(PEACEMEAL) `Tackling World Hunger Can Be Confusing. Addressing the Problem with Small Bites Might Make it More Manageable’
--- Commentary by Cynthia Thomet
You may not have heard about an individual named David Beckmann, president of the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Bread for the World, whose focus is to urge decision makers to “end hunger at home and abroad.” I hadn’t, until he was awarded the World Food Prize at the 2010 Laureate Award Ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa.
As a 501(c)4 organization, Bread for the World is a little different from other nonprofits, because of its ability to devote its time, resources and energy not only to educating decision makers about ending hunger, but also to advocating specific policy change, or directly lobbying policy makers on this issue. Beckmann recently published a book called, Exodus from Hunger: We Are Called to Change the Politics of Hunger.
In one commentary I wrote for PeaceMeal, entitled “Billions Undernourished” was on the eve of World Food Day, and I learned a lot about what world hunger means in a nutshell: nearly one billion people in the world suffer from chronic hunger. The 1 Billion Hungry awareness campaign by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations called upon us to tap into our anger over this piece of information and do something to change this sad reality.
One billion people is alot of people.
Rick Steves, a well-known travel guide writer and public television travel host, wrote in an inspired blog post about his recent trip—not to Europe, but to the World Food Prize ceremonies: “With all my travel experience, I've gained empathy for the struggles of people in developing nations, but my concern used to be confused and directionless.”
Indeed, humanitarians and world leaders are challenged with suggesting solutions and introducing policy to balance the forces that have wreaked havoc on the earth—from the natural disasters that have emerged as a result of climate change to the laws of capitalism that are still beholden to the cold realities of supply and demand, and the sometimes colder political motivations that tamper with the international trade economy’s so-called “invisible hand”.
Earlier this week, a headline in The Guardian announced, “Scramble to meet shortfall in food aid: Tens of thousands in Swaziland to miss out on food aid as lack of donor funding forces the WFP to cut assistance.”
Tens of thousands. That’s a lot of people, too.
The article elaborates on some of the elements that complicate delivering food aid in Swaziland:
In one anecdote from Steves’ blog post, he describes a discussion panel about keeping young people interested in farming. When asked about this, Afghanistan’s minister of agriculture, Mohammad Asif Rahimi said, “Remember, in your society one percent of the people are farmers. In Afghanistan, 80 percent of our people are farmers. Encouraging young people to farm is not an issue for us.”
Still, the Guardian spoke with Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agriculture Development who would like to see countries investing in agriculture, making the sector “more attractive to youth and less dependent on rainfall for irrigation.”
It appears that the causes of, and approaches to, addressing world hunger are as numerous as its victims. An approach that would seem reasonable in Afghanistan and Swaziland might seem ludicrous in the United States, or vice versa. But this should not stop you from taking at least one step towards doing good.
Campaigns such as “1 Billion Hungry” have the potential to raise eyebrows, but they also have the potential to overpower and devastate action with crushingly huge numbers that reduce the individual to feelings of helplessness—or directionlessness. As we approach the end of the year, please do not allow your concern to feel directionless. Hopefully, a growing awareness of our global interconnectedness can help us feel obligated to move into a future where undernourishment is just a scientific definition, not a human reality.
--- The author is Cynthia Thomet, a humanitarian, and co owner and doyenne of the award winning downtown Atlanta, Georgia; US restaurant, Lunacy Black Market.