‘Digital Revolution’ to End Sahel Food Crisis

Posted on February 24, 2012

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The United Nations has warned of a new food crisis affecting millions of people in the Sahel region of West Africa.  As a result of the erratic and late rainy season in 2011, drought has returned to the region, bringing hunger to millions.  The increasing frequency of droughts since 2010 has given communities in the Sahel region little time to recover.  Poor harvests, rising food and fuel prices, conflict and displacements have all contributed to the situation.  In South Sedan alone, the number of food-insecure people has increased from 3.3 million in 2011 to 4.7 million in 2012.[1]  This is estimated to double if the situation continues.

On 15 February, the World Food Program (WFP) hosted an emergency meeting of humanitarian agencies to address the growing food crisis in the region.  “Today leaders of United Nations agencies, representatives of affected governments and major donors are calling for [an] urgent scale up of humanitarian, rehabilitation and development assistance to address rising levels of hunger and malnutrition” said WFP executive director, Josette Sheeran said,

In response to this, Bill Gates has called for a ‘digital revolution’ to alleviate world hunger by increasing agricultural productivity through satellites and genetically-engineered seed varieties.  Gates also advocated the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and large-scale farm investments by foreign states in the developing world- both highly controversial issues in the aid community.  “You should go out and talk to people growing rice and say do they mind that it was created in a laboratory when their child has enough to eat?” he told reporters after his speech at the UN rural poverty agency IFAD in Rome last week.

If you’re keen to get involved, check out the WFP website here.

Cheicknè Bah, a farmer in Yelimané in the Kayes region of south western Mali, with his sorghum crop that has been damaged by the drought. Copyright: WFP/ Daouda Guirou (Courtesy of http://www.wfp.org)

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References

1.            FAO/WFP. FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to South Sudan. Rome2012. Availble here.

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