BCFN YES! rewards engagement in food security and sustainable agriculture

BCFN YES! rewards engagement in food security and sustainable agriculture

January 12, 2018

BCFN YES! rewards engagement in food security and sustainable agriculture

Two winners were selected in the 2017 edition of the contest that supports the work and ideas of young researchers engaged in the difficult path towards a world where environmental sustainability and social sustainability can become a reality

Young people, with their enthusiasm and innovative ideas, can be the key to winning the challenge of food security, and provide fresh impetus to sustainable agriculture and all the other sustainable development goals set by the United Nations. BCFN is certain of this, and, during the 8th International Forum on Food and Nutrition in 2017, it once again awarded prizes to projects selected among the great many submitted from all over the world in response to the call by BCFN YES! – an award that gives young people the opportunity to play an active role and have a strong voice in safeguarding the planet. 

During the first day of the Forum 2017, an extensive session was dedicated to the presentation of the 10 shortlisted projects, which dealt with all the topics discussed by the experts during the two-day Forum held in Milan, ranging from climate change to malnutrition, including migration and sustainable agriculture. And these last two topics are at the heart of the award winning projects – two projects ranked equally this year. 

In Lebanon the spotlight is on the health of migrants 

“Maternal and child nutrition among refugees and host communities in Beirut, Lebanon: A focus on anemia”. This is the title of one of the two award-winning projects of the 2017 edition of BCFN YES!, presented by Joana Abou Ritzk and Theresa Jeremias, from the University of Hohenheim (Germany). The project focuses predominantly on migration and on the condition of those who are forced to leave their country to seek a better future – a problem that deeply affects Lebanon, currently hosting over 5 million Syrian refugees. “One out of four people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee,” explain the researchers, who point out that malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency are very widespread among children and mothers in these communities and are an underlying cause of anemia and development problems. And this is where improving the quality of nutrition comes into play. 


Guaranteeing food security and the right quantity of nutrients including through nutrition education could be, at least partially, a solution to such a large-scale problem, and this is what the project aims at. The study sets out by investigating how widespread anemia is among children under 5 and women of reproductive age. Nutrition education measures are then put in place and their effectiveness is assessed. Practical action is also taken to boost hemoglobin levels by providing cheap hemoglobin-rich foods. All this is done while fully respecting local traditions and by using legumes, for instance, like chick peas and lentils alongside vitamin C-rich foods. 

Rice and sustainability thanks to bats

The second winner of the BCFN YES! award is a project on sustainable agriculture with a specific focus on rice, a staple in the diet of millions of people throughout the world. “Rice growing requires intensive farming and chemical treatments that can undermine the security of the entire agri-food system,” said Laura Garzoli, a researcher working with the Institute of Ecosystem Study of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) and the Stazione Teriologica Piemontese (Piedmont Teriology Station), during the presentation of her project in which sustainable agriculture turns to bats for help. The work is grounded in the idea of reducing the use of pesticides in rice farming through so-called “integrated management”. In the case of the project presented by the young researcher, this involves using bats, which can eat as many as 2,000 insects per night, and placing 20 bat houses in three rice fields located in Piedmont. 


The next step will be to determine how many and which bats have colonized the bat houses, while extensive analysis (including genetic and molecular) of the bat droppings will provide an understanding of which species of insects they have been feeding on. But that's not all. “In order to change the negative attitude that all too often people have towards bats, we have planned a series of meetings with the public and the dissemination of information materials,” concluded the researcher. 

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