Aquaculture – eradicating hunger?

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Aquaculture – eradicating hunger?

Category : Updates

July 2013 issue of International Aquafeed magazine – AwF Blog

Thank you for the comments I have received following the first version of this regular blog/column that aims to bring you news and information about Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF) and the issues that surround our organisation.

It seems that poverty and hunger are getting put in the limelight for the moment with the G8 summit meeting in Northern Ireland. President Obama will be with the group at the annual meeting of the world’s wealthiest countries. I note that the countries look a bit ‘old school’ with the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom – China not part of this?

In the U.S. the farm bill and food aid reform is on the domestic U.S. agenda so the President has a rare chance to return to theme of last year and make a lasting impact on world hunger once and for all. 

As I travel I am always amazed about how many people/governments put money to the cause of eradicating hunger and poverty. You would think that we would have solved the issue by now but we are a long way from that and children are dying every day because the problems have not been solved. It is a massive tragedy.

At AwF we have been having this discussion and one of the issues we keep coming back to is that the problem gets complicated because there is a lack of a global approach. People, companies, NGO’s and governments have brought into the issue at different levels and with different plans so everyone does their own thing.  As a result of that we get wastage and many poor decisions against a few wins.

My own thought is that the World (who is that? – FAO?) [i]  needs to create a Poverty and Hunger Framework which highlights all the countries in the world with the issue. This needs to be documented and from that independent experts need to highlight the issues in each country with possible solutions alongside them. This listing needs then to be prioritized – always a tough one and harder when you are talking about people.

It seems that Governments want to do their own thing with their foreign aid, in probably no different way than informed companies do. They want to see their name on the project and the hopefully good outcomes and why not? Well maybe that it is not working as well as it should is the answer.

The problem I see at the moment is that it could all be so much better.  We need to reform food aid and take the politics out of it.

As an example it has been documented that every year the U.S. Government makes available nearly $2.2 billion in food aid to countries facing food shortages and starvation around the world. The caveat on this that U.S. food aid must be purchased from U.S. producers and shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels. So that is good and bad. It gives on one hand but takes away on the other as it clearly makes the program more costly and probably inefficient.

To make matters worse some food aid is distributed through what is called ‘monetization’. Through this ‘monetization’ food from U.S. is donated to charities, they then sell the food to other countries and use the proceeds for development projects. Do you think other countries like this idea? Farmers in those countries are forced to compete on an uneven playing field in selling their product so this is likely doing more harm than good.

Back in the mid-90’s I believe the European Union reformed its food aid policy effectively eliminating the monetization of aid and sourcing its food from the most proficient farmers/growers/processors. It would seem that this puts the EU aid position in a slightly better light.

In Australia we have a strategy that highlights that our Aid Program (AusAID) ‘funds research to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development’.  There is a belief that ‘good research leads to greater development effectiveness’ and they say that ‘AusAID has been a strong supporter of practical, policy-relevant social science research into development challenges.’

There are two major problems as I see it with this. Research is good but unless we train the people on the ground on how to adapt to the answers research is giving then we are unlikely to see improvement. The other difficulty is that politicians are generally short term planners and research does not happen overnight and the money will get spent in areas that suits Australia and not for the global good.

I am giving the last word on this to the Director-General at FAO, Graziano da Silva, who said recently “Food output per person has grown by nearly 40 percent in the last decades. But the increase in food production has come at a high environmental cost because of the intensive use of natural resources and chemical inputs. And, despite higher production, nearly 870 million people are still chronically hungry, at least 2 billion suffer from other forms of malnutrition. If we keep looking at hunger simply in terms of food production, we will not solve this problem. As Professor Amartya Sen recently pointed out, hunger and starvation result from the fact that people do not have enough food to eat; that does not mean that there is insufficient food available. The world already produces enough food. The main cause of hunger nowadays is the lack of access: hundreds of millions of people do not have the income to buy the food they need or the means to produce it for themselves.”

We look forward to continuing this conversation with you and for your support in the areas with which we work. In the meantime have a look at our website and see how you might help us in our quest.

Thanks so much to the magazine in giving us this opportunity.


[i] The World – The foundation of FAO in 1945 reflected the need for better global food governance and for collective responsibilities. The belief that it was possible to achieve universal “freedom from want” and that this was “essential for lasting peace”.