Zero Hunger: Just Words, or a Real Possibility?


Members of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank “believe that it is God’s desire that no person should go hungry.” This is one of the reasons that the organization has become a participant in the Zero Hunger Challenge, an announcement made on Human Rights Day 2013.

“The challenge and work of ending hunger resonates with the core values of the Foodgrains Bank,” said their Executive Director Jim Cornelius. “We are excited that the UN Secretary General is making ending hunger a critical issue. We support the initiative and encourage others to join these efforts.”

The announcement also made it a point to emphasize that “everyone has a right to adequate food” – the realization of which is a core element of Zero Hunger.

Art piece part of the Just Food Art Exhibit: the right to food from a faith perspective.

Art piece part of the Just Food Art Exhibit: the right to food from a faith perspective.

Even before it had become a participant, the Foodgrains Bank were thinking about ways to make the vision of Zero Hunger a reality. A column by Stuart Clark (former Senior Policy Advisor at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank – now semi-retired as a Special Advisor to the Foodgrains Bank) is excerpted below, with permission.

At first, [the Zero Hunger Challenge] sounded like the many optimistic UN press releases we have seen over the years. And it would be easy to dismiss it except for one thing: Brazil actually made Zero Hunger its official policy in 2003, and they are well on their way to achieving it. … The result has been a dramatic drop in extreme poverty—from 22% to 8% in less than 20 years—the percentage of children who are seriously underweight for their height and seriously short for their age has been halved, as has serious food insecurity.

… Brazil’s remarkable progress towards zero hunger was one of the stories featured at the June 13-14 Fighting Hunger conference in Winnipeg. Hosted by Canadian Foodgrains Bank on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, the conference used the UN’s Zero Hunger Challenge as a framework to help participants focus on approaches that work to reduce hunger.

One approach was the human right to adequate food, with the example of Brazil highlighted as one way to achieve this. A second approach conservation agriculture, a new way of farming in Africa that achieves the important goals of more than doubling crop yields while using no, or minimal, amounts of purchased inputs and most importantly, it also makes their farming resistant to both heavy rains and drought (two features of climate change).

The final approach was food assistance, a new form of what was previously called food aid. Food assistance includes giving food directly to people in emergencies, but goes beyond this to giving cash or vouchers so that hungry people can to local merchants to obtain their food. One of the most important differences between the two is that food assistance strengthens rather than weakens local food systems, including supporting the local farmers if they have extra food beyond their own needs.

The Foodgrains Bank conference was unusual in that the speakers ranged all the way from a village woman from Zimbabwe whose life was changed by using a new farming method, to world authorities on food aid and food assistance.

In the end, conference-goers came away believing zero hunger is achievable.  It won’t be easy, and it will require time, energy, commitment and money.

After all, if Brazil can do it, why not the rest of the world?


Why not, indeed?

Stuart Clark’s blog was originally published in the Ottawa Citizen Aid and Development Blog; it is excerpted here with the permission of the Foodgrains Bank, as is the excerpt from their press release “Canadian Foodgrains Bank Joins Zero Hunger Challenge“.