World Foodless Day, 16 October 2008
World Foodless Day, 16 October 2008
All over Asia, events will be held on October 16, as part of the World Foodless Day, organised by Pesticide Action Network of Asia & The Pacific (PAN AP). Activists from Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development note:
The current food crisis affecting the world is the latest calamity to hit the rural women and other poor and marginalised peoples in every developing country. The price of rice, wheat, soy, corn and other staples has skyrocketed. This year, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 850 million people do not get enough food to eat in the world. Three-quarters of them live in rural areas, mainly in the villages of Asia Pacific and Africa, and seven out of ten are women and girls.
October 16 was declared "World Foodless Day" by the Pesticide
Action Network and People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty
(http://www.panap.net/313.0.html) instead of the usual UN-
sanctioned World Food Day. No wonder. More than three billion
people on the planet live on less than $2 a day and must spend
half to 80% of it on basic food. The World Food Program estimates
that 100 million people will face starvation as a result of the
recent jump in food prices.
Instead of meeting the Millennium Challenge Goal to cut hunger in
half, World Hunger Program Director Josette Sheeran states,
"We're seeing more people hungry and at greater numbers than
Why October 16? This is the official World Food Day held by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization: an opportune time to send a strong message of food sovereignty and highlight consumers’ strategies to address the food crisis. FAO celebrates World Food Day each year on October 16, the day on which FAO was founded in 1945.
The Food and Agriculture Organization has placed its
estimate at 920 million undernourished people in the world???up
from the 850 million reported before the food crisis.
International organizations warn that the situation will get much
worse before???or if???it gets better.
FAO economist Kostas Stamoulis says, "Our estimates show that the
poorest, the landless, and the female-headed households seem to
be the categories of people in the developing countries that are
hurt most by the high food prices." Latin America has seen an
additional six million people fall into the ranks of the hungry.
Small farmers face hardships due to the increased cost of
fertilizers and the effects of climate change.
Who's to blame? Are we???the comfortable???going to continue to
swallow the bitter dictum that hunger is the inseparable shadow
of human society? Will we respond by merely setting aside one day
a year for hand-wringing? Turn's out, there's no justification
whatsoever for that attitude, moral or practical. This food
crisis, even more than ever before, cannot be blamed on natural
or fatalistic factors.
The PAN declaration puts it bluntly: "Actual food production and
consumption in 2007 shows that production of most food items is
above consumption except for wheat and corn." The blame then,
falls squarely on the market. "Food, which is for nourishment and
livelihoods, is now being treated as a commodity for trade,
speculation, and profiteering."
Unfortunately this message has been lost on the FAO. It lists the
goals of its "Initiative on Soaring Food Prices" as: "distribute
seeds, fertilizer, animal feed, and other farming tools and
supplies to smallholder farmers" and while recognizing the impact
on the hungry, heralds rising food prices as a boon to small
farmers. The description of the initiative does not make a single
reference to problems in the international markets. And the
proposed "solutions" play right into the hands of the
transnational food companies that have been reaping record
profits from the global tragedy, since aid money goes to buy
their agro-chemicals and genetically modified seed. In Mexico,
the food crisis has increased pressure to permit cultivation of
genetically modified corn, despite proven genetic contamination
of native varieties in the world's center of origin for corn.
This food crisis is not about food scarcity, but about who can
reach the shelf. The image poses an easy solution???lower the
shelf. There are many ways to do that, from consumer subsidies,
to government support policies, to market regulation. All of
these proposals have been proven to work in the past but are
loathed by the free market system that has been largely
responsible for placing food out of reach of the poor. In these
pages we have looked at how this has happened and set forth
possible solutions from outside the box of institutional experts
who refuse to consider any proposal that would modify the free-
trade and unfettered speculation of our current system.
In this Special Foodless Day issue of the Americas Updater, we
provide two tools for solutions. One is a call to eliminate
outside speculation with our food supply. The U.S. House and
Senate already have before them legislation to do that. We must
vocally support that legislation. This is not a radical proposal
for the United States; before the Reagan era of deregulation
there were controls on speculation with our food supply that
sought to avoid precisely the situation we face today.
The other is an extensive report on the food crisis from our
partner organization Food First called "The World Food Crisis:
What's Behind it and What We Can Do About it." The proposed
solutions make good sense: 1) support domestic food production
internationally based on social, ecological, and economic justice
and the right to healthy food; 2) government policies to
guarantee fair prices to farmers, workers, and consumers; 3) halt
agrofuels expansion; 4) re-regulate financial sector investment
in food commodities; 5) support smallholder farming; 6) support
agro-ecological and locally based approaches to food production;
7) democratize the food system through effective anti-trust laws.
Read these pieces, digest them, think about your own eating
habits, your community's role, and what you would like your
congressional representatives to do. At the Americas Policy
Program we have been learning from our partner organizations of
farmers, policy experts, and academics throughout the region and
have a commitment to share that information. We sponsored a
dynamic workshop on the food crisis at the Americas Social Forum
in Guatemala, with the participation of expert/activists Silvia
Ribeiro of ETC Group and Stephen Bartlett of Agricultural
Missions that created new links for working together to confront
the crisis. People are forming networks at the community, state,
national, and international levels to finally seriously address
the multiple failures of our global food system.
This is the time to act. We invite our readers to reflect on the
crisis at our global doorstep, even if it has not arrived on your
own doorstep. Next time you see the images of starving children,
remember that compassion must be united with action and
intelligence. We repeat: world hunger is a problem that can be
solved in our lifetimes.
It's not just that the crisis provides an opportunity, but that
this moment will define the world's future on the most vital
aspect of all???what, how, and if we eat.
Although this Updater focuses on the food crisis, don't miss Tom
Barry's important article on how anti-immigrant groups are now
targeting legal immigrants and Ra??l Zibechi's monthly report,
this time on the growing influence of Pentecostal churches,
especially among the urban poor.
Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(at)ciponline.org) is director of the
Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org) in Mexico City,
where she has been a writer and analyst for more than two
decades. Check out the Americas Mexico Blog at
Join us at the Americas Social Forum in Guatemala
Three events in Guatemala City this week at the FSA:
If you can be in Guatemala for the Americas Social Forum (www.fsaguatemala.org) please come see our events, and pass along the information to friends/colleagues that might be in Guatemala for the Forum.
Plan Mexico/Merida Initiative
Oct. 9, 2-5pm, Auditorio EFEPM
Hungry for Justice: The Food Crisis
Oct. 10, 9-11am, S10-201
Remapping Latin America's Future
Oct. 10, 11-1, S10-201
It rains--A LOT--in La Esperanza, Honduras. Over the past weeks the rains have wiped out crops, rural roads and the little that campesinos here have to live on.
But even as the streets become giant puddles and mud holes, and the rivers plan their assault on the fields, the name of the town still translates as "hope".
That at times absurd persistence also characterizes the struggle of the over 700 people from organizations across the hemisphere, gathered in the Second Hemispheric Meeting against Militarization. Absurd, because in just the first few hours of presentations, we already had a vision of a hemisphere under attack. Persistent because despite the threats and hardships, people showed up from all over to find ways to stop militarization and instead of being discouraged by the magnitude of the challenges found real ways to move forward by sharing ideas and cultures, problems and solutions.
To understand the conference, it's important to have a working definition of militarization. To conceive of it as merely the presence of armed forces is insufficient. In Colombia and Chiapas, for example, paramilitary forces constitute a major threat. In many parts of the hemisphere police forces are being used as the shock forces to put down social protest--enforcing plans to wrest control of natural resources from rural communities and create a climate of fear in the cities. Under today's model, the U.S. government, whose overt military interventions are still fresh in the memory of many participants here, can now occupy a nation without being present by training subordinated national armies to their ends and controlling the defense and intelligence infrastructure.
In a major advance, participants mainly from grassroots indigenous, peasant and workers' organizations also analyzed how militarization stems from a mentality, the same mentality of the patriarchy that perpetuates violence against women. Not only by armed forces that see women's bodies as the spoils of war, but also in the household and the streets. Militarization could not flourish if it weren't for this mentality, along with colonial forms of education that feed racism and discrimination.
They also discussed how the justice system plays a dual role. Throughout Latin America, "sons of the Patriot Act" have been born and adopted into national legislation at the express urging of the U.S. government and international finance institutions. These anti-terrorist laws--of no real value in fighting global terrorism--have already been applied to social protest in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Mexico. While new laws criminalize dissidence, on the other side of the dysfunctional justice system lies the impunity granted security forces that have committed all sorts of crimes against their own people, including rape, assassination, assault and torture.
The men and women of the Anti-Militarization Meeting know they are swimming counter-current, in the context of policies such as Plan Mexico and the Merida Initiative, and megaprojects that bring "development" backed up by machine guns. No matter. To get beyond what might seem like a romanticized view of resistance, what I should do is recount the day to day work of the individuals and organizations here. That's probably not possible, so just imagine what happens when you merge the knowledge and commitment of nearly a thousand people from across the continent in defense of their land, their lives and their communities against military domination. Even after the grim recitation of woes, it's enough to inspire action and, yes, joy (pictures of dancing and discussing, along with more details on the meeting, to come soon.)