Falling oil prices, a stronger U.S. dollar or events in Ukraine – these are some of the topics frequently seen on the world agenda in recent days. Yet there is another subject at least as important as these, yet has little or no place on the world agenda; the fact that millions of people lack access to the basic requirement for their survival, food.
Many people across the world are starving to death because of famine and related causes. Because of famine, a child is starving to death in the world every five seconds.
The number of people suffering from hunger is approaching one billion worldwide: The great majority of those affected live in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, albeit fewer than before, there are also other places of the world, such as China and India, in which people suffer from hunger. It is also noteworthy that there is even a European country still in need of emergency aid, Moldova.[i]
This situation has lead to mass protests in many countries and especially in Africa. Experts estimate that if these uprisings spread, more than 30 countries will fall into instability.[ii]
There are enough food resources in the world to feed all people with ease. So why are so many people suffering from hunger?
Before moving on to the answer of this question, it will be useful to know the following: Hunger is actually not a question of shortage, but of distribution. The annual cost of meeting the basic needs of the starving would be approximately $40 billion. That is equivalent to just 4% of the total assets of the world’s wealthiest 225 people. In other words, if the wealthy people of the world behaved compassionately, affectionately and justly, in a manner compatible with good conscience, a problem such as hunger would be all but impossible.
But what are the technical causes of hunger, and how can they be eliminated?
We need look no further than the recent history of Zimbabwe for the answer to this question. Zimbabwe was at one time a net exporter of food, but now requires food aid.[iii]
Zimbabwe is an important example to see what can happen in a country that is badly governed. Hunger is a problem in many countries ruled by dictatorships where natural resources are misappropriated. India and China are two important examples of how the problem of hunger can be overcome by implementing the right policies. In recent years, there has been a significant fall in the number of people suffering from hunger in China and India.
Contrary to what people assume, the most important step toward a permanent solution to the problem of hunger is not food aid. The most important step is to increase employment opportunities in regions suffering hunger and thus to increase the population’s purchasing power. The governments of countries in which hunger is a problem have a major responsibility in that regard. Just as in China and India, the private sector must be strengthened in such regions, state intervention in the economy must be restricted and there must be a more effective campaign against corruption.
There are unquestionably things that developed countries can also do in the fight against hunger. They must open their markets up to goods from poor countries. Customs, tax and cost burdens must be reduced when trading with poor countries and thus their opportunities would be increased. In this way, demand in those countries will rise and more goods will be produced.
Another important solution would be for developed countries to provide direct aid for agriculture in countries experiencing hunger yet such aid is actually decreasing rather than rising. The rate of agricultural aid for developing countries, which was 17% 25 years ago, has fallen to a meager 3.7% today.[iv]
Experts agree that increases in food prices have a major impact on the problem of hunger. In regions where food prices rise, the decrease in the income levels of the population result in hunger, even if food is widely available. Population levels are rising together with unemployment in many countries, and food prices rise due to long-standing adverse conditions.
One of the factors behind rising food prices is increasing biofuel production. Many countries, particularly in Europe, are seeking alternatives to fossil fuels, as these are declining and also pollute the environment. Biofuels are one such alternative.
Biofuel is the general name given to gas, liquid and solid products obtained from biochemical or thermochemical recycling of certain agricultural products. Biofuels are used as vehicle fuel in the transport sector and in the production of heat and light in the service sector.
An area of Africa the size of Switzerland (four million hectares) is currently allocated to biofuels by the Europeans.[v]
In addition to the Europeans, countries such as China, Brazil and Malaysia are also rapidly buying up large tracts of land in Africa. These lands are kept empty as there is no agriculture on them. The aim here is to start production when the level of profitability in biofuels rises and to sell the biofuel products to Europe. The obvious downside of such a policy is that it inevitably leads to a gradual decline in the amount of arable land available for agriculture and thus leads to significant rises in food prices.
In order to avoid the occurrence of an even worse problem of hunger, another alternative to fossil fuels should be found, or else biofuel production should be carried out with extremely fine and well-balanced planning.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Weekly Blitz: