World Food Day: A Focus on Food Security in Yemen
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 10 Oct 2016
16 October is World Food Day, so designated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization – a yearly reminder that there are people who are constantly hungry due to inadequate agricultural methods, poor distribution, poor food storage, and armed conflict.
A central theme which citizens of the world have long stressed is that there needs to be a world food policy and that a world food policy is more than the sum of national food security programs. World food security has too often been treated as a collection of national security initiatives. Yet for the formulation of a dynamic world food policy, world economic trends and structures need to be studied, and policy goals made clear. There needs to be a detailed analysis of the role of speculation in the rise of food commodity prices. Banks and hedge funds, having lost money in the real estate mortgage packages, are now investing massively in commodities. For the moment, there is little government regulation of this speculation. There needs to be an analysis of these financial flows and their impact on the price of grains.
A world food policy for the welfare of all requires a close look at world institutions, patterns of production and trade. As Stringfellow Barr wrote in his 1952 book Citizens of the World “Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some men die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live.”
However, in addition to setting out a broad, comprehensive world food policy, attention must be given to national and local issues of food production, distribution, and food security. Attention needs to be given to cultural factors, the division of labor between women and men in agriculture and rural development, in marketing local food products, to the role of small farmers, to the conditions of landless agricultural labor, and to land-holding patterns. There is also a need to look at the longer-range consequences of climate change on agricultural production.
While on some issues of food and agriculture there can be legitimate differences of opinion as to techniques of improvement, there is no doubt that war and armed conflicts have a negative impact on food production and food security. Yemen is a sharp example, and this year’s World Food Day needs to focus on Yemen. There is a double need: one is to bring in food aid in safe conditions; the second is to re-start negotiations to bring the armed conflict and Saudi-led intervention to an end.
As a result of Saudi bombing raids, started on 24 March 2015, Yemen’s underdeveloped socio-economic infrastructure has been largely destroyed. Even prior to the start of the bombing raids, Yemen was already a poor country which needed to import much of its agricultural and food supplies. The fighting among Yemeni factions and the bombing raids have led to the displacement of many people and thus the abandonment of agricultural areas. The fighting has led to the creation of hard-to-reach zones. The United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs has estimated that some 14 million people in Yemen are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition with cases of severe malnutrition.
There is wide agreement in UN circles that Yemen is in a quagmire, with the free-fall of its economy, a collapse and destruction of its health services, its food imports blocked, and humanitarian aid workers unable to reach safely large areas of the country.
Thus World Food Day this year must be a constant reminder of the link between armed conflict, poverty and food insecurity. Yemen is a living reminder of the need for concerted action for resolving armed conflicts.
René Wadlow, a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and of its Task Force on the Middle East, is president and U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 Oct 2016.
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