Are these five media innovations really working to reduce hunger ? (WorldWatch Institute / Willem Van Cotthem’s comment)

Read at :

Five Media Innovations that Help Feed the Planet

“Worldwatch researchers offered a diverse selection of sustainability posts last week. In this one, we discussed five media innovations that are working to reduce hunger around the world. In this post, we discussed new environmental initiatives in China, including a Working Plan to Control Greenhouse Gas Emissions, to achieve the country’s energy and carbon emission intensity targets. And in this entry, we discussed the Jordan Valley Permaculture Program, which is using permaculture to re-green the Dead Sea Valley in Jordan.”


Robert Engelman
Worldwatch Institute


Five Media Innovations That Help Feed the Planet

By Isaac Hopkins

As modern technology is adopted in widespread regions of our planet, it can provide poor people with access to many forms of media. Innovations like the internet and satellite technology are changing the face of food system solutions in even the poorest countries.

Today, Nourishing the Planet introduces five forms of media that can use the power of information to combat hunger.

1. Television: Access to television is expanding all over the planet. ……………….

2. Videos: Airing informational programs may not always be the most efficient way to put television sets to work to feed people. …………………..

3. Community Websites: The foundation of successful and sustainable growth in food production is communication. …………………..

4. News Media Partnerships: News media, from local papers to international corporations, wield incredible power through the information that they distribute. ………………

5. Mobile Phones: ……………….  “With subscription services like daily weather and crop market updates, major service providers are utilizing this emerging form of media to aid farmers in making smart decisions.”

Isaac Hopkins is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.


MY COMMENT  (Willem Van Cotthem)

Needless to confirm that (1) television, (2) videos, (3) websites, (4) news media partnerships and (5) mobile phones may “wield an incredible power through the information that they distribute.

But, how are they helping to feed the planet ?

(1) Television : “……………. so thousands of Kenyans have learned a new method of increasing production by watching a soap opera!

(2) Videos : ” …………….. farmer-to-farmer videos go beyond traditional training videos by fully explaining the techniques and why they work.

(3) Community websites : ” …………….. Individual communities have begun to implement websites that foster open transfer of ideas and innovation throughout the community“.

(4) News Media Partnerships : ” ……………..  They are working to directly link farmers, researchers, and policy-makers, so that they can quickly implement and scale up innovations and policies that will provide food security for these countries. ………. an “important information hub on agricultural related issues.”

(5) Mobile Phones : “………………  With subscription services like daily weather and crop market updates, major service providers are utilizing this emerging form of media to aid farmers in making smart decisions”


For decades already international and national efforts have been produced and trillions of dollars have been spent at combating hunger, but more than 1 billion impoverished people are still living constantly in a situation of hunger or malnutrition.

It goes without saying that many members of the international community have a considerable interest in helping to feed the planet :

  • through soap operas at television,
  • through a choice of videos on low- and high-tech farming techniques,
  • through community websites for the poorest,
  • through partnerships between policy-makers, researchers and farmers to implement and scale up innovations providing food security,
  • through messages on weather forecast and market opportunities on the mobile phones of the 1 billion hungry.

Maybe I overlooked something in this fairy tale about all these poor people having a television set, a computer and a mobile phone ?  Maybe I don’t understand how these hungry people are getting something to eat before they are watching the soap opera or the videos at their television set ?  Aren’t they hungry anymore when sitting at night in front of their computer to study the community website ?  Who’s paying for the use of their cheap mobile phones to listen to the weather forecast or to read SMS messages about the market and banking conditions in their village ?

Please tell me where my reasoning is wrong when I am thinking that a kitchen garden for every family, a school garden for every school, a hospital garden for every medical center, bottle towers on every balcony in the cities or in every small backyard, are dramatically stronger tools to combat hunger than “innovations like the internet and satellite technology… changing the face of food system solutions in even the poorest countries by providing communities with important information.

I remain convinced that the most valuable information on food system solutions is totally useless for a person with an empty stomach.

Instead of offering these poor hungry people technological innovations, for which they will have to pay, we should teach them how to grow their own food at home and give their children decent, vitamin-rich meals, instead of a handful of carbohydrates with some sauce.

A constantly growing number of people, both in rural and in urban areas, is showing that container gardening is the highway to a better food-secure future.  That’s the good news for the media.

2011 : Bottle tower gardening, the most affordable technique to grow food at home for every person on earth (Photo WVC)
2011 : Lettuce, celery, any vegetable, any herb can be grown in containers, recycled bottles, pots, buckets, sacks, ... That's combating hunger in every backyard or house, on all the continents, in villages, towns and cities, everywhere (Photo WVC)

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

%d bloggers like this: