The United Nations released a report in September titled “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017,” identifying a five-percent increase in global hunger from 2015 to 2016. According to the report, the number of chronically undernourished people has reached 815 million people or 11 percent of the global population. This comprehensive report is the first time the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO) have collaborated on this topic and provides a broader view on hunger, malnutrition, and health.
Conflict and climate change are among the identified causes for the increase in food insecurity and hunger, both of which have continued to increase in 2017 in some areas of the world. The authors suggest that “climate change not only magnifies problems of food insecurity and nutrition, but can also contribute to a further downward spiral into conflict, protracted crisis, and continued fragility.”
Although this report identifies an increase in global hunger—a setback towards achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals focused on the eradication of hunger and malnutrition by 2030—there are many organizations fighting hunger through regenerative agriculture, an approach to food and agriculture that regenerates topsoil and increases biodiversity, and agroecology, an approach that applies the principles of ecology to the design and management of food systems.
“There are about 2.5 billion people in the world, on 500 million farms, involved with smallholder family agriculture and food production,” says Steve Brescia, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Groundswell International, “Their creative capacity to farm productively and sustainably with nature, instead of against it, is perhaps the most powerful force that can be unleashed to overcome the interlinking challenges of hunger, poverty, climate change, and environmental degradation. This is the essence of agroecology.”
Food Tank identified 17 organizations fighting hunger around the world through regenerative agriculture and agroecology.
A Growing Culture
A Growing Culture is a nonprofit working to uphold farmer autonomy and stimulate agroecological innovation by supporting farmers’ capacity for change. They believe the key to fixing our food system lies in giving farmers a prominent seat at the table, which is currently threatened by industrial agriculture. They are building the Library for Food Sovereignty to connect farmers from around the world—from the Himalayas to the Great Rift Valley to the Mekong Delta—and catalyze innovation and transition to a more sustainable food system.
Agricultural Biodiversity Community
The Agricultural Biodiversity Community (ABC) is a collective of more than 100 individuals and organizations with the shared belief that agricultural biodiversity can address the world’s most pressing challenges. They promote the conservation, utilization, and development of agricultural biodiversity to respond to climate change, increase community resilience, and enhance food security.
Bioversity International is a research-for-development organization focused on preserving agricultural and tree biodiversity as a means of improving nutrition security, promoting sustainable agriculture, and adapting to climate change. They are a CGIAR Research Center, part of a global food security research partnership. Bioversity works with partners in low-income countries to disseminate scientific evidence, management practices, and policies that protect biodiversity.
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Founded in 1978, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) builds sustainable food and farming systems through policy advocacy and grassroots programs. They support family farmers and community members, including low-income populations and schoolchildren, with programs to address farm resilience, sustainability, and current challenges to the food system.
Based in Oakland, California, this nonprofit organization aims to end hunger and help communities take control of their food systems. They advance their mission through research, education, and action with the hopes of promoting informed citizen engagement with the institutions and policies that control the food system. Food First partners with existing organizations and movements to inform and amplify the food justice and food sovereignty social movements.
Green Shoots Foundation
The Green Shoots Foundation (GSF) works in six different countries throughout Asia, including Cambodia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Kyrgyzstan. GSF’s work, along with programs targeting healthcare and education, includes a dynamic initiative developed over the last few years called the Food & Agriculture and Social Entrepreneurship (FASE) program. Two projects currently underway in Cambodia are gaining momentum and recognition in the region for their unique combination of agriculture, peer education, and community building.
Groundswell International has promoted sustainable agriculture worldwide since it was founded in 2009. The organization is a global partnership between NGOs, local civil society organizations, and communities that aims to strengthen rural communities and promote healthy food systems in Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mali, Nepal, Senegal, and Western North Carolina. Groundswell International has developed methods to spread agroecological farming practices as well as promote farm innovation and community health, such as through their Grow Food Where People Live project.
Founded in 1944 and based in Little Rock, Arkansas, Heifer International is a global nonprofit working to eradicate poverty and hunger through sustainable, values-based community development. The organization has provided livestock and training to millions of families in more than 125 countries, helping them to improve their lives and move toward greater self-reliance. One of their global initiatives focuses on agroecology through teaching environmentally sound agricultural techniques to farmers around the world.
IFOAM Organics International
As an organization composed of 800 affiliates in more than 100 countries, IFOAM seeks to unite the organic movement worldwide. The IFOAM Organic Guarantee System improves transparency regarding different domestic organic standards while also acknowledging a need for diversity and local adaptation. It is based on a Family of Standards, the only tool set up to enable multilateral equivalence between technical regulations and organic certification agencies across continents, such as Biocert India and Argencert.
The INGA Foundation works with farmers and communities to implement the practice of Inga Alley Cropping, an alternative to slash-and-burn agriculture. Inga Alley Cropping is sustainable, organic, and a low-cost alternative developed by the Foundation. It can restore degraded land and protect rainforests from further agriculture-related destruction. Crops are planted between rows of Inga trees, which fix nitrogen and increase soil fertility.
Kiss the Ground
Established in 2013, Kiss the Ground is a nonprofit organization with the mission statement, “We can do this!” This simple phrase stems from the idea that eaters and farmers have the science and technology to balance the climate and recreate the food system, but everyone needs to feel hopeful and catalyze diverse community solutions. Because of this concept, everything that Kiss the Ground does has an underlying message of a hopeful future.
The Millennium Institute (MI) enables decision makers to utilize systemic strategies to analyze and comprehend the interconnectedness among economic, social, and environmental factors, as well as issues of peace and security. In doing so, the institute is able to increase their capacity to implement sustainable policies. MI seeks to play a catalytic role in creating a global network of system-thinkers to solve critical 21st-century challenges.
Navdanya is a research-based initiative founded by prominent scientist and environmentalist Dr Vandana Shiva. Navdanya, meaning “nine seeds” in Hindi, is a network of seed keepers and organic producers across 18 states in India that have helped set up 122 community seed banks across the country and provided training to more than 500,000 farmers. They also conduct research on sustainable farming practices at their own organic farm in Uttarakhand, North India. Navdanya has collected roughly 5,000 crop varieties, primarily staples such as rice, wheat, millet, kidney beans, and medicinal plants, and also offers courses on biodiversity protection, agroecological practices, water conservation, and more.
Sustainable Harvest International
Based in Panama, Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) aims to preserve the environment by partnering with families to improve their wellbeing through regenerative farming. SHI has two decades of experience training farmers how to transition into regenerative agriculture. The project is currently seeking sponsorship and donations to hire more staff to connect with farmers waiting to join the regenerative agriculture transition program. The goal is to expand these practices so they have a global effect.
The Carbon Underground
Created as an umbrella organization, Carbon Underground disseminates information about the power of healthy soil to combat climate change and facilitates the global implementation of soil regeneration practices. They focus on corporate impact, education and training, policy, and communications.
The Land Institute
The Land Institute is at the forefront of perennial research, advocating the use of annual plants in agriculture. The organization is committed to accelerating polyculture farming solutions and promotes growing food in tandem with nature, changing the modern agricultural practices that cause soil erosion and degradation. Polyculture is the farming practice of using multiple crops within the same space, promoting biodiversity by emulating natural ecosystems.
The Small Planet Institute
The Small Planet Institute was created as a tool to explore and share the root causes and root solutions to modern challenges. The organization focuses on environmental devastation, global food injustices, and deficits in democracy. The Institute also manages the Small Planet Fund to support grassroots democracy movements worldwide addressing the causes of hunger and poverty. Since the fund was created in 2001, two grantees have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
(Danielle Nierenberg is the President, Food Think Tank <firstname.lastname@example.org>)