December Hunger Notes: Food insecurity and conflict, shifting the focus from feeding people to nourishing them, and more

by Lane Vanderslice

Lane Vanderslice, Hunger Notes editor

December 16, 2016

By Lane Vanderslice

Listen to Kimberly Flowers, Director of the Global Food Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, speak with Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni about food insecurity and how it is both a cause and consequence of conflict, often sparking violence and civil unrest.

Lawrence Haddad, Corinna Hawkes, and colleagues propose ten ways to shift the focus from feeding people to nourishing them in A new global research agenda for food.

Oxfam has published an important new study Unearthed: Land, power, and inequality in Latin America.

A few key conclusions from the report:

—The concentration of Latin American land in the hands of a few is even worse now than in the 1960s, when the problem was so bad many governments pushed major reforms.

—One percent of “super farms” in Latin America now control more productive land than the other 99 percent.

—Women hold less land than men; from as little as 8% in Guatemala, and up to 30% in Peru.

Well, we ran two articles on Gambia where we thought an election would change things. This was soon contradicted by a later development, which appears in this third article: Gambians face uncertainty, after president rejects his defeat, by  Jaime Yaya Barry and Dionne Searcey of the New York Times.

Our first article was Gambia’s president, in power 22 years, loses election,  by Jaime Yaya Barry and Dionne Searcey of the New York Times.   This was important news for several reasons.  First, most presidents who want to stay in office, find a way to stay in office one way or another, whether by rewriting the constitution, by acting against opposition parties in disruptive ways,  or assuming “emergency” powers.  So it was big news that the people of Gambia were allowed to vote, their vote was counted correctly, and the president apparently abided by the decision.  It is hard to make headway against hunger and poverty when the principal focus of the government is staying in power.

The second article, The challenge of building “New Gambia”  by Louise Hunt of IRIN, emphasized that change would not be easy: “the list of problems is long: a prostrate and undiversified economy, a high rate of outmigration, heavily politicized state institutions – including a military and a criminal justice system used to operating by fear.”  Serious reductions in hunger and poverty require governments who operate on behalf of the people, and it is an unfinished struggle in most countries to achieve this, including Gambia.

They are slaughtering us like animals by Daniel Berehulak of the New York Times examines the war against drugs in the Philippines. Since Duterte assumed office June 30, there have been 2,000 killings by police and 3,500 unsolved murders by others. In Berehulak’s words, there are “police officers’ summarily shooting anyone suspected of dealing or even using drugs, vigilantes’ taking seriously Mr. Duterte’s call to “slaughter them all.”  This article documents 57 of these victims, enabling us to see for ourselves.   Government controlled and sanctioned death squads have played an evil role in history.  They have operated to suppress people. They are often directed against poor people.  They create fractures in society which impede progress and take a long time to heal, as the recent history of many countries in Latin America shows.  Of the many excellent news stories we have published this year, this is the best.

(An article which we did not run, but which illustrates points made above, is Stanley Rother, U.S. priest killed in ’81 in Guatemala, declared a martyr by Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times.)

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