Hunger Galore

Mathematically, everything is so simple. If you divide the amount of food produced worldwide today by the number of inhabitants of the earth, then each person could eat 2800 calories every day. This solves the math problem, but does not even begin to address the real problem. The FAO, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, reports that one sixth of the world’s population is currently unable to obtain the calories that would guarantee them a minimum subsistence level in the long term.

According to the FAO, 1.02 billion people are hungry, 105 million more than a year ago. This is despite the fact that, in the rosy dawn of the third millennium, the world’s nations solemnly pledged to halve the number of hungry people from 840 million at the time to 420 million. By 2015, they wanted to have achieved this. However: The closer the deadline, the further away the goal moves. In addition, the task is becoming ever more daunting: by the middle of the century, the number of people is expected to rise from 6.7 billion today to 9 billion. And it will grow above all in those countries in Africa and Asia where the food supply is already insecure .

It is the once-in-a-century flood here, the once-in-a-century drought there, the consequences of climate change that bring agriculture to a standstill with increasing intensity in changing parts of the world. It is the incessant wars, the “human failures” in other words, that drive entire peoples into hunger. The world could compensate for all this; the granaries are full, the harvest of the outgoing year falls just short of the all-time records. But the fault lies in the world economic system. Nowhere is it more evident than in the countries that suffer from hunger. They are virtually all societies with an agrarian structure.

Italian experts boil it down to the formula: 80 percent of those who suffer from hunger are farmers. Small farmers, to be precise. According to the FAO, 85 percent of the world’s “land holdings” are smaller than two hectares; small farmers and their families make up one-third of the world’s population. That’s why the FAO also wants to start with small farmers. Their problem, especially in the Third World, is that they cannot produce efficiently or profitably, and in the course of the past decades they have been marginalized by both the mass and the prices of the food imported from the – also agraican – industrialized countries of the North.

Even well-intentioned “hunger relief” has done more harm than good. The delivery of food has not helped farmers get on their feet, but has increased their misery. Since these countries have been deprived of their only means of creating value, they now lack the money to pay the exorbitantly increased food prices. The gap between North and South is widening.

This Monday, the World Food Summit begins at FAO headquarters in Rome. Secretary-General Diouf assures us that 60 heads of state and government have confirmed their attendance. Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama, however, is absent; he is in China. Diouf, who is from Senegal, is urgently calling on the rich countries to provide a further 44 billion dollars a year for agricultural development in the poor countries. That would be four times as much as today – but viewed differently, it would merely be a return to the level of the 1980s. Since then, hundreds of billions of dollars have been saved under the credo of “free” trade “regulated by the market”.

But this has overtaxed the countries that are starving today … They were not yet that far along in their development. In addition, the widespread problem of state-controlled or state-sponsored mismanagement – in despotically ruled countries in Africa, for example – was not solved by the “punitive” shortage of international funds: Only less money reached the bottom, those who urgently needed it.

(Source: Der Tagesspiegel/Berlin, 2009-11-16)

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