Drought / Drylands / East Africa / Food security / Mali / Niger / Opinion piece / PA / Pastoralism / Vulnerability / West Africa

Flawed global food systems–not drought–cause of African famines

Foods of Khulungira: Maize meal (ugali), boiled potatoes, chicken stew, pumpkin leaves, fried potatoes and sweet potatoes

Foods of Khulungira Village, in central Malawi (clockwise from top left): nsima (maize meal porridge), kachewere wophika (boiled potatoes), nkhuku yophika (chicken stew), nkhwani ndi phwetekere (pumpkin leaves with tomato), kachewere wokazinga (fried potatoes), and kholowa ndi phwetekere (sweetpotato leaves with tomato) (photo credit: CGIAR/Stevie Mann). All names in Chichewa, Malawi’s national language; translations by Christopher Katema (ICRAF).

Olivier de Schutter, United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, argues in the Guardian‘s Poverty Matters blog today that we must learn to be honest about the nature of a fundamentally flawed global food system that is largely responsible for the on-going food crisis in the (northeastern) Horn of Africa and a newly emerging one in West Africa’s Sahel.

‘Drought and famine are not extreme events. They are not anomalies. They are merely the sharp end of a global food system that is built on inequality, imbalances and—ultimately—fragility. And they are the regular upshot of a climate that is increasingly hostile and problematic for food production across huge swathes of the developing world.

‘For the third time in seven years, the Sahel region of west Africa is facing a toxic combination of drought, poor harvests and soaring food prices. In Niger, 6m people are now significantly at risk, together with 2.9m in Mali and 700,000 in Mauritania.

‘An immediate response is needed in order to avert a devastating food and nutrition crisis. In responding, however, we must also redefine the vocabulary of food crisis. It is our global food system that is in crisis. Last year’s famine in the Horn of Africa, and the current woes in the Sahel, are the surface cracks of a broken system. These regional outbreaks of hunger are not, as such, extreme events. . . .’

Read the whole article by Olivier de Schutter on the Guardian‘s Poverty Matters Blog: Famine isn’t an extreme event, it’s the predictable result of a broken system, 30 January 2012.

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