World this day and World that day seem to be appearing in my news stream a lot recently and as a result I was wondering who makes them up. Who decides for instance that World Egg Day will take place on the second Friday of October or that World Toilet Day might happen on the 19th November? As it happens, various people are responsible but in the case of World Food Day, an international event taking place on 16th October, it was from the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, (FAO).
Just the phrase World Food Day resulted in my blogging antenna honing in. One of the topics that came up with some gardeners over the summer was that of Food Security. Several didn’t understand the term immediately and I had to explain it in more detail, but then I guess it’s a phrase that doesn’t comes up in general conversation too often.
The World Health Organisation defines Food Security as
Today there are several nations that can’t offer their populations the security of a daily feed, with millions of humans chronically undernourished worldwide. The challenge for those of us in the developed world as the global population grows is whether we can continue to feed our own and at the same time address the issues surrounding those that can’t.
The current world population is just over 7 billion and of those, just under a billion are hungry. Hold on a second, stop there as I just did when I was editing this piece…
Just Under A Billion Humans We Share Our Planet With Are Hungry
Can you even fully comprehend that amount of people, let alone that many who don’t have access to a decent meal? That’s hundreds and thousands, millions even of men, woman and children going without food on a daily basis; suffering the pain, worry, stress, despondency, tiredness, anger and fear of not eating anything at all. I struggle with it.
However, globally we produce enough food to feed over 11 billion. So what’s the problem? Why are so many people hungry? Where’s the extra four billions worth of food going if not into the hands and mouths of those who need it?
At the moment we feed animals, produce ethanol, create mountains of food waste (a third of all food bought in Ireland is thrown out) and quite frankly, many of us over eat – so much so that the number of obese people in the world are rivalling those that are undernourished).
In less than 40 years the global population is expected to be over 9 billion which will put an even greater strain on food supply and create challenges for our younger generations. At the same time
we they will also be dealing with climate change, water shortages and an energy crisis. Is that really an inheritance we want to pass to our kids or grandchildren?
Food security and other environmental concerns are already beginning to cause unrest in some societies as people begin to fight for their food and indeed rising food prices appear to be the reason behind the recent unrest in the middle east and North Africa.
Ten times more resources are needed to produce meat for our populations and soil is being eroded at an alarming rate. The multinational agricultural biotechnology corporations are arguing that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the only way to save us, yet peer published reports are dispelling the myth that GMOs are the answer to food poverty. GMOs don’t produce bigger yields that will feed the starving millions. They damage biodiversity, harm soil and create more problems in terms of new ‘super weeds’ as well as demand the use of more pesticides as nature evolves and adapts to these new strains of plants.
As Professor Charles Godfrey, a Population Biologist explains in this TED video Food Security and Choice, we are now sleepwalking to disaster as our demand for food, as well as the competition for water, land and energy, increase.
BUT, hopefully that’s the worst case scenario. Our future hasn’t been decided for us
we can change things
If Ireland and France can stop nations of stubborn smokers from having a puff in public, we sure as heck can change the way we think about food. It just takes a shift in mindset, some leadership and perhaps some discomfort (that as we’ve learnt, we can adapt to once we get used to the idea) to make a difference.
“So what can we do? How can we protect the security of our food on World Food Day and beyond, to begin to make the changes necessary to survive a looming food crisis?”
Here’s eight suggestions
1. Start talking about food security with friends, family and colleagues. If people don’t even know what it means, what it really means, how can we change things?
We need to produce food more sustainably and produce less waste. We need to grow more food at home for our own populations as well as export to others. How can we do that? What changes would need to be made? What do we need to do to make it happen?
Start discussing food security issues at dinner, in the pub or coffee shop or even on the bus when you’re passing the time with a stranger. The important think is to stop thinking we can’t make planet altering changes and pretending that life will continue the same if we do nothing. It won’t. IF WE SIT AROUND WAITING FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN FOR US, THEY JUST MIGHT NOT.
I was told recently that it will take four years for Ireland to become self-sufficient in its own food – shouldn’t we be making a start?
Once a few heads start thinking about a problem, new ideas flow and with ideas come solutions and action.
2. If you’re on twitter tune into the World Agrichat discussion on World Food Day to celebrate food producers achievements, join in the general buzz, pick up some ideas and join the global farm ‘think-in’ day and see what’s happening elsewhere. Just use the hashtags #AgrichatWorld and #WFD2013. The discussion will take place from 8-9.30pm.
3. Check out the FAO website for events that are happening around the world to celebrate World Food Day and even if you’re too late to take part in some of the suggestions, why not carry out some of them in your own communities and start the discussions going about local food initiatives, coops and local food awareness in general.
4. If you’re not already involved, find or start a local community garden and begin to learn how food grows. Local food initiatives raise awareness and discussion which can result in small enterprise, community supported agriculture schemes and urban agriculture.
5. Look out for the booklet that was launched this week by Minister Simon Coveney TD ‘World Food – Facts, Figures and Activities’ that will be distributed among schools raising awareness to children.
6. If you can get to Limerick, they’re holding a unique food fair to raise awareness of food issues. The event that will be held in Thomond Park at a cost of €20.00 and will showcase the very best foods from over 14 different countries including France, Italy, Ghana, Nigeria, Poland, Lebanon, Pakistan and Ireland.
7. Check into Gorta for a live screening of the Gorta World Food Day Conference that will be taking place at the Clyde Court Hotel in Ballsbridge with Irish ministers and NGOs contributing.
8. Share this post and help to heighten the awareness of food security and hunger in the world.
Importantly, don’t wait for other people to do something about your food security, make the changes, be the start and remember, ANY positive ideas or changes you make will help.