Squash Pots and Bad Bananas: The Cultural Myopia of American Food Activists

“You can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.”

So said Dr. Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Peace-prize winning biologist who helped develop specialty crops to grow in poor nations and saved millions of hungry people from starvation in the late 20th century.

Although Dr. Borlaug is no longer with us, his sentiment and purpose live on. That quote is certainly still applicable to Africa, where despite economic gains over the last few decades, it is still home to millions of empty stomachs. Peace is fleeting and food often weaponized. Whether it’s due to poverty, climate, or war – food stability still alludes Africa. Several countries are struggling with massive food insecurity. South Sudan is on the brink of famine; areas of Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Somalia are also on high alert.

One-third of the world’s children who suffer from stunting and wasting (low height and weight) due to malnutrition lives in Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 40% of people live on less than $1.90 per day.

As lucky American moms, we can only imagine the horror and heartbreak of trying to find enough food to feed a hungry, sick child. But tragically, this is a reality for hundreds of millions of mothers (themselves hungry) around the world. Staple crops like rice, cassava, and bananas are routinely threatened by diseases that poor farmers are powerless to stop. Often times, farmers must watch as the only food they are able to grow is stricken with pests or diseases they cannot prevent.

We would never suggest that an African country should give up on a crop that has been part of its culture and heritage for generations. But that is exactly what a California mother and food activist did last month at a food —> Read More