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Feeding the poor today and everyone on the planet tomorrow: What are the issues, and what can be done to avert a global food crisis?
by KRISTIN SCHAAF
As our global poverty rate continues to rise, so with it will our global hunger.
The media is quick to blame the growing worldwide poverty and hunger rates on the plummeting American dollar and skyrocketing costs of fuel and food. But there are problems underlying even these issues that our nations must come together and face.
Just over a decade ago, 180 countries came together at the World Food Summit to seek ending world hunger. We must come together again and collaborate for real solutions.
"Most developing countries will not reach the MDG (Millennium Development Goal) [to cut in half the number of hungry people living on less than a dollar a day in 25 years] target on hunger and poverty, let alone those focusing on education, health, and human rights. According to World Bank projections, by 2015, 700 million people worldwide will remain poor many of them extremely poor and 600 million will go hungry."
In 2007, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) hosted a conference, "Taking Action for the World's Poor and Hungry People", to address several root issues of our global poverty and hunger.
Lack of access.
Hundreds of millions worldwide are going hungry. In fact, more than 800 million people do not have adequate access to food. That's more than two-and-a-half times the number of people currently living in the United States. And, more than one billion people live on less than one dollar a day. Again, that's one-sixth of the entire world's population that is living on just pennies a day. Most of the booming poor and hungry population is in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Lack of resources.
Without access, it is nearly impossible to have the resources to acquire food or money. The poorest in our globe live in under-developed countries, or countries experiencing war or conflict. Many of these nations lack the know-how or the resources to help the impoverished. This means that the poor are often unable to get out of poverty on their own, as they are caught in a "poverty trap". This is where other nations must step in, collaborating and providing the necessary resources to end the poverty that leads to hunger.
Lack of agricultural development.
Without sustainable agriculture or economic sustainability, there are very few opportunities or resources for food or employment. And, poor free trade policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement cause farmers to often outsource their products for a cheaper price than what they are worth. Countries must develop and sustain their own agriculture and economic resources in order to sustain its people. Otherwise, we will continue to see the trend of rural areas being the most impoverished (and small farmers fighting for business), and, due to the lack of agricultural development, poverty and hunger also increasing in urban areas.
Lack of stability or adequate infrastructure.
Without infrastructure, proper policies, institutional support or economic viability, the number of poor and hungry will only continue to increase. Without infrastructure, health epidemics will only continue to spread and economic crises will result in millions more impoverished.
According to IFPRI, "with the right mix of policies and decisive government support, combined with joint action by public institutions, civil society and private sector, enormous progress can be made."
In other words, if developed nations and institutions work together toward just and fair policies and solutions, we can bring about great progress and avert a global food crisis:
Improving access for all, focusing on inclusive growth.
According to Prof. Dr. Arsenio M. Balisacan, Director of the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and Professor of Economics at the University of the Philippines Diliman, "The government has to simply prioritize spending on infrastructure and the social sector, especially in basic education, health and family planning services, and environment." IFPRI agrees that there must be an increased investment in building infrastructure, including for the hungry and poor.
Improving access to adequate resources for agricultural development.
Because of free trade agreements, farmers are often robbed of a fair price for their food, leaving many rural families impoverished. With a greater focus on building infrastructure rather than trading out, agricultural development will improve as farmers are able to sustain themselves, their land and their local economy. And, when the poor have adequate resources to build their skills and give back to their communities, the local economy and infrastructure will continue to benefit as well.
Investing in institutional support and infrastructure.
Other developed countries must collaborate and provide the necessary resources to help build up local governments, institutional support and strong infrastructure needed. This includes providing the necessary education for the poor so they can get out of the poverty trap and take advantage of the opportunities that lie before them. This also includes building up an adequate health-care system and agricultural sustainability.
Investing in infrastructure also means investing in community and into individuals themselves. It is important for citizens to know that they play a role so that they may continue to provide for themselves and give back to their communities. IFPRI states that, "At the local level it is crucial to establish the capacity to mobilize resources and to promote sound governance with accountability that gives poor people a voice in their own communities."
Once the access, resources and infrastructure are invested in and provided for the poor, it all must come back to the individuals to work together to sustain themselves.
Because we all deserve the chance to live a full and abundant life.
International Food Policy Research Institute: "Taking Action for the World's Poor and Hungry People"
International Development Research Centre: "A Multi-pronged Approach to Ensuring Food Security"
International Development Research Centre: "The Other Half' of Global Hunger and Poverty"
UP Centennial Lecture Series: "Poverty Reduction: What We Know and Don't"