Why People are Starving in a World With Enough Food

I'm looking forward to reading more this year and I'm on book #2 in 2011, Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty, a detailed account of modern issues of agriculture, hunger, and poverty. In the preface they flesh out the question posed in the title:

For decades, the world has grown enough food to nourish everyone adequately. Satellites can spot budding crop failures; shortages can be avoided. In the modern world, like never before, famine is by and large preventable. When it occurs, it represents civilization's collective failure.

And from what I can tell in the opening chapters, civilization is failing in some fairly significant ways when it comes to preventing famine among the poorest of the poor.

Samuel Fromartz echoes this same concern in reflecting on the situation in Zambia. He references a recently released report from Worldwatch, State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, and explains:

The nation  produces more than enough food, much of it by small-scale farmers without tractors, irrigation or any form of transportation. But this excess food ends up rotting in warehouses and causes price crashes when it hits the market -- good for buyers but dismal for small-scale farmers who depend on these sales for their meagre income. Even so, some areas of the country still suffer from malnutrition and shortages. Why? There are many reasons, inadequate roads and supply networks among them, since it isn't always easy to get the food from areas where it is surplus to areas where it is in short supply. In this reality, hi-tech seeds are the least of the nation's problems. And yet, on op-ed pages, that often seems to be the focus of discussion.

His point is that our incessant focus on increasing yields and modernizing food systems in places like Zambia does not necessarily help, and in the case of deflating the market with excessive supplies, it actually makes things worse. 

The first book I read in 2011 was Michael Lewis' gripping tale of the recent stock market crash titled, The Big Short. His focus on the global financial system also picks up on the theme of how the modern markets of trading and selling, are particularly hard on the poor and vulnerable. The problem there, and perhaps the problem in Africa has to do with just and fair and honest markets that benefit those that actually produce something, instead of exploiting them and leaving them destitute. 

One of the reasons I like buying directly from local farmers is that it is more just and fair to the grower and producer. There are all kinds of health benefits, and the food tastes better, but the bottom line for me is that direct relationships enable me to better follow the command, "Love your neighbor as yourself." It is a way to push back on the dehumanizing forces of the whims of the marketplace.

Indications are that it's going to be a difficult year for many farmers this year, especially those that rely on cheap feed for animals. World supply of corn is especially going to be tight, mostly because 40% of US supply is going to make ethanol. It looks like food is going to get expensive in 2011, which again, is bad for most, but really bad for the poor.

We have a food distribution today in Millwood (Jan 14) from Noon to 2pm if you or someone you know needs good fresh food.