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

Violence in Kenya

On top of his losses to wheat stem rust, George Mukindia watched 30 acres of his wheat burn in the flames of Kenya's recent post-election violence.

Mukindia's fields are near Eldoret, where 30 unarmed civilians were slaughtered in a church on New Year's Day.

From Uganda

At open-air farm markets, Mawe Robbins and James Ockira were the only vendors I could find selling whole kernels of wheat.

The markets offered a plentiful display of bounty from Uganda's rich and fertile soil. There were beautiful mounds of bananas, passion fruit, tomatoes, beans and other produce. But, unlike so many other parts of the world, wheat is not a major crop here.

Vietnam: Farm School

Tu is 21 years old, and has just graduated from University studying agriculture. At Lanh's invitation, her family has moved from their village where they were growing commercial rice, onto the farm school property to start up a sort of model farm using only permaculture techniques. Back at home they grew wetland rice - the rice grown in big flat lowland paddies. Now they are in the mountains, they're struggling, because they don't know how to grow upland rice - the kind of rice they grow here - in terraced fields.

Vietnam: The Road to Cau Treo

We return from Ke village well after dark. Where we're staying is closest to the village of Nuoc Sot, really nothing more than an intersection in the road, an army barracks, and a hot springs resort, which seems a bit overbuilt, considering the size of the local population.

Vietnam: The Malieng

On this side of the Ca Tang River we're now in Ke village, home of about 70 Malieng families. The Malieng are the smallest ethnic group in Vietnam – about 1400 left in Vietnam, maybe another 1000 living in Laos. Traditionally they're forest dwellers – hunter-gatherers, and practitioners of swidden agriculture.

Vietnam: The Price of Rice

It's late morning, hot, cicadas are buzzing at full throttle already. Water buffaloes are slowly making their way down into the river. Dogs are sleeping in the shade beneath the bamboo. We're well off the highway, having made our way in low gear down a steep rutted four wheel drive path, and we're now at the river which the locals call Ca Tang. We're about ten kilometers from the Laos border, and just north of the former DMZ – the demilitarized zone, the demarcation line created between north and south Vietnam during what the Vietnamese call The American War.