Julie Montgomery is a senior manager and technical specialist at InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S-based international NGOs doing relief and humanitarian work abroad.
Global food prices are at their highest level in several years, with the World Bank saying last month that another 44 million people joined the ranks of those living in extreme poverty in low and middle-income countries since June of last year.
Estimates of the number of hungry people range from 850 million to 1 billion worldwide and recent hikes in basic commodities such as wheat, maize, sugar and oils put vulnerable populations in struggling nations at even more risk, particularly in countries that import much of their food. Recent spikes in gas prices can only add to these problems.
Against this dismal backdrop, it is no surprise that members of the InterAction NGO alliance are paying special attention to food and agriculture-related projects in nations hardest hit by price hikes and soaring poverty levels.
Incidentally, higher poverty is linked to increased malnutrition as people are forced to eat less and substitute more expensive food with cheaper, often less nutritious, staples.
In line with this focus, InterAction is launching a food security "map" today, an online interactive tool which displays about 800 food and agriculture-related projects in over 70 nations from some 50 organisations.
With the use of multimedia (photos, videos and other information), we hope to give a more complete story of the work our members are doing in the food and agriculture sectors.
Aside from plotting which NGO is doing what, where, the food map is a useful transparency tool which we hope will improve coordination on the ground so that projects do not overlap and pockets of poverty are not ignored. It also enables organizations - and sometimes - businesses to form partnerships.
At a time of such budget austerity worldwide, this information should help NGOs, donors and the public to make more informed decisions about where best to invest their resources and improve current programs.
With funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development
(IFAD), the mapping site can be browsed by location, sector, organization or project. Best practices are highlighted in select areas, allowing for information-sharing on approaches that are deemed particularly effective.
The food security project is part of a broader InterAction mapping program called NGO Aid Map, with an earlier one focusing on Haiti.
If you have any feedback or suggestions on NGO Aid Map, please email us at email@example.com.