Jeremy Hobbs, Head of Oxfam International, launches Oxfam’s global GROW campaign.
Soon there will be 9 billion of us on the planet. Already, almost a billion of us go to bed hungry every night. Oxfam is launching a new global campaign to grow a better future, where every one of us will always have enough to eat.
This is not a utopian dream. It is a very real plan based on the real achievements of forward thinking governments, companies and communities. But it does require a totally different approach to the way we produce and share food, the way we live our lives, the way we look after the planet’s precious resources.
Oxfam is an organization that has a long track record of responding to food crises. It’s probably what we’re best known for. In fact Oxfam was founded in 1942 in response to a food crisis, caused by the second world war. 70 years on, the world is facing a food crisis that is the result of a grotesque global injustice.
People do not go hungry because there is not enough food to go round. They go hungry because the system that delivers food from the fields to our plates is broken. And now in this new age of crisis – with increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather and dwindling natural resources – getting enough to eat will get harder still.
How did we get here? Our governments must shoulder a lot of the blame. Their policies and practices are propping up a system that benefits a few powerful companies and interest groups at the expense of the many.
The system is failing every single person who’s faced with rocketing food prices, while financial traders gamble on the commodity markets. It’s failing every person whose crops are destroyed by floods while dirty industry lobby groups block progress on clean renewable energy. It’s failing everyone who is pushed off their land after corporations have bought it at rock bottom prices. And it’s failing every single parent who can’t think about their children’s future, because all they can think about is where to find their next meal.
The global food system is broken. But together we can fix it. There are some inspiring precedents. Between the years 2000 and 2007, the government and people of Brazil worked together to cut hunger by one third. In 2009, global investments in renewable energy overtook fossil fuel spending for the first time. In Vietnam, ambitious investment in small-scale agriculture helped the country halve hunger 5 years ahead of schedule.
Governments – especially the powerful G20 countries – must kick start a transformation of the food system. They must invest in poor producers and provide them the support they need to adapt to a changing climate. They must regulate volatile commodity markets and put an end to the policies which reward companies for turning food into engine fuel. And they must deliver a global deal to keep climate change in check.
You and I can also make changes in our own lives that will help put pressure on governments and companies, and will improve our wellbeing. We can buy food that is fairly and sustainably produced, reduce our carbon footprint and join a growing global conversation about food, sharing ideas and then putting them into action.
GROW starts today, and it starts with all of us. The scale of the challenge is unprecedented, but so is the prize – a sustainable future where everyone always has enough to eat; a new prosperity that will benefit all 9 billion of us.