“The right to food is not the right to be fed, but the right to access the means to have an own kitchen garden” (W. VAN COTTHEM)

Read at : UNNews

MORE MUST BE DONE TO REFORM GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEM TO FIGHT CRISIS, SAYS UN EXPERT

New York, Sep 18 2009 10:05AM

“Investing in agriculture alone will not solve the food crisis, a United Nations independent expert said today, calling for stepped-up political will to address structural flaws in global food production, which is at the crux of the current emergency.

“The right to food is not the right to be fed,” Olivier De Schutter told reporters today in Geneva after briefing the Human Rights Council. “It is the right to access the means to produce food or to obtain an income that enables the purchase of adequate food.”

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I agree fully with Olivier DE SCHUTTER that “the right to food is not the right to be fed“, because to be fed means “waiting patiently until someone brings you some food“.  This makes millions of people dependent upon external food aid, which is in no way “sustainable development”.

Of course, we have to continue food aid in situations of emergency interventions, like occurring famine, floods, earthquakes etc.  But leaving people dependent upon food aid, without taking initiatives to change something at their daily needs, can no longer be accepted.

The key question is : can we improve the daily situation of those in need of food ?  My answer is loud and clear : YES, WE CAN !

And the way to do it is well-known and very simple.  Together with Olivier DE SCHUTTER I say : “The right to food is the right to access the means to produce food” and under that I understand the chance to obtain the means, one way or another, for laying out a small family (kitchen) garden in which fresh food for the whole family can be produced.  One way can be “the UNICEF-way” : offering the families the means (materials) to lay out a small productive garden (see the project : Family gardens for the Saharawi refugees in S.W. Algeria).  Another way could be the loan of a microcredit to every family for the construction of their family garden.  Microcredits to set up a small business are very successful.  Why shouldn’t this be the case for a small productive kitchen garden ?

On the contrary, I do not agree fully with Olivier DE SCHUTTER when he says that the right to food is also the right “to obtain an income that enables the purchase of adequate food.”

Many are those who relate hunger (the food crisis) with the rising food prizes at the world level : poor people can’t afford some food anymore !  Well, instead of trying to enhance financial aid “to obtain an income that enables the purchase of adequate food.”, it will be far more better to use an important part of the financial resources for the recurrent food aid for creating possibilities to produce the necessary food by the people in need themselves.

This brings me to my personal version of Olivier DE SCHUTTER’s point of view :

“The right to food is not the right to be fed, but the right to access the necessary means to lay out an own small family garden to produce sufficient food for the family and a small surplus of food to generate an additional annual income for the purchase of complementary food”.

A family garden should be the nucleus generating food and income for every family in the developing countries and for all those in need, living in rural and urban areas.

To convince yourself about the possibility to realize such a “world programme for sustainable development of the hungry people“,  just have a look at some pictures below, taken at the UNICEF-project in Algeria in 2007.  What can be achieved in a few months in the Sahara desert, is feasible in the rest of the world too.  We have the right to make the right choice !

2007 : Family garden in the Algerian Sahara with a plastic greenhouse (left)
2007 : Family garden in the Algerian Sahara with a plastic greenhouse (left)
2007 : At the start of a kitchen garden different vegetables and herbs are introduced
2007 : At the start of a kitchen garden different vegetables and herbs are introduced
2007 : With the help of an engineer or a technician the family soons gains some experience in growing vegetables adapted to the local situation
2007 : With the help of an engineer or a technician the family soon gains experience in growing vegetables adapted to the local situation
2007 : Success booked in one family garden motivates neighbours to start up their own (with the help of UNICEF or any other international agency)
2007 : Success booked in one family garden motivates neighbours to start up their own one (with the help of UNICEF or any other international agency)

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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