HUNGER IN THE WORLD
The reason I claim my expertise to speak about this subject is my experience as the Coordinator of hunger relief for the World Council of Churches during the 1984 – 1989 famine in Africa. About one million people died in Ethiopia alone. It was the result of unprecedented drought that lasted four years.
The worst natural disaster was the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 which killed about 300,000. But there are two other causes of deaths that are more devastating than any natural disaster. One is the wars: 500 millions in four years, 1941-45 125 million @ year, 34,246 @ day) The other is hunger. 44,000 a day, or 25,000 a day die depending on the way counting is made. That is 100 Jumbo jets crash and kill everyone on board.
This is quite a contrast to the western statistics that indicate that main causes of death is attributed to over eating or unhealthy eating, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.
Why are we not paying more attention? Firstly, it is overwhelming – we can not handle it. Secondly, it is happening in the poorer parts of the world – Africa mainly, Asia, and Latin America. The solution is quite simple, actually. But we don’t want to deal with it, because it has a lot to do with our life-style and basic idea about life.
1. We must first of all forget the idea that there is not enough food in the world, therefore the solution is more food – finding ways to make more food or give food to those who have less. It is not the question of us making more food or giving more food to the hungry. The real cause of hunger is poverty. Hungry people are too poor to buy or make food. It is not the problem of availability of food but it is a problem of accessability to it.
There is plenty of food in the world. The problem is that some people can not buy it, because they can not buy it. People can make food anywhere. The problem is that they are prevented to make food because of economics and politics.
2. When I first went to look at the feeding camp in Ethiopia, I looked at a few camps in the Northern part of the country, where people were fed to recover strength. Many died, because for them it was too late. When they recover the strength, they were given some grain and seeds, and in many cases implements to start farming. Many died were farmers.
After inspecting the camps, we were taken to a hotel which stood outside of a feeding camp in Makele in Tigrey Province for lunch. We had a wonderful Italian dishes for lunch. Anyone could eat if they had money.
3. Africa suffered famine because of drought. But if they were as wealthy as we are, they didn’t have to suffer so much. The last few years of drought in Canadian Prairie was more severe that the drought in Africa. Our country is rich enough to cope with it in terms of loans, and other kinds of financing.
But African farmers remained poor because they had no saving, nor country had finance. Another factor that exacerbate the problem is the emphasis on cash crop for the country that required foreign currency. They converted food crops into coffee, sugar, peanuts, tobacco, etc. for the country to ean hard cash.
When Ethiopian farmers were starving, Ethiopia exported more food to Europe. Beef , coffee, and sugar continued to be shipped to Europe. Farmers could not buy it.
4. When good land was expropriate for cash crop, many men went to work for commercial farms. Production of food crop was left to women. They were not valued and not given credit facilities.
5. Making people getting out of poverty is the way to feed people. People need dignity to sustain themselves. We do have enough food. New seed variety or fertilizer is not the solution. Also family farms are more efficient that the large scale commercial farms.
6. I believe in supporting farmers. Japan, Switzerland, etc. We will soon have to pay more attention to water and food. Oil will not be an important factor for our survival.