Nieuws - 2 november 2006

Hungry for change

Do you remember the last time you felt hungry? The answer could be that you do not remember or you possibly have never felt hunger. A similar thought crossed the mind of Dr Cees Veerman, the Dutch minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality on the World Food Day event on 16 October when he mentioned in his speech that he couldn’t remember the last time he had been hungry. However, there are still approximately 850 million people undernourished according to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) reports of the United Nations (UN). The first MDG is to halve extreme poverty and hunger by the year 2015.

Food security issues are becoming increasingly significant all over the world, especially in developing countries. To create political awareness of global food security and to advise politicians on food security issues, the Dutch FAO committee organised three expert meetings in 2006. During these meetings recommendations involving topics such as entrepreneurship, micro-credit, safety nets, agricultural subsidies, public and private investments and world trade were formulated. These recommendations were presented to representatives of several political parties during the third and last expert meeting – celebrated on the International FAO World Food Day. The common goal was to place development aid and more specifically food security higher on the Dutch political agenda. However, this is easier said than done. What exactly is needed to increase the relevance of food security?

The Netherlands currently spends 0.8% of its Gross National Product (GNP) on development aid. Is this enough to make a significant contribution to achieving MDG 1? A contribution of 0.8% of GNP is high compared to other developed countries. However, the percentage is not high enough to make it a major concern of Dutch politicians. There is too little discussion on the matter. The results obtained worldwide are far from promising. Although experts have ample experience on food security issues, they seem powerless to overcome political and public disinterest. Should they spend most of their time convincing people and politicians?

It is of utmost importance to make our generation more concerned about global food security. How can we show the importance of this matter to future generations? Is it necessary to use other, more extreme, resources to demonstrate the hardships of hungry people around the world? What is needed to make a stand for food security?

Food security is not a question of scarcity or abundance, worldwide production is more than sufficient to feed us all. Enforcing food security is a question of sacrificing some consumption patterns and is also a matter of feeling empathy for hungry strangers on the other side of the world.

Sincerely yours,

Amandine Soury, José Tobar, Yue Zhao
Team members, ‘Hungry for Change’ Project,
Wageningen University