Conventional wisdom has it that the path to alleviating global hunger and poverty requires farming in the developing world to become more like agriculture in the U.S. But with American farmers now dealing with ever-more-frequent natural disasters and crippling drought, maybe it’s time they learned from their counterparts in the Global South, who have been facing similar ecological challenges for at least a decade now.
That’s what Danielle Nierenberg realized after spending three years traveling the developing world, meeting with farmers from Bolivia to Botswana to find out how they’re adapting to the changing climate’s effect on their livelihoods. Providing farmers around the world with a way to interact and share their ideas in a wiki-style format -- an “innovation database,” Nierenberg calls it -- will be a major component of Food Tank, the new food-focused think tank Nierenberg started with fellow activist Ellen Gustafson.
While Nierenberg has done extensive on-the-ground research for the Worldwatch Institute, Gustafson looks for ways to fix our food system through entrepreneurship and social activism. She co-founded FEED Projects, which sells tote bags to finance school meals for 60 million children around the world. The two women, both in their early 30s, kept running into each other at agriculture conferences dominated by old white men, and eventually, Nierenberg says, they decided “to combine our forces as women in this movement who have a lot of ideas.”
Food Tank’s website launches today, and in addition to an idea-sharing tool, Nierenberg says she and Gustafson hope to make it a clearinghouse for the most important food and agriculture reports of recent years. “I know I have a hard time finding where all the good reports are,” Nierenberg says. “For activists and policymakers as well as farmers, it will be a valuable tool.”