Politics, Peace & Conflict

Food makes or breaks the nation. A simple loaf of bread has the power to create peace and give rise to great revolutions. Food is political.
Egyptians who rose up as following the rise of bread prices know this. Malawians forced into famine as corrupt politicians hoarded the country's grain reserves know this. Those who participated in the bread riots that helped bring about the French Revolution more than 200 years ago understand the political power of hunger. As do many others throughout history. 

So while much of the world may think about food security through the lens of food production (if a country produces enough food then surely its citizens are safe from famine?), the likes of Nobel laureate Amatra Sen would urge us to take note of a different set of facts. According to Sen, the volume of food a country’s farmers produce, tells us far less about the security of its citizens against famine than the state of its democracy.
If Amatra Sen is correct in saying that there has never been a famine in a functioning democracy, then would the efforts of all those working to develop agricultural production not be better spent pursuing the enshrinement of democracy and the accountability of the state to its citizens? 

Yet, famine is an extreme event, and in comparison to day-to-day hunger, malnutrition and obesity, famine is a rare and infrequent occurrence. And just like the hidden hunger of malnutrition is a slow and insidious process, invisible to us in our day to day lives, so too are the political ramifications of these dysfunctions within the food system. Nevertheless, as sure as rapid spikes in the price of a simple loaf of bread helped trigger the Egyptian uprising and the Arab Spring in Egypt, dietary inequality among a nation’s children is a form of slow violence which locks populations into long-term cycles of increasing social inequality. 

Conversely, however, nations and communities which focus on ensuring that all children, no matter what level of society they fall within have equal and adequate access to nutrition, lay the foundations for egalitarian, democratic and peaceful societies.  

Egypt: Stung by soaring food prices, angry Egyptians throng a kiosk selling government-subsidized bread near the Great Pyramid at Giza. Across the globe. . The Egyptian government's inability to contain rising food prices across Egypt is widely acknowledged to have been an important driver of the political uprising which surged across the country and toppled the government in 2011. 

In neighbouring Tunisia, a similar political revolution began months before, with mass protests against the dictatorial state, motivated by hunger and joblessness.  

EGYPT, Cairo : An Egyptian protester waves the national flag during clashes with riot police along a road which leads to the Interior Ministry, near Tahrir Square, in Cairo on November 23, 2011. Several thousand Egyptians rallied in Tahrir Square demanding an end to military rule, despite a promise by the country's interim leader to transfer power to an elected president by mid-2012.

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