Realities of Hunger and Famine

Starvation and Famine are two world crises that have been around for a very long time and yet still continue to haunt us today. Historical documents of the past prove that the problem in food had been a major dilemma of even the most powerful nations. And yet, despite the technological advancements that modern times have achieved already, the problem of people getting hungry and dying of starvation continue to increase. Supply of food had improved to surplus in some parts of the world and yet famine has not yet been eradicated for the rest (Vanhaute 2). This just proves that the problem in food production and equal distribution remains to be a predicament that continuously troubles all population.

Several studies and scholarly articles have been released from the past and are still being produced today that tackles the realities of hunger and famine in the world. One of the most notable works is Robert Dirks Hunger and Famine which discussed the causes of hunger around the world and what biological, cultural, and social effects famine has on people. The problem of hunger cannot be attributed to one cause only. His essay is a critical analysis of how several factors, such as agriculture and inequality in society, have led to the famine situation of the world today. And since hunger and famine are major concerns worldwide, these causes should be critically studied to reach a stand on how to help the nations who continue to suffer food shortages.
For many experts, man is also to be blamed with the starvation problems he is facing. Many still believe that famine is the result of a combination of natural and manmade disasters (Estes 29). Aside from Mother Nature, man has a direct fault on the flaws of production, consumption, and distribution in food supplies. One of mans main faults is the rapid increase of population that has been blamed repetitively for the occurrence of food shortages.  But the truth is that food supply had increased over the years already. The fact that contemporary famines are less frequent and less severe than historical famines can be seen as a success story of world historical proportions (Vanhaute 2). Food supplies have improved despite different natural crises and it could probably even proportionately address the demand despite the rapid growth in population. But the uncontrollable population growth in the world is not the only cause of hunger and famine. The first 21st century food crisis was manmade for it was caused by short-run overshooting and long-run negative shifts (Vanhaute 10). Aside from the bad harvest and climate problems that could be caused by the environment, population growth was a social change that has long-run negative implications.
One of the main causes of famine that was discussed by Dirks and other experts is, ironically, the invention of agriculture. According to Dirks agriculture was not the great blessing once imagined rather it might have even heightened the possibility of famine in the world (5). Historical evidences prove that the advancements of the world and decline of agriculture practices made the population vulnerable to shortages in food supply. Man had always been capable of finding ways to produce food even before the system of agriculture was formalized. The practice may have helped organized the process of food production, but agriculture also erodes former household and village security mechanisms and affects their ability to overcome short-term economic stress, such as harvest shortages or variations in income or food prices from one year to the next (Vanhaute 8). There is nothing wrong with agriculture itself, but the famine situation of the world show that man had evolved to become limited in adapting to crises and addressing the hunger problems. Also, commercialization and modernization have added burden ensuring enough food supply for everyone. As agriculture transformed into agribusiness, people became more bound for making profits rather than supplying the whole world with the amount of food they need. Agribusiness is focused often for the purpose of producing cash crops for sale on the international export market (Estes 30). This limits the supply of food that could be distributed equally because producers would prefer to sell their crops to rich nations that could really afford them.

The practice of agriculture is not entirely wrong. It is an organized system intended for food production. But the way it is utilized and developed had produced negative effects. One of the most significant examples of continents capable of countering the famine caused by the agricultural revolution was Europes success in their process of de-agrarianization (Vanhaute 6). This event can be considered a historical success according to Vanhaute because the countries in Europe were able to elevate themselves from hunger dilemmas with the help of massive, cheap imports of raw materials and basic food stuffs and an impressive export of tens of millions of surplus laborers to the neo-Europes (6). This process proved to have helped food security in the nation but could not really be applicable to all forms of government and the other parts of the world. A diversified source of income could help balance the negative implications of agribusiness. Also, if the system of agriculture is really designed to help food production, Vanhautes article highlighted that small-scale agriculture is more productive than other agrarian systems because the process would be more focused to productivity and supplying its immediate markets (13).

In this modern age of surplus, the enormous suffering and loss of life wrought by famine is especially tragic (Rinehart 2). Technology had helped immensely in improving the lives of people. Aside from the inventions and advancements it had produced for people that have helped make the world more interconnected and modern, technology had also helped making some life practices faster. Even food production has been improved tremendously by technology. The simplistic idea that world hunger and famine are primarily due to natural disasters and food scarcity no longer dominates public discourse (Moiso). But there are several causes of famine in the world that technology cannot solve. The demand for technology is to supply an improved and more varied diet to so many mouths will require at least a tripling of food production, given the current means of production and distribution (Kates). Increase in population translates to increase in demand for food. Also, some experts believe that technology may in fact increase the diversity of people as well as the availability of products and ideas (Kates). Modern advancements also highlight the disparity between rich and poor population. Technology may have helped increase the supply of food, but it had not helped make the distribution fairer. In reality, hunger is a problem of distribution, a matter of access to the available global food supply (Kates)

The inequality in food distribution and reality of food entitlements are well-explored topics in scholarly literatures that immensely explain the continuous prevalence of hunger and famine despite the increase in food supply. Every man, woman, and child had the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop fully and maintain their physical and mental faculties (Estes 40). But this right is not exercised more often by those who belong in the lower social classes. This reality highlights the unequal distribution of food supply to the world market. Many experts believe that to understand famine, we need to understand both ownership patterns and exchange entitlements, and the forces that lie behind them since our world is governed by these social statuses (Vanhaute 4). Rather than focusing on the supply of food, entitlements emphasize that famine is brought by the improper distribution of food to the people. No matter how much food suppliers would produce, famine would still be the possible result if its supply is only made available to those who could purchase them.

It is not enough to only consider the amount of food production of the modern world. Widespread hunger and starvation can occur even when food is available, if large numbers of people lose their ability to purchase, exchange, or receive food (Kates). Food supply should be made into a right that everyone can enjoy. Equal distribution of food, no matter what social or economic status the have, is very important to solve the problem of the hunger stricken nations. But as the world is governed by market rules and profit-oriented beliefs, this would be hard to achieve. Food entitlements would still continue dictating the recipients of the most food supply. Market functioning is central to a households ability to access food, and starvation can occur even when food is readily available at local markets if a household lacks the appropriate entitlements (Baro and Deubel 524). Famine continues to be a global problem because poor and underprivileged population remains to have no access in the food supply of the world.

The impact of the food crisis is very large because it is not restrained to one social function only because it does not only affect anthropological realities. Hunger and famine affects the social, economical, and political situation in a country. Solving the crisis should begin with a widespread recognition of the human right to food (Kates). Food entitlements are the rules that dictates who can eat and who should starve. These social inequalities and human diversities should be addressed properly in order to ensure food sovereignty for all population and probably eradicate famine for good.

Governments and international organizations have been continuously thinking of possible ways to solve the food crisis of the world. Food security is threatened by new forms of vulnerability, instigated by a new wave of globalization in economics and governance (Vanhaute 2). A more interconnected world would only mean that the global organizations are more exposed to the realities of hunger and famine in all parts of the world.

Ways to improve the food production and distribution of the world is becoming a priority for many governments. On the other hand, economists and others rightly point out that the world has much unused capacity for producing food (Kates). The means of improving the production of food has not yet been fully exhausted. Dirks even highlighted in his article the role governments and media have to help address global famine. International organizations and charities that are funded by the more privileged people have embraced the ultimate responsibility of coordinating and organizing a relief operation and turning them over to governments of countries affected by famine (Rinehart 3). In turn, governments should find ways on how to make the distribution of these supplies possible even to those parts that are not easily accessible. This is one of the major roles that governments play especially to third world nation. Media, on the other hand, have the capability and power to increase awareness for the famine crisis globally. The manner in which major emergencies are covered by the media has a very large affect on whether or not governmental donors would decide to respond to a crisis (Rinehart 3).
No one could bravely claim that ending the global crises of starvation and famine is an easy matter. But it is possible if production and distribution of food supply would be done properly worldwide. Famine has several causes and effects and each one needs to be solved diligently in order to end food crisis. Starvation will remain to be a dilemma globally if people would fully learn how to fairly allocate food supplies that the world has.


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