Food Crisis Underscores Need for Local Economic Development

Post a Comment » Written on April 24th, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (April 24, 2008) – The worst food crisis to strike the globe in decades highlights the need for more local economic development in those communities , says Jim Sundholm, director of Covenant World Relief.

The World Bank estimates that living conditions could worsen for up to 100 million poor people due to the worsening crisis. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 854 million people already suffer hunger and that almost 16,000 children die each day due to hunger-related causes.

Riots over the lack of food already have erupted in Haiti, Burkina Faso and other nations in sub-Saharan Africa. Governments in some Asian countries have begun placing limits on the amount of rice that individuals can purchase. The U.N. reports that 37 countries are suffering a hunger crisis and require outside assistance.

A combination of events is exponentially contributing to the tragedy, says Sundholm. He points to the production of corn to produce ethanol, rising oil prices, war, drought, and the devaluation of the dollar.

“The interrelatedness only becomes more apparent,” Sundholm says. Oil prices, for example, drive up the cost of production and transportation, making it too expensive to ship what products are grown.

“What’s hitting us in our gas tanks is hitting them in their stomachs,” Sundholm says.

The director of the U.N.’s World Food Program notes that prices for dairy products are up 80 percent, cooking oils up 50 percent, and grains up 42 percent from 2006 to 2007.

Recent rioting in Haiti is indicative of the crisis that has been developing around the world. Since last year, the cost of rice in Haiti has skyrocketed 50 percent, according to World Relief. According to the organization’s website, “Haiti’s people have used the expression ‘eating bleach’ to describe their burning hunger pains. They say it’s as if their stomachs are on fire.”

A recent New York Times article said Haiti’s beans, corn and rice were treated as “closely guarded treasures.” Some Haitians have resorted to eating mud patties, a mixture of oil, sugar and mud.

“That’s why we at Covenant World Relief want to work on agricultural development,” Sundholm says. “We know that besides doing disaster relief, we need to be developing sustainable resources.”

He points to a project in Sudan that enabled farmers to grow maize (corn). Last year, the project produced food for the local area – and enough to ship to another part of the country that had lost all its crops.

The high prices also can indirectly affect the distribution of food. The cost of cement is hampering efforts to add a kitchen to the school in Sudan that was built with money raised by high school students at CHIC 2006. In just the last several weeks, the price of a 50-pound bag of cement in Sudan more than doubled from $15 to $35, says Sundholm.

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