MANILA, Philippines – “Eliminating hunger in our lifetimes.”
This is the “next big push,” according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message to a UN food body at a meeting on food security taking place in Rome.
Ki-moon was referring to his “Zero Hunger Challenge,” an initiative he first pitched before the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June 2012.
The goal of the challenge is for every human being to have adequate nutrition and for food sources to be resilient.
The campaign pursues the following objectives:
- Make sure that everyone in the world has access to enough nutritious food all year long
- End childhood stunting
- Build sustainable food systems
- Double the productivity and income of smallholder farmers, especially women
- Prevent food from being lost or wasted
CFS or the Committee on World Food Security, an intergovernmental body tasked to review and follow up food security policies, convened the meeting in time for the observance of the World Food Day Tuesday, October 16.
Cut hunger by half
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) took up the challenge even as it attempts to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) 2015 deadline for decreasing global hunger.
“As we renew and increase our commitment to reach the Millennium Development Goal for hunger reduction, let’s look beyond it, towards the total eradication of hunger because, when it comes to hunger, the only acceptable number is ‘zero,’” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said.
The FAO’s State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 report revealed that nearly 870 million people around the world suffer from chronic malnutrition.
However, Graziano announced that the number of hungry people was reduced by 132 million since 1990, an “important progress,” he said. The proportion of hungry people in developing countries also decreased from 23.2% to 14.9% over the same period, according to the top UN official.
Graziano is optimistic that targets for cutting the proportion of hungry people around the world by half can still be achieved if countries step up their efforts to address hunger.
Hunger in the Philippines
Advocates of food security in the Philippines expressed concern that the Philippines is not yet ready for the challenge, blaming the shortcomings of the government in providing an adequate budget and appropriate policies to address hunger in the country.
A survey released by the Social Weather Station in September revealed that 21% or about 4.3 million Filipino households experienced involuntary hunger the previous 3 months, up from 18.4% in May.
“The national budget does not reflect bias for addressing hunger situation,” Aurea Miclat-Teves, president of the Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) Philippines said, adding that it manifests “the weak political will of the government to eradicate hunger.”
Only P70.8-B (around $1.65-B) was allocated to the departments of agriculture and agrarian reform compared to the P106.9-B (around $2.8-B) budget for the defense department, Teves noted in a report she co-wrote with Maria Socorro Diokno for the Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2012 magazine.
The report also noted that access to land by farmers who are food producers has remained “unreachable to around 1.4 million supposed benificiaries working on 1.8 million hectares of land.”
The magazine, published by Germany-based Brot fur die Welt (Bread for the World) and other international organizations, was launched on October 15 at the University of the Philippines Diliman in a gathering of more than 300 food security advocates.
National food policy
The gathering also kicked off a campaign that pushes for the recognition of the right to adequate food in government policies. The policy advocacy will be carried out by the National Food Coalition, a network of more than 50 organizations led by FIAN Philippines.
Teves said that the lack of a comprehensive national food policy is a key reason why the country experiences a high incidence of hunger.
“The government does not fulfill this obligation. One of the reasons is the lack of a national framework that would respond to the food needs of the people,” Teves said.
This has resulted in incoherent and conflicting laws and legal mechanisms that deal with food concerns, according to Teves.
Teves added that the Philippine Constitution does not explicitly recognize the right to adequate food, also explaining the weak food policy framework.
“We are hopeful that the government will heed our call as there is undoubtedly an increasing incidence of hunger and poverty in our country,” Teves said.
According to Teves, the proposed policy on food must conform with the recommendations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESR) and the FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food.
CESR defined the right to adequate food as “physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.” – Rappler.com