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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 and poverty.

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 out fast.

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 in principle.

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 production.

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.

The vision of a South Asian Community

SAARC, since its inception, has positively contributed to a resurgence of South Asian consciousness over the years. Assertion of a South Asian identity has emanated from the growth of such consciousness.

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SAARC: give priority for people’s security

This should be an excellent time for SAARC’s annual summit. A number of welcome developments have taken place in South Asia since the last such meeting, so as to raise fresh hopes that SAARC might finally begin to fulfil its potential.

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Defence Column

Two years of fighting brings positive results in anti-terror drive

Troops step into Kilinochchi district:

As the attempts of the LTTE to take the cover of a unilateral ceasefire declared in view of the 15th SAARC Summit failed, with the Government rejecting the offer, the Security Forces went ahead with their military thrust in the Wanni stepping into the Tiger territories the Security Forces had never stepped into during the past two and half decades.

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