Last week, three separate international studies issued some startling facts about planet Earth. Our current world population - according to the UN, will hit the 7 billion mark at the end of this month. Every 24 hours we add 360,000 new inhabitants, and in the same period an estimated 30,000 children die from hunger or preventable diseases. Nearly one billion are malnourished.

Garden of Eden - Club Membership Required

Paradoxically, another recent study estimates that a third of what we grow globally is thrown out before it gets to the table. How can this happen? The reasons are many. One has to do with earth's unequal distribution of her natural resources. Using satellite imagery, a team of scientists from Canada, Sweden, Germany, and U.S. confirmed what we already suspected: the planet's best agricultural areas are not always located where most people live. That fact, coupled with the disproportionate allocation of fresh water and other resources makes for a less than equal global garden. Most food economists agree the bread baskets of the world currently produce enough for everyone, but the baskets don't always get passed around.

Grocer to Garbage

Other reasons are man-made and therefore more complicated. The cycle of food production, distribution, and pricing is profit driven and largely dictated by the developed countries. Large scale food production is geared for those who can pay for it - they are first in line and get first pick. After that, it becomes a frantic scramble for the leftovers. In "advanced" countries, our culture of wasteful consumption encourages us to throw away what we don't need because it's convenient and easily replenished. The age-old problem has always been how to redistribute the over-abundance, when there is no inherent profitable motive to do so. While we may always struggle with this dilemma, international aid organizations like Planet Aid do make a difference every day.

From Single Family Plot to Multi-Crop Farms

Planet Aid-supported Farmers' Clubs in Mozambique, for example, provide valuable training to subsistence farmers. By growing their own crops, farmers can feed their families, be less reliant on external food aid, and earn income from crop sales. The program teaches farmers how to enhance soil fertility, increase crop yields, and how to collectively manage resources, like irrigation water. Where these programs have been applied, some farmers have experienced triple digit improvements in production and family income.

Education before Population

While lower than in earlier decades, high birth rates remain a constant in countries where income among the poorest is a little over a dollar a day. Again, the reasons are many, but results point to education as one clear answer. Evidence gathered by the Futures Group, a global health consulting firm, finds that 40 percent of pregnancies are unintended. Yet 215 million women in lesser developed nations have no access to even basic education. Decades of study have shown that women with some education have fewer and healthier children. In Mali, for instance, women with no schooling have an average of seven children, while those with at least a secondary education have fewer than four.

Teachers Needed

At Planet Aid, a key focus is supporting early childhood education for both girls and boys, and continuing education for young and older adults. As most evidence shows, education remains the single most important "change factor" in transforming lives of the impoverished. In the 26 colleges that Planet Aid supports in Angola, Malawi, and Mozambique, 3,000 new primary school teachers graduated last year alone. These teachers are a critical link in the education chain. Learning occurs and flourishes when children can read and write and have regular access to schools and resources. Planet Aid-funded programs build and maintain schools as well as provide a steady stream of new teachers for current and future students. Higher literacy rates open multiple opportunities and encourage education within families. Literacy rates increase among younger siblings if older children are taught, and this knowledge often spills forward to new generations.

Your Donations Give Help and Hope

None of these programs would be possible without your generous and ongoing support. As simple as it sounds, your donation of old clothes can be turned into funding for several humanitarian projects world-wide. In 2010, the 95 million pounds of clothes and shoes donated to Planet Aid meant $12 million in funding for farming and education programs, as well as for projects to fight malaria and HIV/AIDS. Others like Child Aid and H.O.P.E. were able to continue their mission thanks to you. While we sometimes regard famine and poverty as important but distant issues, they are the day-to-day reality for millions. For many, each day means a new struggle to survive. Learn how you can make a difference - visit today.

~ Ruben V.