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April 29, 2016

Responding To: Hunger: A Cause of Global Instability

Zero Hunger, Environment Policy, and Global Stability

Patrice Ndayisenga

Conflicts may originate from different ends, but hunger, poverty, and loss of hope for a better tomorrow perpetuate spirals of violence as they create bitter and desperate citizens vulnerable to manipulative lobbyists who seek personal gains in violence and conflict.

It is not news to some of us to hear of cyclic violence from the Sahel regions of Mali in West Africa to the Ergeyo Marakwet regions of Kenya in East Africa, where pastoralist communities fight against their neighbors over pastures and water. It even shocks more when one realizes that such tensions are not new and there seems to be little hope that they are going to fade away in the near future. Further, with the growing effects of climate change which are manifesting in poor rainfalls and marginal cash crop harvests, poverty and climate migrants are likely to increase unless governments take seriously their commitment to ending extreme poverty and hunger in their respective countries. 

Like Madam Ertharin Cousin puts it, “There cannot be peace without food security,” and indeed there cannot be food security without robust governmental commitment to this cause. It is therefore important to emphasize the role of individual governments in realizing the Zero Hunger goal by 2030 as heads of states have promised.

Hunger and conflicts related to food security can mainly be averted if governments are serious about their roles in allowing proper funding for climate change mitigation and agricultural reforms for their population. Citizen empowerment is an essential aspect towards social stability and such empowerment cannot be more manifest outside food production mechanisms, which should benefit everyone across the board.

In low income countries like Kenya and Mali where a large majority of the population lives on charcoal burning and firewood collection as their source of energy, and deforestation and overgrazing for their own survival and that of their cattle, climate changes are unavoidable consequences whose effect only creates tension between communities.

Governments’ failures to devise mechanisms that would provide alternative sources of energy for their populations and advanced modes of production in agricultural industry render even elusive the hope about the settlement of these climate-related dangers of continual hunger and spiral of violence. It is indispensable for the international community and corporate organizations to have their own environmental policy schemes which should be shared, monitored, and abided by different governments at the time of engaging in multilateral agreements in areas such as aid for poverty alleviation and any other development partnerships.

Otherwise, left on their own, governments have demonstrated time and again lack of political will to respond equitably to the priorities which pertain squarely to the needs of ordinary citizens. They often disappoint by focusing on short-time targets that satisfy their stay in power through exorbitant military budget allocations and heavy population policing. They have proved unable to establish grassroots solutions to the causes of internal unrests such as addressing poverty, hunger, and effects of climate change.

It is high time therefore that beside the climate-debt arrangements, governments in low income countries should on their turn demonstrate the political will to address the climate change effects and the poverty that they incur. Needless to emphasize that time is of the essence, since any delay in seizing this momentum risks amounting in expanding the scope of the danger. For as desertification keeps growing and more people keep getting affected, conflicts become more imminent among those who seek green pastures in new areas away from the affected regions. Hence, global stability requires that coordinated mechanisms be put in place to even exercise pressure wherever compliance to the multilateral agreements is held with negligence.

Patrice Ndayisenga is a Jesuit scholastic from Rwanda currently pursuing theology studies at Hekima College, a Jesuit school of theology based in Nairobi, Kenya. 

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