Vandana Shiva on MDGs and Food Security

30 Sep 2010

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Last week more than 140 countries met at the United Nations (UN), to track progress on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Despite UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, taking a more optimistic view, a UN report earlier this year contends that most MDGs will not be met by 2015. The area lagging furthest behind in meeting MDGs is sub-Saharan Africa.

There are more than one billion hungry people worldwide. A key target of the UN is to end world poverty and hunger, amongst other goals.

Much of this MDG’s discussion hosted by Al Jazeera's Inside Story focuses on increasing global food security and eradicating hunger.

In this regard, Brazil is featured as a success story for its "Zero Hunger" programme, which is a grassroots inspired initiative that allows the rural poor to grow, consume and sell fresh produce with government support.

Vandana Shiva, Indian environmental activist and author, argues that Brazil's programme is amazing because it has been an initiative of government to allow communities to become "food self reliant" and "food self secure."

Using her home country as an example of how agricultural development should not take place, Shiva says, unfortunately, India contrasts strongly with Brazil.

India has some of the highest rates of growth, and yet it also has some of the highest growth rates of hunger and poverty. India has a million children under the age of five dying from hunger every year.

These statistics are the result of government having turned its back on the poor, not by itself, but with the inspiration of rich countries, giant corporations, the World Bank and IMF's advice and WTO pressure, says Shiva.

Brazil has managed to create the Zero Hunger program in spite of similar international pressure, because it has modelled its programme on bottom up efforts that put the poor at the centre of developmental outcomes through ecologically sound programmes.

Brazil'a programme was built by bypassing corporate agribusiness.

Countries like India could adopt similar kinds of policies, shaped at the grassroots, which show that more food can be produced per acre by going ecological and by protecting biodiversity. Self reliant and self-sufficient farms are the best route to food security -- because the largest number of hungry people in the world today are food producers.

Shiva is concerned about how Northern money is being spent in Africa, especially highlighting the work of Bill Gates on the continent.

According to Shiva, Gates, Warren Buffet and FAO money is going to an "insane proposal" known as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

Similar programmes were launched on India's prosperous lands 40 years ago. Today these lands are rife with farmer suicides, cancer, toxics and depleting water resources.

We need to recognize the international pressures to push the South in the wrong direction, says Shiva, which is taking away the land, seeds and food that farmers can produce and have for themselves.

Bill Gates will "cook up" figures about increasing food production in Africa even while his corn, mono-cultures, chemical fertilizers and GMOs are causing food sovereignty to decrease on the continent. 

Food security and sovereignty is also being undermined by free trade liberalization policies and the idea of leaving it to the market. The market is not going to look after those who are excluded and disenfranchised, argues Shiva.

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