Responding to impending food shortages and famine | Print edition

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The prospect of severe food shortages, malnutrition and even famine later this year is frightening. How to react and cope with impending food shortages and famine? Can we avoid the specter of hunger and starvation?

Strategies

This disastrous situation is now recognized by the government that caused this situation. Several policy initiatives are being considered and some are being implemented to improve food production.

Food status

The country’s food security at the national level, as well as that of low-income households, is threatened. The central problem is that the amount of food available in the country, through domestic production and imports, is insufficient.

And the country’s ability to import the food deficit is hampered by the scarcity of foreign exchange, rising international prices, shortages of international food stocks and bans on food exports by food-exporting countries.

Food production

This dire food situation could only be alleviated by increased food production. This is difficult due to the lack of fertilizers, agrochemicals, kerosene and diesel, which are needed.

In addition, the cost and unavailability of fertilizers make it difficult, if not impossible, to import fertilizers crucial for agriculture. However, under these conditions, it is rational to increase food production even at low levels of productivity.

Strategies

The looming food security problem must be mitigated by a two-pronged strategy of reducing consumption on the one hand and increasing production on the other.

Consumes less

In this situation of food shortage, it is necessary to conserve food by reducing consumption, especially of the staple food, rice. Food waste is unforgivable.

Social responsibility

A social conscience on the need to contain food consumption must be reinforced by a sense of social responsibility, especially among the wealthy. Households as well as hotels and restaurants could find ways to reduce food waste. Pricing policies and regulations, especially in hotels, may be needed to reduce excessive consumption and waste.

Food production

The government has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to increase food production. These include crop diversification, cultivation of uncultivated land, cultivation of short-term food crops requiring minimum space, and intensive cultivation of food crops in home gardens.

Wasteland

Plots of uncultivated land on estates, government properties and schools should be cultivated with food crops. Such cultivation, which may be unprofitable under normal conditions, is a rational use of land under present conditions. On the other hand, intensive cultivation of small plots with household compost can often be very productive and could improve household nutrition.

Sin

The revival of sea fishing which has been hampered by a shortage of kerosene and diesel is of crucial importance. The government must prioritize the supply of fuel to fisheries. Fish could provide valuable protein and improve nutrition.

Community intervention

Even with these efforts to increase food production, there would be a significant proportion of the population unable to access even a minimal amount of food. These people must be saved from hunger and starvation through government intervention. In the current government financial difficulties, food shortages and difficulties in reaching the truly needy, food deprivation for the poorest segment of the population is likely.

Community initiatives

In this situation, socially responsible businesses and community organizations have launched programs to feed the hungry poor. Expanding these efforts is vital to minimizing impending hunger and starvation.

Recapitulation

A severe food crisis later this year is inevitable. Its impact on low-income households could be horrific. Malnutrition, hunger and starvation are likely but not inevitable. Despite several constraints, ways and means must be found to increase national food production. Marginal uncultivated land with low yield potential should be cultivated. Home gardens with nutritious crops that are easy to grow would be invaluable to household food and nutrition.

Fishing

The revival of sea fishing which has been hampered by the lack of kerosene and diesel is imperative. Increased fish production could provide valuable nutrition.

Excessive consumption

These strategies for increasing food production must be complemented by efforts to contain excessive consumption and waste. Moral suasion, a sense of social responsibility and certain regulations could reduce excessive consumption and food waste in this situation of food shortage.

Poorer

Even with these efforts to increase food production, a significant proportion of the population would be unable to access even a minimal amount of food. These people must be saved from hunger and starvation through government intervention.

In the financial impasse in which the government finds itself, food shortages and difficulties in reaching the most needy, the poorest risk being deprived of food. Socially responsible businesses, chambers of commerce and community initiatives have launched programs to feed the hungry poor. Expanding these efforts is vital to reducing hunger and starvation.

Conclusion

Food shortage later this year is inevitable. Its difficulties and consequences must be mitigated through increased food production, reduced food consumption, state and community interventions and international aid.

What cannot be avoided must be endured and mitigated.

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