“One of the most sobering and heartbreaking inequalities of our time is the fact that there are 795 million people out there that do not have access to enough food to lead an active and healthy life whilst a small portion of us live in excess purely due to the fortunate circumstances that we were born into.”
Thanks to Yeseul Park, one of our awesome volunteers for putting together this blog on Food Security. I hope you enjoy reading it and learn a bit at the same time. ~Matt
One of the most sobering and heartbreaking inequalities of our time is the fact that there are 795 million people out there that do not have access to enough food to lead an active and healthy life whilst a small portion of us live in excess purely due to the fortunate circumstances that we were born into. When we break these statistics down, it’s even more alarming to see that in places like Asia, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) found that two thirds of the population are undernourished while in Sub-Saharan Africa it’s one in four.
These figures have the biggest impact on the children of poor parents with inadequate nutrition being behind almost half of the deaths of children under five, one in three children in developing countries are stunted, and one out of six of those children are underweight. The WFP reports that worldwide, hunger and malnutrition are the number one risk to health, despite there being enough food in the world to feed everyone, and the great disparities in the distribution of these resources is to blame.
However, there is also good news
It is generally agreed that by fighting problems of food security and world hunger, nations can also enjoy the flow on effects of increases in the productivity of its people and reap the resulting economic opportunities. This in turn has even more trickle down effects as peace and stability are positively affected. It can truly present itself as being a win-win situation and this may in turn further motivate governments to prioritise and invest more in food security and hunger alleviation. However action must be taken now as the future food needs of a rapidly growing global population cannot be met by the current levels of production.
Climate change and issues of sustainability are also deeply entwined in this topic as climate change exacerbates natural disasters and worsening weather variations continue to impose devastating damage on already struggling communities in vulnerable areas. These effects are manifested through a wide range of weather events such as floods and droughts, in turn making agricultural productivity difficult and at times impossible for the poor, trapping them into cycles of chronic hunger and poverty. This is especially saddening when considering the fact that the ownership of a large percentage of the emissions that are now causing climate change primarily lie with the now developed countries whilst the consequences continue to be disproportionately felt by developing ones. Helping communities build resistance to these climate change related events is critical to ensuring food security and eliminating hunger, and projects like the WFP are doing fantastic work with local communities, international partners and governments to produce large-scale climate resilience innovations.
How our Charity Partners help
Our Charity Partner Oxfam Australia is also actively engaged in these areas, providing technology and resources for implementation in ways that preserve and strengthen autonomy and sense of community. An example of this is agroecology or “the use of ecological processes to design and manage agricultural production and create sustainable farming systems”. By utilising new research and technologies, food that is best suited to its environment can be developed and ensure that there is more food available year-round to be used for trade or consumption by these communities (1).
Another critical area that many of us may already be familiar with is the Fair Trade initiative. Oxfam’s Fairtrade chocolate is supplied by Kuapa Kookoo and it is the only farmer owned cocoa cooperative in Ghana. Kuapa Kookoo is doing great work as it invests millions back into communities where the benefits are reaped by all. They have funded health and safety projects such as the provision of well pumps for clean drinking water and toilets, the building of schools, economic and social empowerment to improve living standards, and have provided alternate means of livelihood during off-seasons, with women playing a major role in these programmes. Investing in Fair Trade products is a wonderful way to support local initiatives and help communities bolster their food security through independent channels.
Food sovereignty is also an essential component to food security and one that Caritas Australia believes in and supports heavily. Food sovereignty is centred on the notion that communities have not only the right to food but also to have a voice in the food economy and their right to participate and control their own food production. Caritas Australia work to engage families, farmers and communities in the decision-making process to promote good nutrition, safeguard the environment, community control through improving crop management and productivity, training in farming skills, improving seed selection for different environments, improving irrigation and through the development of rain water collection systems.
Amidst all these efforts, the importance of equal representation and involvement of women is paramount, and the WFP have found that if women farmers were granted the same access to resources as their male counterparts, the number of hungry people worldwide would decrease by up to 150 million. Poverty and hunger effect men and women in vastly different ways and women are the ones most hard hit as they traditionally carry more of the burden of care giving and face extreme limitations in their access to essential decision-making and legal processes. CARE Australia have been working in Africa through its Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) program, with 76% of these participants being female. In these areas, CARE has been providing its members with a mechanism to invest and save money and take small loans, a system allowing subsistence farm communities to manage money and become resistant to lean periods during their harvests. This makes a particular difference to people like Habiba Hassan, a mother of three in Tanzania, who is one of the 68% of the country’s population that lives on less than a dollar a day. The VSLA program helped Habiba invest in a cow to sell milk, and she was able to use the alternative source of income when the drought killed the rice and corn crops she primarily relied on. In Tanzania especially, efforts to spread new farming techniques and nutrition advice to women and children has aided stunting in children and maternal anemia in pregnant women. By educating women in agricultural technologies so that they may become self-sustainable, women have become empowered and subsequently it has allowed them to invest the money into the wellbeing and education of their children.
As you can see, food security is a complex issue, with many interconnecting factors but with assistance for organisations such as our Charity Partners we can ensure that communities have access to the knowledge, skill and resources to implement programs that will ultimately provide sustainable solutions.
Sources and further reading:
Hunger Stats (World Food Program)
What is food security (Resilience.org)
Food security and sustainable agriculture (Caritas Australia)
Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) (CARE Australia)
How can food security be achieved in the future? (Oxfam Australia)
Is Agroecology the answer to sustaining our food system? (Oxfam Australia)
Fairtrade (Oxfam Australia)
Small holders and family farmers (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN)