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The Story of Hunger: Global Humanitarian Crisis Impacted by Climate Change, Failing Agriculture, Food Security Issues and Eroding Environment

by Saikat Kumar Basu

Guyana Journal, July 2009

We are looking towards a Dark Future unless we are cautious enough to take appropriate steps to deal with the emerging global food crisis. Food riots have hit countries like Zimbabwe and Argentina and probably the worse is yet to come. Crop failures have been reported in US, Brazil, Australia and Ukraine due to fluctuations in weather patterns impacting crop yield in different parts of the world. Serious concerns regarding the impact of climate change on crop development and overall agriculture have been moving hand in hand. To make the matter worse, the non-renewable fuel sources have hit an all time international crisis with record high surge in prices exhibiting ever increasing climbing of the dollar per barrel which in turn is sky-rocketing the cost of food imports. The global food import bill is showing a steady and unprecedented rise for the past couple years and if not regulated now may soon get out of control impacting life and livelihood of millions.

This oil and food crisis is intermittently related, as higher transportation cost is going to escalate the expenses for food resources. High inflation rate, falling export levels and low foreign exchange earnings will be especially detrimental to developing and under developed countries. This phenomenon is currently global but is soon going to haunt the poorest countries and communities of sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America (Latin America) and south and south-east Asia. Major food producing countries like USA, Canada, India, Ukraine, EU, China, Brazil and others have to deal with the present crisis with a different outlook. They not only need to support their own local and regional demands for food sources but also need to cater to the international communities through exchange and food programs and maintaining a steady life line of export to other countries - to protect your own interests as well as cater to the needs of others. It is like walking on a double-edged sword.

The food crisis is expected to put an endless pressure on the last remaining natural resources of many developing and under developed countries. Non-availability of stable food sources and supply line will force communities in rural and forest fringe dwellers to be more dependent on forest resources generating an extra severe drain of the remaining resources to valid but desperate local needs.

Climate change is throwing the global climate pattern out of balance, slowly but steadily; and at the same time rapid depletion of water resources is going to affect agriculture drastically. Several snow-fed and rain-fed streams and rivers are drying up across the planet denying agricultural opportunities and possible livelihood to a huge number of people and communities in the developing world and sooner or later are moving towards possible social unrest. Rain fed agriculture in marginal areas in the semi-arid and sub-humid regions of the world are particularly at risk due to climate change; although truly speaking no one can escape the impact in any part of the globe from the poles to the equator. Moreover the switching of farmers in the developed world from growing traditional food crops to the cash rich biofuel crops have further aggravated the global food crisis in addition to climate change, rise in oil prices and environmental degradation to non-sustainable practices. Lack of livelihood and opportunities will force more and more people to migrate across international borders looking for greener pastures while encountering severe retaliation and hostility with the already pressured local and/or regional communities.

The overall equation results in a vicious cycle of poverty, despair, loss of livelihood, illegal migration, social conflicts, prejudices and finally severe social unrest.

To avoid such a devastating catastrophe of human life, society and livelihood, and the degradation of the environment in which we all have survived so long, we need to consider careful planning and strict control over the market. If the market is allowed to gallop like a crazy horse the future possibilities looks doomed; however, there is still hope. It is important that we all get together at this hour of need and work towards the common goal of promoting global food security and protection of our environment and natural resources. We need to exercise our rights and positive thoughts for the betterment of the world and fight with courage in subduing global hunger. We need to break the vicious cycle of poverty, helplessness, despair, social unrest, environmental depletion, death and destruction, and work harder to build a stable global society catering to the needs of not just local and regional arenas but the world community instead.

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB Canada T1K 3M4. Email