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A food awakening
Celebrity photographer Rankin journeyed to Kenya recently to chronicle the plight of hundreds of thousands of people who are starving as a result of climate change. Anne Sexton reports on the work being done by Oxfam to put food back on their plates.
Anne Sexton, 10 Jun 2011
“I’m starving!” I complained to my housemate before sitting down to write this feature. I was hungry since I hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast, but starving? No, of course not. Like most Irish people, I rarely go without food for long. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for millions of people around the world.
In the years since Bob Geldof and Midge Ure asked us to ‘feed the world’, food shortages have increased globally and around 925 million people go hungry every day – that’s nearly one in seven. The most shocking thing about this statistic is that there is more than enough food to go round.
Oxfam is about to launch its Food Justice campaign to combat the structural, political and corporate policies that facilitate this scandal. Under the campaign umbrella, Oxfam is calling for an end to unregulated land grabs, a global deal on climate change and an overhaul of the food system, all of which are in part responsible for denying close to a billion people access to food. To reinforce the point, Oxfam has teamed up with the world-renowned portrait photographer Rankin to give a face and voice to some of the millions affected by food shortages.
Land grabs are a modern form of free-market colonialism. It’s estimated that around 50 million hectares of African farmland, that’s more than seven times the size of Ireland, have been sold to investors, governments and corporations from the developed world. These areas are intensively farmed and the food produced is exported, often while local people starve. If this sounds eerily similar to Ireland’s Great Famine, it’s because the dynamics that saw close to a million people die of starvation here are being replayed across Africa.
Bad governance, international debt, and corporate agribusiness are all partly to blame. Unfortunately, so are we. The rich, developed world gets, and wastes, more than its fair share of food. We can include Ireland in that category, despite the collapse of our economy. Price increases and the recession may mean that we look for bargains or shop at low-cost supermarkets, but we are still living in a paradise where food is seen as disposable: on average, around a third of all the food we buy ends up in the bin.