Extreme Weather Compounds World Hunger Crisis; Sustainability Key to a Solution

Categories: Life Stories

By Jenna Abate, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer

Kyle Johnson, a junior at Penn State, just came back from a life-changing spring break trip to Panama. He didn't stay on a luxurious resort but instead stayed with a local family and taught them how to build greenhouses in communities that have been long suffering from malnourishment.

Just as Johnson and his group were preparing to leave, the mother of their home-stay family thanked them for building greenhouses for their homes.

"She [the mother] told us that she was ashamed that she had nothing to give us in return for spending our time helping her family. She got quiet for a minute, and then replied, 'When we eat from this garden for the first time, we will feel as if you are all here with us.' It was amazing for me to see just how much people in developing communities appreciate our efforts to understand their struggles and help improve their situation," Johnson said.

Photo/Kieran Carlisle of Penn State's Global Water Brigade

The family that Johnson had worked with was classified as food-insecure and families in Panama are among the millions of people in the world that fall into this category.

According to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), extreme changes in weather increase the risks of hunger and undernutrition through droughts, floods and climate-related disasters that have the potential to destroy crops and critical infrastructure.

"The key is to educate people about how to combat these issues by using a systems approach. We feel that teaching people to have versatile systems or models to respond to weather events through sustainable agriculture is the most effective way to combat food-insecurity issues," Chris Hunt, food program director of GRACE Communications Foundation, said.

Hunt's work is mainly focused on food-insecurity issues in the United States but admits that the same applied logic can be used to solve problems worldwide.

Richard Choularton, chief of World Food Program's Rural Resilience Initiative, has worked closely with communities abroad that are deemed as food-insecure.

Most food-insecure people live in rural areas and depend on rain-fed agriculture in fragile and hazard-prone areas, Choularton said. This includes the 650 million people living in arid regions of Africa, where their food supply depends on rain and is vulnerable to floods and droughts.

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