#Hungry4Change: Advancing our right to just, equitable, and sustainable food systems! | World Hunger Day 2020

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COVID 19 and Hunger Crisis

Hunger may be growing faster than COVID-19 infections, and is estimated to claim more lives than the pandemic itself[1]. It is estimated earlier this year that the number of those experiencing extreme hunger will at least double[2] and those who routinely go to sleep without eating is growing exponentially. A global food crisis has never been this imminent and imposing, at least in the last half century.

Yet today’s hunger crisis is a direct result of the current fragile and profit-driven food and agriculture systems. Landgrabbing and resource plunder has always been the motor and motivation of the global food and agricultural trade. Decades of implementation of the neoliberal framework in the sector has created a yawning gap between the rich and poor countries and abject poverty for food producers in the Global South. This hunger crisis is solely a function of poverty and inequality. 

Despite record numbers in harvest of staple crops, growing efficiency in distribution, and clear abundance in availability in food, hunger is on the rise for five consecutive years. Last year saw 820 million people experiencing hunger globally and at least two billion people who don’t have regular access to safe and nutritious food. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals on Zero Hunger is undoubtedly failing.  

The global pandemic is exposing the fragility and unsustainability of the neoliberal framework in the current food systems. While corporations and governments, led by the World Trade Organization, are quick to blame logistical bottlenecks and protectionist policies of a handful of nations, current estimates show that a huge humanitarian crisis will unfold even without these.

While COVID19 is hitting countries differentially, it’s the poorer nations and those at the margins who are bearing the brunt. Lockdowns and movement restrictions at the heels of the pandemic, together with the global recession it catalysed are putting at least 1.6 billion people out of work. Around half the world’s workforce, mostly those informally employed like in agriculture, will have lost most of their income.

At least 27 countries from the Global South are estimated to plunge into a devastating hunger crisis in the next six months. Disruptions in the longstanding export-directed food production of poorer countries in Asia and Latin America are pushing rural peoples to the edge. In Africa, food import dependent nations are particularly vulnerable as they rely on the fragile global supply chains. Rural women and youth are also disproportionately impacted. Today, a total of 10,000 children die monthly because of hunger catalyzed by COVID19, and most of these are in Asia and Africa.

This has been exacerbated by the resurgence of landgrabbing and resource grabbing in Latin America and Asia, many of them land and resource deals from richer nations for their own food security. Huge agricorporations like JBS are doubling down on deforestation in Brazil while palm oil corporations in Indonesia are expanding like it’s business as usual. The IMF also recently hostaged Ukraine into opening up it’s land market. In West Asia, States like Israel are annexing more lands and waging brutal wars of occupation – further exacerbating the crisis. 

To put it simply, the current crisis is making the poor poorer, those at-risk more vulnerable, and those who are hungry hungrier than ever before.

The battle for a “new normal” in food security

Even prior to the pandemic, there’s a growing recognition that a food systems approach to food security [3] is needed to ultimately solve hunger across the world. This was reinforced by the UN announcing last year that it plans to hold a Food Systems Summit. But concerns of corporate hijack and neoliberal pandering continue to plague the said summit.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, a host of neoliberal pitches swarm official talkshops and lobbying mechanisms. Leading TNCs and some governments are pushing for policy rollbacks on land rights, pesticide regulations, seed rights, and rural peoples protection among others. Popular technology-driven proposals like Big Data, blockchain, biofortification etc., are being touted as silver bullets to the current crisis. At the very least, these glaze over real systemic solutions that address root causes of the global food crisis – poverty,  inequality, and unsustainability.

On the other hand, rural peoples organizations, CSOs and allied forces continue to push systemic solutions that will not only halt but reverse the rise in global hunger. It’s more imperative now that food producers and those at the margins are put at the helm of changing the system. It’s us who are truly hungry for change – a radical change towards just, equitable, and sustainable food systems.

Addressing hunger through people’s food sovereignty

The right to adequate, safe, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate food is a fundamental human right. Yet, hunger is on the rise by any measure.

Earlier this year,  the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) launched the 9 Demands for Food and Rights, which outlines the aspirations of its member organizations and communities they represent. At the core of the 9 Demands Campaign and people’s food sovereignty is the goal to eradicate hunger and needless famines across the globe.

We at the Coalition believe that a universal access to food requires four critical policy shifts, namely:

  1. Realizing people’s right to adequate, safe, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate food
  2. Upholding rural peoples rights to land, production and resources
  3. Promoting people’s agroecology and sustainability in production, distribution, and consumption
  4. Putting people’s food sovereignty at the core of food and agriculture policies

Diagram showing the relationship of the four policy shifts. People’s food sovereignty at the core, while it together with rural people’s rights and agroecology serves as a stable foundation of the people’s right to adequate, safe, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate food.

Hungry 4 Change

Since 2018, PCFS has adopted October 16 as World Hunger Day, in the tradition of its member Asian Peasant Coalition (APC). This day serves as an annual protest against the unsustainable, unjust and inequitable food system that pushes most of the world in hunger. APC declared the World Hunger Day in 2012 to parallel the UN FAO’s World Food Day celebration and to emphasize the real situation of the rural people: landless, most food-insecure, and hungry.

In commemoration of this year’s World Hunger Day on October 16, PCFS is launching Hungry 4 Change: Advancing our right to just, equitable, and sustainable food systems. The Hungry 4 Change campaign will be a continuation and further broadening of the 9 Demands Campaign by showcasing the direction to fully realize the human right to food.

This campaign aims to enshrine and further develop people’s food sovereignty as a framework for building just, equitable, and sustainable food systems. It also aims to put food producers, rural peoples, and the most vulnerable and at-risk communities at the helm of policy changes in food systems. 

Specifically, it aims:  

  1. To highlight the urgency and importance of radical and comprehensive reforms (9 Demands) to the global food system through the framework of people’s food sovereignty.
  2. To expose the false corporate-led and neoliberal rollback of rights being sold as a silver bullet to the current food crisis.
  3. To showcase the continuing struggle of rural peoples amid the pandemic for a just, equitable, and sustainable food system. ###

[1] Oxfam 2020.

[2] 2020 Global Report on Food Crises, World Food Programme

[3] HLPE 12, 2017, 2019; UN Chair Speech on CFS 2019;

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One reply to “#Hungry4Change: Advancing our right to just, equitable, and sustainable food systems! | World Hunger Day 2020”

  1. […] the dialogue’s presenters and participants to join the online protest caravan with the theme “#Hungry4Change: A Global Day of Action for Food and Rights.” on Oct. 16, 2020, which PCFS annually commemorates as World Hunger Day. The Asian Peasant […]

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