Myths on hunger debunked:

Hunger is due to a lack of food availability


Myth 1: Hunger is due to a lack of food availability


Today the quantity of food available is greater than ever before and sufficient to feed everyone adequately. But still, there are around 1 billion hungry in the world.

Our planet produces enough calories and proteins to feed its population today. In order to be healthy, humans need to absorb at least 2000 calories/day.  Today, the world produces the equivalent of around 3000 calories per day and per person. The problem is one of access to this food : some eat much more than what they need (which creates health problems such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases) and they waste food, while others eat much less that the minimum daily requirement to be in good health.

Income distribution is the reason behind the issue of variable access to food : those who do not eat enough do not have enough resources (income, gifts or resources from social safety nets) to be able to get all the food they need.

This is well illustrated by the fact that widespread hunger occurs even in countries which are food exporters. In those countries, food is exported while an important fraction of their population does not eat sufficiently.

A good example of this situation is India where, according to FAO, there were 217 million undernourished persons in 2010/2012, while the country was exporting rice. In fact, India was even the largest exporter of rice in 2012 (almost 9 million tons exported!).

Similarly in Ethiopia, during the 2008 food security crisis, there was plenty of food on market stalls but at prices out of reach of the poorer people, and millions of persons were unable to eat sufficiently.

In Chad, at the end of 2012, despite a good harvest, it is expected that a large part of the population will continue to have problems in buying their food needs because of their high level of indebtedness [read more]

The real cause of hunger is therefore not the limited availability of food, but the impossibility for a proportion of the population to acquire the resources required to gain access to the available food.

It is important not to confuse the issue of hunger in the world now with the issue of feeding the world’s population in the future. The fact that most undernourished people earn their living from agriculture should not make us believe that producing more will solve the hunger issue. What is required is to give the opportunity to the hungry to have the means to live decently and eat sufficiently, and to ensure that they are not excluded from all the activities implemented to increase food security. This implies approaches to agricultural development that include these people and gives them opportunities to improve their lives. But this will not be sufficient. More will be required than just developing agriculture and agricultural development will have to go beyond simply increasing agricultural production…

Materne Maetz

(December 2012)

Last update:    September 2013

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