Prioritise agriculture and support small producers: lessons on World Food Day

Australia can help alleviate world hunger by investing in its agricultural industries and supporting small-scale producers, says Oxfam Australia's food policy advisor.

Kelly Dent's comments come on World Food Day, 16 October – a global movement to end world hunger.

Dent said although the number of hungry people in the world had recently dropped slightly – from 870 million to 842 million – the challenge of tackling hunger should remain a government priority.

"Despite an overall decline, some regions have experienced a rise in hunger in the past few years because of pressures including repeated food crises and food price rises,” Ms Dent said.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) 2011-13 hunger figures, released this month, show that the number of hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 1 million compared to 2008-10 estimates.  As a region, sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s highest prevalence of hunger – with an estimated one in four people not having enough to eat.

Closer to home, FAO statistics suggest that 38 per cent of people in Timor Leste  – more than one in three – do not have enough to eat in terms of dietary energy intake, and this number appeared to have increased in recent years.

"According to FAO data, about 22 million people in Indonesia don’t have enough to eat – that’s almost the entire population of Australia,"Dent said.

"Australia has the ability to be a leader in tackling hunger, investing in agriculture and in particular, prioritising small-scale producers, who play a critical role in feeding millions around the world," she said.

Dent said that 80 percent of the world’s hungry were from communities involved in food production, including small-scale farmers, fishers and labourers. 

Meanwhile, women made up 43 percent of the agricultural labour force, and played the greatest role in ensuring that their families had enough food, yet women had unequal access to land, credit, markets, education and support services.

Dent said poor people often spent a large proportion of their income on food, making them vulnerable to high and volatile food prices. 

"In a world that produces enough food for everyone, one in eight people should not be going to bed hungry every night," she said.

"At a time of belt-tightening and budget cuts, the Government must not forget that investments in food security and small-scale agriculture can reap massive benefits in the fight against hunger, which is essential if we are to contribute to a more prosperous region.

"We know that eradicating hunger is possible and we know what needs to be done – the question is whether we are determined to make this happen."

Kellogg Australia is throwing its weight behind World Food Day by asking its employees to take time out of their day to build Christmas hampers for the hungry, which will then be distributed by food relief organisation, Foodbank.

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