Issue

Food

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

Food

Little Keeps Nigeria From a Crisis of Hunger

The nation blessed with Africa's largest oil reserves and some of its most fertile lands has a problem. It cannot feed its 140 million people, and relatively minor reductions in rainfall could set off a regional food catastrophe, experts say.

Honduras: Malnutrition Reporting Summary

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. But according to UNICEF, over one-third of Honduran infants are malnourished due to their indigenous lifestyle.

Vietnam: The Price of Rice

War decimated the landscape of Vietnam. The drastic economic times that followed drove Vietnam into the globalizing economy at lightning speed — and the country soon became the second largest exporter of rice in the world. After the war, Vietnam catapulted into the global marketplace, fast becoming the second largest producer of rice in the world. But the price of this rice is still being calculated: one out of every seven people in Vietnam goes hungry, for lack of rice, and farmers are spending more on chemical fertilizer than they are earning in profits.

Nigeria: Land Battles

For centuries, nomads from the Fulani ethnic group have driven their cattle across thousands of miles of African grazing lands, through countries including Mali, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. But Nigeria is Africa's most populated country. And more and more land there is being used for food production.

In the far north of Nigeria, the situation has put farmers and nomads at odds with each other. David Hecht reports from the small village of Yardanko.

Guatemala's Malnutrition Crisis

Although most of Guatemala's children have enough food to eat, many are not receiving the right kind of food. Samuel Loewenberg reports on the country's growing crisis of chronic malnutrition.

In the clean, toy-filled interior of a clinic in Chiquimula, a 9-year-old girl appears to be frowning. Her name is Domitila, and her muscles are too weak to form a smile (see webvideo). Her body is fragile: arms and legs wasted, patches of hair missing, the veins in her legs forming a black web-like pattern that shows through her delicate skin.