CFFO: Famine in South Sudan

By Suzanne Armstrong

Farmers know very keenly the value of food. Food is important not as just another economic commodity, though certainly it plays an important part of our Canadian economy. Food is also vital to human culture, social stability, and above all to human health and survival.

Without enough food, people die.

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Although farmers globally are producing enough food to feed the world, many other factors affect how much then becomes available to people in different regions. While drought conditions can impact access to food, it is war and conflict that result in the most dramatic contemporary impacts on famine and starvation.

We have not had official famine conditions declared globally for the past six years. However, in late February, famine was officially declared by the United Nations in regions of South Sudan. As an article from BBC news points out, nearby regions of Yemen, Somalia, and Nigeria are also currently suffering from food shortages. Conditions in these countries are only expected to get worse with millions more people at risk of severe food shortage and famine conditions leading into the summer months.

In an interview with the BBC, UN assistant secretary general Justin Forsyth argues that while drought conditions and climate change are having an impact on agriculture in some of these areas, conflict and war are the greatest factors behind the current crisis. He says, “It’s man made. This is because of conflict and war. It’s because we can’t get through to people. I mean this is 2017. Nobody should be dying of starvation in 2017. There’s enough food in the world. We have enough capability in terms of the humanitarian community. So the places were children are dying are places we can’t get to or we can only get to occasionally, from very brave staff doing their best on the ground.”

Farmers across Canada undertake many different projects to help address humanitarian food issues around the world. Growing projects for the Canadian Food Grains Bank are among these humanitarian efforts. Many of those who are suffering from severe hunger in South

Sudan are themselves farmers who have lost their livestock, or been displaced from their farms. As farmers in Canada ramp up for the growing season, this is a good time to start planning and organizing in your community for a 2017 growing project.

Farmers know the value of the food they grow extends far beyond the market price. Severe food shortages, even when we are able to grow food so abundantly, are a reminder that food is not just about dollars and cents, it is about human life, health and prosperity. These can only be achieved when we can also have peaceful conditions that allow people to grow and distribute food safely.