FOOD MATTERS: Small-scale, intensive food production paying off

NANAIMO: We all have a right to adequate food. Many work to extend that right to less fortunate folk.

Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, will speak via with live webcast on The Right to Food: a Weapon against Global Hunger on Tuesday (Nov. 27) at Tufts University in Maryland.

If the intelligence and dedication with which De Schutter and others attack global hunger were applied to population, we might get some results.

We all know we have a right to adequate food. Many of us work to extend that right to less fortunate folk in our communities. All but sociopaths will reach out to help others who are hungry.

When I taught in the blackboard jungle of public education in the slums of Glasgow in the early 1960s, metal milk crates were delivered to all classrooms at recess. Few rejected the small bottles. Some of the biggest, toughest boys would come around to see if there was any extra milk after distribution and gulp it down.

There were subsidized hot meals for lunch, too, and nobody knew who had paid and who had not.

I cannot imagine how we could have got through each day without the food supplied by the city for kids who had little use for a day in class.

Meantime, we teachers were developing relationships with young people we would never have met any other way, and sharing what worldly wisdom we had in place of parents mostly too poor and discouraged to be of much use.

De Schutter knows that producing more food does not affect hunger when the extra food does not get to the hungry. He knows that until we deal with the political causes of poverty many people will go hungry while a few others waste precious resources. This is a nuanced understanding of the issue, meaning you look below the surface blend of poverty, ignorance, apathy and low self-esteem to find the tangle of bad policies which are the root cause of hunger.

If we get to a nuanced consideration of excess population, I expect we will find that the root causes are not irresponsibility of poor parents so much as the irresponsible behaviours of those who deprive others through greed.

Increased financial security is known to decrease population.

The agro-ecology strategies encouraged by De Schutter for small-scale, intensive food production in sub-Saharan Africa are already paying off.

When the tsunami of hunger caused by the failure of unsustainable global food systems hits the over-developed world, maybe it will be our turn to feel the pangs of hunger on an over-populated Vancouver Island while Africans are feeding themselves?


Marjorie Stewart is board chairwoman of Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjoriean