Issue

Food Insecurity

The United Nations defines food security as "all people at all times hav[ing] both physical and economic access to the basic food they need." For approximately 2 billion people throughout the world, this security is anything but guaranteed. Food security is a complicated issue that is susceptible to many forces.

Insecurity results from climate change, urban development, population growth, and oil price shifts that are interconnected and rarely confined by borders. It's an issue of global importance, and explored in-depth in the articles, videos and comments you'll find here.

In Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, a legacy of corrupt governance and an economy based primarily on oil exports has left the agriculture sector significantly weakened and millions of Nigerians hungry. And as poorer neighboring countries export more food to Nigeria in exchange for petrodollars, people there also go hungry. In 2005, thousands of children in neighboring Niger died of malnutrition, not because the country had had a particularly bad harvest, but because there was a food shortage in Nigeria, and people in Niger could not afford the ensuing higher prices.

A different threat is set to face the continent's second biggest crop: wheat. In 1999, 50 years since the last outbreak, a new and virulent strain of stem rust attacked Ugandan crops. Its spores then traveled to Ethiopia and Kenya before appearing in Iran last year. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has since warned six other countries in Central and South Asia to watch for signs of the new strain while scientists in the U.S. are urgently working to find a resistant wheat variety. In India alone, more than 50 million small-scale farmers are at risk because they rely on wheat for their food and income.

In Tajikistan, the global financial crisis is forcing thousands of newly unemployed Tajiks to return from Russia. In a country already straining to accommodate Tajik refugees from Afghanistan, the government's chronic mismanagement has amplified the power and food shortages that permeate the countryside.

In Guatemala, income inequality is among the worst in the world, with indigenous communities at a particular disadvantage. In some regions, an estimated 75 percent of the children from infants to the ages of 6 and 7 are chronically malnourished. It is a startling example of food scarcity in a country a mere four-hour flight away from the U.S.

Asia faced its own food crisis as the price of rice doubled last summer. Some hunger experts are seeking out large-scale responses, including stepping up commercial agricultural techniques by introducing genetically modified rice and related products into the region. Other more localized efforts by universities and organizations are providing training in sustainable techniques for traditional farming families and minority ethnic groups.

Pulitzer Center grantees explore the connected causes and effects of food insecurity including efforts to secure the physical and economic access to food in countries most in need.

Food Insecurity was produced by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in partnership with the Project for Under-Told Stories and Saint Mary's University.

Food Insecurity

April 22, 2010

Ethiopia: Hunger and Abundance

Fred de Sam Lazaro

A country dependent on food aid is also selling off farmland to foreign companies interested in export production for their home markets. How Ethiopia became a leader in this global trend, and what it says about exploitation and self-sufficiency.

November 30, 2009

Can Biotechnology Save Africa?

Philip Brasher

African farmers already struggle to grow sufficient maize, which is a thirsty, fertilizer-hungry crop. What will happen as the climate changes and the population grows?

June 24, 2009

Honduras: Fighting Malnutrition

Tracy Boyer

Nestled in a remote northern Honduras valley, Santa Lucia and the surrounding area are home to 20,000 rural inhabitants. These families rely solely on their agrarian skills for a subsistent living. According to UNICEF, over one-third of Honduran infants are malnourished due to this indigenous lifestyle. Four percent of Honduran children die before reaching five years of age, at a rate five times higher than that of U.S.

March 28, 2009

Guatemala: Forgotten Trauma

Samuel Loewenberg

Samuel Loewenberg ventures to Guatemala to survey the underlying issues of the Central American country's extreme poverty. There, income inequality equals the worst in Africa - particularly among indigenous communities. In some regions, an estimated 75 percent of the children from infants to the ages of 6 and 7...

March 11, 2009

Tajikistan: Winter of Discontent

Carolyn Drake, Ilan Greenberg

The global financial crisis is now reverberating deep inside the Tajikistan's mountainous countryside, where tens of thousands of Tajik men who no longer have jobs in Russia have returned to their villages. In a country already straining to accommodate Tajik refugees from Afghanistan, the government's chronic mismanagement has amplified the power and food shortages that permeate the countryside.

Syrian Seeds Rescued from Aleppo

One of the world's most important collections of biodiverse seeds based in Aleppo, Syria, came under threat as the war reached its door.

A Changing World? Pulitzer Center Photography Exhibition

Pulitzer Center student fellows travel the world to report on issues that affect us all—telling stories that might otherwise go untold. This exhibit features selected work by student fellows, shot on location in countries now undergoing rapid transformation, from the roads in Bangkok to a Maasai village in Tanzania.

This Week: Hunger: A Fact of Life

Crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa rank among the lowest in the world, and nearly a third of the region’s people are chronically malnourished.

This Week in Review: Lessons in Failure

“Americans love success stories,” writes grantee Sam Loewenberg in a thought-provoking article that appeared in The New York Times this week. But failure can also serve a purpose.

This Week in Review: Lessons in Failure

“Americans love success stories,” writes grantee Sam Loewenberg in a thought-provoking article that appeared in The New York Times this week. But failure can also serve a purpose.