Spare a thought for Molly this World Food Day

from Australian Agency for International Development
Published on 16 Oct 2012 View Original

School meals from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) feed more than 11 million children in Africa each year. One of those children is a teenager called Molly Achieng, a 13-year-old schoolgirl from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.

In Mathare, where Molly lives, life is difficult. Most houses are made of old iron sheets or wooden boards on earthen floors. Sanitation is rudimentary, with as many as 10 shacks sharing a bathroom and latrine. There is no running water in the houses and people have to fetch water from communal taps serving hundreds of people. Getting food is a challenge for most of the people and many children, especially girls, have to work to help put a meal on the family table.

The school Molly attends is part of the school meals programme jointly run by the WFP and the Government of Kenya. Under this initiative, daily hot meals are served to some 1.3 million children in Nairobi’s slums and in the arid- and semi-arid areas of Kenya. School meals provide an important safety net for vulnerable children in food-insecure environments. For many of them, the school lunch is the only meal they can count on during the day. Typically, it will consist of beans and maize or split peas and bulgur wheat. Not only does it fill their stomach, it also helps ensure that children attend school and can concentrate in class.

Molly’s story is at the heart of a WFP campaign to commemorate World Food Day. The footage, which Molly shot herself over the course of a few months, was edited together at WFP’s headquarters in Rome to produce the first of five episodes of Molly’s World.

Since then, Molly’s World has been viewed by many more people than either the WFP or Molly herself could ever have imagined. The films offer a rare glimpse into a world that many viewers would never otherwise see and Molly’s curiosity about the world, her sense of fun, and above all her warmth and humanity have won the hearts of many people around the world.

Molly’s story is one of hope and inspiration, but there is still a lot of work to be done in the fight against hunger. Millions of people do not have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.

This World Food Day, let’s take the opportunity to celebrate our achievements, recognise the challenges millions of people face in their struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty, and take whatever action we can to help children like Molly build better futures.

Australia is working to ensure food security around the world

Food security

Improving food security by investing in agricultural productivity, infrastructure, social protection and the opening of markets is one of the 10 development objectives for the aid program. Food security underpins all other development. Without it, populations prioritise food and sustaining their own lives and those of their families over everything else. Australia’s approach to food security focuses on three pillars.

  • Lifting agricultural productivity through agricultural research and development

  • Improving rural livelihoods by strengthening markets and market access

  • Building community resilience by supporting the establishment and improvement of social protection programs.

These three pillars aim to increase the food available in markets and poor households and increase the incomes and employment opportunities of poor men and women.

In 2012–13, the Australian aid program is expected to invest $455 million in food security, rural development and social protection programs ‐ a 12 per cent increase from 2011‐12. Nearly three quarters will be spent in bilateral programs, particularly in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Indonesia.

Global Agriculture and Food Security Program

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) provides grants to low-income countries to assist them to implement national strategies to raise agricultural productivity, link farmers to market, improve non-farm rural livelihoods, and reduce risk and vulnerability.

In 2009-10, Australia announced a $50 million contribution to GAFSP, followed by an additional $50 million pledged in 2011, bringing Australia’s total commitment to $100 million.

Results to date have shown that first-round GAFSP projects are expected to impact 7.5 million people. Despite these projects only beginning in 2011, early indications show positive results, including:

  • In Rwanda, GAFSP support helped to increase the proportion of land protected against soil erosion from 11 per cent to 27 per cent. Sales from agricultural activities on targeted non-irrigated hillsides has increased by more than 90 per cent to US$1,925 per hectare.

  • In Sierra Leone, 150 agricultural business centres have received organisational development assistance and the capacity of the public agricultural extension services at district level has also been improved.

The GAFSP is a multilateral mechanism that emerged out of the G8 and G20 process specifically targeting the underfunding of country and regional agriculture and food security strategic investment plans already being developed by countries.

World Food Programme

Australia has a strong partnership with the WFP, which is a key partner in the delivery of Australia's food and humanitarian assistance globally. Australia is currently the World Food Programme's fifth largest single government donor. More than 95 per cent of our food assistance is provided through the World Food Programme.

In the past two years alone, Australian funds helped to feed more than 5.5 million vulnerable people; and in 2011-12, Australian funds supported 68 WFP operations, in 37 countries and two regions (Sahel and Central America). The Australian aid program also provides support to the WFP to respond to humanitarian crises, helping provide food assistance to more than two million vulnerable people in in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.


Australia is working with agricultural businesses and local governments in Cambodia to help up to 230,000 of the country’s poorest farmers grow more rice, fruit and vegetables.

The Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain (CAVAC) program helps farmers in three provinces learn how to improve their crops, build irrigation and access the better quality agricultural products they need.
About 10 million Cambodians depend on growing small rice, fruit and vegetable crops for a large part of their incomes.

Typically, small farmers may earn about $500 from growing a single, one hectare, rice crop a year. But with irrigation, better seeds, the right fertilisers and pesticides and better farming techniques, they could grow dry season crops, reap bigger and higher quality harvests and diversify into other types of produce.

The CAVAC program helps poor farmers to increase their productivity by improving the agricultural advice, products and support that their local businesses, communities and governments provide to them.

A 2012 review of CAVAC predicted it will benefit 230,000 farmers by irrigating 32,000 hectares of land and raising rice farmers’ yields by an average of at least 10 per cent. The production gains would enable farmers to earn an extra $40 million a year.

CAVAC is AusAID’s first major program using the Making Markets work for the Poor approach, which is based on the understanding that markets play a central role in the lives of the poor. The $48 million program will run from 2009 to 2014.


In 2012, Australia has provided $44 million in response to the food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel region of west Africa. This assistance has been delivered through partners such as the WFP, UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a number of Australian non-government organisations.

This vital humanitarian assistance is helping to meet immediate needs, build resilience, and complements Australia’s support for longer-term preparedness and agricultural programs in West Africa.

Australia’s support includes providing more than $12 million through CSIRO to address long-term food security issues in the region, including improving livestock management and preventing diseases affecting food crops.

Australia has also provided a total of $3.5 million to build the resilience and capacity of countries in West Africa to identify the causes of humanitarian crises and reduce the risk of these occurring, through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

Australian International Food Security Centre

The new Australian International Food Security Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, was recently announced by Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr. The Centre will help African countries move from a reliance on emergency food aid, to building a viable smallholder farming sector.

Through the Centre, Australia will share its valuable agricultural expertise and will build on Australia's contribution to food security by ensuring technology and know-how are put into the hands of smallholder farmers across Africa.

The Centre is delivering research projects across eight countries in the south-eastern Africa region – Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda and will operate as part of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

East Timor

Seeds of Life, run in partnership with the Australian Council for International Agricultural Research, aims to improve food security and reduce hunger in East Timor. The program is helping to develop better yielding varieties of crops including rice, maize, sweet potato, cassava and peanuts.

Farmers will be able to grow more and better crops to support their families and improve their nutrition thanks to access to better seeds. Farmers will also be able to earn cash income by selling some of their crops.

By the end of 2015, around 81,000 farmers (around 71 per cent of farmers in East Timor) will have access to Seeds of Life seed varieties.

More information

World Food Day [external link]

Food security in the Australian aid program

World Food Programme (WFP) [external link]

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations [external link]

AusAID food assistance

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