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How to fight hunger in West Africa?

How to fight hunger in West Africa?
What does “food security” actually mean? Food security refers to the availability of food and one's access to it. A household is considered food-secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. Read more
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However this term, which has been central to the political debate on world hunger in the past, is a narrow one focusing on concepts such as the availability of sufficient food through imports, through the export of products such as cacao to earn money for food imports from the world markets, through food aid and other means of feeding people.
What is food sovereignty?
Over the last fifteen years, this term has gradually been substituted by the more comprehensive notion of “food sovereignty”, which was coined by the global civil society movement La Via Campesina. Nowadays this term is increasingly also being used by international organisations and governments. It implies that the potential for people to feed themselves must be enlarged to include concepts such as the capacity for self-determination in regard to national food policies, and the idea that affected people and vulnerable groups should maintain control over their own livelihoods. The basis of this extended view is a critical assessment of the exogenous forces of globalisation and the attempt to disengage local food systems from destructive international pressure in the form of cheap food imports that destroy the livelihoods of local farmers, the acquisition of land by foreign companies at the expense of domestic markets and farmers, the liberalisation of import regimes and the Structural Adjustment Programmes of the IMF. Finally, there is another overlapping school of thought based around the concept of the right to food.
Right to food
The right to food is a human right. It protects the right of all human beings to live in dignity, free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. The right to food is not about charity, but about ensuring that all people have the capacity to feed themselves in dignity. The right to food is protected under international human rights and humanitarian law, and the corresponding obligations of states are also well-established under international law. The right to food is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), as well as a plethora of other instruments. Noteworthy is also the recognition of the right to food in numerous national constitutions.
When is the right to food realised?
As authoritatively defined by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Committee on ESCR) in its General Comment 12 “the right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone and in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement” (General Comment 12, 1999, paragraph 6). Inspired by the above definition, the Special Rapporteur of the UN on the Right to Food has concluded that the right to food entails: “the right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of the people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensures a physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and dignified life free of fear.” (A/HRC/7/5, para 17).
What does right to food imply?
It is generally accepted that the right to food implies three types of state obligations - the obligations to respect, to protect and to fulfil. These types of obligations were defined in General Comment 12 by the Committee on ESCR and endorsed by states when the FAO Council adopted the Right to Food Guidelines (Voluntary Guidelines) in November 2004.
The obligation to respect requires governments not to take any measures that arbitrarily deprive people of their right to food, for example, measures preventing people from having access to food. The obligation to protect means that states should enforce appropriate laws and take other relevant measures to prevent third parties, including individuals and corporations, from violating the right to food of others. The obligation to fulfil (facilitate and provide) means that governments must pro-actively engage in activities intended to strengthen people’s access to and utilization of resources so as to facilitate their ability to feed themselves. As a last resort, whenever an individual or group is unable to enjoy the right to adequate food for reasons beyond their control, states have the obligation to fulfil that right directly.
The role of governments
To sum up, the right to food means that governments must not take actions that result in increasing levels of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. It also means that governments must protect people from the actions of powerful others that might violate the right to food. States must also invest in the eradication of hunger to the maximum level available resources allow. Furthermore, under article 2(1), 11(1) and 23 of the ICESCR, states agree to take steps to the maximum level allowed by available resources to work progressively towards the full realisation of the right to adequate food. They also acknowledge the essential role of international cooperation and assistance in this context.
Good intentions – what next?
These are good intentions, but will they deliver? Between 2006 and 2008 the international community was suddenly confronted with skyrocketing food prices in international markets and the implications this had for the poor, for peace and political stability in many poor countries. Food insecurity affected over 1 billion people. It became a challenge to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Least Developed Countries, particularly those in fragile situations. The recent global food and financial crisis accentuated the challenge to food security. As a result many global initiatives where launched to improve the food situation of the poor.
Four pillars of food security
The international community moved towards a consensus on the Five Rome Principles for Sustainable Global Food Security built around the four pillars of food security:
increasing availability of food;
improving access to food;
improving the nutritional adequacy of food intake; and
enhancing crisis prevention and management.
Confidence is growing
The debate in the UN and FAO has produced a number of good ideas on how to improve the overall food situation in the world and focus on vulnerable groups, especially those in rural areas who are producing the food for themselves and others: peasants, farmers, herdsmen, fishermen, indigenous peoples, and those living in remote and fragile locations that are subject to protracted crises. Many well-intended recommendations have come out of the FAO (World Food Summit), the UN (Updated Comprehensive Frame of Action) and the Committee on Food Security, a new global multi-stakeholder “parliament” (Global Strategic Framework). In Africa confidence is growing in the agricultural programme of the NEPAD, called CAADP (Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme). It is now up to the people of Africa and their civil-society organisations, including the churches, to support and call for the implementation of all these well-meaning attempts by governments and international organisations. Will the good ideas and concepts deliver the alleviation of hunger for the poor sections of our African societies? We cannot simply wait for positive developments. We have to call for them, we have to make our governments accountable for good governance and a real commitment to “food first”. Our political involvement goes hand in hand with our prayers for the hungry and with diaconal care in our parishes and churches for the very hungry among us.
Why a Food Campaign?
The food campaign of FECCIWA aims to fight malnutrition and realise the basic human right to be free of hunger. “Give us our daily bread” is part of the Lord´s Prayer, which we as Christians all over the world are constantly repeating when we confess our faith before God. This confession clearly makes the provision of food and the satisfaction of basic human needs a priority. If people cannot sustain their physical existence, how can they live up to the glory of the Lord? Hunger is dehumanising! To allow it to happen is a sin before God, because it means betraying our basic belief that God created man in his image. This is why FECCIWA has embarked on a food campaign: to allow God´s people to liberate themselves from the burden of unsatisfied basic needs so they can be prepared to listen to the word of God.
“Give us our daily bread”
Each Christian does not just ask for “my bread” but for “our bread”. This means that we also need to be concerned with the well-being of our neighbours. We include in our prayer the wish that everybody is well-fed and that hunger is made redundant. This implies a societal commitment by every Christian to work for the food security of everybody, of the whole society, for effective policies at the national and international level, to make the feeding of God´s people a priority and to put food first on the agenda. Lobbing and advocacy by the Churches for “our daily bread” is a holy demand.
Written by Rudolf Buntzel, Church Development Service

What does “food security” actually mean? Food security refers to the availability of food and one's access to it. A household is considered food-secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation.

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Social justice for the hungry


The promotion of social justice for the hungry and poor people in West Africa was very much on my mind when I arrived in Abuja, Nigeria with 25 senior church leaders from 11 of the 13 member countries of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa.

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Prayer of the Month
Lord, we bless you and thank you for the food we receive today and every day. You provided the hungry with manna in the desert and taught them not to be greedy. You continue to provide our world with enough and with even more than we actually need. But due to the greed, we consume more and fail to share with those in nee. Forgive us Lord.

We thank you Lord in a special way for every mother, sister, wife and woman who works to prepare soil, sow seeds, care for plants and animals, harvest, sell, buy and prepare our food – so often with any rights to their lands or control over their income.

We ask you to bless all women for contributing to our daily food. We ask you to change us – our habits of consuming too much and our blindness towards the injustice that too often accompany the food at our table. We pray, Lord, lead us to work for a just and peaceful family and society. Amen.
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