I suspect we’ve all been hungry – as someone who has battled with my weight all my life there have been times when I’ve felt very hungry.
Listening to people in Bangladesh I realised that their experience of hunger is on a different scale. A father talked about each year there being many weeks when his family have nothing to eat for days; and even when they do have food it having little nutritious value. Of lying with his wife and young children for days on end in their hut so as to use as little human energy as possible, conserving any resources their bodies have so that they can wait it out until food is available. The kids looked to be between 5 and 8 I imagined them so weak their enthusiasms could be totally squashed. Very sad!
A woman spoke about how she wants to work, to try and do something to make some money and have dignity in her life but how lack of food has weakened her so she has no energy – literally. How hunger debilitates.
I thought of these people as I listened to the Today Programme this morning. People were talking about how they had lost their children to malnutrition – they had died. One family had lost 5 of their 9 children to hunger.
I understand this as a reality, I’ve seen people really struggling – talked with people in Bangladesh and elsewhere but even so this death toll is hard to take in.
Hunger is the result of multiple factors – some of us eating too much or demanding too rich food particularly meat, population growth, speculation pushing up prices, climate and other environmental changes making farming even more difficult.
We need to tackle hunger – so I welcome David Cameron’s Hunger Summit.
There are arguments about the way forward for agriculture in the developing world, somewhat weirdly in my mind going back to the big versus small debates that Schumacher so brilliantly contributed too.
On the one hand is the argument that markets must rule, we should support the big agri businesses to show people how to farm, mega land grabs creating massive farms with food grown using intensive production techniques.
On the other hand there are arguments championed by a group of experts led by Kofi Annan for investment in small scale producers – in marginalised farmers. Most of the people who go hungry make their living by food production – ironic if it wasn’t so sad. If we can improve people’s ability to farm we can help people escape hunger.
Practical Action favours the agro ecological approach of the second option believing it better for people today and into the future. Protecting generations to come. We also know that it can work having seen the impact through our own projects. This is practical knowledge not merely theoretical.
But overall the picture now is of a food system that’s failing – it’s both unequal and unsustainable, incapable of feeding the world today and undermining our ability to feed 9 billion in 2050.
Let’s hope David Cameron’s initiative today and through his leadership next year at the G8 can end hunger promptly achieving this vision means overcoming multiple challenges. Challenges that will mean changes in our lives and in those of people who are hungry.