By 2050, the world will need to feed an additional 2 billion people. To help, U.S. university laboratories are hard at work.
In partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Feed the Future program, campuses from Oregon to Georgia house a network of 24 innovation labs in search of long-term solutions to hunger. Here are three noteworthy projects:
A different breed
Project lead: University of California, Davis
Issue: Infectious diseases kill hundreds of millions of chickens annually. Vaccination programs are expensive and challenging to implement.
One solution: Breed chickens that are naturally resistant to infectious diseases. The idea is to make tough chickens, in the sense that they don’t succumb to disease, not in how they taste.
How: Researchers breed chicks from the local populations in Ghana and Tanzania that have survived disease outbreaks. These new populations are exposed to strains of diseases, letting researchers map relevant genes in the survivors to breed innately disease-resistant chickens.
Food security guards
Project lead: Kansas State University
Issue: Outbreaks of millet head miner moths have destroyed 85 percent of vital millet crops in West Africa. Control with insecticides is expensive and poses environmental risks.
One solution: Wasps are natural predators to the moth. Create a business model to raise and distribute wasps among millet farmers for pest-control management.
How: Researchers hang artificial wasp nests made of jute fiber near millet fields and then measure the reduction in crop damage compared to fields with no wasps. They are developing solutions to deal with the issue of feeding a wasp population during the months the moth isn’t in season.
Teaching people to fish
Project Lead: Oregon State University
Issue: Rural women in some places lack the education or finances to maintain nutritious diets, resulting in chronic malnourishment.
One solution: Teach more women about aquaculture.
How: Researchers have trained women in Kenya and Nepal to become aquaculturists. The women learn about water-quality maintenance and proper fish feeding. Apart from improving their own and their families’ diets, these women generate incomes by selling their fish. Many have learned skills such as marketing and record-keeping, which they might use in other business ventures. With new income, a group of Nepalese women have even started a money-lending business to benefit their community.
Want to help fight global hunger? Feed the Future offers partnership and grant opportunities for civil society and private sector organizations. Individuals can also make a difference through organizations such as the World Food Programme.