“What should President [Barack] Obama and [Republican presidential nominee] Gov. Mitt Romney talk about during [Monday’s] foreign policy debate? The force that can make or break a foreign policy: food,” author William Lambers, who partnered with the U.N. World Food Programme on the book “Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World,” writes in a Tennessean opinion piece. “There are 870 million people worldwide who suffer from hunger and malnutrition,” he notes, adding, “As former Army chief and Secretary of State George Marshall said, ‘Food is a vital factor in our foreign policy. And the attitude of Americans toward food can make or break our efforts to achieve peace and security throughout the world.'”
Food Security and Nutrition
U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg on Saturday said food shortages are “a chronic problem” in southern Africa, “where more than 5.5 million people in eight countries need aid this year, a 40 percent increase compared to 2011,” according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Associated Press reports. Ending a five-day trip to the region, “Bragg … said worsening food shortages are the result of drought or floods and rising world food prices,” according to the AP (10/20). Bragg met with officials in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa to discuss increased cooperation and preparedness, the U.N. News Centre reports, noting Malawi, Lesotho, and Swaziland also are affected by chronic food shortages, according to OCHA (10/19).
“A new project with the objective of eliminating hunger in West Africa has been launched by West African countries, Germany, and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),” BusinessDay reports (10/20). The three-year Hunger-Free Initiative for West Africa will “support the 15 ECOWAS members to increase commitment and collaboration among key decision makers of all sectors,” which “is expected to translate into increased budgets allocations to food and nutrition security as well as private investment to combat poverty, the [FAO] said in a news release,” the U.N. News Centre writes (10/18). “Germany is providing $2.4 million to fund the project, while FAO is expected to provide technical support,” the Devex “Development Newswire” reports, adding, “ECOWAS also committed financial support and pledged to ensure active participation from its members.” According to the news service, “The project’s focus on increasing political commitment in West Africa echoes U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for strong political will and new technologies to eradicate hunger around the world” (Mungcal, 10/19).
“Innovative approaches and technologies as well as a strong political will from countries are essential to combat hunger,” according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who spoke Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa, at an event to recognize the winner of the World Food Prize, the U.N. News Centre reports. This year’s winner, Israeli scientist Daniel Hillel, developed “a new mode of bringing water to crops iÂÂn arid and dry regions, known as ‘micro-irrigation,'” the news service notes. An end to hunger “calls for harnessing the creativity of scientists and economists,” Ban said, adding, “It requires developing new approaches and technologies to respond to climate change, water scarcity and desertification,” according to the news service (10/18). “There is enough food to feed seven billion people, but because of climatic conditions, because of supply, market price volatility, there are still 870 million people who are going to bed hungry every night,” Ban said, the Des Moines Register notes.
“[T]he latest calculations show that U.S. ethanol policies have increased the food bills of poor food-importing countries by more than $9 billion (Â£5.6 billion) since 2006,” Olivier De Schutter, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog. He asks, “But where to next? Should we disavow biofuels altogether?” He writes, “The new starting point should be to put food security first,” noting, “Globally, 25 percent of land is already degraded, and the remaining productive areas are subject to ever-greater competition from industrial and urban uses.”
India’s National Food Security Bill, “expected to be discussed in Parliament later this year, … holds out hope of addressing some of the nation’s most persistent and pervasive problems,” Ashwin Parulkar, a research scholar at the Centre for Equity Studies, writes in the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog. “Unfortunately, in my view, the draft in its current form will be a major let down,” he states and provides some background on the bill. “Lawmakers have drafted this legislation but it appears that the bill will do little to tackle the critical areas of India’s hunger crisis so widely acknowledged by this country’s own policymakers,” he writes.
The following blog posts were published Tuesday in recognition of World Food Day, observed annually on October 16.
“Nothing could be more appropriate than the World Food Day focus on cooperatives this year,” because “[t]he collective power of cooperatives can enable better access to market, better returns, better access to inputs and services, and a better support network for smallholder farmers,” leading to “[h]igher returns” which allow farmers to “better provide for the nutrition, education and health of their families,” Mark Bowman, managing director of SABMiller, writes in an AllAfrica.com opinion piece. Africa is “at the center of the global challenge of food security,” “because one in three of the world’s hungry live on the continent” and “because Africa has the potential not only to feed its own people but also to become a more significant food exporter,” he says. Smallholder farmers are essential to meet this “challenge and potential,” Bowman notes, but he adds they are “cut off” by location or lack of funding from new products and technologies, efficient transport, and information.
In this episode of CNN’s “Amanpour,” correspondent Christiane Amanpour talks with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Angelique Kidjo, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, about childhood stunting, which “threatens 180 million children below the age of five all over the world.” According to the show’s summary, “[m]illions of children around the world are threatened with death, lowered I.Q. and deformities by [the] life-altering condition — one that can be avoided simply by eating enough nutrients.” “It’s probably the least understood, most under-appreciated development issue, human issue, perhaps in the world,” Lake says in the video (Burke/Krever, 10/16).
“The international community is gathering in Italy for World Food Day on Tuesday with a round of U.N.-hosted talks on how to keep global food prices in check and help prevent future commodity market crises,” the Bangkok Post reports. “The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is holding a week-long meeting of the Committee on World Food Security, which is made up of U.N. officials, farming experts, and civil society representatives,” the newspaper notes (10/16). The theme of this year’s World Food Day is “Agricultural Cooperatives — Key to Feeding the World” to coincide with the International Year of Cooperatives, according to an FAO press release.