As soon as Datu Sundita opened his eyes, he was aware of the familiar pang in his stomach. The pang of hunger. And though he had just woken up, he longed to be back asleep, back in that unconscious world where ripe mangoes, roasted pigs and savory spices would lay before him looking like a banquet fit for the gods. Datu let that thought pass and sat up on his straw cot to look around. Most of the women and children were still sleeping, probably submersed in that dream world he had just been in. He walked out of the rundown farmhouse that was turned into a hunger camp in rural Philippines a few months ago by the local government. Datu noticed that it was dusk, when the glorious chariot of fire touched ends with the earth one last time, when the sky became illuminated with the soft undulating ripples of lavender, azure and gold before turning into an impenetrable black. Some of the men outside seemed to be tearing up the ground. Cautiously, Datu walked over to a middle-aged man crouched on the ground and digging furiously. “What are you doing?” he asked. The man replied, “Didn’t you hear? They’ve run out of food. There’s nothing left. Our food camp’s storeroom is completely empty. So now, we’re putting whatever we have left –orange peels, nuts, fruit seeds, anything –in the ground to keep it from the heat. That way it will rot slower.” Datu walked back into the farmhouse without responding. He gathered the small emergency food supply that he tucked neatly under his cot, went outside to join the man and started digging.
The severity of the global food crisis is no longer a disputable issue. Countries now coalesce and hold international meetings in order to find potential solutions to the crisis and implement them. Many government bodies have already taken action to move one step closer to solving this major issue by improving food aid and cutting tariffs. Below are some of the major actions that international organizations and countries have already taken to end the global food crisis.
The World Bank
The World Bank, which is currently extensively involved in abating the food crisis, is an international financial institution primarily focused on eliminating poverty from the world.
Last year in April, the World Bank held a series of meetings in Washington and Berne to discuss strategies to unilaterally combat the crisis. The decisions that were garnered have become the first steps toward a no-man-left-hungry future.
The World Bank actively cooperates with other organizations too. As of now, the World Bank is working in a joint venture with the UN to raise the $755 million that has been deemed required for aid.
In addition, it also established a $1.2 billion program last year in May, called the Global Food Response Program, which allows smaller groups all over the world to join in on the effort to end the food crisis. The goals of the program are to:
- decrease the negative effects from high prices of food on the poor
- help governments set up sustainable policies that help control food prices
- ensure sufficient supply response by advocating growth in productivity and market participation in agriculture
The two main components of this program are food price policy and market stabilization. Actions that could deal with these components include “cash transfer programs, school feeding, targeted food supplements and micronutrients.”
The GFRP distributed $497 million of $866 million to over 30 needy countries on February 12th 2009. This aid was used to feed vulnerable groups (such as young children), give nutritional supplements to the needy, and help pay for food imports and seeds for the next season.
The World Bank donates the following amounts of aid to the following countries:
|Country||Amount of funds ($)||Country||Amount of funds ($)|
|Afghanistan||$8 million||Bangladesh||$130 million|
|Benin||$9 million||Burundi||$10 million|
|Central African Republic||$7 million||Djibouti||$5 million|
|Ethiopia||$275 million||Guinea||$10 million|
|Guinea-Bissau||$5 million||Haiti||$10 million|
|Honduras||$10 million||Kyrgyz||$10 million|
|Laos||$3 million||Liberia||$10 million|
|Madagascar||$22 million||Mali||$5 million|
|Nicaragua||$7 million||Nepal||$36 million|
|Niger||$7 million||Philippines||$200 million|
|Rwanda||$10 million||Sierra Leone||$7 million|
|Somalia||$7 million||Southern Sudan||$5 million|
|Tajikistan||$9 million||Togo||$7 million|
|Yemen||$10 million||West Bank and Gaza||$5 million|
In addition to giving financial aid, the World Bank also gives sociopolitical advice. Such recommendations to countries include recommendations to set up cash transfer programs (in order to increase purchasing power of the needy) and to decrease tariffs and taxes (in order to secure domestic food supply).
The World Bank believes that is it still too early to predict the amount of money each country will need to overcome this global food crisis but nevertheless, it has already increased the amount of financial aid it gives.
For example, money lent to Africa for agriculture has been doubled to $800 million recently while money given to Haiti, a country currently burdened by social unrest, has increased by $10 million.
Thus, giving both financial aid and sociopolitical guidance, the World Bank is no doubt one of the strongest and most determined combaters of the global food crisis.
United Nations Organization
The United Nations Organization firmly believes that the main cause of world hunger is the uneven distribution of wealth in different countries. Thus, according to the UNO, governments, apart from focusing on increasing food production, must also focus on decreasing the inequalities in the food distribution system.
The UN System, an international network led by the UN, plans to combat the food crisis through two main aspects:
By attempting to directly feed those in need and to ensure that there’s enough for long term survival.
For example, the total aid dispersed by the World food Program has been increased by about 100 million a year since.
By improving development and trade systems
The High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis of the UN, which believes that biofuels are the cause of the instability of the situations, has also brought attention to how foods are used in the creation of biofuels.
Another significant branch of the UN is the World Food Program, which is the largest humanitarian organization in the world.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), unlike the World Bank and the UN, focuses more on the regional food crisis issues of member nations.
The member nations work together to deal with the impacts of the food crisis. For example, recently in Bali, the Southeast Asian countries met and agreed to work together to lower prices of rice, which is the primary staple food of the region.
Another product of the association’s meetings is a plan called the ASEAN rice reserve, which is the preparation to store about 87,000 tons of rice for emergencies. As a result of this plan, Vietnam has agreed to completely stop exporting rice, though Thailand still hopes to export more than 9 million tons of rice this year.
The United States is not only helping its own citizens, but also people in other countries: In April 2008, $200 million of emergency wheat stores were released to developing countries to ease rising food costs. In May 2008, it released another $770 million of food aid. With the $200 million released the month before, the amount the U.S. gave reached almost $1 billion. Most of the money released is used for emergency food relief while about $150 million is used to fund long-term projects. Some of these projects include the building of international food storage facilities and roads to help increase efficiency of food distribution.
The U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also plans on cutting the high tariffs on Brazilian ethanol. The high demand for ethanol is a major factor for rising food prices, so this plan may help control food prices.
Russia has set export tariffs on certain types of mineral fertilizers in order to collect at least $300 million for local farmer use. There will be an 8.5% tariff imposed on nitrogen fertilizer exports and a 5% tariff on potassium fertilizer exports. Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev stated that the government plans to use 7-10 billion rubles ($297.5-$425 billion USD) collected from the tariffs to purchase and distribute fertilizers to Russian farmers.
Most of the Indian government’s actions are targeted toward protecting domestic rice supply. Recently, the Indian government raised the minimum export price for non-basmati rice to $1,000 per ton, which is an increase of $350 per ton. The government will also curb overseas sales and increase minimum sales price for rice exports by more than 50%. This way, there will be an adequate domestic supply and tamed price pressures for what is now Asia’s third largest economy.
South Africa is planning on using food vouchers and extending tax relief over staple foods to control food prices. Currently, Africa has a “zero rating,” meaning that value-added taxes are removed from staple foods such as brown bread and vegetables. Also, the government is prepared to set laws and regulations where necessary. A special team has been formed to find solutions and set regulations.
Pakistan, the world’s fifth largest importer of rice, introduced a minimum export price for the different qualities of rice on April 30, 2008. Prior to the regulation, Irri-6, Pakistan’s cheapest rice, was exported for $750 per ton, while the higher quality Basmati rice was exported for a minimum price of $1,300 per ton. In order to build a domestic strategic reserve for the country, the government is also restricting the export of domestic rice by barring cargoes from being sent abroad. Abdul Baseer, Vice Chairman of Pakistan Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) mentioned that “this is an opportunity to cash in on our crop and to obtain the best value for the country” as well as “to protect the small exporters.”
In 2007, the Mexican government renewed a deal to control the prices of tortilla, a local staple food. Retailers will keep tortillas at 8.50 pesos ($0.77)/ kg, while corn flour (main ingredient of tortillas) producers will keep corn flour at 5 pesos/kg.The deal helped stop has already helped stop inflation in the country’s 53 largest cities.
After recent violent food riots, the Haitian government declared that it will reduce the price of rice by 15%. The Senate also recently fired Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis because of high living cost problems and widespread malnutrition. After he was fired, President Rene Preval started “the rice deal”, where private importers would help pay $3 of the price reduction while international aid money would be used to pay $5. International agencies have also made plans to further extend emergency funds to Haiti and other countries.
The Liberian government signed over 15,000 hectares of land, a $30 million deal, to the African Development Aid (ADA) to increase crop production and help ease the soaring food prices. Most of the farms are subsistence farms (farms that produce only enough rice to sustain the farmer and his family) so the government plans to commercialize food production, which will increase food supply.
According to Commerce Secretary Firoz Ahmed, the Bangladeshi government will ban exports of non-aromatic rice to boost domestic stocks. Due to global price inflation and the damage caused by floods and cyclones last year, the retail price of 1 kg of rice has risen by almost 100% since 2007. Asian rice prices have nearly tripled this year due to insecurity over food supplies. Thus, the Bangladeshi government has been forced to take such action.
It had been almost two months already. Two months of eating nothing but nuts, seeds, bark, roots and anything they could gather. Two months ago, they were told foreign governments would bring them food in a week. Two months later, they were still told there was only a week left. Datu sat on the wooden fence of the farmhouse as he watched the sun set. It was his favorite time of day. But the golden orb had not even made half its way down when he saw something approaching him in the horizon. It seemed to be making its way gradually, not in a rush. Datu held his breath. Could it be? He dare not imagine. Finally, it was close enough for him to see, but he could not believe his own eyes. “Ang pagkain’s dito!” he shouted. “Ang pagkain’s dito!” “The food’s here! The food’s here!”