I love food. There is nothing better than sitting down to a meal of Tchep bou djen, a Senegalese dish with fish, rice and vegetables.
Unfortunately I also know what it’s like to go without it. Hunger is no joke. It feels like there is a fire in your belly. I wouldn’t wish it on a single person. But close to 1 billion men, women and children – one in seven of us – are hungry today.
But there is no good reason why anyone should go hungry. The world can feed every single one of us. The problem is the way we grow and share food.
Our global food system is broken. It might not seem immediately obvious to everyone. The supermarket shelves in many countries are piled high with foods from around the globe and are well within the means of the average shopper. But take a closer look and it’s not hard to see the cracks in the system.
We live in a world where the number of hungry people is rising rather then falling for the first time in decades; where almost half of all food produced goes to waste; where rising food prices eat up over three quarters of poor people’s weekly income. We live in a world where climate change and dwindling natural resources will make feeding our growing population harder still; where millions more men, women and children will feel the fire in their bellies.
Look again, through the eyes of one of the millions of poor food producers, and you will see where it’s all going wrong.
There are 500 million small farms in developing countries which together feed one third of humanity. These farmers get little or no support from their governments or the international community yet they are thrust into competition with a handful of wealthy farms in industrialized countries which receive billions of dollars worth of government subsidies.
These farmers face increasingly erratic and extreme weather brought about by climate change. Yet the governments with the power to stop climate change getting out of control, and the money to help them adapt, have delivered little in the way of concrete action to tackle the problem.
These farmers have seen their land, which their communities have relied on for generations, sold off to the local elites, foreign governments and big businesses. While the women amongst them (and there are many) are often prevented from having ownership of the land they farm by local customs or national laws.
These farmers have struggled to cope with the rising price of food driven, in part, by the operations of biofuels companies whose governments reward them for turning food into fuel – even at times of major global food crisis.
These farmers know better than anyone that the system is broken. Oxfam, which has been working with poor producers for close to 70 years, is launching a new global campaign to fix it.
Oxfam’s GROW campaign wants to see governments kick start the transformation to a new global food system. One which will ensure every single person always has enough to eat. This means governments investing in poor producers so they can feed more people and adapt to a changing climate; it means putting an end to food price crises by regulating commodity markets and reforming flawed biofuels policies; it means securing poor peoples’ right to land and water; and it means taking action to prevent catastrophic climate change from further undermining food production. Grow is also calling on companies to change their business practices to ensure their profits don’t come at the expense of poor producers and poor consumers.
It would be naive to think all governments and companies will suddenly see the world through the eyes of those poor farmers. It’s up to us, as consumers and citizens, to open their eyes. We must show them – by reducing our own carbon emissions, by buying fairly traded and sustainable produce and by joining Oxfam in demanding change – that hunger is not acceptable today or tomorrow. That’s why I am supporting Oxfam’s GROW Campaign and why I am asking you to get on board too at www.oxfam.org/grow
Born in Benin in West Africa, Angélique Kidjo is a Grammy award-winning music recording artist and an Oxfam Global Ambassador.