Within the next several months in the Horn of Africa, an estimated 750,000 lives may be lost (30,000 children have already died) to a famine that was years in the making, with a foundation that has as much to do with the rising price of food, conflict, lack of investment, and the ripple effects of poverty as it does with extended periods of drought.
Meanwhile, 925 million people around the world are hungry on a daily basis, and by the end of October, the world population will have grown to 7 billion people – soon to be 8 billion only within the next 14 years, according to the U.N. Population Fund.
Within the context of global climate change and a rapidly depleting supply of sustainable resources to care for a very crowded planet, the time for discussing long-term solutions has long since passed. But solutions must take advantage of every ounce of innovation from many sectors – these are not problems to be discussed and solved within the purview of humanitarian efforts and messages alone. From local investment to business innovation to cutting-edge academic research to media projects and storytelling, bold innovation across the board is a mandate.
As an example of global development innovation that can come from media partnerships, independent U.S.-based broadcaster Link TV recently joined with Oxfam America to produce a half-hour documentary special -- “ViewChange: Africa’s Last Famine” – that investigates promising solutions to chronic hunger, including weather insurance and investing in small farmers, and disputes the notion that famine is simply caused by a lack of food in the global supply.
Produced to provide new insight into global hunger and food production, the program features Oxfam America’s original reporting from Ethiopia that tells the story of one local mother and farmer, Medhin Reda, who is using weather insurance to withstand periods of drought. The goal of the storytelling? To bring complex development initiatives to life in an accessible format.
The project is part of Link TV’s ViewChange.org, launched a year ago with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. ViewChange is a curated documentary hub that now hosts 450 short- and long-form character-driven documentaries from global development groups and filmmakers from around the world – all of them illustrate progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Through next-generation semantic web technology, the site pairs documentary videos with user opportunities to take action and stay on top of the latest news about each global development issue.
And now, through partnerships with groups such as Oxfam America, Save the Children, Bread for the World, Population Services International (PSI) and more, the project includes original half-hour TV specials like the Oxfam America project – the ViewChange TV series.
Global development organizations have embraced the concept by contributing their own stories, and by sharing and spotlighting projects featuring the work of their peer organizations. ONE, for example, has written about other groups’ ViewChange work in its blog and social media channels, and the same is true of Bread for the World, Save the Children, Devex, InterAction and others. This continued collaborative spirit will help build shared stories to raise awareness and spotlight global hunger and poverty solutions in the years to come – and this concept of pooling resources may be the real innovation.