From: Editor, Worldwatch Institute, More from this Affiliate
Published April 20, 2012 03:48 PM

15 Agricultural Innovations Protecting the Environment on Earth Day

For the last 40 years, Earth Day has been celebrated around the world to call attention to some of our most pressing environmental and social problems, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and dwindling natural resources. This year, the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet (www.NourishingthePlanet.org) highlights 15 agricultural innovations that are already working on the ground to address some of those problems.

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"Agriculture provides food for all of us and income for more than 1 billion people around the world," said Danielle Nierenberg, director of Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet project. "Relatively simple innovations to reduce the amount of food we waste, or to help the urban poor become more self-sufficient, can help agriculture feed the world without destroying the planet. The progress we have witnessed in these areas over the last year is definitely encouraging."

The 15 innovations are used by farmers, scientists, activists, politicians, and businesses and promote a healthier environment and a more food-secure future.

1. Guaranteeing the Right to Food. Some 1 billion people worldwide experience chronic hunger, and 98 percent of these people live in developing countries. To combat hunger in rural or remote communities, the Brazilian government operates the Food Acquisition Program, which funds local organizations, including community kitchens, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and schools, to buy and distribute fruits, vegetables, and animal products from smallholder farmers in their region.

2. Harnessing the Nutritional and Economic Potential of Vegetables. Micronutrient deficiencies, including lack of vitamin A, iodine, and iron, affect 1 billion people worldwide and stem partly from a lack of variety in people's diets. Slow Food International works to broaden diets, and preserve biodiversity, by helping farmers grow local and indigenous varieties of fruits and vegetables, organizing cooking workshops, and helping producers get access to traditional seeds.

3. Reducing Food Waste. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that roughly a third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year. In New York City, City Harvest collects nearly 28 million pounds of excess food each year from restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms and delivers it to some 600 local food programs.

4. Feeding Cities. Poor urban households spend from 60 to 80 percent of their income on food, putting them at risk of hunger or malnutrition when food prices rise or their incomes fall. The French non-governmental organization Solidarités has provided women in Kibera, an urban slum in Nairobi, Kenya, with training, seeds, and sacks to grow vegetables in "vertical farms," a space-efficient way to increase food security in cities.

Article continues at ENN affiliate, Worldwatch Institute

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