World Food Day Marked, ActionAid International Releases Hunger Report

Today marks World Food Day, with the aim of bringing “awareness to the issue of hunger,” as the world faces “more mouths to feed but fewer farmers to grow the needed crops,” Deutsche Welle reports. The news outlet calls hunger an “income problem,” adding that “farmers will continue fleeing their fields for more lucrative opportunities in the urban areas unless incomes improve.”

ActionAid International released an “anti-hunger scorecard,” which ranks governments’ efforts to combat hunger, Agence France-Presse/Asia One News reports (10/16). “‘Who’s Really Fighting Hunger,’ ranks 51 countries where either ActionAid has a presence or have reliable data that makes comparisons possible,” according to the Associated Press (Tenthani/Maliti, 10/16).

Brazil placed first on the list “followed by China where 58 million people have more to eat but India earned low marks,” AFP/Asia One News writes. ActionAid said that Ghana and Malawi placed third and fifth respectively, suggesting that fighting hunger is not dependent on a nation’s wealth. The group “said 30 million more people in India, listed at number 22 after countries like Ethiopia and Lesotho, had slipped into the hungry category since the mid-1990s.” According to the report, “Hunger exists not because there is not enough food in India, but because people cannot access it” (10/16).

“India’s case showed a lot of contrasts,” the IANS/Hindustan Times reports. Although “the country ranked amongst the first three developing countries on the indicator for social protection” more than 30 million Indians have gone hungry since the mid-1990s because of “poor implementation,” according to the study.

“The dark side of India’s economic growth has been that the excluded social groups have been further marginalised, compounding their hunger, malnutrition and even leading to starvation deaths,” said Babu Matthew, director of ActionAid India (10/16).

The Democratic Republic of Congo came in “at the bottom of the list, with 76% of the population listed ‘chronically hungry,'” the BBC reports. The report says hunger is “a choice that we make, not a force of nature,” adding that hunger is the result of “perverse policies that treat food purely as a commodity, not a right” (10/16).

In related news, though a recent U.N. report found “the world has made little progress in reducing hunger since 1990 … China, as the world’s largest developing country, has been helping in the fight against hunger,” CCTV writes in an article exploring China’s fight against hunger. “When China began co-operating with the World Food Program [WFP] thirty years ago, it depended on the organization’s aid to feed 400 million people. After years of effort … the WFP ended aid to China in 2005” (10/16).

Bill Gates Speaks At World Food Prize Symposium

In a speech at the World Food Prize symposium Thursday, philanthropist Bill Gates spoke about food security and announced an anticipated $120 million in agriculture grants, Agence France-Presse reports. Gates said although the Green Revolution “was one of the great achievements of the 20th century … it didn’t go far enough,” adding, “It didn’t go to Africa.” He said, “Declining yields at a time of rising population in a region with millions of poor people means starvation … We need higher yields on the same land in harsher weather. And we will never get it without a continuous and urgent science-based search to increase productivity – especially on small farms in the developing world.”

Gates “praised President Barack Obama” and the G20’s agriculture initiative, the news service reports (Zeitvogel, 10/15).

Gates told the audience of agronomists, lawmakers and advocates, “The world’s attention is back on your cause. … The food crisis has forced hunger higher on the world’s agenda. From NGOs to the G8 to African heads of state, there is a rush of new commitment,” the Financial Times reports (Blas, 10/16). A webcast and transcript of the speech are available on the Gates Foundation’s website (10/15). The Seattle Times’ blog, “The Business of Giving” examines experts’ reactions to Bill Gates support of “sustainable agriculture.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Comments

On the “sidelines” of the symposium on Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the U.S. Agriculture Department aims “to secure 10 percent of the funding for the new U.S. global hunger and food security initiative” for agricultural research, Reuters reports.

“Congress has not yet finalized appropriations for the plan for fiscal 2010 but is discussing a range of $1 billion to $1.2 billion to be spent on agricultural development, Vilsack said in an interview.” He said the State Department, which is leading the project, has not made a decision about how to allocate funding assuming it is approved by Congress.

Vilsack said USDA will work with developing countries to make decisions about research projects. He said, “It is not a top-down, heavy-handed approach. It is not, ‘Here’s our food, be grateful.’ It is, ‘We want to help, but we need to know from you what help you need'” (Rampton/Stebbins, 10/15).

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