For some months now, we’ve been gathering together articles from the media about new warnings of famine in Ethiopia. In the Spanish and international press, we have been reading that climate change, epitomized here by El Niño, is putting millions of people at risk of hunger, leaving them dependant on greater international aid.
Ethiopia has suffered 7 terrible famines caused by droughts over the last 40 years. An average of one famine every 5 years. This figure details more than just the El Niño cycle: it is synonymous with constant starvation.
We wonder why it is that when talking about the vicious circles which drought sets off, the underlying factors are not mentioned, for they are what cause and perpetuate a state of vulnerability, instability and dependency in a country such as Ethiopia. Yet we are heartened when our collaborator Yolanda Polo sends us articles like this one from Kattya Cascante, Ehtiopa isn’t dying of hunger, but rage in which she serves us up the other ingredients contributing to malnutrition.
The vicious circle perpetuating starvation is the circle of dependency. The green revolution of the 70s forced many developing countries into debt to the extent that they had to change the production processes and commercial strategies for their agricultural products to comply with the terms of the loans. Since then a model of dependency has been spread and entrenched. This is dependency on a system of overproduction of food, dependency on chemical products and fertilizers which push up prices, dependency on the consumption of goods imported at much cheaper prices.
That green revolution didn’t manage any significant breakthroughs in the reduction of starvation in the lives of the poor but it did exacerbate the differences in access to food.
This really is a vicious circle.
There is another compounding factor in this circle which makes it impossible for millions of people to provide for themselves by farming their own lands. Since 2006, pushed by the rise in food prices resulting from the speculation of the financial system, "between 15 to 20 million hectares of land in developing countries have been leased and/or sold to multinational transnationals".
But not one of the 40,000 kilometres of arable Ethiopian land which is in the hands of Indian investors appears in any of the media articles alerting us of the humanitarian emergency we’re heading towards. Not one word on those vast swathes of land the local population could use to exercise sovereignty and break the cycle of dependency which keeps them on the brink of malnutrition.
Map: Investors, regions and countries. UNCTAD (2010) World Investment Report 2009 Transnational Corporations, Agricultural Production and Development.
The Syrian city of Madaya has thrust a new concept into the spotlight. Despite being unknown to many people, it is actually a very old idea: hunger as a weapon of war. There are countless examples of sieges in the history of humankind. All of them involve breaking a population's resolve, and the most effective way to do it - hunger. Now, in Syria, it is no longer a case of people dying of hunger because of malnutrition, a failure of people to react, or lack of planning and development. We are now talking about induced hunger; hunger which is deliberately provoked so that a few enemies hidden amongst a vast population will be forced to surrender.
The starvation which kills more than 25,000 people daily is that which leaves people malnourished, in such fragile health and so vulnerable that they die from just seeing a virus pass by. They die from hidden hunger.