Category Archives: Hunger

Economists urge G20 to tackle hunger

G20 ministers meeting this week in Paris must take urgent action to stop speculation on commodity markets that is fuelling food prices and hunger, 450 economists demanded in a letter published Tuesday.

“Excessive financial speculation is contributing to increasing volatility and record food prices, exacerbating global hunger and poverty,” the economists wrote in the letter to finance ministers.

“With around one billion people enduring chronic hunger worldwide, action is urgently needed to curb excessive speculation and its effects on global food prices,” they added in the letter on behalf of the World Development Movement.

The WDM, based in Britain, is an anti-poverty campaigning organisation.

Economists from leading universities including Cambridge, Oxford, Berkeley, Cornell and the London School of Economics were among the hundreds who signed the letter.

They were “adding their voices to an escalating international campaign,” the WDM said in a statement.

“The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation… Pope (Benedict XVI), French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz are among those who have already spoken out in favour of curbing speculation,” it added.

Deborah Doane, director of the World Development Movement, said: “Excessive lobbying from the finance sector seems to be delaying political action, both here in the UK, and elsewhere.

“This is despite the obvious suffering caused by speculation on this most basic human need, and despite the growing number of voices calling for action. “Instead of propping up cynical financial gambling by speculators, the G20 finance ministers must act to ensure that strict rules are put in place to limit the hold of bankers over the world’s food markets,” she added.

via Economists urge G20 to tackle hunger – International | IOL Business | IOL.co.za.

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Food Prices Set to Rise Further according to UN

Food price volatility featuring high prices is likely to continue and probably increase next year, making poor farmers even more vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity, the global report on food insecurity released Monday by the United Nations’ three Rome-based food agencies predicts.

Small, import-dependent countries, particularly in Africa, are especially at risk. “Many of them still face severe problems following the world food and economic crises of 2006-2008,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in preface to The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2011 (SOFI).

“The main reason for increased price volatility is that supply production cannot catch up with demand,” FAO senior economist George Rapsomanikis told IPS. “What is happening is that we have a steady increase in demand, mainly due to increase in the population, and also a change in the diet of population in emerging economies who are gradually changing their diets, including more meat and more grain.

“On the other side, production cannot catch up with consumption. The global stock levels are becoming lower, lower than they used to be ten years ago and if there is an external shock in the market, this is going to generate volatility. So tighter markets means more volatility in the future.”

High and volatile food prices are identified as major contributing factors in food insecurity at the global level. Price volatility makes both smallholder farmers and poor consumers increasingly vulnerable to poverty while short-term price changes can have long-term impacts on development, the report says.

Changes in income due to price swings and decreased food consumption can reduce children’s intake of key nutrients during the first thousand days of life from conception.

But price swings affect countries, populations and households very differently. According to the report, the most exposed are the poor and the weak, particularly in Africa, where the number of undernourished increased by 8 percent between 2007 and 2008.

“Countries that import food are going to be the most vulnerable. Low income, food importing countries are going to suffer for this, mainly because they are going to experience very high import prices. And they cannot plan their own future – if the world prices are volatile, then it is very difficult to plan,” Rapsomanikis said.

The report also finds that further growth in biofuels will place additional demands on the food system.

Food price volatility may increase over the next decade due to stronger linkages between agricultural and energy markets, according to Rapsomanikis. “There are markets and markets. Brazil utilises sugarcane to produce ethanol; in the European Union we have oil seeds; in the U.S. we have maize.

“The U.S. are the largest importer of maize, and about 30 percent of the maize production becomes ethanol. Since both energy markets and the food markets use maize as an input, if there is a shock in the oil market, the shock will be transmitted quite rapidly to the food market.”

The report also stresses that investment in agriculture remains critical to sustainable, long-term food security and asks governments to facilitate and increase investments. “The first thing that governments should do is to increase investments on the agricultural sector,” the FAO expert told IPS.

“According to our earlier estimates about investments, in order for production to meet demands, investments need to increase in developing countries by about 50 percent. And this includes investments in inputs, fertilisers and extension services; it is about accessing facilities, market, storage, it is about the whole food system. And there is also a need for investments in public goods like transport infrastructure, communication infrastructure and large scale irrigation projects, especially in Africa.”

Key areas for directing such investments, the report says, should be cost-effective irrigation, improved land-management practices and better seeds developed through agricultural research. “That would help reduce the production risks facing farmers, especially smallholders, and mitigate price volatility.”

The private sector can be of help as well. According to FAO, part of these investments can come from official development assistance (ODA), but that is not going to be enough, because an investment gap remains.

“ODA is being reduced and the share of agriculture is only four percent,” Rapsomanikis said. “What is needed above and beyond ODA and the national expenditure on agriculture, is the involvement of the private sector. And not only companies, farmers are private sector. Countries should create an environment to increase private investments in order to achieve productivity growth, through good structural and financial policies, and effective government systems. This would create and enabling environment for people to invest.”

But smallholders are facing so many constraints that it is hard to see them as investors. “Many smallholder farmers are not integrated in the market, they do not have access to output market and even to inputs, to technology, to financing and credit. This is where governments and the private sector could help – through public-private partnerships that provide transportation infrastructure to farmers who are in remote areas, the report suggests.

FAO’s best estimate of the number of hungry people for 2010 remains at 925 million. For the 2006-2008 period FAO calculates the number of hungry were 850 million. The report says “methodology FAO uses for calculating the prevalence of hunger is currently under revision,” and so no estimates have been produced for 2011.

via Food Prices Set to Rise Further – IPS ipsnews.net.

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Jan Eliasson: Water and Sanitation Are Key to Fighting Urban Poverty

Urban poverty is growing. The cities in the developing world are overloading as millions of people each week arrive to find a way to survive. Most will be forced to set up home in makeshift slums with no safe water, sanitation, electricity or security. This is a reality right now for around one billion people. According to a U.N. report, by 2030 this figure is set to double.

These statistics are not anything new. We know about the numbers and chronic poverty in the slums. We know about the human waste, the mounting rubbish, the risks of cholera, the families crammed into tiny spaces, and the precarious shacks on landfills or by railway tracks. We just do not seem to know what to do about it.

Take the Korail slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh. People have been settling here for over 30 years, and it is now the biggest slum in Dhaka. It sits on the Gulshan Lake, overlooked by one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in the capital. Women can be seen washing their dishes at the lake’s edge, just meters away from where hanging latrines discharge directly into the water.

It is also suspected that the affluent side empties its septic tanks into the lake, which is one of only a few sources of water for the slum. The others are hand-dug wells and illegal water traders, who pipe water from the city’s main supply and charge a premium price. It is a perverse fact that the very poorest people have to pay up to ten times the price for water than people who are connected to the main city supply.

To put figures to this picture, a slum dweller in Korail can pay up to $20 per 1,000 gallons when getting water from a trader. The average cost per 1,000 gallons in the U.S. is just $2. The average wage for a slum dweller is around $40 a month, and up to a quarter of this can go on buying water. In the U.S., the average monthly wage is around $3800, and only around 0.5 percent of household income goes to combined water and sanitation bills.

It is clear that access to safe water and adequate sanitation in these areas would greatly improve the situation for slum dwellers. Water and sanitation are one of the most fundamental and sure-fire ways to lift people out of poverty. I have seen it for myself time and time again, and our own history proves it. Lack of safe water and sanitation was the biggest killer in American and European cities before the advent of proper sewerage systems and safe water on tap.

This is still the unacceptable daily life for millions of people in the developing world. They continue to live in squalor and risk diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation every day. These diseases are responsible for killing more children across the world than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Developing city-wide water and sanitation infrastructure, including in the slums, is the most basic investment any municipal authority could make to guarantee a city’s economic prosperity.

But this is not happening at the scale and pace it needs if we are to prevent mass urban migration from becoming mass urban poverty. Figures show that between 2000 and 2005, only 6 percent of World Bank commitments to sanitation went to slums. The lion’s share went to serve established and richer communities.

We desperately need to readjust the system and put the very poorest people at the heart of urban planning and investments. When we work with the communities we see how resourceful, empowered and industrious they can be. Water and sanitation gives them their first foothold to really improve the way they live.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for development in the slums is lack of land tenure. In Dhaka, NGOs including Dushtha Shasthya Kendra (DSK), a WaterAid partner, overcame this by achieving a change in the law stating that the installation of water points by the Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority for slum dwellers did not mean de facto recognition of informal or illegal land settlement.

There are also examples to prove that slum dwellers are reliable bill payers, debunking the idea that it is not financially viable for utility companies to invest there. Pre-paid meters in Uganda are also proving a huge success. The ‘pay-as-you-fetch’ tokens are ensuring that middlemen cannot inflate the price of water, and that the cost remains fair and affordable.

Such effective work should be noted by the international community and integrated into robust plans as laid out in WaterAid’s recently released “Sanitation and water for poor urban communities: a manifesto.” Listening to the slum communities and putting them at the heart of these plans is key. They must have a voice and we all need to listen and respond.

We know that the slums will keep on growing. But we also know that we have the opportunity to avoid condemning millions to chronic poverty. We need to act now.

via Jan Eliasson: Water and Sanitation Are Key to Fighting Urban Poverty.

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Hunger Strike Resumes in California Prisons as Sides Dig In – NYTimes.com

But since inmates resumed the strike last week in continued protest against conditions of prolonged isolation, things have gone differently: the corrections department has cracked down, trying to isolate the strike leaders, some of whom say they no longer trust the department and are hoping to push the governor to en

via Hunger Strike Resumes in California Prisons as Sides Dig In – NYTimes.com.

 

This is interesting in that this is the way that most large corporations and government bodies “want” to deal with uprisings.  Try to isolate the leaders, thereby discrediting the movement and change they are trying to make.

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Global coalition teams up for ground breaking African famine solution | Guardian Sustainable Business | guardian.co.uk

PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE: PEP), the PepsiCo Foundation, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently announced a unique public-private partnership to dramatically increase chickpea production and promote long-term nutritional and economic security in Ethiopia. The initiative, called Enterprise EthioPEA, was unveiled by the partners at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York City on 21 September.

via Global coalition teams up for ground breaking African famine solution | Guardian Sustainable Business | guardian.co.uk.

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