June 21, 2012—Oxfam today welcomed the launch by the UN Secretary General of a global ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ to eliminate hunger and ensure that everyone has enough to eat while living within the earth’s limits.
The challenge announced at the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro echoes the successful ‘Hunger Zero’ strategy of the Brazilian summit hosts which has slashed child malnutrition by almost two thirds and helped to lift an incredible 28 million people out of poverty.
“The Zero Hunger Challenge starts where it should – with a focus on small producers, most of whom are women,” said Robert Fox, Oxfam Canada Executive Director. “In situations of hunger, women eat last and least so it’s important that they be on the front lines in any successful global effort to end hunger.”
Fox said women produce, process and prepare much of the world’s food and yet too often they are overlooked, sidelined or undermined by schemes that push big-scale, high-cost industrial agriculture. “When we look to Brazil’s experience, we find a balanced program that recognizes the power of rural women to feed their families, their communities and the world,” he said.
Oxfam Canada salutes Canada’s support for the initiative and looks forward to working with the Canadian government to ensure its success.
Welcome ray of hope
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s announcement is a welcome ray of hope from a summit that has been shamefully devoid of progress for the almost billion people who go to bed hungry every night, said Barbara Stocking, chief executive of Oxfam Great Britain.
“Despite the fact that the world produces enough food to feed everyone, there are more hungry people today than when the world last met in Rio in 1992,” Stocking said. “This is the first big idea on food to come out of the Rio+20 debacle. Even modest proposals to help small farmers were stripped out of the final summit document. Rio+20 has failed to recognize that we cannot have sustainable development unless we end hunger.”
Oxfam is calling on world leaders to put transforming the food system at the top of the agenda, just as they have done with economic growth and the financial crisis.
Fox said critical elements for success include action to secure and protect women’s ownership of farmland as well as their access to credit, tools and knowledge. “As well, we need to ensure women have the supports they need to adapt to climate change and that their voices are heard in making decisions about protecting biodiversity, watercourses, oceans and forests,” he said.
The plan also recognizes that many of the poorest families – especially those headed by women –not only have a food problem, they have an income problem. Social safety nets are as critical as support to smallholder farmers and herders.