|A WORLD OF POTENTIAL POSSIBILITIES|
The world produces enough to feed the entire global population of 7 billion people. And yet, one person in eight on the planet goes to bed hungry each night. In some countries, one child in three is underweight.
People living in poverty cannot afford nutritious food for themselves and their families. This makes them weaker and less able to earn the money that would help them escape poverty and hunger. This is not just a day-to-day problem: when children are chronically malnourished, or 'stunted', it can affect their future income, condemning them to a life of poverty and hunger. In recent years, the price of food products has been very unstable. Roller-coaster food prices make it difficult for the poorest people to access nutritious food consistently. The poor need access to adequate food all year round. Price spikes may temporarily put food out of reach, which can have lasting consequences for small children. When prices rise, consumers often shift to cheaper, less-nutritious foods, heightening the risks of micronutrient deficiencies and other forms of malnutrition.
In developing countries, farmers often cannot afford seeds, so they cannot plant the crops that would provide for their families. They may have to cultivate crops without the tools and fertilizers they need. Others have no land or water or education. In short, the poor are hungry and their hunger traps them in poverty.
Too many developing countries lack key agricultural infrastructure, such as enough roads, warehouses and irrigation. The results are high transport costs, lack of storage facilities and unreliable water supplies. All conspire to limit agricultural yields and access to food. Improving land management, using water more efficiently and making more resistant seed types available can bring big improvements.
In many countries, climate change is exacerbating already adverse natural conditions. Increasingly, the world's fertile farmland is under threat from erosion, salination and desertification. Deforestation by human hands makes accelerates the erosion of land which could be used for growing food.
Military conflicts consistently disrupt farming and food production. Fighting also forces millions of people to flee their homes, leading to hunger emergencies as the displaced find themselves without the means to feed themselves. In war, food sometimes becomes a weapon. Soldiers will starve opponents into submission by seizing or destroying food and livestock and systematically wrecking local markets. Fields are often mined and water wells contaminated, forcing farmers to abandon their land. There’s an Ibo saying “When two brothers fight, strangers always reap the harvest”.
One third of all food produced (1.3 billion tons) is never consumed. This food wastage represents a missed opportunity to improve global food security in a world where one in 8 is hungry Producing this food also uses up precious natural resources that we need to feed the planet. Each year, food that is produced but not eaten uses up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River. Producing this food also adds 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, with consequences for the climate and, ultimately, for food production.
All these problems can be addressed and solved through a socialist system of society. From any technical viewpoint, from the fact that abundant resources of land are available, and given the ability of every person to co-operate with others, the relentless horror story of millions of men, women and children dying every day from hunger is so easily preventable. Environmentalists rightly show how many of our current productive methods are not 'sustainable' in that they damage the environment for future generations. The short-termism of market forces has prevented progress on a whole range of environmental issues.
Africa is the embodiment of capitalist exploitation. For almost four centuries it has been systematically plundered for its raw materials and human labour. A new impetus is driving capitalism’s elite – how they can profit from mass hunger. The “land grab” in Africa has been triggered by the worldwide food shortages, growing water shortages and the European Union's insistence that 10 percent of all transport fuel must come from plant-based biofuels by 2015. Leading the rush are international agribusinesses, investment banks, hedge funds, commodity traders, sovereign wealth funds as well as pension funds, foundations and individuals attracted by some of the world's cheapest land.” But it isn’t just land that’s of interest but also securing scarce water supplies. Water, says the UN, will be the defining resource of the next 100 years.