As the London Olympics come to a close David Cameron the UK’s Prime Minister has summoned World Leaders, International NGO’s and such like to a summit to discuss global hunger.
The lack of food is a topic I return to on this blog time and time again mostly because having grown up in Uganda I know what it is like to go hungry but also that it is something I can’t make sense of. Although this particular summit will focus on hunger and malnutrition in the developing world, Africa in particular, they are at least 1 million children going hungry right here in the UK . Yes, that is right that many children go hungry right here in the first world.
But why is that? We have the most generous welfare system in the world. Is it possible that it is failing the most vulnerable in society? Are our social workers failing these families or have they been priced out of the food market? I sincerely don’t know but I am one those that find this fact staggering and indeed some in the UK are resentful of the fact that so much AID is sent abroad and yet they are people in need right here. The rights and wrongs of this debate almost always depend on whom you are listening to as eel as your political persuasion.
Back to food shortage, another surprise that has been thrown up in the news headlines is that although India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it has the highest number of malnourished and starving children in the entire world. How can this be, after all food shortages in the Sahel, Niger and the Horn of Africathat are well documented and we have all seen the headlines on our TV sets? Is it possible that a country that has its own Aid program has more malnourished children than African countries?
The problem with food is those have too much are obese whilst others have none and are dying of hunger. How can we get the balance right? On the face of it the answer appears very simple: move food from where there is plenty to where there is none! That being the case, why aren’t we doing so?
In my minds eye, it boils down to WILL, this can be either political, social, economic and or technological will.
- Technology is very important in securing food, but is the North ready to share the technical know how with the South?
- The economics of food have to work for the poor as well as the markets. Does this explain why India and the UK have children going angry in spite of those countries apparent wealth? Should the West pay huge subsidies to its farmers to grow food for the sole purpose of using it as Food Aid?
- Political will, unlocks blockages in the food chain by harnessing innovation, investing in ideas to secure food
- Social- We should all be concerned about those going hungry and do what we can to ensure that this doesn’t become the norm
It all seems straightforward but I wonder why aren’t we doing it? Why do we allow food to be traded on world markets at prices that some in the world cannot afford causing them to die of hunger?
I recently became aware of an amazing product that almost encompasses all four points. If you are from Uganda or have travelled to Uganda you will have come across Uganda’s staple food MATOKE.
This is a green banana that is boiled or steamed and served with stew. Like all bananas its shelf life is limited and it has to be eaten fairly quickly preferably before it ripens. But a Ugandan woman set about changing this having observed how the life of a potato is extended using technology. The President of Uganda sanctioned the project and it became known as the President’s Banana Initiative. In applying technology to a simple banana in this way cuts out wastage, makes the banana more portable as such easier to take to market but also makes it easier to use in cases of emergencies.
The reason I shared this particular initiative is because whilst here in the west a lot of food is wasted between the supermarket- fridge and plate in most developing countries the wastage is between land and plate. This is due to lack of technology that would ensure value addition as well as preservation in order to prolong the shelf life of food. The consequence of this that folk have no way of saving food for lean times.
I have raised some ethical questions in the post and I am keen to hear your views so over to you