Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Feeding the World

I was able to attend a lecture last night that fits quite well with the topics discussed on World Food Day and Blog Action Day.  Raj Patel was in Saskatoon for the Whelen Visiting Lecture series.  His talk was titled How to Feed the World.  The award winning writer, activist, and academic drew quite the crowd.  The room at the Bessborough Hotel was filled to standing room only.

Raj provided us with a history of the green revolution to help us understand the current state of obesity and starvation in the world.  The green revolution was originally designed to fight communism and deals with seeds, population control, and state support.  He also talked about the World Bank and economic structural adjustments that it applies to countries (such as decreased government funding for healthcare, education, and agriculture).

He talked about the "free market" which only has willing buyers, not willing sellers and continues to leave countries undeveloped and in poverty.  Raj is quite interested in Malawi and discussed how the community has come together to avoid the need to purchase expensive fertilizers.  The farmers have been given the ability to experiment and come up with new techniques and have since increased production by 20%.  This brought on the topic of food sovereignty which is when communities make decisions about their own food and agricultural policies.

Raj made interesting connections such as violence against women and hunger.  He said that 60% of the people going hungry in the world are women and girls.  Thus, when agriculture is successful, women are harvesting more and things like breastfeeding fall off.  Again, this is where communities coming together can create change.  In Malawi they have recipe days where the women come together and cook, but also communicate and share frustrations and thus are able to move towards change.

Yes, the disparity and huge differences between the obese and the starving come down to distribution and equality, but many people struggle to know where they can help.  The things that stood out most to me in the lecture were the ways that Raj described our current situation - we're expecting countries to develop, but we're not letting them control their food systems.  He talked about not letting the food system control us, because we have come to see that as normal.  In order to create social change, Raj encouraged the room to dream differently, think outside the structures that think us, break a law everyday, and do the work that needs to be done (and the work that needs to be done is unpaid).

There are so many issues that can be linked back to food security - violence against women, education of women, etc.  We need to help in all of these areas, but we also need to let countries create a sense of community and have a say in what is right for them.

For those of you who missed the lecture, they mentioned that you will be able to stream it on the U of S Centre for Continuing and Distance Education website and it will also be on cbc television.  

Steph Wheler, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching