Time to act to alleviate food insecurity

2011 Blog Action Day on 16 October – World Food Day – is, naturally, themed around food

World Food Day gives us an opportunity to not only reflect but also to rethink how we can, in our capacities, feed the world.

Feeding the world is one of today’s biggest challenges for many countries, especially in the greater Horn of Africa where more than 11 million people face starvation. In recent months, millions went hungry and countless malnourished children died. Many are still without food today. This was, and still is, without doubt, a major world crisis. In Kenya, nomadic pastoralists living in the fragile northern parts of the country are particularly at risk. Women, the old and children under five are worst affected.

The region has suffered from more intense recurring drought and flooding over the years. The affected populations who have witnessed the negative effects now associated with climate change know the consequences of these natural and man-made disasters. The levels of malnutrition and famine have reached their highest percentages.

The distressing experiences of their tales haunt those who dare spare some time to ‘feel them’. One such statement is from Kausa, a 50-year-old grandmother, we met in Elwak, northern Kenya, two months ago.

“As a woman, it hurts to see my children cry with hunger,” she said. “It’s more painful as a mother to tell them that I don’t have any food to give them.”

The sheer need of this situation only confirms my belief that Practical Action’s long term development work, which is reaching out to these vulnerable communities to increase their resilience to climate change and drought, is needed now more than ever.

We know that pastoralism will be seriously affected by climate change but on the degree and locations of these impacts we are less certain. But unless we put in place adaptation to climate change, many millions of the poorest already negatively affected by food insecurity and other challenges will continue to suffer the most.

Tackling food insecurity/hunger requires more than just increasing livestock production and farm outputs. We should all aim to produce sufficient food to supply the full nutritional requirements of the human species whilst attempting to live in harmony with the natural environment and its finite resources.

Simple calculated steps on the choice and use of appropriate technologies can, and always will, yield good results. A vital step is to empower these vulnerable communities and groups to take control and increase their own food production. And to do this, we have to combine the best of all approaches to sustainably to improve the food security situation.

For the pastoralists, whose mainstay is best suited for the fragile ecosystems they inhabit, it is time to put in place pro-pastoralist policies and interventions that will lead to the industry being not only profitable, but competitive, more resilient, better able to provide environmental benefits and give greater choice, innovation and value to producers for them not to rely on relief aid.

Sustaining the above wishes will of course require huge commitment and continued effort by all stakeholders over the long haul. There are no quick fixes. But we know that we can defeat hunger by investing in: interventions that improve food production, marketing and the market systems, and their supply chains that in the long term will empower them to produce more and earn an income that can be used to cater for basic healthcare, education to ensure food security in the future.

2 responses to “Time to act to alleviate food insecurity”

  1. Mercy Says:

    we are fast wiping out 50% of all life on earth………..and as the youngest species at the top of the food chain, we are expendable. We can either take care of the environment or perish

  2. George Says:

    Thanks Mercy for your comment. I agree with you. The care for the environment starts at the individual level. It is every one’s responsibility.

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