The seeds of a bet­ter har­vest

Here’s what Ox­fam reck­ons we need to do to re­ally tackle hunger in our world.

Element - - Cover Story -

Sup­port small scale farm­ing

The 500 mil­lion small farms in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries sup­port al­most two bil­lion peo­ple, nearly one-third of hu­man­ity. The ac­cepted wis­dom is that large-scale in­dus­trial farm­ing is more ef­fi­cient. But con­ven­tional eco­nomics has over­looked the crip­pling fi­nan­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal costs as­so­ci­ated with the fer­tilis­ers, pes­ti­cides and heavy ma­chin­ery em­ployed in in­dus­trial scale farm­ing. And while in­dus­trial-scale farms en­joy tax breaks, sub­si­dies and other govern­ment sup­port, al­most noth­ing has been done to sup­port, pro­mote and de­velop small­hold­ings.

Sup­port and ex­pand the fair trade sys­tem

Nearly three quar­ters of the food on Earth passes through the hands of about 500 large com­pa­nies be­tween grower and consumer. The com­pa­nies set prices and con­trol the in­come of pro­duc­ers. The var­i­ous fair trade ap­proaches by­pass this bot­tle-neck by di­rectly con­nect­ing pro­ducer and consumer, so each has a much greater stake in the other’s well­be­ing.

Show and tell

World­wide Food shocks like the one that struck in 2008 are ex­ac­er­bated when no­body re­ally knows how much food is avail­able. This can lead to panic buy­ing or food ex­port bans, as na­tions jos­tle to se­cure food for their peo­ple, push­ing prices up fur­ther. Au­thor­i­ta­tive global sta­tis­tics would re­duce these prob­lems.

Cre­ate re­gional food re­serves

A prop­erly man­aged sys­tem of food re­serves, cre­ated and shared by coun­tries work­ing to­gether, would act as a buf­fer to soften dra­matic shifts in food pric­ing. Food could be re­leased from re­serves onto the mar­ket in times of scarcity to pro­vide emer­gency aid and to bring prices down.

Stop sub­si­dis­ing biofuels

Ox­fam be­lieves sub­si­dis­ing the biofuels in­dus­try with about $20 bil­lion a year to fuel un­sus­tain­able per­sonal trans­port is not a great in­vest­ment, and we need to stop pour­ing the world’s food into ve­hi­cles.

Stop pay­ing rich farm­ers to dump food

Poor farm­ers around the world are strug­gling to com­pete with the heav­ily sub­sidised in­dus­trial agri­cul­ture of the richer na­tions. The sub­si­dies given to large scale farm­ing also stim­u­late over-pro­duc­tion in some crops, lead­ing to waste. Ship­ments of large amounts of this other­wise waste food are cur­rently dumped onto de­vel­op­ing coun­tries at be­low cost price, or even free as aid. This feeds peo­ple in the short term, but re­duces lo­cal food prices to the point where lo­cal pro­duc­ers are sud­denly un­able to make a liv­ing. This can put them at risk of im­me­di­ate star­va­tion, and means they are less likely to be will­ing or able to re­plant next year.

Reign in the spec­u­la­tors

Elected gov­ern­ments need to take con­trol of the world’s fi­nan­cial mar­kets, es­pe­cially when it comes to food trad­ing. Lim­its on prices and how much traders can ‘bet’ on food trad­ing are be­ing dis­cussed by the ‘Group of 20’ ma­jor world economies this year.

Fund cli­mate change adap­ta­tion

A new fund to help coun­tries re­spond to cli­mate change was agreed at the in­ter­na­tional cli­mate talks in Can­cun in 2010. This, and other mea­sures like it, must be up and run­ning as soon as pos­si­ble.

Ex­pand so­cial pro­tec­tion

Tack­ling hunger should be a national pri­or­ity backed by con­certed ac­tion for all na­tions. To­day, four out of five peo­ple in the world re­ceive no di­rect sup­port from their govern­ment, re­gard­less of their sit­u­a­tion. Char­ity projects are left to pick up the pieces, but they lack the con­sis­tent, co-or­di­nated and cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ate re­sources that a national pro­gramme should pro­vide.

Mea­sure and strive for well­be­ing, not wealth

Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct is an in­cred­i­bly short-sighted way of look­ing at eco­nomic suc­cess. Wars and national dis­as­ters can in­crease GDP, and it counts con­sump­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources, such as cut­ting down a for­est for tim­ber, as in­come, but not as the loss of an as­set. It is time to re­place this with global mea­sure that ac­cu­rately charts hu­man well­be­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.