16 October marks World Food Day and coincides with the UN’s founding date of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). But World Food Day serves a higher goal than celebrating the FAO’s founding date – it fights for the hungry. Fighting for the 870 million people across the globe who suffer from daily debilitating hunger. This figure equals a ratio of one in every eight people living on sparse and irregular food supplies. Drastically worsening this battle is the geographical location of the hungry as 98% of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries where poverty, economic and environmental hardship and gender inequality prevails. These conditions contribute to sometimes shockingly low calorie intake for entire communities, often over prolonged periods of time. On a global scale, Sub-Sahara Africa is the developing region with the greatest number of hungry people. Considering the figures involved, hunger or in medical terms, malnutrition, is officially considered as the human population’s greatest health risk.
The focus for World Food Day 2012 is agricultural cooperatives – the key to feeding the world, promoting the sharing and pooling of resources for more effective food production and thus higher food security levels. A major advantage of cooperatives is that it can specifically contribute to solving what can be described as the core of hunger – the millions of families living in communities which rely on subsistence or smallholder farming. Moving from the status of a subsistence farmer to a larger agricultural group, these subsistence farmers gain access to previously inaccessible resources: agricultural stock and seedbanks, synthetic aides (fertilizers, pesticides), equipment, training as well as access to technology. Cooperatives can furthermore help farmers in negotiating land and land use rights as well as produce trading.
A successful agricultural cooperatives
The support provided to agricultural communities through international cooperatives have already yielded notable success in developing countries. uManyano Agricultural Primary Cooperative is a South African example where agricultural cooperatives brought success in the form of economic and food security relief for a local community. Farming produce from this cooperative includes chicory and vegetables. Sixteen previously unemployed women head uManyona, and together with the help of the agricultural cooperative, they are producing chicory in volumes that relate well to commercial farms. Furthermore, the vegetables produce, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages and carrots, is a golden commodity for the local community.
Agricultural cooperatives such as uManyona and others have shown how food availability and access can be improved through the pooling of resources. It is important to note that food availability and food access, are two of the three key factors defining food security. Although the exact boundaries of food security are still debated, one aspect is set in stone: agriculture is essential in securing food, which is why the 2012 World Food Day theme is of such critical importance. Despite the paradox that on paper, global food production is enough food to sufficiently feed the world population, poverty and economic hardship are preventing the accessing of these food sources; therefore the need for improving local conditions for increased food production on local and national scales.
The world may still be some distance from achieving food security for all of its inhabitants, but the forward thinking and global involvement exposing hunger cannot be ignored. In light of World Food Day, share some information about world hunger statistics and the global initiatives fighting for the 870 million hunger people on this globe.
Photo credits: some rights reserved by Nathan Greenwood and africa via freedigitalphotos.net