Why are people in Africa still starving when there is so much food in the world?

Gene Gibly

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It can't be logistics - we can fly great volumes of stuff all over the world (although the deserted plains of Africa might present their own challenges).

It can't be money - we've raised what must have been billions over past decades.

So why are people in Africa still dying from lack of food?
 
It can't be logistics - we can fly great volumes of stuff all over the world (although the deserted plains of Africa might present their own challenges).

It can't be money - we've raised what must have been billions over past decades.

So why are people in Africa still dying from lack of food?

Logistics - well, we could fly food in to Africa, but it would cost the recipients. Not to mention all the 'luxury' out of season foods they already grow in order to fly them to us.

Money - well, sadly some of it probably doesn't get to the neediest. As soon as there's a middleman, there's scope for corruption etc. Also, just money doesn't always help. You can't eat a dollar, you have to have the food to spend it on. Like the old saying, If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day, if you give him the means to catch his own fish, he'll eat every day. But if there are no fish, it's back to square one.

If all the resources of the world were fairly shared, then yes, a lot fewer people would be starving. Of course, to do that, a lot more people would have to reign in their expectation of having more food than they need, what they want, when they want it (fresh green beans in winter? All manner of cut flowers all year round? Often grown with resources that could feed local people). And even if it were fair shares, some people live in places that are on a knife edge of productivity. If rains fail, or a river diverts (or is diverted to suit the needs of someone else, big business etc), crops fail, and there simply is nothing to buy, money or not. And when rains fail for a couple of years, and the soil just dries up and blows away, how do you grow anything?

There are lots of figures quoted to the effect that if everyone in the world lived at the standard of an average American, we'd need 4 or 7 or some number of planets to support us. With climate changing (and it is, whatever the reason), the amount of land able to sustain food production could shrink, so even with food equality, I'm afraid the problems are going to increase.

Eventually, Mother Nature will give a giant shrug, kill most of us off, and start again. Then it's the Cockroaches turn to mess up.
 
Logistics - well, we could fly food in to Africa, but it would cost the recipients. Not to mention all the 'luxury' out of season foods they already grow in order to fly them to us.

Money - well, sadly some of it probably doesn't get to the neediest. As soon as there's a middleman, there's scope for corruption etc. Also, just money doesn't always help. You can't eat a dollar, you have to have the food to spend it on. Like the old saying, If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day, if you give him the means to catch his own fish, he'll eat every day. But if there are no fish, it's back to square one.

If all the resources of the world were fairly shared, then yes, a lot fewer people would be starving. Of course, to do that, a lot more people would have to reign in their expectation of having more food than they need, what they want, when they want it (fresh green beans in winter? All manner of cut flowers all year round? Often grown with resources that could feed local people). And even if it were fair shares, some people live in places that are on a knife edge of productivity. If rains fail, or a river diverts (or is diverted to suit the needs of someone else, big business etc), crops fail, and there simply is nothing to buy, money or not. And when rains fail for a couple of years, and the soil just dries up and blows away, how do you grow anything?

There are lots of figures quoted to the effect that if everyone in the world lived at the standard of an average American, we'd need 4 or 7 or some number of planets to support us. With climate changing (and it is, whatever the reason), the amount of land able to sustain food production could shrink, so even with food equality, I'm afraid the problems are going to increase.

Eventually, Mother Nature will give a giant shrug, kill most of us off, and start again. Then it's the Cockroaches turn to mess up.

Corruption and greed.
 
Arch has pretty much said it all - resource management is the main problem. And while it may not be politically correct to say so, bringing more and more children into a family that can't sustain its existing members is another contributory factor, along with the sort of corruption that sees aid channelled away from where it's most needed. In a perfect world, nobody would ever go hungry, but this world is far from perfect, and there's not a lot we can do here, other than help in ways that will benefit the people who really need it.
 
We look at places like Sudan and Ethiopia and all we see is the problems they have.
Both places over the last 20 years, despite the enormous problems they still have from drought, warring factions, corruption and political interference, are actually more of a success story that is apparent.
Back in whenever, Band Aid time, there was something like 40 million people in Ethiopia with perhaps 2 or 3 million at or close to starvation level. Now there are around 80 million people with again 2 or 3 millions close to starvation.
So in that time the country has managed to find the wherewithal to feed and sustain an 'extra' 40 millions.

The numbers I've quoted are dredged from the memory of an article I read some time ago so will I'm sure be well off the true figures but it is still not all doom and gloom.

In the longer term though the problem really is over population, and that's not just Africa, it's everywhere. The people of the world are not going to restrict their development and the clamour for 'all things western'. The drive will be for ever more sophistication.
And why not? Mr African Villager sees, paved streets, modern infrastructure, health services hot and cold running water, motor transport etc etc and he says ...............well that looks a damn sight better than what I have, gimme some of that. It's what we do.

If America and Europe were to miraculously agree to un-develop their societies ( it would never happen) It really, in the end, would make no difference at all to the long term outcome for humanity and the earth in general.
We are 7 billion now and 'experts' seem to agree that 9 billion will be reached during the next few decades and, because of better health, education and social conditions, the growth will begin to fall back.
So all is OK. No not really because as Arch said for everyone to live high on the hog as Europe and America do we would need several planets worth of resources to keep us going.
I'm not sure there is enough time. Maybe technology with come riding to the rescue, but the odds aren't great.
Human kind will survive but it will be a rough old struggle.
 
Human kind will survive but it will be a rough old struggle.

NT has a mate who is very into future proofing - involved in the transition movement, grows his own veg, getting a log burner etc. Not that he expects to be self sufficient exactly, he just wants to be less reliant on all the energy sources our society is built on now.

We spent the morning on Weds sawing up logs from a tree NT felled for a mate because it was rotten and at risk of blowing down. NT had built the saw horse we used, and the saws were all bought from a car boot sale, from people who expected us to polish them up and hang them on a pub wall for 'decor'. NT sharpened them, and they work a treat, because being old they were built to last and be looked after. Apparently modern saws tend to have hardened tooth points only, so once they are dulled they don't hold any resharpening.

If things go tits up, we'll need these basic skills - knowing how to grow and find food, how to construct the stuff we need etc, preferably with minimal electrical power use, and knowledge of how to convert water and wind and human power into efficient tooling. Too many people now think it's impossible to walk more than a mile, let alone use human power to produce fuel. We were saying, we need a return to something like the wartime regime - limited fuel, food restricted to what we can produce, not too much luxury. We were healthier then than ever, apparently.

The thing about Mr African Villager seeing our lifestyle and wanting it, is what right do we have to say "No. you can't" or even "No, learn from us, you shouldn't". ? Like we've used up all the luxury, and everyone else has to be content to stay as they are. If they see the problem, and decide to stay sustainable, that's fine, but it's not fair to simply refuse them the opportunity to mess up like we have!
 
You're right Arch. It's not for, us sitting in the lap of luxury, to tell anyone else they can't have it.

My son is a joiner and I asked him about sharpening an old saw.............'Nah I'll buy a couple new ones at Selco. On offer for £6 for two''

They last a week maybe two and that's it.
 
In terms of future proofing my friend, that Arch mentioned above, thinks I am the best person to know when the world does go 'tits up' as I will make and do almost everything with or without external energy. I have a huge collection of old hand tools that can be resharpened and also have the ability to make many of the replacement parts and new tools from scratch. Steel making is a bit outside my range, but I can make use of steel 'borrowed' from other redundant devices in a 'swords to plough shears' way.

I do have some hard point saws but when they are too worn for fine work they are relegated to rough work and then to plaster cutting, and then the steel is cut up for scrapers, shims, knife blades etc.

All this is part of my take of future proofing life.
Like James Lovelock I believe the time is past to 'do something about climate change and resource depletion' and our efforts would be better spent adapting to the changes that will be happening. However I do also believe that we should be doing what we can to mitigate change, if for no other reason then to learn what we can do, and what we can do without, when it all 'hits the fan'. That is all part of the adaptation process.

Growing food is one of the methods, as is learning to make and make do with ever decreasing energy consumption. Arch and I may never be self sufficient but we may have developed 'barterable' skills and other products that can be traded for what we don't have.
 
You're right, Gen, it's not the money. Africa, particularly central, has extremely hot climates and this makes it difficult for a lot of fruits and vegetables to grow, especially foods citrus and vitamin-A rich foods which require cold weather to grow. Ultimately, the lack of agricultural resources and foreign exchange accessibility are what I view as the reason. However, there are extensive political reasons as to why.
 
Humankind may survive but not many. I also suspect that the greatest threat will not be nuclear war or starvation or some new disease but simply the huge epidemics that will rage after any of the above occurs. Imagine - a few million dead - well we could absorb that BUT that 'few million' equates to thousands [perhaps millions] of tons of rotting human flesh + just as much animal and probably plant life too - it would poison the earth and the water causing a cascade effect - a gruesome prospect. Re-using the odd piece of tech or tool isn't going to make much difference either way. As for Africa it could produce vast amounts of food and without any western help but it will not. Many of the African nations have developed a 'dependency' ideal - there is a drought, shall we dig for water - no somebody else will do it. The constant adverts on the television for 'water aid' are a prime example showing the sad story of a little girl having to drink dirty water to tug at the heart strings, but wait a minute - the cattle using the water hole are their cattle - would it be so hard to build a basic brushwood fence ? Something over 90% of water born parasites can be removed by a simple sand filter [just a big old bucket with sand in it and a hole in the bottom - it's the basis for all water treatment even in the west] neither expensive or difficult to set up and boiling would remove almost 99%. Also the impression that huge areas are dry almost desert is just not true even Ethiopia in the famin years had vast areas of almost bog like land
Finally and this has been said above the food HAS increased but so has the population - massively. Population growth goes on everywhere but doubling ?
 
Let's take the case of Sudan. I have read in New York Times supplement last year that some charitable organization in the US are stymied by the civil war there. So even if they have the goods to send to Sudan, they are hesitant because it would only be grabbed by the rebels. And a civil war means not just 2 sides but plenty of sides - so many rebel groups warring with each other. In other African countries, the corruption is so great that the relief goods would surely be sold to other countries for the money. This is purely politics in motion. That is why Ethiopians are getting out of their country to see jobs in Jordan, Kuwait and other Middle East countries for sustenance of their families.
 
There is a fair chance that if you are in your local supermarket, you will see items like runner beans that have been imported from Kenya. There is no logical reason for a country like Kenya to grow runner beans so that people in the so-called developed world can buy them cheaply.

Of course, there are no simple answers to this question, but let's look at one significant factor. Structural readjustment is a euphemism for loans provided to developing countries by the IMF and World Bank. In return, the countries involved are required to undertake certain policies demanded by these bodies.

Now let's say a local farmer is producing crops for local markets. Well, that's no good to our heroes of the IMF. No, far better to scrap that and have them grow coffee for export. Result: lots and lots of coffee growers and less and less locally sourced food. And the spin off? Coffee over-production resulting in a fall in the price of coffee and thus less money coming back to the producers.

Structural adjustment programmes are described as serving the "free market." To the rest of us, the term is "blackmail" for which any ordinary people would be serving prison sentences, but if you are are filthy-rich capitalist, this is just part of everyday life.

Clearly, this is not the only problem facing developing countries, but it is a highly significant one.
 
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