The Australian Government must continue to invest in food security given the number of hungry people is on the rise in some regions including West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, Oxfam Australia said on World Food Day (16 Oct).
Oxfam Australia’s Food Policy Advisor Kelly 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 Organization’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,” Ms 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.
Ms Dent said that 80 per cent of the world’s hungry were from communities involved in food production, including small-scale farmers, fishers and labourers.
Meanwhile, women made up 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force, and played the greatest role in ensuring that their families had enough food, and the right kinds of food, yet women had unequal access to land, credit, markets, education and support services.
“According to the FAO, giving women farmers the same access to resources as men could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 – 150 million,” Ms Dent said.
She said poor people often spent a large proportion of their income on food, making them vulnerable to high and volatile food prices. In Nepal, almost a quarter of the population, mostly rural, allocated more than 75 per cent of their budget to food (FAO, 2013).
“In a world that produces enough food for everyone, one in eight people should not be going to bed hungry every night,” Ms Dent 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,” Ms Dent said.
“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.”
Oxfam is inviting Australians to come together over a meal to raise money and awareness of global hunger, with around 400 Eat Local Feed Global events around the country. Go to oxfam.org.au
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