Busting Myths on Global Hunger - Hew Oxfam Briefing, Fixing Our Food

Busting Myths on Global Hunger - Hew Oxfam Briefing, Fixing Our Food

One Step Away from Famine and Plentiful Food

Have you ever picked up a packet of nice fresh green beans from Kenya as part of your weekly shop?

On a recent trip to Kenya, Oxfam Ireland staff Niamh Carty and Clare Cronin drove past the miles of polytunnels where green beans, among other things, are grown on huge industrial farms. We shared the road with trucks ferrying this produce to Nairobi Airport from where it is then flown to Europe.

Just 60 kilometres away in the north of Kenya, people are facing extreme hunger as a result of drought. In fact, one person is estimated to be dying of hunger every 48 seconds in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, as the Horn of Africa faces into a possible fifth failed rainy season.

Oxfam’s Fixing our Food briefing calls out the myth that there is a world shortage of food.

Hunger is rising all over the world as food production increases and profits in the food industry soar. 64 new food billionaires have been created since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Oxfam is calling for a radical re-think of our unequal global food system and their new briefing paper de-bunks 10 common myths on what drives global hunger.

Given Ireland’s history of famine, the juxtaposition of food exports with hunger was especially resonant. Niamh Carty, Oxfam Ireland’s Director of International Programme, noted: “We spent days in Northern Kenya witnessing people suffering food shortages and extreme hunger, in drought-ravaged communities where the ground is scorched and arid. On the drive back to Nairobi, that changed very suddenly. We saw acres and acres of polytunnels, boasting vibrant green, part of an industrial agriculture system that feeds us here in Europe – and not the hungry people just 60 kilometres away. Our global food system is broken, and the poorest and most vulnerable are paying the price.”

Download Fixing Our Food: Debunking 10 myths about the global food system and what drives hunger here.

CASE STUDY – John

One such person is John (Ekamais Erinyok ) who lives in the village of Narengewoi in Turkana County, Kenya.

Oxfam in Kenya’s Humanitarian Strategist, Everlyne Situma, sets the scene in this region where rains have been erratic for at least the past eight years: “You notice the emaciation of people, how they have really wasted away, no muscle left just bone. Year by year they have lost or had to sell the livestock they depend on and now they have nothing.”

Oxfam Ireland is working with partners in the region to provide direct cash transfers to families in need in their home communities. 75% of the estimated 877 households in Narengewoi village are supported.

When we visited John, he had just got his last monthly payment of 8,698 Kenyan Shillings. That is €72.98 for John, his wife and eight children for one month. Food inflation is rampant in Kenya, and we asked John to show us what sort of food that allows for.

The family have one meal a day consisting of one kilo of maze and one kilo of beans. John explains that many displaced people have now moved to Narengewoi to be near a place with a cash transfer system. The local custom is to share whatever food is available so that further reduces what any supported family has to eat.

In terms of food inflation, the cost of the staple, maize has gone from 90 Kenyan Shillings a kilo some months ago to 230 Kenyan Shillings a kilo now*.

Oxfam is working with our local partners to increase payments in line with inflation where possible.

Narengewoi has four tiny shops, and the cash transfer system was described as “an amazing [and] sophisticated system” by Irish Minister of State for Overseas Development Assistance, Colm Brophy on a recent visit to Kenya and the village.

ENDS

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Notes to the Editor:

  • *We do not have a definite timeframe for this increase
  • Photos and video footage of John / from Narengewoi Village, Turkana County available upon request
  • Oxfam Ireland’s Pre-budget Submission calls for a wealth tax and broad windfall tax which could yield millions to tackle the cost of living crisis at home and uphold Ireland’s commitments internatyioanlly, including on Overseas Development Assistance and climate finance
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