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the problems of procrastination

October 21, 2010

Procrastination: the counterproductive deferment of actions or tasks to a later time.

I had in mind at least a dozen of carefully thought, full of insights blog post about the incredible amount of articles and comments published on the occasion of the World Food Day (16 October), but I was so busy reading them all that I couldn’t find the time to write anything myself.

Still, there are a couple of unmissable things that sum up the whole thinking on how we are going to feed the world in 1o years from now. (and this is not like a “fire drill testing”, we will REALLY need to feed 9 billion people in 2020)

In a nutshell (a tiny tiny one): the problem is not  how much food we produce (so don’t really listen to this guy here), because -if redistributed properly- the world is now producing enough food to feed anyone. However – as we already know in the ’70s- famines and undernutrition ARE generally NOT caused by a lack of food. Indeed, poverty, lack of political representations, fragile states and institutions, lack of entitlements and education are all contributing to creating famine. So more food may be of little help.

It is good that the new FAO SOFI 2010 Report addresses some of these issues by indicating that a different and a much broader approach is needed and that livelihoods (in all their complexity) support works better than simply food assistance.

In an age of scarce resources, without knowing what lies ahead with climate patterns maybe we should start thinking that:

The point here, is that the way the world tries to feed the nine billion is crucial. A technological magic bullet route that ignores small farmers and farm labourers in favour of large high tech solutions wil drive up poverty and inequality, whereas a focus on labour intensive and small scale agriculture will boost incomes for the poor, help ensure their families are educated and well nourished, and (should they so wish) enable them in due course to leave for the cities as a matter of dignified choice, rather than as an act of desperation. So development advocates face a ‘polar bear moment’. Just as we have spent the past few years making the case that climate change is about people, not just polar bears, so we now have to argue that meeting the food production challenge is about poor people, especially farmers and labourers, not just clever technology. (from Poverty to Power)

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