The ‘rich feed the poor’ mentality needs to change
As the clock ticks, the big question remains: Will Africa achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger? Leading African experts are setting the pace to ensure Africa feeds itself. Rowlands Kaotcha, The Hunger Project Global Vice President and Director for Africa and Mexico, discusses Africa’s progress towards its achievement. He emphasises the need to raise a generation that rejects hunger and is willing to transform food systems for a hunger-free world.
Where does Africa stand regarding the achievement of zero hunger by 2030?
Hunger is unfortunately rising again. According to the ‘State of Food Security and Nutrition’ in the World Report, about 783 million people faced hunger in 2022. While we can blame the COVID pandemic for this, we were already off track to achieving the zero hunger goal.
This situation started after 2015, with increased malnutrition and obesity, primarily in communities facing hunger. Another observation is the growing gender gap within vulnerable communities. We won’t achieve it unless we radically shift our approach. Vulnerability is increasing in Africa, despite rising income levels. The cost of food is also rising rapidly, leaving millions without adequate resources.
Why do you think we will not be able to meet this goal?
We can create a world without hunger. It’s possible. However, it’s a complex issue. The main drivers are global economic forces—including the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war—impacting those in vulnerable situations.
Climate change also plays a role. It is now evident that farmers can not grow crops the same way they used to a few years ago. Shifting weather patterns destroy crops, increasing reliance on expensive international food systems. Conflict is another factor, leading to food insecurity, and serving as a catalyst for more conflict. The recent coup in Niger is a prime example. These realities expose us to even greater vulnerability.
Do you think the current approaches are working and if not, why?
We need to review the systems we’ve created to feed our planet. They may have worked in the past, but they are not achieving our goal of ending hunger. It’s time to shift our mindset and invest in building resilient communities and local food systems. After World War II, famine was widespread and hunger relief was the default response. Many of our current hunger responses were born during that time, with the main goal being relief. In 2000, the United Nations introduced a goal to reduce hunger by half. Though not fully achieved, progress has been made, giving us the impetus to aim higher. The new goal: end hunger by 2030. As you can see, there has been a shift in the agenda from relief, to reduce hunger by half, to end hunger by 2030. However, our approach remains unchanged.
Instead of empowering local communities and investing in local food systems, we still rely on building massive global food systems. The mindset of ‘rich feed the poor’ needs to shift. We must support local leadership and create sustainable local economies even when there is conflict at a global level. Our relationship with nature also requires balance and support for the future, not just short-term exploitation.
We must create a food system that not only feeds the present generation but also regenerates itself to nourish future generations. Instead of perpetuating a mindset of dependency, we should empower individuals to unlock their potential and work towards a sustainable world, thus ending hunger.
What we are currently doing is perpetuating a mindset of dependency where the masters feed the victim. We need to realise there are no victims, just people who need to be empowered to unlock their potential and work towards a sustainable world, thus ending hunger.
In your point of view, what changes should be made?
Moving forward, we need a new approach: reducing hunger and creating a world without it. Instead of perpetuating hunger, let’s build inclusive systems where everyone takes responsibility to end it. We must educate future generations to reject hunger and transform our food systems to create a new world without hunger, not one where it is regenerated.
Let’s ask ourselves critical questions like; How would a community with a transformed food system look like? What does an ecosystem that is leveraging its youth and women to take charge of the food system look like? What should the new relationship be between the private sector and a functional local food system in a hunger-free future? Are our policies aiming to eradicate hunger or perpetuating a broken system?
We must reassess these issues and develop effective approaches instead of repeating the same ones. At The Hunger Project, we support communities in building sustainable and resilient food systems by empowering small businesses, youth, and women-led initiatives. In non-emergency situations, international food aid from charities and organisations is not the solution as it fosters dependency and enables governments to evade their responsibilities to their citizens.
How does The Hunger Project’s vision and mission, which was unveiled this year, link with overall efforts to ensure Africa achieves SDG2?
Over the past two years, our global team assessed world hunger and identified gaps in ending it. A key observation was that although the number of undernourished people decreased significantly from 2005 to 2008, hunger is sadly resurging. Humanity’s global system allows hunger to persist, a by-product of injustice.
Despite being intolerable and unacceptable, hunger persisted and worsened during the COVID pandemic. Our new vision and mission aim to prevent hunger and create a future where it is not tolerated. In short, it is an expanded platform, an evolution, not a radical change. This expanded platform offers new programmes, thought leadership, and opportunities for collaboration with community partners, governments, investors, and NGOs.
By the end of this phase, we aim to foster effective leadership, particularly among women and youth, who play crucial roles in building self-reliant communities. Our goals also include improving access to resources, promoting proactive government involvement, and securing funder commitment. Hunger emerged as a global issue after World War II, commonly referred to as famine.
Previous beliefs considered hunger inevitable and those affected as helpless victims. The Hunger Project, launched in 1977, distinguished between famine, starvation, and chronic hunger, which predominantly impacted women and children. We asserted that hunger could be eradicated by providing opportunities for people to cultivate their food. Our methodologies empower individuals, regardless of their location, to overcome hunger.
Why are the youth and women important in driving a new agenda for food systems in Africa?
Africa has a predominantly youthful population. If we set the context right, we can harness their energy effectively instead of letting it go to waste. If we do not, the youth will revolt one day, because they are dissatisfied with the status quo.We need to review and understand what needs to be done to engage them productively. Women on the other hand are feeding the continent because most smallholder farmers are women. Instead of producing policies that foster land grabbing from them, rendering them peasants, we should promote their land ownership in the agricultural sector.
We need to put in place policies for them to thrive because they will invest in their well-being, as well as that of their communities and Africa as a whole. Unfortunately, we overlook the significant contribution of the youth and women as key players in the agricultural sector and their impact on food systems. When you drive out smallholder farmers, you are driving out women farmers. There is clear evidence pointing to the fact that they are feeding our nations and our continent.
This article is one of the articles on the recently published zero hunger special edition. To access the magazine click this link ; https://www.viceversaglobal.com/zero-hunger-special-edition-magazine/
Zero Hunger special van Vice Versa | The Hunger Project02.10.2023
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