“More people than ever are victims of hunger” was the title of a just released FAO report. “For the first time in human history, more than one billion people are undernourished worldwide.”
Having worked in the food aid “industry” for some years, and having written extensively on “food security,” I am interested in what is really being said.
The report did not say one billion people are malnourished, although undernourishment can certainly lead to that. The report also did not say one billion people are starving — in technical terms, an acute form of hunger in which the body begins to actually feed on itself for nourishment. Thankfully, the report did not suggest that lack of food production or availability was the issue, although it was observed that “domestic staple foods still cost on average 24 percent more in real terms than two years back. The report did speak to a spike in food insecurity.
My favorite definition for food security is “access at all times to enough food to live an active healthy life.” FAO gets it right when they observe that the poor are less able to purchase (ie, access) food especially where domestic markets are still stubbornly high….”the incidence of both lower incomes due to the economic crisis and persisting higher food prices has proved to be a devastating combination.
So fundamentally IDE is a food security enterprise. Why is this true? Because of our focus on incomes (which provide access to food supplies/markets) and on agricultural production (which either increases direct access to food for consumption, or which increases local supply, which on a larger scale brings down prices).
In the report, several factors contributing to the widespread decrease in food security are listed, in particular those related to the global economic crisis:
• A 32 percent decline in foreign direct investment in developing countries
• A 5–8 percent decline in foreign remittances by foreign migrant workers
• A reduction of about 25 percent in official development assistance (ODA)
• Increases in risk premiums for lending money to developing countries
• Decrease of 5–9 percent in international trade (depending on whether you ask IMF or WTO)
Some of the countries mentioned in the report include Bangladesh, Ghana, Nicaragua, and Zambia, all countries in which IDE has a presence. See the full news bulletin here.
— Al Doerksen, CEO of IDE