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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

FAO Calls for Local Food Production to Stave Off Famine

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization demands immediate action to protect the Earth's poor from steep escalations in food prices.. FAO is zeroing in on the need to boost local food production in 37 countries.

Food security is part of the right to life, and it is essential to women's good reproductive health and the healthy prenatal and postnatal development of children. Yet so many of Earth's poor are subject to famine, despite the fact that (at least now, this could change) it is a matter of distribution, not availability.

Historically, too, this has been true of many famines. As a boy, Amartya Sen witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943, which killed three million people. As part of his career as a Nobel Prize-winning economist, he researched the causes of this and other past Indian famines. He concluded that the problem was not so much lack of food, but overly high food prices and other preventable, addressable causes--meaning that millions of deaths were wholly unnecessary.

This gets personal for me, too. Some of my ancestors escaped An Gorta Mor, the Great Irish Hunger of the nineteenth century, which drove into exile or killed millions of human beings. Irishers will refer to 1847, the most deadly year of An Gorta Mor, as "Black '47" (that's what it's named for, the New York City band of Larry Kirwan and lawsuit-against-the-BBC-winnin' rapper Chris Byrne, aka Seanchai.)

The potato blight was but one cause of many. In fact, it was simply the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. The English colonizers forced the Irish to devote most of the land to export food, leaving very little land to grow their own food security. Even though political decolonization of the Two-Thirds World was at its height forty and fifty years ago, this economic scenario prevails today in so many impoverished, famine-threatened nations. Small wonder that so many Irishers, like the people of Concern Worldwide, are involved in hunger relief.

In other words, just as there was during these historical catastrophes--there's currently enough food and food production capacity to go around--the richer countries just don't have political or economic will, or enough of it, to ensure that poorer countries are not robbed of what is rightfully theirs. FAO is right to focus on local food production and security.

In part because I have a long memory...the Nonviolent Choice Directory offers numerous resources on Food & Nutrition (http://www.nonviolentchoice.info/foodnutrition.html if the link doesn't work) not only for people who wish to get involved in this issue, but for pregnant, breastfeeding, and other humans in need of emergency food assistance; for anyone interested in learning about and promoting the nutritional needs of mothers and children; for anyone interested in the eco-friendlier, often less expensive option of vegetarian diet; and for anyone interested in feasible, practical ways to grow their own food security.

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