Investing in agriculture to alleviate hunger

October 16th, 2011

2011 Blog Action Day on 16 October – World Food Day – is, naturally, themed around food


Food is a basic human need. Yet for many people across the world, this basic human need is not that easy to come by.

Putting food on the table is a struggle for small scale farmers and pastoralists with little income or natural resources. It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it, that the very people who grow food or rear livestock for food are those that go hungry? Why? Lack of agricultural knowledge and investment, little access to credit, little access to markets, growing competition for land and price volatility.

What is more, where the climate is changing year on year, there are no spare resources to adjust or adapt practices in order to reduce the impacts of droughts, floods and other extreme weather events.

Mothers queue for hours at Mandera District Hospital to get food

I was recently in Mandera, north western Kenya, where I came face-to-face with the terrible reality of drought, and the devastating impact it’s having on families and children.

People hadn’t eaten for days, yet when asked what they needed, not one person said they needed food.  In fact, any food aid they received went to their livestock. What they needed was rain so they could grow their crops and feed their livestock.

So it was good to see Practical Action working with agricultural communities to cope with drought by helping to develop drought resistant crops, protect livestock and conserve precious water.

High up in the Andes in Peru, the temperature can drop to as low as -35 degrees centigrade and there is practically no vegetation. Practical Action works with communities to grow food that will survive these harsh conditions.


And in flood prone places like Bangladesh where it’s impossible to grow crops, Practical Action has developed a technology to allow farmers to grow food on flooded land.

We work with entire market systems, often focusing on helping poor farmers and producers to build their abilities to engage with people they do business with and get better deals for themselves and their communities.

Investing in farmers and pastoralists like this ensures not only can they put food on the table but they can also earn more money – working themselves out of poverty.


4 responses to “Investing in agriculture to alleviate hunger”

  1. Tim Newark Says:

    Just out of interest: What kind of drought resistant crops were you helping develop?


  2. Gemma Hume Says:

    Hi Tim, sorry for the delayed response. Crops like cassava, maize and sorghum.

  3. WebDev Says:

    I am from Bangladesh. Can you tell me what are some Flood tolerant crops that you mentioned in the article, please?

  4. Gemma Hume Says:

    Practical Action has been using flood tolerant rice in Bangladesh along with other varieties that actually use less water (for the dry season). This allows farmers to expand the growing season and to grow in the off season. Practical Action Bangladesh has worked on a number of flood mitigation activities including flood resistant tree plantation.

    There has also been some work with salt tolerant rice in Sri Lanka.

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