UN and the world’s hungry

This global campaign is aimed at helping to increase understanding of the challenges and remedies in the ambitious drive to end hunger worldwide.
This year’s theme is apt, given the fact that, according to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, the world’s hungry have grown in number to over 840 million people.
The statistics are harrowing, as is the suffering that this huge number of people collectively goes through, going to bed each day without food.
The cause for moral outrage that Mr Ban appeals to in his message to mark the 2013 World Food Day is also appropriate, because it is clearly within the capacity of member countries of the UN to end world hunger by adjusting some of their egregious policies that bring it about.
Most of the debilitating effects of hunger and malnutrition are found in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia.
In the case of Africa, these effects are exacerbated by cycles of conflicts and bad governance, one reinforcing the other in a seemingly endless succession that has left most of the people impoverished.
The UN’s ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ is good, as sloganeering goes, but it would require concerted global action to even begin to make any impact on the enormity of the problem of world hunger.
True, as the UN Chief pointed out, the key to better nutrition and, ultimately, to ensuring each person’s right to food, lies in better food systems, which  mean smarter approaches, policies and investments encompassing the environment,  people, institutions and processes by which agricultural produce are produced, processed and brought to the consumer in a sustainable manner.
Agricultural production systems have evolved over the millennia, and the developing world, particularly Africa, needs to keep pace with them to ensure that the UN goal is achievable and is sustainable.
In Nigeria, as in many African countries, the focus for many years has been on the peasant farmer to produce enough to feed the nation. With increasing modernisation however, and less number of people taking to farming, such reliance would be hopelessly unrealistic.
The way to go therefore is increasingly towards larger scale mechanised agriculture. This is where government policy, relating to extending credit facilities to the genuine players in the field, becomes crucial.
By far the greatest potential contributor to the reduction in global hunger would be a drastic reduction in conflicts around the world and the arms industry that fuels them.
If the permanent members of the UN Security Council commit to curbing arms supplies that fuel internal conflicts in many counties around the world, and channel the money thus saved to increasing the productivity of food systems, much of the problems of world hunger would have been addressed.
In 2011, the United States sold 44 per cent of all the global arms trade to countries around the world, most of it to conflict zones in support of factions, contributing to regional food deficits.
Russia’s share of the trade during the period was 17 per cent. Other Security Council members and several other European countries are also involved in the trade.
Converting the arms trade to world food stock support programme would be closer to the UN goal of ensuring food security and sustainable food systems throughout the world.
National governments must also introduce policies that place food security of the citizen at the centre of every activity. Without food security, the foundation of the society is threatened by a plethora of challenges, including civil strife and, if this is left unaddressed, anarchy.


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