Sunday, June 19, 2011

The End of World Hunger

Two weeks ago, Oxfam launched its new campaign "Grow" for a world without hunger. It is not a utopia  for people who want to do good and dreamers of all nations. It is a real plan based on achievements of  forward thinking governments and communities - for example, the government and communities of Brazil who succeeded in halving hunger in just 15 years. 

In support of this campaign, Desmond Tutu, the archbishop emeritus of Cape town and Nobel Prize writes :  "World hunger is man-made and only we can end it (...) Hunger is not a natural phenomenon. It is a man-made tragedy. People do not go hungry because there is not enough food to eat. They go hungry because the system that delivers food from the fields to our plates is broken".* 

If the world produces enough food to feed everyone, why doesn't it work? Susan George, an American political scientist and activist explained the reasons of world hunger in a brilliant book** . Her staring point  is the contradiction that Marx analyzed 150 years ago , that is capitalism is the most productive system in history and yet creates the most extreme wealth alongside the greatest extreme of human misery and deprivation. In this regard, hunger is not a fatality: it is the product of a system of control organised by large corporations over the food systems. It is not just a mere issue of income distribution, although this is related to consumption patterns, which means that the system will encourage the production of food stuffs and other goods which yield the highest profits and which are therefore geared to satisfy the needs of those who can pay!

Recent analysis ( Oxfam International) shows that the food system is collapsing: early 2011 almost a billion people suffer from hunger and their number will rise considerably if no measures are taken. Over the next twenty years  prices for some basic food products will increase from 120% to 180% , whist water demand will rise by 30% and arable land will reduce in per capita terms.  

Combating hunger  requires a new approach in the way we produce and share food. We need first of all a new global governance to prevent food crises. We must redirect investments from large producers to poor producers and provide them the support they need to adapt to a changing climate.We must end policies which reward companies for turning food into engine fuel. We must introduce a much stricter regulation for commodities markets: the cereals market is controlled by just three big corporations - which control 90% of global trade and create price volatility. Finally, a  global deal on climate change would not only be desirable but necessary in order to influence more responsible behavior of consumers, in choosing, for example products which are produced in a fair and sustainable way. 

We should not be naive. Many governments and companies will strongly oppose any change in habits, ideology or the pursuit of profit. The call for change is a matter for all of us.Time has come to join any initiative for which it is worth struggling. 

* See

** How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger (Penguin) 1976. Reprinted 1986, 1991

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