Last week I told you how the Barclays Bank is nominated for the Public Eye Award this year. They get this honour because thanks to them people are starving to death in many places in the world. How is that, you might ask. It’s simple: Barclays and others turn food into yet another thing which can be traded and on which you can speculate (and remember what happened when banks and people speculated on housing!). It turns the globalized food system into a ever changing market in which food prices can suddenly spark into incredible height. People who struggle to buy food on normal prices will simply have no chance now to get enough to eat.
Peter Rosset explains how highly unstable food prices result from “relatively sudden entry of speculative financial capital into food markets. Hedge, index and risk funds have invested heavily in the future markets for commodities like grains and other food products”. His predictions for the future aren’t bright either: “These funds have already injected an additional 70 billion dollars of extra investment into commodities, inflating a price bubble that has pushed the cost of basic foodstuffs beyond the reach of the poor in country after country. And when the bubble inevitably bursts, it will wipe out millions of food producers throughout the world”. Coming back to Barclays,
But that’s not all. The Global Hunger Index – which is published jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe – lists the following reasons for hunger in 2011: storms and other climatic catastrophes, severe drought, conflicts and food price spikes. “Twenty-six countries have levels of hunger that are alarming or extremely alarming. Among the world’s regions, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa continue to suffer from the highest levels of hunger.”
Do you want to know more reasons why people are still dying of hunger – even if we have enough food actually? Well, the way we eat is a reason to start with. Since people in the world are eating more and more meat and poultry, we use the grains we grow to feed those animals. Which, as you can imagine, means having a lot less food in the end. Another reason is – ironically – too low food prices. Small farmers had to give up growing since they could not survive on what they earned from it. These small farmers are then missing as local food producers. This is mainly due to the industrialization of food production and food dumps from western countries.
Then, we are also using food crops to make fuels. “We are feeding cars instead of people”, Rosset said rightly. The hunger for oil has found other sources to exploit and other ways to make people suffer from it.
As with many topics, the IMF and the World Bank have also played their role. Their structural adjustment policies for developing countries in the 80’s and 90’s have kept many countries from investing in agriculture and have told them to simply import the food they need – and therefore be subject to the changing prices on the global food market. You can find more on the topic in this article titled “How IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programs destroyed African agriculture“.
According to the report, things are most alarming in “Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Eritrea”. In the report they look at the following three indicators: undernourishment, child underweight and child mortality. We must say that compared to 1990, things have gotten better. Back then, 43 countries where alarming and extremely alarming. Now we are down to 26, but that’s not what I call a real success. Find the whole Global Hunger Index Report here.
“Recent events in the Horn of Africa remind us of an enduring truth: weather disasters and economic shocks will come, and they will strike the poor and the hungry hardest.” After 2007-2008, we have seen another food crisis in 2010-2011. It cannot go on like this. It’s time to look at alternatives. Let me introduce the idea of food sovereignty, tomorrow!