Nourishing the Planet

By Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack of the Worldwatch Institute

Over the last 15 months, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting with hundreds of organizations in 35 countries devoted to alleviating hunger and poverty in rural communities. On Monday, 21 March 2011, that journey brought us to IFAD in Rome where we highlighted our findings from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project and State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet The report spotlights agricultural innovations and unearths major successes in preventing food waste, building resilience to climate change, school feeding programs, and strengthening farming in cities.

IFAD has been a big part of our project from the start in 2009, serving as part of the advisory group — along with 40 other agricultural, environmental, and poverty alleviation institutions from all over the world. Additionally, the Nourishing the Planet project regularly features IFAD's work, including these recent pieces: "Connecting Farmers to Policy Makers" , "The Challenges Farmers Face" , and "Setting the Foundation to Continue to Scale Up: The Progress of Re-Greening Initiatives".

Here are three examples we shared based on our on-the-ground research across sub-Saharan Africa:

In Kibera, Nairobi, the largest slum in Kenya, more than 1,000 women farmers are growing “vertical” gardens in sacks full of dirt poked with holes, feeding their families and communities. These sacks have the potential to feed thousands of city dwellers while also providing a sustainable and easy-to-maintain source of income for urban farmers. With more than 60 percent of Africa’s population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, such methods may be crucial to creating future food security. Currently, some 33 percent of Africans live in cities, and 14 million more migrate to urban areas each year. Worldwide, some 800 million people engage in urban agriculture, producing 15–20 percent of all food.

Pastoralists in South Africa and Kenya are preserving indigenous varieties of livestock that are adapted to the heat and drought of local conditions—traits that will be crucial as climate extremes on the continent worsen. Africa has the world’s largest area of permanent pasture and the largest number of pastoralists, with 15–25 million people dependent on livestock.

Uganda’s Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) program is integrating indigenous vegetable gardens, nutrition information, and food preparation into school curriculums to teach children how to grow local crop varieties that will help combat food shortages and revitalize the country’s culinary traditions. An estimated 33 percent of African children currently face hunger and malnutrition, which could affect some 42 million children by 2025. School nutrition programs that don’t simply feed children, but also inspire and teach them to become the farmers of the future, are a huge step toward improving food security.

After presenting the State of the World 2011 findings, we had an interactive session with IFAD staff discussing our outreach and communication efforts, our hope to focus on innovations that increase the involvement of youth in agriculture, and potential ways Worldwatch and IFAD can collaborate on future publications, as well as an innovations database that will be accessible to farmers, NGOs, and policy-makers.

Thank you, IFAD staff!

For more information on Nourishing the Planet, please visit or contact Danielle Nierenberg