Updated: 2011-10-17 07:59
Finding a way to feed a world population that does not exacerbate climate change, nor otherwise do lasting damage to the environment, is arguably the single greatest collective challenge the world faces.
Working out how to feed a world population that is projected to top 7 billion this month is a mammoth task. A sixth of the current global population already goes hungry - another billion is malnourished. And the global population may grow to 9 billion within the next 40 years.
A report, recently published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Program, entitled "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2011", found that 32 countries are already in need of external aid due to crop failures, conflicts or insecurity, natural disasters and high domestic food prices.
The UN reports that about 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, the majority children.
It is high time to shed some light on what can be done to mitigate the impact of rising food prices on the most vulnerable and World Food Day is designed to increase awareness, understanding and spread information about global hunger.
"Food prices from crises to stability" was chosen as the theme for this year's World Food Day, which is held every year on Oct 16.
Upswings in food prices represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. According to the World Bank, rising food costs in 2010-2011 pushed nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty.
And the United Nations is predicting rising food prices over the next decade. Volatile food prices make more people vulnerable to food shortages and poverty, especially those in small, import-dependent countries.
Meaningful long-term alleviation of hunger is rooted in the alleviation of poverty, as poverty leads to hunger. World hunger is a terrible symptom of world poverty.
So it is fitting that World Food Day is followed by International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Oct 17.
Around the world, in rich and poor nations, poverty has always been present, and in most nations the gap between the rich and the poor is high and widening.
At the UN meeting launching 7 Billion Actions in September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlined a world of contradictions. "We have plenty of food yet millions are still starving. We see luxurious lifestyles yet millions are impoverished. We have great opportunities for progress but also great obstacles."
So efforts must be directed not only at providing food, and improving food production and distribution, but also at addressing the structural root cause of hunger - poverty.
(China Daily 10/17/2011 page8)