The COVID19 pandemic is exacerbating an issue that we have worked on for over ten years now: Food Security. Where we work in Cambodia, this issue has translated into an alarming situation in which 40% of Cambodia's children have their cognitive development and growth stunted.
That is why our work on aquaponics has been so important there, as it provides a source of protein and income for families while preserving water. But in the age of a new pandemic, these features resonate deeply in people's minds. And not only for the families we serve half a world away, but also here at home, in the minds of the people that support our work.
Accordingly, we are launching an effort to provide help in the villages while also bringing our aquaponic training program online for the masses. The communities we serve are certainly extremely exposed, but everyone in the world is facing the same uncertainty.
"On April 21, the United Nations projected that because of COVID19, the number of people facing severe food insecurity worldwide could double to 265 million. The same week, in the United States, the five-week total of job losses rose to a staggering 26 million, pushing millions more into food insecurity." Source: Center for International Strategic & International Studies.
While Cambodia has had a low count on COVID19 cases, the tourism industry, which represents a good third of its GDP, has taken a severe hit. Ticket sales for Angkor Wat fell over 99% last month compared with the same time the previous year. As a result, many remain unemployed with absolutely no other safety net than their families. This is why many people return to their village, where food may be scarce, but at least some can always be found.
In rural Cambodia, where our team and the people we serve live, many rely on foraging and fishing, like they would in the face of other hardships. Not so long ago, many had to rely on the forest for food while fleeing the turmoil and violence of war. This situation lasted much longer than most realize, as Cambodia did not fully find peace until the 1990s.
But today, we are learning that a pandemic can put just as much strain on the supply and value chains that govern people's food security. Here in the United States, farmers in Idaho are duping potatoes that cannot find buyers. During that same week, the San Antonio Food Bank, Texas was struggling to meet the demand.
The recently published Global Nutrition Report (2020) highlights the global nature of the problem quite well, stating that malnutrition is the "leading cause of death and ill-health in the world." The report further explains that a large part of the problem relates to access to healthy foods, such as fresh produce and lean protein sources. These findings may be troubling, but they arguably make aquaponics a great solution to address these problems when thousands of families lined up for distributions.
These times may be challenging and uncertain, but it is essential to remember that many social innovations have been born in difficult times. And examples abound from the financial institutions dating back to the Great Depression, to the technologies that made our world more environmentally sustainable during the two Oil Shocks.
In that spirit, we want to bring together the communities we serve in Cambodia with their supporters and backers around aquaponics & food security. Join us in this effort by helping raise the resources necessary to get the seeds and other essential supplies to those who need them the most in Cambodia! As you help us achieve our goal, you will be supporting a family (or more!) while giving our team of trainers the tools they need to bring their knowledge online.
As part of this campaign, we will also be releasing short-form videos, a virtual visit of our campus, as well as a short web documentary. We are happy to share in this post the very first installment of the short-form series. Aurélie Fischer, a professional photographer & videographer who decided to stick around in the villages during the pandemic, produced this content. We are very grateful for her courage and talent!
More content from her and our team is coming up soon!
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