Have you ever seen a person yell at his colleague or his partner, overreacting on a particular matter that has caused not only the person who got yelled at to feel annoyed, but also third parties who know about it or have witnessed the scene? For the many who do not wish to get into the mess, or has enough logic sense to not judge immediately, they will most likely give out a fair statement and try to reason out that person’s overreaction by saying he probably had a bad day or he probably has dilemma at home. However, if we take a bit closer and look closely, all of us will eventually realise that it all goes down to one matter; insecurity.
Insecurities are not something new and unfamiliar to the human kind. Everyone has insecurities, regardless of whether they realise it or not. The Oxford Dictionary defines insecurity as the uncertainty or anxiety about oneself or lack of confidence. Insecurities exist in every living soul on this planet. Till today, it is still seen as a negative matter as not many have addressed this issue in proper ways using proper mediums. Most parents don’t even talk about it and shove it away when their children decide to speak up about it. Little do people know that the slightest things in life are the ones that add up to our insecurities.
The amount of insecurity in a person differs from one to the other. The types of insecurities that one possesses also vary. The most common type of insecurity is physical insecurity. Let’s face it; human beings are never satisfied. Even when you have all the parts of the body needed to sustain and go through your daily routine with ease, you still beg for more. Some want healthier and shiner hair, some want to be taller, but most importantly, everyone wants something. It is not just human beings as an individual who face insecurities, but also countries and states.
Currently, the world is looking at the issue of food insecurity, which is also classified as a type of insecurity. Food security may be said as the availability of food and one’s access to it. Hence, the United Nations have defined food security as all people at all times having both physical and economic access to the basic food they need. For more than 2 billion of people on this planet, they are lucky to not worry about this form of insecurity. However, we might not realise this but this matter is more complicated than it seems. Food securities may result from many different causes.
It is imperative that we focus on why are the food insecure, and why are the people are food insecure. Among the most common causes of food insecurities are drought and extreme weather changes. This setback, which is very commonly faced by third world countries, usually ranges from overnight floods to droughts. In short, the climate changes faced by these countries are extreme. In most African countries, like Nigeria, droughts are not new to them. It has been a setback since the time of their ancestors; nonetheless, they are helpless at it and have no comeback on solving this matter.
In many comparisons throughout time, some of the most severe food crises were all preceded by drought or by other similarly extreme weather events. These extremities result in poor and failed harvests which in turn results food scarcity and high prices of the available food. As mentioned in the Climate and Development Knowledge Network report entitled ‘Managing Climate Extremes and Disasters in the Agriculture Sectors: Lessons from the IPCC SREX Report’, such force of nature causes impacts which will include not only food insecurity, but changing productivity and livelihood patterns, economic losses, and impacts on the infrastructure.
Besides that, the natural resource base for the poor and food-insecure is invariably narrow and, in many areas, fragile. With the exception of Uganda only 4 to 10 percent of the land area is classed as arable, and just a small area of land suitable for rainfed cultivation. The greatest numbers of poor people are concentrated in the arid and semi-arid ecosystems and on marginal land in the higher rainfall parts of the region. It has become axiomatic to say that poverty is one of the main causes of environmental degradation.
This can be seen all too clearly in the farming of steep slopes, which takes place as an increasing population is forced to cultivate marginal land. The falling crop yields that characterize the marginal areas are a result of the loss of massive quantities of topsoil throughout the region, declining soil fertility as fallow systems are replaced by continuous cultivation, reductions in soil organic matter as manure is burnt for fuel, and shrinking holding sizes. However, the poor are also the most vulnerable to environmental degradation because they depend on he exploitation of common property resources for a greater share of their incomes than richer households do. In the rangelands, the evidence for long-term secular environmental degradation is ambiguous. The successive cyclical growth and decline of herds reflects cycles of rainfall and rangeland productivity, and is perfectly normal. As animals die in large numbers, the rangelands recover remarkably quickly. However, when there is a major drop in the number of animals, the people who depend on them for their livelihoods also suffer.
Development programmes that have sought to increase animal production on rangelands through water development and animal disease prevention have all too often failed to find, at the same time, sustainable ways of increasing animal nutrition, so the resulting increased numbers of animals may wreak havoc on the range itself. Many of the available freshwater resources are in river basins and lakes that extend beyond the boundaries of individual nations.
Shared water resources include lakes Victoria, Albert, Edward, Kivu and Turkana and major rivers such as the Blue Nile, White Nile, Atbara, Awash and Shebele. The potential for developing irrigation from these sources is constrained by the problem of achieving agreement on sharing the resources and avoiding conflict. Although natural climatic factors have played their part in the process of desertification, in general, it is increased population and the related development of unsustainable production systems that have had most negative impact on the fragile natural resource base.
Wood and manure have remained the main sources of domestic energy, even in urban centres. This situation has contributed to depleting the forest and range resources, resulting in an overall decrease in biomass and biodiversity, reduced water infiltration and increased runoff and soil erosion. These factors, which contribute to the impoverishment of ecosystems, have led to a vicious circle of environmental degradation, lower system resilience to erratic rainfall, decreased agricultural productivity and increased poverty and food insecurity.
Not only that, the cause of food insecurity in these third world countries are also caused by the poor state of development and maintenance of roads and transport, energy sources and telecommunications in the marginal areas of countries in the Horn of Africa makes it difficult for these areas to become integrated into the national and regional economy. As with all other indicators of development, the countries of the region have some of the worst figures worldwide with respect to access to roads and water supply.
A recent report suggests that, in terms of access to infrastructure, the gap between Africa and the rest of the world has widened over the past 15 years. The sparse road and communications network hampers emergency relief operations as well as the commercialization of the rural economy. The density of the road network in the countries of the region gives an idea of both how difficult it is to reach people in rural areas with services and the problems such people face in participating in the market economy.
For example, in Ethiopia, every kilometre of road serves 72 km 2 and 3 000 people, compared with only 8 km 2 and 850 people in North Africa. Even after strenuous efforts by development agencies and NGOs, access to a clean water supply is still an unobtainable luxury for most rural inhabitants in the Horn. Piped systems are uncommon in rural areas and protected wells and hand pumps are the best that rural communities can expect. The burden of collecting water, as with so many other menial tasks, falls almost exclusively on women in the communities, who must spend many hours each day collecting water from unsafe sources.
The statistics on access to water and sanitation reveal wide differences within the region. In three countries, namely Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, only one-quarter of the population has access to safe water, and in two others (the Sudan and Uganda) the figure is less than 50 percent. Access to sanitation is as low as 13 percent and, except for Kenya, barely exceeds 50 percent anywhere. In addition to that, the indicators of access to social services in the countries that face the setback of food insecurity are also among the lowest in the world.
While the average figures are bad enough, they mask fundamental inequalities in access to services within the region. Again, rural areas, especially remote, low-potential areas are the least well served. Nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists are the most difficult populations to provide services to and, consequently, they are invariably the ones with the poorest health services and least education. All these indicators, combined with malnutrition and poor access to safe water, have adverse consequences for productivity and for the long-term physical and cognitive development of people in the region.
Also, let us not forget the fact that crop and plants as well face diseases. Diseases affecting livestock or crops can have devastating effects on food availability especially if there are no emergency back-up plans in place. For example, an epidemic of stem rust on wheat which was spreading across Africa and into Asia in 2007 caused major concern. A virulent wheat disease could destroy most of the world’s main wheat crops, leaving millions to starve. The fungus had spread from Africa to Iran and may already be in Pakistan. A different threat, on the other hand, has attacked the African continent’s second biggest crop; wheat.
In 1999, 50 years since the last outbreak, a contemporary and virulent strain of stem rust attacked the Ugandan crops. Its spores then travelled to Ethiopia and Kenya, before appearing in Iran last year. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nation (FAO) has given warning to six other countries in the Central and South Asia to be prepared and keep an eye for symptoms of this new strain while scientists in the United States of America are working diligently in searching for a resistant that combats this problem.
It is important that the remedy for this will be obtained quickly as in India alone; more than 50 million small-scale farmers are at risk because they depend on wheat for their food and earnings. Most importantly, we must not overlook that politics and dictatorship also play a role in food insecurity. Many do not realise that politics play a part in something as serious as this. As mentioned by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amarya Sen, “There is no such thing as an apolitical food problem. It is more often than not that the administration of the country that determines its severity, or even whether the famine will occur. If truth be told, the 20th century is full of examples of governments undermining the food security of their own nations. Let us take a look at Nigeria, Africa’s most densely inhabited state, where a legacy of corrupted governance and an economy based primarily on oil exports has left the agriculture sector significantly undermined, leaving millions of Nigerians in deep hunger.
True, the neighbouring countries export food to Nigeria in exchange for money, but remember; the people in these neighbouring countries need food too. And they are much poorer than those living in Nigeria. It was reported by the United Nations that thousands of children in countries neighbouring Nigeria died because of malnutrition. These kids paid the price not because of food shortage in their country, but because of food shortage in Nigeria. The distribution of food is often a political issue in most countries.
The government will always give priority to urban areas and cities, since most influential and powerful families and enterprises are located there. The ruling government over and over again for generations overlooks the subsistence farmers and rural areas in general. In other words, the more rural an area, the less likely the government will pay attention to solving its needs. What’s more is that the governments of these countries would normally keep the price of basic grain at extremely low levels that subsistence farmers cannot accumulate sufficient capital to make investments to improve their production.
Hence, they are prevented from getting out of their precarious situation. In addition, food has always been a political arsenal by the dictators and warlords, where they reward their supporters and deny food supplies to those areas that are against them. Under this condition, food has become more like a currency instead of a basic need that cannot be denied rights of. Food has become the money to buy support and used against the opposition. Even in Guatemala, income inequality is amongst the worst in the world, with indigenous communities at a disadvantage.
In some areas, an estimated 75 percent of the children, ranging from infants to children ages six and seven years old, are severely malnourished. And this is a shocking statistic relating food scarcity coming from a country that is merely a four-hour flight away from the USA. Furthermore, it was pointed out in William Bernstein’s 2004 publication entitled ‘The Birth of Plenty’ that individuals without property will lead to starvation and it is much easier to bend the fearful and the hungry to the will of the state.
If a farmer’s property can be arbitrarily threatened by the state, that power will inevitably be used to intimidate those with different political and religious opinions. It is fundamental and crucial that we understand and be aware of the consequences of this global food scarcity. The effects might be similar to the effects of malnutrition and hunger, where, at the outset, the human population will be affected greatly in the sense where stunted growth may occur. The stunting starts in when the baby is still in the mother’s womb and happens till the age of three.
Once stunting happens, giving proper nutrition to these helpless children will not help in reversing the damage or improving the child’s condition. Pregnant mothers who do not receive the correct amount of nutrition needed may risk of having a higher chance of infant and child mortality later on, which is, of course, a very heartbreaking circumstance. Apart from that, severe malnutrition during one’s early childhood also leads to defects in cognitive development.
Stunted individuals also have a higher chance of getting diseases and illnesses as compared to those who have not experienced stunting. It must also come to the attention that food insecurity is also associated with various developmental consequences for children in the United States. A research was conducted by Diana F. Jyoti, Edward A. Frongillo, and Sonya J. Jones to prove that food insecurity is linked to specific developmental consequences for children, and whether these consequences may be both nutritional and nonnutritional.