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World Without Hunger

October 16, 2009 Leave a comment

For one billion people around the world, the daily effort to grow, buy or sell food is the defining struggle of their lives. This matters to

them, and to all of us.

Consider the daily life of the world’s typical small farmer. She lives in a rural village in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia or Latin America, and farms a piece of land she does not own. She works all day in a field. If she’s lucky, drought, blight or pests don’t destroy her crops, and she raises enough to feed her family. She may even have some left over to sell. But there’s no road to the nearest market and no one there who can afford to buy from her.

Now let’s consider the life of a young man in a crowded city 100 miles from that farmer. He has no job — or a job that pays pennies. He goes to the market — but the food is rotting, or priced beyond reach. He is hungry, and often angry. She has extra food to sell; he wants to buy it. But that simple transaction can’t take place because of complex forces beyond their control.

Meeting the challenge of global hunger is at the heart of what we call “food security” — empowering the world’s farmers to sow and harvest plentiful crops, effectively care for livestock or catch fish — and then ensuring that the food they produce reaches people most in need.

Food security is not only about food. It represents the convergence of complex issues: droughts and floods caused by climate change, swings in the global economy that affect food prices and threaten the fate of vital infrastructure projects, and spikes in the price of oil that increase transportation costs.

But food security is all about security. Chronic hunger poses a threat to the stability of governments, societies and borders. People who are starving or undernourished, have no incomes and can’t care for their families are left with feelings of hopelessness and despair. That desperation can lead to tension, conflict and even violence. Since 2007, there have been riots over food in more than 60 countries.

The failures of farming in many parts of the world have a powerful impact on the global economy. Farming is the only or primary source of income for more than three-quarters of the world’s poor. When so much of humankind works hard everyday but still can’t support their families, the whole world is held back.

The Obama administration sees chronic hunger as a key priority of our foreign policy. Other countries are joining us in this effort. Major industrialised nations have committed more than $22 billion over three years to spur agriculture-led economic growth. And on September 26, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and i co-hosted a gathering of leaders from more than 130 countries to build international support.

The US approach to food security will be informed by our experience with development. The truth is, we have spent too many years and too much money on development projects that have not yielded lasting results. But we have learned from these efforts. We know that the most effective strategies emanate from those closest to the problems, not foreign governments or institutions thousands of miles away. And we know that development works best when it is seen not as aid but as investment.

Our food security initiative will be guided by five principles, which will help us get to the roots of the problem and pursue lasting change. First, we understand there is no one-size-fits-all model for agriculture. So we will work with partner countries to create and implement their plans. Second, we will address the underlying causes of hunger by investing in everything from better seeds to risk-sharing programmes to protect small farmers. Since the majority of the world’s farmers are women, it’s critical that our investments leverage their ambition and perseverance.

Third, no one entity can eradicate hunger on its own. But if stakeholders work together — coordinating on the country, regional and global levels — our impact can multiply. Fourth, multilateral institutions have the reach and resources that extend beyond any one country. By supporting their efforts, we will benefit from their expertise. Lastly, we pledge long-term commitment and accountability. To prove it, we will invest in monitoring and evaluation tools that will allow the public to see what we have done.

This effort may take years, even decades, before we reach the finish line. But we pledge our full resources and energies. We will maintain our deep commitment to emergency food assistance, to answer the urgent cry for help when tragedies and disasters take their toll — as is happening now in the Horn of Africa, where drought, crop failures and civil war have caused the worst humanitarian crisis in 18 years.

Revitalising global agriculture will not be easy. In fact, it is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive diplomacy and development efforts our country has ever undertaken. But it can be done. It is worth doing. And if we succeed, our future will be more prosperous and more peaceful than our past.

The writer is US secretary of state.
Today is World Food Day.

Categories: FOOD

World food day: One billion hungry

October 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Parents in some of Africa’s poorest countries are cutting back on school, clothes and basic medical care just to give their children a meal once a day, experts say. Still, it is not enough.

A record 1 billion people worldwide are hungry and a new report says the number will increase if governments do not spend more on agriculture. According to the UN food agency, which issued the report, 30 countries now require emergency aid, including 20 in Africa.

The trend continues despite a goal set by world leaders nine years ago to cut the number of hungry people in half by 2015.

“It’s actually a world emergency that calls for action from both developing and developed countries,” said Otive Igbuzor, the head of international campaigns for ActionAid International.
“We know a child
dies every six seconds of malnutrition,” he said.

Spiraling food prices have added to hardships, especially in the world’s most desperate countries where the poor could barely afford a single daily meal to begin with. The inflated prices — which caused riots across the globe last year — have stabilized but remain comparatively high, especially in the developing world, Jacques Diouf, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said.

In Somalia, ravaged by violence and anarchy for almost two decades, the monthly expenditure for food and other basic needs for a family of six has risen 85 percent in the past two years, said Grainne Moloney of the Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.

On average, such a family spent $171 in September this year, compared with $92 for the same amount of food and other needs in March 2007, said Moloney, a nutrition expert for the Horn of Africa nation.

“Families are cutting out the school, cutting out the clothes. A lot of them are going for cheaper cereals,” said Moloney, adding that despite those desperate measures, one in five children in Somalia is acutely malnourished.

Igbuzor said the trend can be seen in impoverished countries across Africa. In Kenya, herders have seen scores of their animals die and crops have withered because of drought. Today, 3.8 million people in Kenya need food aid, up from 2.5 million earlier in the year.

After worldwide gains in the fight against hunger in the 1980s and early 1990s, the number of undernourished people started climbing in 1995, reaching 1.02 billion this year amid escalating food prices and the global financial meltdown, the FAO said in its Wednesday report.

The long-term trend is due largely to reduced aid and private investments
earmarked for agriculture since the mid 1980s, the Rome-based agency said in its State of Food Insecurity report for 2009.

In 1980, 17 per cent of aid contributed by donor countries went to agriculture. That share was down to 3.8 per cent in 2006 and only slightly improved in the last three years, Diouf said.

Categories: FOOD