SAARC food security
It is gratifying indeed to note that an idea mooted by
President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the recent Commonwealth leaders
summit for the setting up of a common Food Reserve to overcome
the world food crisis has evinced the interest of SAARC leaders.
According to our main story yesterday the 15th SAARC summit
is to place food security high on its agenda with more State
intervention including a SAARC Food Bank to help any Member
State in case of exigencies.
A SAARC “Food Bank” concept of course is a novelty but if
properly implemented is bound to bring relief to the vast
swathes of humanity in the region who are weighed down by hunger
President Rajapaksa who will assume the mantle of leadership
of SAARC during the Colombo summit no doubt would come up with
valuable inputs on the workings and dynamics of such a “Food
Bank “ given the initiatives he has already taken to put his own
country on an ambitious food production drive that is beginning
to show satisfactory results.
Addressing the media at the conclusion of the Standing
Committee meeting Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona said that
Member States had reached consensus on the concept of a SAARC
Food Bank. Also the leaders are set to sign a “Colombo
Declaration of Food Security” during the main Summit.
At a time of grave forebodings sounded by international
experts of an impending famine that is set to grip the world,
the topic of food security assuming priority in the SAARC forum
could only be anticipated.
This is more so given the vulnerability of the SAARC region
with its limited resources to confront such a challenge not to
mention the political and social fallout springing from such a
calamity vis-a-vis a volatile South Asian populace.
Today with an ever expanding population, some SAARC nations
have been unable meet the food demands of their subjects which
some day in the near future is bound to implode with disastrous
consequences. With world’s leading agriculture producers
restricting exports, options for these countries may be running
This perhaps may have prompted the SAARC leaders to grasp at
President Rajapaksa’s suggestion for a common Food storehouse in
the region. The sooner the leaders take cognisance of the
vulnerability of the SAARC region the sooner it will be able to
come up with measures to confront the challenge.
There is no worse impetus for social upheaval than that which
is driven by hunger. The recent events in Darfur and even in
countries such as the Philippines which experienced food riots
could not have failed to be in the forefront in the minds of the
SAARC leaders getting ready for the Colombo Summit.
It is no secret that even in the SAARC region not much
currency is laid on agriculture anymore with the result that
food production has plummeted in most of these countries. There
is also the drying up of water resources and the creeping
juggernaut of urbanisation that has overrun agriculture land.
Compounding this is urban migration and the inroads made by
multinational fast food chains that have to a great degree
stymied local food production. Today a vast swathe of humanity
within the South Asian region are already hit by hunger and
malnutrition even before the threat of a looming food crisis.
Though some of these countries try to hide these facts behind
glittering capital cities adorned with impressive skyscrapers
any visitor has only to travel a short distance into their
interiors to confront the rotten underbelly of poverty where
hunger and disease go hand in hand.
SAARC countries as a whole should at least now band together
to tackle the problem of poverty and hunger urgently.
Like Dr. Kohona stated food production alone is not
sufficient to meet the present day demands in facing the world
food crisis. There is a need for a proper mechanism to ensure
proper distribution which he said the Member states had agreed
The threat to food security in SAARC should be understood in
the light of rapid industrialisation taking place at the cost of
food production and self sufficiency.
It is indeed an indictment on SAARC countries which lay claim
to a rich agricultural civilisation that a vast majority of its
denizens are forced to endure hunger.
It is hoped that the proposed Food Bank would help alleviate
the misery of these millions. The arms race too has distracted
from attending to the more immediate need of stepping up food
If even a fraction of the sums spent on nuclear experiments
was diverted to food production we would have been stable as a
region by now vis-a-vis our food requirements.
It is hoped that the new SAARC “Food Bank” would meet with
its intended goals and go far in saving the region from
impending famine and its devastating social fallout.