FOOD INSECURITY

IJTIHAD

by MEHOL K. SADAIN

Last week, media reported that a research outfit warned of an impending food crisis. Last time I looked however, there are still fish, fruits and vegetables in the markets, stocks in groceries, and yes, even the supposedly vanishing meat in the butcher shops. So, is there really a food security crisis? Or an impending one? What, by the way, is a crisis?

 The dictionary defines it as “a time of intense difficulty, trouble or danger” [online Definitions from Oxford Languages] or “a time of great disagreement, confusion or suffering”, or “an extremely difficult or dangerous point in a situation”. [online Cambridge Dictionary]

With all due respect to those who think we have a food crisis I do not think we have reached a situation which approaches that of “intense” food “difficulty” or “trouble” or “danger” for our country. But make no mistake about it: We should be concerned about food security; however, we should not be alarmists so we again send our gullible countrymen panic-buying or just plain panicking. We should be concerned so we can take steps towards maintaining food sufficiency and accessibility, but we should never project ghosts where there are none.

Our farmers are still out there farming, and our fisherfolks are still fishing or engaged in aqua-culture. Our livestock growers are still raising animals and poultry. A shortage in meat supply is not exactly the end of the industry, but it is a sign that the players and stakeholders need help. Food experts have been meeting and studies are being undertaken on this matter. The recommendation in a webinar on “Food for All, by Feeding Farmers First” sponsored by SoulPH20/20, was for government to extend assistance, focusing on what it identified as the “farmer-centered farming system approach.”

In a recent study conducted by the U.P. Institute of Islamic Studies (UP-IIS) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one of the findings was the need for a comprehensive government effort to support Shari’ah-compliant credit generation, seeds and/or fingerlings procurement, modernization of farming and fishing methods, formulation of marketing strategies, and amelioration of weather-induced destruction of agricultural yields.

Nowhere in these forums, however, was there a finding of an intensely difficult and dangerous situation of food availability and sufficiency in the country. That would be an insult to our farmers and fisherfolks who have been producing our food in spite the odds.

The thing to do now is narrow down the odds against our farmers and fisherfolks by rendering their labor profitable for themselves and their families. It may be done by stressing the urgency of food security, but never by raising the scare of a food shortage when there is enough food in our markets. The message of urgency should be a wake-up call, never a scare tactic that will only unnecessarily alarm the buying public and result in more problems than solutions.

I am reminded of Malawian comedian Daliso Chaponda, who performed in Britain’s Got Talent, and said that a financial crisis in Great Britain is when there are planes flying over Birmingham tossing fish and chips out the window. That was a joke of course, coming from a stand-up master comedian, the point being that a financial crisis does not exist in Great Britain, even if some sectors say so.

It’s the same thing with the alarm over a food security crisis in the country. The food crisis does not exist. Alarms over such a crisis should be loaded in a plane, and once airborne, tossed out over the metropolis — together with the alarmists. Which is a joke of course. But that joke may be better than the alternative horrors a false alarm of “food insecurity” can spawn. MKS

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