Looking upward to the tree tops

Breadfruit: Growing Social and Economic Benefits

iStock_000029373188_DoubleA Key to Ending World Hunger

By 2050, the global population will reach an estimated 9.6 billion people. The reality is that there will be an inevitable struggle to produce enough food to meet this staggering demand. Already, in 2016, world hunger is a crippling social issue. According to the World Food Programme, “Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life.” That number will climb with 2.5 billion more mouths to feed. Incredibly, a relatively unknown tropical tree has a real chance to help eradicate world hunger and address food insecurity, while simultaneously meeting rising demands for delicious and healthy gluten-free products.

Food That Makes Most Sense

Why has breadfruit been targeted by many as one of the most significant food crops of the 21st century? Breadfruit trees can grow in a wide range of ecological conditions (tropical and subtropical regions with temperatures ranging from 60°–110°F). The trees take a relatively short period of time to mature and produce fruit (2–3 years now, thanks to propagation breakthroughs), and require very little labor input in terms of materials or attention. Despite the low effort needed to sustain their growth, breadfruit produces a massive amount of nutrient-rich fruit, 400–700lbs a season, for decades. Given its great nutritional benefits, high yield and low-maintenance, breadfruit is a wellspring of dietary, social and financial prosperity.

A cropped image of three people's hands holding a growing plantNutritionally, breadfruit is a potent source of vitamins, fatty acids, antioxidants, carbohydrates, electrolytes, and phyto-nutrients. Each fruit contains about 10 bananas’ worth of potassium and holds a starch yield that is twice that of corn. Breadfruit also has multiple medicinal applications, such as promoting cardiovascular health, healing skin inflammation, lowering cholesterol levels, and fighting diabetes. What truly sets breadfruit apart is that it is 100% gluten free. Given that roughly 1 in 5 Americans is currently trying to incorporate gluten-free foods into their diet, and that the gluten-free market is projected to rise to $15.6 billion by the end of 2016, organizations such as Trees That Feed are beacons to those looking to meet an emerging food industry need.

Breadfruit: Growing Real Solutions

Eighty percent of people who are afflicted by hunger live in a region with ideal ecological conditions for growing breadfruit trees. To give you a sense of proportion, one 7-pound breadfruit provides enough carbohydrates for one meal for a family of five people. A single breadfruit tree can feed a family of four for decades, promoting food security and self-reliance. The potential breadfruit holds to thwart world hunger is staggering when we consider how far the plant can be stretched to meet basic nutritional needs in impoverished communities.

Trees That Feed

iStock_000006743459_2000pxForward-thinking humanitarian organizations—such as Trees That Feed—have seen the potential breadfruit has to foster widespread social change just in the past few years. Dedicated to “planting trees to feed people, create jobs & benefit the environment,” the nonprofit organization has helped schools provide locally-produced meals to hundreds of thousands of students, and helped entrepreneurs set up their own self-sustaining businesses planting trees, producing food, and creating jobs in their communities. These promising results have spurred efforts to commercialize breadfruit in developing countries in the Caribbean and Pacific Islands. Ongoing initiatives successfully deliver trees to countries in need and train native farmers on improved growing and harvesting techniques to help them establish breadfruit farms and promoting economic stability in the region.

In 2008, Mary McLaughlin and her husband, Mike, began the Trees that Feed Foundation in Jamaica. After only a few short years the non-profit has successfully planted thousands of thriving breadfruit trees in school yards, orchards, and orphanages throughout the country. The organization also planted 2,000 trees in Haiti after the country was rocked by the devastating earthquake in 2010. Their goal is to eventually plant one million trees across Jamaica. Their partnership with Compatible Technology International has been a huge help in streamlining the conversion of raw breadfruit into flour. The Caribbean and Pacific Island countries growing these trees will also benefit greatly from the thousands of jobs created to meet the increasing demands for the wheat-flour alternative. An increase in jobs means an increase in revenue flowing through the community and decrease in crime and social fall-out from disaffection; key factors in creating lasting regional stability.

Global Mana joins a growing global network of those dedicated to advancing sustainable solutions with market strategies to drive positive social change.



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