World Food Day should go beyond
GNA Feature by Christian Agubretu
Accra, Sept. Ghanadot/GNA - Come October 16 and the whole
world - about 179 countries - would be celebrating the World
Food Day. It is a day set aside by the Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) to increase and heighten awareness and to
remind the world that hunger is real and should be
eradicated through flag-raising; food fairs, TeleFood and
Ghana has put up about a 30-member National Planning
Committee, which is under the chairmanship of Ms Anna
Nyamekye, Member of Parliament and Deputy Minister of Food
and Agriculture, not only to plan and mark the day but also
to whip up public interest, involve students, especially
those studying agriculture, and reward outstanding farmers
and also women in the food production chain.
Since its inception in 1979 by the United Nations, the day
has been celebrated under various themes and one is tempted
to ask how many times have the world not been confronted
with frightening figures of the numbers of the hungry. As
usual, the more crippling figures are from the developing
countries - Asia and Africa are mentioned as places where
hunger is endemic.
Since 1979 the food situation has improved in the world but
not as one would have wished on the two continents. FAO
says: "Despite the progress achieved in agriculture and
rural development more than 850 million people still remain
hungry and poor. Our greatest challenge is to reach the
World Food Summit and First UN Millennium Development Goal
to halve by 2015 hunger and poverty worldwide."
Invariably, it should be recognized and appreciated that FAO
is still pricking the world's conscience that hunger exists
in real terms. The fact is that the world should now
demonstrate that the hunger situation is not only written on
mere platitudes, the raising of flags and other awareness
creating activities. The world should seize the bull by the
FAO admits that "the challenge of increasing investment in
agriculture is especially great in Africa. Governments in
that region have recognized the urgency of committing their
own resources to agriculture. In the Maputo Declaration of
2003, African Heads of State committed their governments to
allocate 10 per cent of their national budget to agriculture
and rural development within five years thus doubling the
present level of resources to agriculture".
One is tempted to ask whether the governments have been
doing this. If they had the will to solve the problem one
would have been seeing the results. Could it be said that
governments have too much on their plates and that they have
forgotten the poor and the hungry? Have those in authority
ever felt the pangs of hunger?
Perhaps it is necessary to remind them that in Shakespeare's
Julius Caesar, Anthony, the orator, told the Romans that
when the poor had cried, Caesar had wept. History also has
it that any time Gandhi, the famous Indian leader, realized
that his people had became hostile and were not prepared to
listen to him, he went on a fast to feel what the hungry was
feeling. He then came back from that retreat and was able to
communicate effectively with his people.
In another Shakespearian book – “King Lear”, the
protagonist, was thrown out from the comfort of his palace
and was visited by the elements of weather in a storm and in
his absolute nakedness and piercing hunger. He then cried
out to ask whether that was what the wretched of the earth
Again, it was through the fasting Jesus underwent for 40
days and 40 nights that he gained control over the world and
overcame the temptations of Satan. From there He established
Do our African leaders feel what it takes to be without
shelter, hungry and destitute? When African governments
pontificate to the heavens about their achievements in food
production one wonders how these are seen on the table or on
the floors or on the ground of the poor?
The FAO says 70 per cent of the world's hungry lives in the
rural areas. "That is where it is critical to provide food
and employment. The seed planted by a farmer leads to a
flourishing agribusinesses that paid taxes, and helped build
rural schools and roads. Agricultural development is the
first step of a long-term sustainable economic growth.
Everyone gains from investment in agriculture."
Copious literature could be found on the right to food; food
security; access to food and poverty alleviation policies
all prescribing solution to the problem of hunger. For
instance, FAO says Food security refers to the situation
when "food" is available to all persons and they have the
means to have access to it and that it is nutritionally
adequate in terms of quantity, quality and variety and all
that is acceptable within a given culture.
Governments of the world in General Comment 12 on the Right
to Adequate Food (1999) at the International Covenant of
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) affirmed: "The
right to adequate food is indivisibly linked to inherent
dignity of the human person and is indispensable for the
fulfilment of other human rights... The right to adequate
food is realised when every man, woman and child, alone or
in community with others, has physical and economic access
at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.
"We consider it intolerable that more than 800 million
people throughout the world, and particularly in developing
countries, do not have enough food to meet their nutritional
needs." - World Food Summit Plan of Action; Rome; 1996.
Recently, in Ghana, a Member of Parliament was ridiculed in
the media and by the media when he tried to retract what he
was alleged to have said that in his constituency there were
some children, who did not know what Coca-Cola or Fanta was.
Perhaps if the media had probed further they would have been
surprised to know that some families could not afford three
square meals a day let alone reserve something for Coca-Cola
or Fanta, which might be deemed a luxury. They would then
have understood what the Parliamentarian was trying to put
The theme for this year's World Food Day is not on poverty.
The theme is "The Right to Food - Make it Happen". But
poverty and hunger are so inextricably linked - food
inadequacy, insufficiency and malnutrition stem from
The jinx of poverty and hunger should be smashed. The way to
do it is to produce food in abundance by marshalling
economic, geographic and cultural theories and practices.
The promises Government make before they come to power
should be fulfilled with the same zeal they pursue the
hungry electorate to attend their rallies.
The right to food should make the human rights activists;
priests; chiefs; opinion leaders and everyone to critically
examine the issues of hunger like Shakespeare's Julius
Caesar and Gandhi and above all to put ourselves in the
forefront to fight hunger.
What ethical or moral rights do the priest, the politician
and the rich have to eat sumptuously and forget about what
happens to their immediate poor neighbour - the hungry? It
will be presumptuous to suggest that the rich should scoop
what is on his or her plate onto the empty one of the poor.
The poor must be empowered to access the right quantity and
quality food for sustenance. The slogan should be:”None
should go to bed on an empty stomach” and if he or she wakes
up the next day he or she should not be yawning and
wondering where the next meal would come from.
Thus there is the need to adopt strategies, methods and
tactics that would make the people to produce abundantly to
eat and eat well.
That is the only way to make the celebration of the World
Food Day relevant to the underprivileged; the poor and the
marginalised. It is only then that decision-makers would be
addressing this year's World Food Day's theme: "The Right to