Food is such a basic yet essential part of daily life. Transportation and enhanced technology allow the developed world to have access to a variety of fresh foods at all times of the year at fairly stable prices. Beyond the façade of the tills and smiling cashiers we rarely have to engage with the farmers in Morocco who produced the strawberries that are on sale 2 for £3.
On 24 September 2011 several world leaders met at the United Nations in New York to discuss strategies that could be developed to end starvation. Discussions led to the emergence of The Charter to End Extreme Hunger which not only acknowledges occurrences of extreme hunger in East Africa but also provides a succinct list of strategies that, if implemented, will bring real solutions. This charter has already been endorsed by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, UN OCHA head Valerie Amos, Norweigan Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim, UNISDR head Margareta Wahlstrom, and UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell.
One of the key components of the charter is the provision of services and protections for the poorest. The Charter to End Extreme Hunger argues that fairer investments paired with social safety nets would keep farmers in developing countries from having to toe the line of extreme poverty.
The recognition of the importance of fairer investments illustrates the interrelation between many aspects of the fight against extreme poverty. The FAO shows that 80% of farmers in Africa are women. In many parts of the world female farmers do not have access to credit, irrigation, and infrastructure that is vitally important for developing their farms. UNESCO reports that 49.2% of women in Africa are illiterate. An inability to read makes it very difficult for female African farmers to make wise decisions about which fertilisers to purchase and which farming practises will be best for her. Lack of education and lack of access to credit are systemic problems that prevent African farmers from pulling themselves out of extreme poverty.
The second component of providing services and protections for farmers in developing countries includes direct cash payments for the poorest 10% of the population. While some critics have explained this as a handout to the poor, direct payments actually help stabilise prices and create trust in the market. Direct cash payments involve a government giving a set amount of money to farmers per acre of cropland. Payments are not affected by crop yield and/or market prices. If, for instance, crop prices rise dramatically then farmers will be unable to sell their wares in the market because people wont be able to afford to buy food. This leads to the paradox of food surpluses and massive hunger. It may seem radical, but it happened in Russia in 2011. Alternatively if crop prices fall dramatically then direct payments allow farmers to maintain their income.
The Charter to End Extreme Hunger is based from agriculture programmes that have been successful in the past. ODI explains that the Malawi Government Agricultural Inputs Subsidy Programme of 2006 was instrumental in increasing agricultural productivity and food security. It seems evident that the Charter to End Extreme Hunger will help developing countries to stabilise prices and increase outputs by encouraging the provision of services and protection for the poorest.