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"Scarcity of resources and tackling hunger"
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"Scarcity of resources and tackling hunger"

Denise JuvaneWill the globe’s population outgrow the ability to provide enough food for everyone? Denise Juvane, 21, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Mozambique now living in England, examines two schools of thought on the pressing issue of food security.

Whilst the prevailing argument is that scarcity of resources is an effect of luxurious lifestyles and is an end that we are heading towards, it is imperative that we look at this aspect in a bigger scale and analyse it thoroughly.

It is essential to highlight that where food and nutrition is concerned, there are distinct differences between famine and hunger. Whilst famine is an exceptional phenomenon, hunger is a constant state of being.

To look into this idea of resources being scarce, two particular schools of thought have been linked to the notion. Firstly, the Orthodox school of thought is one based on a nature-focused approach that identifies the problem of the scarcity of resources as largely down to overpopulation. On the other hand, however, the Entitlement thought is composed of a society-focused approach that sees the problem as a matter of distribution.

Though I agree with the idea of the latter school of thought, I will take one through the varying rooting ideas of both schools.

The Orthodox approach appears from the outset as more complex than the Entitlement-focused explanation. Indeed, this school of thought was first mapped out by Robert Malthus in 1798 and is known to have its grounding ideas in the premise that food supply is linearly linked to human population growth. According to this approach, population growth outnumbers food production, which then means that there is a significant decrease in per capita food amount. The decrease in food supply per capita, if continuous, inevitably reaches levels of starvation. This starvation, or another disaster, will produce the knock on effect of loss of lives, which then equals sustainable food supply for those that are left. In other words, the cycle of starvation and loss of life appears necessary if per capita food supply is to be effective.

This school of thought further argues that there is a limit to the population capacity that the earth can take, and once that number is exceeded, disaster is inevitable. Statistics predict that the world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, of which 50 per cent will come from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan. Since many of the most populous countries belong to the developing world, it has been highlighted that it is crucial that they adhere to effective family planning programmes that limit population growth rates. Only methods such as these will yield a stable ratio between population and food availability.

Contrary to the Orthodox ideas pioneered by Malthus, the Entitlement view argues that food scarcity is something that can be avoided, as it boils down to distribution. Indeed, they critique the Orthodox school and argue that it is too simplistic in its analysis and ignores vital factors of food distribution. In actuality, they comment that it is the developing world, home to the majority of the world’s population, where most of the food production takes place.  However, it is the Western world that consumes most of the available food.

Scholar Amartya Sen argues Malthus in 1981 by saying that hunger is ultimately about people not having enough to eat, rather than there being a scarcity of food. It is fundamental to grasp this concept. Whilst Malthus championed the thought that there would not be enough food for acontinuously growing population, Sen challenged this concept and highlighted that it is in fact not down to the idea that there isn’t food available for all. Instead, the hunger that is so visible in our world is the mere fact that people are not getting equal amounts of food.

After examining the two dynamic schools of thought where food scarcity is concerned, from a personal point of view I would take on the argument of the Entitlement school. Looking closely at Amartya Sen’s reasoning, the situation we face today is the fact that people are hungry because they do not have enough to eat, rather than because there is scarcity.  Hence, the issue we face in today’s world- where African nations, for example, face high levels of hunger – is about problems in society that can be avoided. Indeed, since food distribution rather than food production is the main issue, there ought to be effective policies that seek to ensure the equal distribution of the same.

Though this argument may seem to portray a somehow utopian idea, the main idea brought forward by the Entitlement school of thought is essentially to bring to light the fact that there is indeed enough food for all, but the biggest problem with societies and their politics is the relations between them where food distribution is concerned. Hence, should means be found whereby the fair division of the food is made, there can be a visible reduction in not only hunger, but also result in a knock on effect of improved state standing. Essentially, the tackling of hunger can be beneficial in many arenas of society.

photo credit: JIGGS IMAGES via photopin cc

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About me:

I am an International Politics student at the University of Surrey in England, currently carrying out an Erasmus exchange programme in Madrid. I am very much interested in international development, the effect of media in international relations and tackling of poverty and inequality. As well as writing for the Commonwealth Correspondent, I am also a News Writer for the University of Surrey’s newspaper ‘The Stag’.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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