OPINION: THE THREAT OF FAMINE

famine

A Bible Chapter discussing about “the sign of Christ’s presence” – Chapter 24 of the Bible Book of Matthew, Verse 7 in particular, lists food shortages or famine, among the “pangs of distress” that will afflict mankind in “the time of the end.”

A recent newspaper report shows that 41 million persons are at risk of famine worldwide. Based on this report, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that 41 million people in 43 countries were “teetering on the very edge of famine.”

Conflicts, climate change, economic shocks, and soaring food prices have been identified as the main drivers of hunger. Currency depreciation in many countries has also been listed as a factor to the problem.

The World Food Programme, an agency of the United Nations, says that 584,000 people were experiencing famine-like conditions in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen. Nigeria and Burkina Faso are also mentioned to be of particular concern.

What can help with this threat of famine? David Beasley, the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, emphasised the urgent need for financial support. He said that the price tag to reach those 41 million people, who are literally knocking on famine’s door, is about $6 billion. “We need funding and we need it now,” he said.

Apart from funding, there is also a need to revive and transform our agricultural and food systems to, among other things, deliver improved nutrition. All stakeholders need to redouble their efforts in order to boost food sufficiency and improve nutrition. It is not just about feeding people, it is also about providing the necessary nutrients for a healthy life.

Also, Nigeria is currently grappling with security challenges, especially in the North-East and Middle-Belt regions. This has also affected agriculture/farming in such areas, as many people are hindered from planting or harvesting crops.

In some cases, terrorists insist on payments before farmers are allowed to have access to farmlands during the planting season. They return during the harvest season and extort farmers before access to the farmlands is granted. This has contributed to scarcity of food and a surge in the prices of certain food items.

This situation is made even worse by a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in which northern states, such as Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, have recorded new cases.

Also, what began as localised clashes between farmers and herdsmen over access to land, has degenerated into a major conflict and loss of lives across northern Nigeria. If such security challenges are properly addressed, it can reduce the high risk of famine.

Climate change is another factor that contributes to famine. Climate change refers to the increase in temperatures of the atmosphere over a long period of time. How does climate change affect food supply? Floods and drought brought on by climate change make it harder to produce food.

Erratic rainfall patterns can also severely disrupt local food production. As a result, the price of food increases and access becomes more limited, thereby putting many at higher risk of hunger.

The primary cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, which emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – primarily carbon dioxide. Unless climate change is reduced by substantial reductions of greenhouse gases, it will greatly increase hunger and famine, especially in the poorest parts of the world.

It is also important to note that agriculture/farming can help to prevent famine. Preventing further spread of acute food shortages must start with producing food where it is needed most. Prevention of famine must begin in the rural areas where people coping with high levels of food insecurity live. The focus in such areas should be on growing food where it is needed the most and keeping animals alive. This can help to stabilise and increase local food production, in order to prevent a breakout of famine.

In more isolated rural areas particularly, the critical role of local and backyard food production in keeping families alive cannot be over-emphasised. The importance of sustaining livestock can also not be overstated. Also, just one cup of milk a day can make the difference between life and death!

Additionally, it is important that both private and public schools at all levels establish viable school farms. School farms are not just spaces for growing food items. They are complete learning zones, which largely succeed in taking learning to new heights. The knowledge obtained from practical sessions on the school farm helps not only to re-enforce what is taught in the classrooms. It also teaches pupils and students about eating healthy, about how food arrives our homes from the farms, and so on.

It also equips the pupils/students with first-hand knowledge of agribusiness, which can help to prevent famine. Their learning should be brought right down to the community level, in terms of the most vulnerable people in the community. Some schools even encourage their children to do community service, and that is also a good experience for the children.

God’s Word, The Bible, comforts us with the hope of a time when there will be no food shortage, or famine. Psalm 72:16 says: “There will come to be plenty of grain on the earth; on the top of the mountains there will be an overflow.” (See also: Isaiah 49:10; and Revelation 7:16, 17).

Ighakpe is a social commentator