The circles of life (2) Look back in anger?
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CTA. 1999. The circles of life (2) Look back in anger?. Spore 2000 (Supplement to Spore 84). CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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We live in a young world, but we must not forget our past.15 October 1999. A two-hour ceremony of some of the great and the good of the world is held at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, Italy. The event marks World...
We live in a young world, but we must not forget our past.15 October 1999. A two-hour ceremony of some of the great and the good of the world is held at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, Italy. The event marks World Food Day, to be celebrated the next day (a Saturday), which is dedicated to the theme of 'Youth Against Hunger'. The building, part of a system called the United Nations whose charter starts with the text 'We the peoples ', is largely sealed off to the public, invitees are largely insiders, the security guards headed by a woman, a sign of the times bristle with polite hostility, the event is heavily orchestrated to meet the deadlines of the media, and it starts and finishes on schedule. The Director General of the FAO, Jacques Diouf from Senegal, reminds us of what we all see every day in most ACP countries and other parts of the world, leaving aside an ageing Europe. There are more and more young people: 'people in the 15 24 age group now number around one billion' (150 million of them in ACP countries). Through their numbers and energy, he asserts, these young people our future after all wield considerable power and could make an enormous contribution. With better education and training, as well as greater opportunities for productive employment, they could play a major part in building global food security. 16 October 1965. In the same building in Rome, some 444 lunar cycles earlier, a somewhat more chaotic (or was it circular?) ceremony took place: the Young World Assembly, run more by the youthful participants themselves, more flexible with start and end times, under the watchful but encouraging eye of the then Director General of the FAO, B R Sen, and with no security guards. The talk was more radical, certainly more real, in the Young World Manifesto: 'If political or financial systems prevent a just distribution of food and wealth, those systems must be replaced'. That day in 1965, the young people in Rome paid tribute to 'the men of foresight who, 20 years ago today, set up the FAO to lead the attack on hunger. Many eat better than they would have done without it. Yet, after 20 years, there are more hungry people than ever before. In another 20 years, there will be yet more'. Those men of foresight were remarkably frank about the challenge facing agriculture, and equally awed and desperate. Created to further tread the path trodden by the International Institute of Agriculture (founded in the early days of the 1900s), the FAO gave itself the task of setting targets for the world to feed itself. According to the first World Food Survey, published in 1946, more than half the world s population then totalling 2,240 million did not have access to the minimum amount of calories judged acceptable. Statistical averages say little, or in the language of half a decade ago 'do not tell the whole story. They conceal many sharp differences. Even in the countries with the most liberal food supplies and the highest calorie intake, such as North America, it is well known that a considerable part of the population is not well nourished'. Interestingly, the FAO returned to this point at the close of the century in its State of Food Insecurity 1999, which stressed the estimates of the number of undernourished (34 million) in developed countries. The heart of the problem was to increase individual productivity. This required drastic changes, our men of foresight foresaw it, then in 1946. For example, they urged that 'unjust and oppressive systems of land tenure which give the cultivator neither opportunity nor incentive to improve his lot will need to be swept away'. These were scholars and diplomats talking, remember, not impatient young men and women looking forward in anger. What courage they had then! The way forward was develop resources other than those of farming for the bulk of the population through the application of modern science and technology in the production of goods and services other than food. By developing them, opportunities would at the same time be opened for those remaining on the land so that they could increase their efficiency manifold. This message might sound familiar to the chronicler who reviews this issue of Spore, 50 or more years after its publication. By the time of the Third World Food Survey in 1961, the accelerated population growth had become a major concern as it rose faster than agricultural production in many developing countries. With low levels of productivity, the survey said, and low agricultural incomes, savings were low and offered small possibilities of investment to improve output or undertake new enterprises. Low income, low food consumption, and low productivity thus go together in a circle of poverty . In the early 1960s, the world agricultural community could start to see the Millennium on the horizon. 'We estimate that some 10 to 15 per cent of the present population of 3000 million are hungry all their lives, and that another 1000 [million] suffer from malnutrition. Unless we take vigorous steps to meet the challenge of this, man s oldest enemy, the situation will worsen with the increase in population. If we do not act now, by the year 2000 we may find that more than half the expected population of 6000 millions will suffer from hunger and malnutrition.' 'To all young people, everywhere, from the Young World Assembly meeting in Rome. Half the world does not have enough to eat. Each year, as a result, many millions die young, as surely as if shot by the guns of a tyrant. Many more are maimed for life by hunger, in body or in spirit. The earth is ruled mainly by people out of touch with the young world. They know that men starve and die in millions. But they think it more important to make guns, bombs, warships, rockets, to send us to fight each other, than to provide seed and water, schools and hospitals, so that we might feed and serve each other Know your power and know what you must do Our generation has power and knowledge that no previous generation has ever had. With these we must create a world in which the human spirit is set free from hunger and want, for ever.' From: the Young World Manifesto, done at Rome, 16 October 1965 No less In 1946, the minimum acceptable daily intake of food energy was set at 2,550 to 2,650 calories a person
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