One of the most critical issues in the world currently affects almost one third of the entire global population. This problem relates to fundamental factors of human existence, and it must be dealt with to address the other problems that plague the human race. The issue in this case is in regards to agriculture and food security. According to Harper (2009) almost two billion individuals in the world, on a normal basis, are not able to access enough food. Tauger (2010) adds that a staggering 75 percent of the people who are facing food insecurity reside in the most rural regions in the less developed nations of the world. Whether as a result of drought, conflicts, flooding or disease, sustainable agriculture and food security are unsteady realities for majority of the poor people in the world (Richards 2002). This essay discusses how the issue of food security affects those living in the global south.
Moseley and Logan (2005) define food security as the availability of food and access to it. Households that are considered food-secure are those whose members do not live in hunger or are afraid of starvation. There are two commonly applying definitions of food security. The first definition by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is that “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (Brown and Funk 2008: 580) The other definition that comes from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is that “food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum (1) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and (2) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies)” (von Braun, Swaminathan and Rosegrant 2004:12) According to Dyson (1996) there are different stages of food insecurity that affect the global south. The stages ranging from food secure situations to full scale famine are experienced in these areas. Wein 2007) categorizes food insecurity as either transitory or chronic. Chronic food insecurity refers to the high level of vulnerability to hunger and famine. Ensuring that there is food security presume elimination of this vulnerability. It is important to note that chronic hunger does not refer to famine. It is related to poverty and exists mainly in the global south.
Areas around the world that are having the issue of food security are those whose members are not able to access enough food. It is estimated that 852 million individuals globally, majority residing in the global south, are chronically hungry because of extreme poverty. In the developing nations, it is estimated that often 70 percent of the population is found in the rural areas (Shaw 2001).This means that they get their livelihood from agriculture. Because of increase in populations, lands in these areas are becoming more and more limited, denying some of these people the opportunity to get enough food. Besides the increase in population, climate changes around the world are affecting agriculture and so are pests and diseases. Because of poverty, majority of the farmers are not able to adopt proper farming methods denying them the chance to get adequate yields. As a result, these people who do not have any other means of getting food face the problem of hunger and malnutrition (Shaw 2001).
About 6 million people, the highest percentage being in the global south, die every year because of hunger and malnutrition related illness. According to Harper (2009) what is more shocking is the fact that most of these diseases are treatable. Some of the diseases that affect children in these areas because of poverty and lack of sufficient nutrition include: measles, pneumonia, and malaria, and among other communicable and potentially non-fatal illnesses (Young 1997). Many children in the global south contract these diseases easily because of the weakening of their immune system as a result of the lack of normal and nutritious diets. The weakening of their immune system makes them vulnerable to various diseases as their bodies cannot fight them. Additionally, because of poverty, access to antibiotics and other medications to fight these diseases is hard or even impossible. According to Cason (1999) the impact of food security in the global south is revealed by the high rates of infant and child mortality.
There are various other effects of food insecurity in the developing world. Effects of food insecurity and hunger in the developing world are evident in the way the affected populations respond to the problem. According to Balagura (1973) decrease of body or stunted growth is a common factor among the people suffering chronic hunger. The process of stunted growth begins during pregnancy as the mother lacks enough nutrients to support the normal development of the child. This is the condition that leads to the increase in infant and child mortality in the global south. Such problem is persistence since once stunting has happened future nutritional intake cannot reverse the condition. Stunting, common in the third world, is viewed by Sharma (2009) as a coping mechanism. This is because it is designed to render the size of the body aligned to the available calories that are available in future in reference to the conditions that the child is born into. Such adaptation mechanism affects the body in various ways. During adulthood, there is the possibility of premature vital organs failure. This is comm. on in the developing world, where it is possible to find a person age 50 dying of heart failure because of the defects suffered early in life. Moseley and Logan (2005) reveal that it is more likely for the stunted individuals to suffer from various diseases and illnesses as compared to those who are growing normally. Serious malnutrition during early childhood cause defects in cognitive development.
Sharma (2009) suggests that poor academic performance in the global south has food insecurity as one of the major contributing factors. This is because proper nutrition is important not only for physical development, but also for mental and cognitive development. Lack of this important element has serious implications in the child’s academic achievement. A child who lacks a strong and health foundation because of food security issues cannot be well prepared for future career life. Developing nations or nations in the global south tends to have very high rates of school dropouts. This is mostly because of the lack of food for the child to be ready to learn. Dyson (1996) argues that many children especially in the rural areas of the global south go to school without food. While some have benefited from food programs, majority of the children from poor families are unable to get food, leave alone knowing where their next meal is going to come from. Without food, it is not possible for the children to concentrate in class. Others drop out of school in the efforts to find food for themselves and possibly their siblings.
Ghosh (1984) suggests that food security is a major concern in the global south because of the increase in population. With the increase in globalization and ease of mobility, the issue of food security is also a factor in the developed world. If food security is becoming an issue in the developed nations, it remains a fact that the situation is worse in the less developed and the developing nations. Brown and Funk (2008) assert that for other serious issues globally to be addressed- such as poverty and disease eradication, improvement of literacy levels, and decrease in mortality rates globally- the issue of food insecurity and malnutrition must be first addressed. Involvement of governments all over the world- of both the developed and developing nations where the issue is more serious- is important. Politicians, policy makers and citizens from all over the world also need to join in the efforts to address the issue of food security. Singer (1997) notes that the issue of food security is not a problem only for the global south because of the interdependence happening in the era of globalization. Problems facing one part of the world are experienced in all the other parts of the world. It is therefore important to note that hunger and malnutrition, the root cause of other major epidemics that threaten humanity, is a global problem.
Food insecurity is a reality in the global south. This is evident in the effects evident in these areas of lack of proper nutrition. Various efforts have been put by the international community in the efforts to address the issue of food security in the global south. However, while some of these efforts have been effective, the global war on hunger and poverty is yet to have positive effects especially in the rural areas of the developing nations. This paper suggests looking at the income of the households experiencing food insecurity as one of the most effective ways of addressing the issue. This is because with a regular income, the households will have the means for acquiring food. Additionally, given the fact that other measures such as looking at the efforts to address climate changes are long time, better income is a short-term solution.
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