Perhaps 1 billion or more of the world’s population suffer from material poverty and hunger with sixty-five percent of those living in just seven countries (WFP, 2010) [India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia] according to the United Nations World Food Program. Sixty percent of those who lack sufficient food are women, and according to UNICEF’s estimates in 2007 more than 10 million children under five die in developing countries each year due to malnutrition and hunger-related disease.
Five factors, according to the World Food Program serve as the main causes of hunger–the consequence of Food Insecurity: Climate Change, Violent Conflicts, lack of financial and material wealth, uneven distribution of infrastructure (lack of roads, warehouses, irrigation resulting in high transportation costs, lack of storage facilities and unreliable water supplies) and environmental breakdown due to deforestation, overcropping, erosion, salination and desertification.
I suggest there are still other factors contributing to growing food insecurity: concentration of economic control over food production, and displacement of peoples from small, productive lands, forests and jungles where they produce their own food.
Food production is increasingly in the hands of major corporations selectively narrowing the global food base. More productive land is falling under the control of massive business organizations. Individual family food production is declining world-wide as people are forced off their land or away from productive sources of food.
Evidence of the folly this approach to food production represents can be found in the globally rising food prices resulting from crop failures in grain exporting countries. Total global grain production declined by more than 2.7% from the 2008-2009 to 2010-2011 period. Wheat production is down by more than 5.5% in that period. Owing to an unprecedented heat wave in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan wheat production precipitously dropped and prices rose–beyond the capacity of people to pay. The same problem occurred affecting rice prices.
When people are no longer able to either produce or purchase food in large measure due to the five major causes of hunger plus corporate control over more food producing land, the cost of food rises and food becomes inaccessible–the number of people hungry and dying increases worldwide.
A major adjustment needed in the world food production system is to localize more food production by returning land to peoples whose land was “legally” taken (e.g., Brazil, Mexico, Botswana), or confiscated under government control (Zimbabwe) or lands stolen outright as in the case of Darfur in the Sudan. Governments should sponsor rural development programs to support local food production from agriculture to permaculture and wildcrafting.
Life must be the principle motive for food production, not profits. Governments must step back from the drive to increase the “bottom line” of corporations so as to claim successful economic development, and step forward to promote community and family food production on lands restored and protected. Where climate change, violence and economic poverty undermine food production governments must seek out best practices in traditional knowledge and conventional sciences to support effective adaptation. If a population must be relocated it must be done with free, prior and informed consent well in advance of the impending adverse affects on food production.
Food security is a necessity for life. Communities and countries have an obligation to focus greater attention on this growing challenge to human security. Changes in the global food system and the economics of food must be changed to diversify food production among peoples throughout the world instead of narrowing access by promoting a global food trade system that is more susceptible to the affects of the five causes of hunger. While droughts, for example may cause some small food producers to suffer in one region, such an event would not undermine food production in other parts of the world. Diversity is essential with food being produced locally by more individuals and communities.
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