What Can Be Done?
Hunger caused by a crisis, such as an earthquake, a cyclone, or drought, requires emergency food aid. It is this kind of crisis that grabs the headlines and elicits calls for massive influx of aid. However, the more pernicious form of hunger is chronic malnutrition. Chronic malnutrition strikes larger populations, disables more bodies, and claims more lives than episodic disasters. Yet because it is a persistent state of affairs, outside professional relief circles it receives far too little attention.
Chronic malnutrition results when a diet provides insufficient calories and lacks the vital micro-nutrients essential to a healthy and productive life.
Alleviating chronic malnutrition involves two main components:
- a diet that supplies the necessary nutrients;
- training, education, and other opportunities for escaping poverty.
“Education” means teaching people about nutrition and showing them how to cultivate crops that will meet their nutritional needs. “Opportunity” means lifting people out from poverty by giving them the chance to uplift themselves.
Agriculture is the lifeblood for billions of people around the world, yet it is agrarian populations that suffer most from poverty and chronic hunger. The road out from poverty is not creating more urban jobs, which leads to exploding mega-cities, but improving conditions for farmers, especially small-scale farmers who depend on their yields to feed their families and sell their surplus on the markets. What farmers need most are land tenure, access to water, tools, better seeds, training in simple agricultural technologies, and greater access to markets to sell their produce.