrition, other household members, like elderly members or adolescent girls, might also be receiving insufficient food or nutrients for their needs. For example, after the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal, MCC worked with partner organization Shanti Nepal to distribute rations of ready-to-eat food that included nutritious and locally-sourced chiura (beaten rice flakes) and roasted lentils. However, while distributing these rations to highly-affected rural households in Dhading district, Shanti Nepal staff realized that young children and elderly people may lack the teeth necessary to eat such hard and crunchy food. They adapted the ration to include easier to eat instant noodles. For subsequent disaster responses, MCC and partners in Nepal have included a nutritious porridge flour mix in the emergency rations intended for young children and elderly people.

Identify decision-makers and agents of change

When planning projects, analyzing family systems and power dynamics within a household can help identify gatekeepers and potential agents of change. Nutrition programs often focus on health and agriculture activities, but addressing household power dynamics within family relationships and organizing anti-domestic violence activities can also lead to better nutrition outcomes. In Nepal, newly married women traditionally move into their husband’s family home and often take on a large portion of household duties. Mothers-in-law make decisions about their daughters-in-law’s work and also often have strong ideas about food taboos in pregnancy or for young children.

An MCC-supported project run through partner organization Sansthagat Bikas Sanjal and implemented by Interdependent Society in Surkhet district facilitates discussions between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law and between husbands and wives. These discussions encourage shared understandings about good nutrition practices and provide opportunities to discuss family relationships. By encouraging shared knowledge about nutrition and by improving communication, the family members who make household decisions about money, household duties and food can work together toward improving nutrition for all family members. This project has reported that after these discussions mothers-in-law and husbands have started providing support to pregnant and lactating women by recognizing their specific nutrition needs, encouraging health check-ups and reducing their household workload. As noted in the article by Gurung and Ghimire, other projects in Nepal have also successfully engaged male family members to encourage better household nutrition practices.

Some family members may be better able to promote changed household practices than others. As Rahaman and Rahman point out in their article, identifying agents of change within a household, like students in Bangladesh, smoothes the process of change. In this case, project implementers found that parents who were reluctant to try new agricultural techniques themselves were willing to support and learn from their children, which led to diversified livelihoods and diets for participant households. Similarly, Climenhage notes that in Labrador, Canada, the Community Food Hub’s children’s garden is one of its most successful programs, working through students to promote healthy eating at home. Meanwhile Sarker and Rahman examine in their article how women’s heavy investment in the long-term good of the household led the monga mitigation project to select women as primary participants in asset transfers and project trainings.

Decide what to accept

Identifying cultural practices that affect nutrition also requires analysis of when to encourage different practices and when to simply offer alternatives that achieve the same nutrition outcomes. It may be a slow process to change the cultural perception in Nepal that pregnant women should not eat Vitamin A-rich papaya because of fears that it will cause miscarriage. Ultimately it may be more effective to promote carrots or eggs as alternate sources of Vitamin A that do not come with cultural taboos attached. Perhaps a comparable example is the idea that North Americans could consume less red meat if they started eating insects as a healthier and more sustainable protein option. In many cultures, insects are commonly eaten as snack foods. However, because of many North Americans’ revulsion at the thought of eating insects, a nutrition project that promotes beans and legumes as a substitute for red meat is likely to be more successful. Similarly, Wade and Yameogo observe in their article that the success of integrating moringa into diets in rural Burkina Faso links with the traditional practice of consuming moringa as a healthful medicinal plant and with the project’s demonstrations of how it can be adapted into traditional foods.

Gender- and culture-sensitive nutrition programing requires intensive analysis of family systems, intra-household power dynamics and awareness of taboos and cultural practices related to food consumption. Food insecurity affects communities, households and family members in diverse ways, requiring project approaches that recognize and build on the local context in order to address malnutrition successfully. Deep knowledge of the local community’s culture, traditions, eating habits and practices is essential and requires careful attention at all stages of a project. Such knowledge is often most accessible to those with close community ties. A community-driven approach that builds on the existing knowledge of local organizations and their relationships with community members can help navigate societal and cultural complexities and ultimately lead to better nutrition outcomes for all people in a community.

Martha Kimmel is MCC Nepal food security advisor. Leah Reesor-Keller is MCC Nepal co-representative.

Learn more

Madjdian, Dónya S. and Hilde A.J. Bras. “Family, Gender, and Women’s Nutritional Status: A Comparison between Two Himalayan Communities in Nepal.” Economic History of Developing Regions 31/1 (2016): 198-223.

Promoting local food sources to improve nutrition

[Individual articles from the Winter 2017 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

In many countries across Africa and Asia, communities use the bark and roots of the hardy moringa tree for medicinal purposes. Over the past several years, however, MCC and its partners in Zambia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, India and Lao PDR have been promoting moringa leaves as a readily available, locally sourced and nutrient-rich food that is drought resistant and adaptable to changing climates. This article examines how MCC’s main partner organization in Burkina Faso, the Protestant ecumenical social service organization ODE (Office de Développement des Eglises Evangéliques), educates Burkinabé about the rich nutritional properties of moringa leaves as part of its overarching nutrition strategies in a country facing food insecurity exacerbated by climate change. ODE’s experience with promoting moringa leaves underscores the importance of looking to nutrient-rich, local food sources adaptable to changing climates in efforts to combat malnutrition.

Food insecurity and malnutrition rates in Burkina Faso are chronically high. The global acute malnutrition rate (GAM) among children under five years of age is 8.2%, while stunting levels stand at 31.5%. High food prices and unpredictable weather can result in drought or flooding, further limiting Burkina Faso’s access to food.

Over the past 30 years in Burkina Faso the climate has changed dramatically, making it increasingly difficult for farmers to predict the planting and harvest seasons. These changing climate patterns have in turn contributed (alongside other factors) to acute food insecurity. Arouna Yameogo, responsible for sustainable agriculture projects with ODE, recalls a time when the planting season would begin in June and end in December, resulting in a six month farming season. Today some parts of Burkina Faso see only two or three months of rain per year. Instead of steady, slow rains that nourish and provide moisture to the new crops, torrential storms now flood fields and ruin crops. Intermittent, moderate rains that alternate with a dry season are becoming things of the past. Meanwhile, the Sahel (the semi-arid region south of the Sahara desert) expands steadily southward, encroaching on Burkina Faso.

While these challenges to the agricultural sector exacerbate food insecurity and malnutrition, MCC and ODE see promise in the leaves of the moringa tree. Originally from northern India, moringa spread to various parts of Asia and Africa over the past thousand years. Nicknamed the “miracle tree” and the “never die” tree, moringa thrives in many different countries and varying climates. While moringa branches, seeds, pods and roots have been used in traditional remedies for ailments ranging from high blood pressure to stomach pain, the tree has not historically been viewed as a food source. Yet moringa, resistant to drought and flood, is able to weather changing climates, while also bearing the potential to combat malnutrition with its 16 vitamins and minerals and high levels of protein, potassium and calcium.

Yameogo and his colleagues at ODE provide support to farmers cultivating moringa to establish nurseries and have distributed moringa seedlings purchased from those farmers to hundreds of other farmers. Alongside efforts to promote the cultivation of moringa, ODE organizes trainings to educate communities about the nutritional value of moringa leaves and cooking demonstrations to show how those leaves can be used in and adapted for traditional dishes. “Moringa has grown in Burkina for quite some time, but people didn’t know about it or how to use it,” Yameogo explains. “Now we’ve had trainings to show the different nutritional qualities of moringa. It can prevent many sicknesses and can also fight against hunger because it has many vitamins and nutritional qualities. So now in the villages, we train people on the utility of moringa, and people use it all the time. We also train women how to make a powder from the leaves to put in porridge or in sauces. People are beginning to understand the importance of moringa.”

Community education on the use of moringa begins with awareness meetings since educating people about moringa’s nutritional properties is the first step in achieving wider adoption of moringa, with cooking classes showing how moringa leaves can be part of a daily, healthy diet. Participants in these trainings are not immediately convinced of moringa’s benefits or of its adaptability to local tastes. ODE has found, however, that participants gradually become used to adding moringa powder or leaves to everything from sauce to rice and even to eating boiled moringa leaves alone like spinach. One participant, for example, mixes moringa’s coin-sized leaves right into the peanut sauce she cooks with cabbage and tomatoes and serves over rice or , a thick, cornmeal-based mash common to Burkina Faso.

Since ODE began its projects, knowledge about and use of moringa have steadily increased in Burkina Faso. Although training and education are necessary to convince farmers that moringa is an economically viable crop and to persuade families that moringa leaves can be integrated into their diets, moringa is quickly becoming a valuable resource in efforts to combat malnutrition, both in Burkina Faso and beyond. Funding from MCC’s accounts at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) and the Foods Resource Bank (FRB) has enabled MCC and its partners to expand promotion of moringa as a nutrient-rich food source in multiple contexts. So, for example, MCC partners in Kenya and India raise awareness at the village level of moringa’s nutritional properties. In Zambia, meanwhile, MCC partners promote moringa consumption as part of efforts to strengthen the immune systems of people living with HIV and AIDS. By itself, of course, moringa will not solve food insecurity and malnutrition challenges. Yet, as ODE’s experience suggests, leaves from the moringa tree can play a vital role in addressing malnutrition in contexts in which agriculture is being disrupted by changing climate patterns.

Lauren Wade was an intern with MCC Burkina Faso in summer 2016. Arouna Yameogo is a project manager at Office de Développement des Eglises Evangéliques.

Learn more

Nielsen, Jonas Østergaard and Anette Reenberg. “Cultural Barriers to Climate Change Adaptation: A Case Study from Northern Burkina Faso.” Global Environmental Change 20/1 (2010): 142-152.

Durst, Patrick and Nomindelger Bayasgalanbat. Eds. Promotion of Underutilized Indigenous Food Resources for Food Security and Nutrition in Asia and the Pacific. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, 2014.

Hughes, J. “Just Famine Foods? What Contributions Can Underutilized Plants Make to Food Security?” International Symposium on Underutilized Plants for Food Security, Nutrition, Income and Sustainable Development. Acta Horticulturae 806 (2009).

Improving access to fresh food in Labrador

[Individual articles from the Winter 2017 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

Labrador is much like the rest of Canada’s north. Indigenous peoples have hunted, fished and raised their families on these lands for generations. The land has suffered from the impacts of colonization, as have its people. Resource extraction has changed the face of the land. Rivers have been diverted, habitat has been lost, causing a shift in migratory patterns of the caribou, and increased levels of methylmercury continue to affect fish and sea life in the Mishtashipu, now officially called the Churchill River, more than 40 years after the construction of the first hydroelectric project. Depletion of the caribou herds has resulted in a complete hunting ban and the government also places restrictions on hunting migratory birds and fish. In Labrador, gaining access to fresh, healthy and culturally appropriate food is more and more difficult each year. Yet in face of these challenges indigenous communities mobilize to address food and nutrition needs.

“No more than one a week to eat from the river,” Innu elder, Elizabeth Penashue, told me as we sat next to the Mishtashipu and talked about the pollution in the river. Only one rusted sign outside the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay warns people to limit consumption of fish caught in the river due to pollution. Penashue thinks there should be more warnings.

Access to quality, fresh food is a challenge in Labrador. Because of the area’s remoteness, shipping is expensive and can be slow. Walking into grocery stores in the winter and finding bare shelves is not unusual. Depending on the weather, that happens in the coastal communities throughout the summer, too. The cost of food is so high that people often eat cheaper, less nutritious and more processed foods just to help make ends meet.

The Community Food Hub, based in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, began in 2008 as a community project initiated by the local health authority and has grown into its own non-profit organization offering food education and programming in Labrador. An estimated 80% of the people served by the Community Food Hub identify as indigenous. The hub aims to address the community’s lack of healthy and culturally appropriate foods. MCC began a formal partnership with the Community Food Hub in 2012, when the food hub’s need for a part-time food security coordinator to complement and focus volunteer efforts became evident.

Currently the Community Food Hub facilitates several different programs. The hub’s children’s garden, in which an average of 190 students from two schools participate annually, is one of the hub’s most successful programs. The garden offers an opportunity for students in grades 4 and 5 to plant, care for, harvest and cook their own foods. Students have tried new vegetables, participated in the hard work of garden maintenance and cared for plants at home. Parents are also involved, and many have reported eating new foods and growing vegetables at home as a result of the program.

Community kitchens are another way of engaging the community. Focusing on low income families, the community kitchens provide opportunities for men and women to learn how to make low cost, healthy meals with others. Participants cook and eat together, after which they take the ingredients home to replicate the meal for their families. One of the surprising outcomes of this program is the online community-building it has facilitated. Members of the group share recipes, stories and pictures of their creations with one another, encouraging community.

The Community Food Hub works closely with the local agricultural association, ensuring that information about locally grown foods gets into the hands of shoppers. A community outdoor market program was started by the hub in 2013 in cooperation with the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the agricultural association. Farmers were invited every Saturday between July and September to join the market. The market also showcased locally made goods and offered fair trade coffee. Workshops on food preservation and wild food gathering were presented, along with demonstrations and trainings to encourage local gardening. In 2015, the Community Outdoor Market ceased being a program of the hub and continues successfully under the guidance of community volunteers. The hub nevertheless remains engaged with the market, setting up healthy eating and living displays at the market each week.

Initially, the hub began a community freezer project, hoping to provide food from the land gathered by local volunteers, such as fish, wild game and berries, to people who unable to hunt and gather on their own. It started with some exciting donations, like moose and caribou meat. However, due to reduced hunting quotas and people needing to save their catch for their own consumption in the winter, food donations were limited and the project ended. A similar project run by the Nunatsiavut Government is still available for seniors and shut-ins when food is able to be harvested or donated for distribution.

The challenges of food security continue to increase. Today, another large infrastructure project, the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric (or Muskrat Falls) Dam, threatens the health of the waters and way of life for the people who live in central and eastern Labrador. All three indigenous groups in the area (the Nunatsiavut, NunatuKavut and Innu nations), have come together to demand either the clearing of vegetation in the new reservoir in order to reduce imminent methylmercury poisoning and perhaps even to stop the dam completely. While the Community Food Hub is not directly involved in protesting, it does organize educational events to raise awareness about the effects of methylmercury in the local food system.

Food security and nutrition challenges have no easy answer in the North. Increasing access to fresh, local food from community gardens, children’s gardens and farmers’ markets can generally happen only in July, August and September. Freezing and canning meat and produce can help bridge the gap, but the winter period when food cannot be locally produced is long. Freezing and canning food is also expensive compared to the alternative of buying processed food during the winter months. Long term solutions are needed, but, for now, the Community Food Hub offers a partial solution with its ongoing focus on education to help people learn how to make healthier choices with available resources.

Dianne Climenhage is an MCC representative for Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Learn more

 Council of Canadian Academies. Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge. Ottawa: The Expert Panel on the State of Knowledge of Food Security in Northern Canada, Council of Canadian Academies, 2014.

Islam, Durdana and Fikret Berkes. “Indigenous Peoples’ Fisheries and Food Security: A Case from Northern Canada.” Food Security 8/4 (2016): 815-826.