Hunger in the world: will the next crisis be food? Episode III – EconomyMorning


3. We can only feed everyone with flawless logistics and social solidarity, which is likely to be lacking in many countries.

Agricultural production is a necessary but absolutely not sufficient condition to fight hunger.

We can very well suffer from hunger in a country that produces a lot of food and exports it to the whole world! Conversely, you can eat anywhere, even in overcrowded or semi-desert areas. For everyone to eat, of course, social peace, a strong state, excellent logistics, and stable income are needed for all mothers and isolated people.

A century ago, we were not good at agricultural techniques and even less at international transport; hunger was still a sort of fatality due in particular to the disastrous consequences of climatic incidents; even if, in countries where there was a strong government, it was possible to store grain during the “fat cow” years to mitigate the consequences of the “lean” years. This is absolutely no longer the case today: we know how to produce food efficiently and we know how to transport it from one continent to another in case of urgent need; hunger has therefore become a pure construction of man, the daughter of greed, carelessness and indifference!

In order for food to reach the depths of the last isolated village, it is not enough to have a cargo ship dock in the port, it is necessary to have an entire extremely efficient logistics chain: dockers, customs officers, motorable roads, trucks, etc. silos, a succession of intermediaries who refrain from speculating excessively… not to mention the absence of looters, guerrillas, or even uncontrolled regular soldiers! It is really in high demand in a lot of countries; basically where there is no state we can be assured that the plates will be empty! However, this situation has an unfortunate tendency to develop in extremely sensitive areas such as the Sahel, but also, for example, in Haiti or Madagascar.

Importing rice into Cameroon

We saw, for example, at the start of the French confinement in 2020 that the sudden closure of all restaurants and canteens in favor of taking food at home caused complicated adjustments, when it was necessary to provide flour in packages of one. kilo or eggs per box of 6 instead of delivering them by whole trucks! We had more fear than harm and in the end we had no shortage, but we were able to measure the complexity of food logistics and the need to have local supplies in short circuits for at least part of our food consumption; imagine what would have happened for Parisians if the Rungis market had become a Covid cluster to the point that we had to close it, as we had closed the nearby Orly airport!

But we are not yet at the end of the road: if the food arrives at the village grocer but mothers have absolutely no cash, they will not have access to it and their children will be hungry. The systems of family allowances, or emergency relief, which allow them to distribute a minimum of income are then absolutely decisive.

Let us quote for example the program Zero hunger set up in Brazil during President Lula’s time, which consisted in giving 40 € per month to the mother of a family for each child in school, in the form of arrow coupons that can only be used for food purchases, with at least 30% of food from local family farming. In just a few years, this program has lifted 20 million Brazilians out of poverty (they went from 28 to 10% of the population), reduced child malnutrition by 61%, infant mortality by 45% and rural poverty. by 15%, by promoting local agriculture and the consumption of local products. Unfortunately, President Bolsonaro put an end to it!

But this concept has been taken up, in various forms, by different countries such as Mexico (“ Sin hambre “) Or India (” National food security bill ») And ultimately by the United Nations, its UNDP Development Program, as well as the World Food Program. We even dreamed of eradicating hunger by the year 2030 in this way, an objective which obviously will not be achieved at all; on the contrary, everything suggests that the number of undernourished people will increase significantly in the years to come.

We can even observe that, in countries like France which are the most advanced in the world in terms of social solidarity, the problem of hunger resurfaced with new acuteness during the Covid crisis. The legal equipment is very rich and diversified: unemployment insurance, family allowances, minimum integration income, disabled adult allowances, pensions, school grants, subsidized canteens, etc. It was also considerably strengthened during the Covid crisis with the famous ” Whatever the cost “. And yet we realize that, even in a very organized country, the informal economy continues to play a very important role and that when it stops, many people sink into deep poverty. When you are isolated, there is no longer any possibility of supplementing the end of the month with odd jobs, and the university canteens and restaurants close, the problem of access to food arises again. crucially. All the last-line compensation organizations, such as food banks, Restaurants du cœur, Secours Populaire or Catholique, etc., were called upon much more than before, even though their sources of supply were drying up, since, for a in large part they redistributed food from the immense waste of our industrial society; when the canteens and restaurants are closed, they no longer give food to these organizations! We can see the queues getting longer to get food in countries that have not seen it for decades …

In the USA as in France, we are rediscovering the queues to obtain food

Another way to deal with the most in a hurry is to generalize individual and collective vegetable gardens; moreover it is an absolute sign of crisis in the rich countries, when the suburbanites uproot their roses to plant potatoes, which was observed in particular in Greece during the serious crisis that it experienced recently! But in very urbanized countries, with a dense habitat like France, this solution can only remain marginal: we do not see very well how Parisians would manage to cultivate their own potatoes and carrots! On the other hand, this means of action remains absolutely fundamental in many cities of the Third World, where access to fruit and vegetables is extremely limited and where town planning leaves a little free space, if only on the roofs. houses in Cairo or in the very streets of Nairobi slums.

The example of Cuba, which found itself in a very delicate situation during the break-up of the USSR, while its agriculture was almost entirely revolved around sugar cane, was exemplary: a city like Havana now produces 70% of its consumption of fruits and vegetables locally, and in addition by completely agros ecological means, since the embargo organized by the United States prevents it from buying fertilizers and pesticides!

All in all, the challenges to feed ourselves all and well on the planet are therefore multiple and particularly topical: will we succeed in increasing global agricultural production despite global warming, the depletion of resources, and the increasing damage? caused by intensive agriculture? Will we succeed in producing more in tropical countries to make them relatively self-sufficient even though their populations will increase sharply? Are logistics and social solidarity systems going to develop or on the contrary regress?

We can, if we really want to, feed ourselves all, even 10 billion, on this planet, but precisely, do we really want it? The number of hungry people on planet Earth has been shockingly stable, regardless of population, around 800 million people. That is to say that there are as many hungry people in 2021 as in 2000, 1950 or 1900! The real question is: how much do we want in 2030 and 2050?