A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Everything connects: food and oil prices, flatlining yields, climate change, gender inequality, land grabs... These issues combine to create a system that's dominated by a few powerful companies and governments. We need a new way of thinking, and ideas that hold a promise of a better future for the many not just the few.
Failed crops - often caused by our changing climate - hit food prices hard.
Short-sighted biofuels strategies play a part too - taking food off people's plates and putting it into car tanks.
Dysfunctional commodities markets mean that food prices go up faster and higher than they should. The effects on poor people are painfully simple. Parents choose between feeding their children and feeding themselves.
Food and Climate change
As temperatures rise, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe. Rising temperatures will cause crop yields to fall - possibly to half of their current levels in some African countries. Changes in seasons will make it even harder for farmers to know when to sow, cultivate and harvest. Ultimately, it will prevent farmers from growing enough to eat and earn a living. Farmers are struggling to cope. And nearly a billion of the world’s poorest people – people who did the least to cause climate change – are finding it even harder to feed their families.
Wild weather and unpredictable seasons are changing what farmers can grow and are making people hungry. Food prices are going up. Food quality is going down. Soon, climate change will affect what all of us can eat. That’s why we’re calling on governments and big businesses to cut emissions, to help farmers deal with changing weather and make sure there’s enough good food for us all. To stop climate change making people hungry we need a fair global agreement that will keep global warming below 2 degrees and avoid catastrophic climate change. Nothing else is good enough.
Demand for land has soared as investors look for places to grow food for export, grow crops for biofuels or simply buy up land for profit. But in many cases land sold as 'unused' or 'undeveloped' is actually being used by poor families to grow food. These families are forcibly kicked off the land. Promises of compensation are broken. Often people are violently evicted by hired thugs. Land is going for as little as 2.5 cents per hectare in South Sudan.
Getting to grips with land grabs is possible. We've already had success. But for it to happen, effective global action is necessary. Governments need to provide secure access to land for smallholder farmers and especially for women - who often do most of the work on the land, but face the biggest battle to call it their own. Biofuels strategies need to be given serious thought, because any plan that takes crops off people's plates and puts them into people's car tanks obviously isn't working. And investments need to be made with marginalized communities - as opposed to only profit margins - in mind.
Support for small-scale farming
As things stand, yield growth is falling, because soils can only produce a certain amount of crops - no matter how much fertilizer you spray on them. All that fertilizer also has a massive carbon footprint. Yet 500,000 small-scale farms around the world are helping to put food on the plates of two billion people - or one in three people on earth - without causing pain to our planet. Ironically, it is these people who make up most of the hungry people.
By supporting small-scale farmers with sustainable techniques - we can help produce enough to feed a growing population, without pushing our climate further out of control.
Challenging the private sector
While the food system is complex and its problems multi-faceted, we know that the world’s largest food and beverage companies have enormous influence. Their policies drive how food is produced, the way resources are used and the extent to which the benefits trickle down to the marginalized millions at the bottom of their supply chains. The GROW Behind the Brands campaign focuses on the world’s biggest food and beverage companies, assessing their performance against key standards, engaging with their customers and encouraging a ‘race to the top’ to improve private sector policies. It aims to provide customers who buy well known brands with the information they need to hold these companies to account for what happens in their supply chains.