This Week: Brett Rierson of the World Food Programme

***UPDATE*** Our guest this week will be Mr Brett Rierson of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Brett will discuss last year’s food crisis, the reasons behind food scarcity in certain parts of the world, and the work of the WFP. Brett, who is based in Hong Kong, will join us in person so we will not have to rely on Skype this time.

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5 Responses to “This Week: Brett Rierson of the World Food Programme”


  1. 1 Choukhmane Taha 20/10/2009 at 2:49 am

    An enlightening analysis of last year`s food crisis :
    The Rich Get Hungrier by Armartya Sen (Indian Nobel Prize in Economics-winning economist).
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/28/opinion/28sen.html

    In brief Armartya Sen`s model, based on Bengali famine of 1943, shows simply how a fast unbalanced economic growth in a poor country by fostering social inequalities can create a food crisis :

    “The favored ones spend a lot of their new income on food, and unless supply expands very quickly, prices shoot up. The rest of the poor now face higher food prices but no greater income, and begin to starve.”

  2. 2 Marcus Chau Hon Wai 21/10/2009 at 6:54 pm

    I would like to thank Brett for coming to today’s lecture. It is much much better to have live speaker than on Skype. I am really concentrating today.

    In some occasions during the lecture, what I hear was messages which were not quite positive. The food problem is still there. It is a systemic problem which human need to seek solution on.

    I feel that there are too many humanity problems in the present world. Yet, problems are inter-related. Oxfam, for example, has been fight poverty for a lot of years. When they started to figure out a principle of transferring skills to poor people, climate change seriously damaged primary industries in some parts of the world. Primary industries are crucial to lives in developing countries.

    I’d love to work for humanity, but I realize that I am too small to do a lot for the race. There are too many problems out there.

  3. 3 Amy Lam Ka Man 22/10/2009 at 9:45 pm

    I just saw an news article on BBC, “Ethiopia asks for urgent food aid”. Link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8319741.stm

    The article mentioned UN’s World Food Programme, which Brett work for. “The UN’s World Food Programme says $285m (£173m) will be needed in the next six months. Some aid officials say the numbers of hungry could rise.” I guess he’s busy raising fund for the people of Ethiopia.

    It’s sad to know this food crisis is not merely caused by natural factors, but also government factors.
    “The drought, brought on by four years of bad harvests, has been made worse by conflict, climate change and population growth.BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says government policy banning land sales to keep people out of urban areas has also contributed. ”

    “It is in part the result of policies designed to keep farmers on the land, which belongs to the state and cannot be sold. So farms are passed down the generations, divided and sub-divided. Many are so small and the land so overworked that it could not provide for the families that work it even with normal rainfall.”

    I feel complicated towards the policy.
    The policy banning land sales has good initiatives, “Keeping people in the countryside is a way of preventing large-scale unemployment and the unrest that this might cause. ” But on the other hand, it worsen the food shortage problem of 83% Ethiopians, as only 17% of Ethiopia’s 80 million people live in urban areas. I wonder whether this policy is enlarging the wealth gap between the rich and the poor? By safeguarding urban population’s job, a mass majority of people have to starve when food crisis happen.

    The nature creates droughts, but drought doesn’t neccessarily lead to famine, how government react is the key
    determinant of whether famine will occur.

  4. 4 Chow Chui Yin, Kuma 26/10/2009 at 3:20 pm

    @ Amy:

    17% of Somalia’s population lives in the city. But only 10% of Chinese population lives in the city. It makes sense that as long as farmers far away from the city cannot afford to go to the cities and cause disturbances and unrest to the government, that little and superficial efforts are made to alleviate the famers’ problems and hunger in rural areas.

    I think the wealth gap between the rich cities and poor rural economies is the reason why hunger strikes so many places including Somalia and China.

    Chinese farmers have no welfare or whatsoever governmental protection comparable to the city people’s.

    Troughout the course we have mentioned ways to deal with the food crisis, like developing new farming technologies and reserving land use for agriculture. These are very urgent. But to me, not as urgent as directly lift the poor farmers out of poverty and put them under better protection. It’s crazy how many billionaires are there in India and China and yet most of these countries have farmers dying and suffering. An income redistribution needs to be in place through governmental assistance to these farmers–providing irrigation assistance, seeds, cancel/limit the amount of farming products farmers have to submit to the government, health care extending to the rural areas and adopt policies that will give incentives and profits for farming, as well as provide market information to the farmers under a free market.

    ————————————————-
    I have raised questions in terms of the impact of anti-seed saving laws on the food crisis. I haven’t got a direct answer to my question as HOW MUCH did such laws attribute to the 2008 food crisis, how large a role did it play? I really think it is important to shed light on these laws, not to forget it when so much is said about the impact of growing bio-fuels and increased meat consumption in China and India. In order to negotiate with those seed companies and hopefully abolish such anti seed saving laws, we need to have more research bridging the understanding of these evil laws and the understanding of the 2008 crisis.

  5. 5 Chow Chui Yin, Kuma 26/10/2009 at 3:37 pm

    @ Amy:

    17% of Ethiopia[EDITED]’s population lives in the city. But only 10% of Chinese population lives in the city. It makes sense that as long as farmers far away from the city cannot afford to go to the cities and cause disturbances and unrest to the government, that little and superficial efforts are made to alleviate the famers’ problems and hunger in rural areas.

    I think the wealth gap between the rich cities and poor rural economies is the reason why hunger strikes so many places including Ethiopia and China.

    Chinese farmers have no welfare or whatsoever governmental protection comparable to the city people’s.

    Troughout the course we have mentioned ways to deal with the food crisis, like developing new farming technologies and reserving land use for agriculture. These are very urgent. But to me, not as urgent as directly lift the poor farmers out of poverty and put them under better protection. It’s crazy how many billionaires are there in India and China and yet most of these countries have farmers dying and suffering. An income redistribution needs to be in place through governmental assistance to these farmers–providing irrigation assistance, seeds, cancel/limit the amount of farming products farmers have to submit to the government, health care extending to the rural areas and adopt policies that will give incentives and profits for farming, as well as provide market information to the farmers under a free market.

    ————————————————-
    I have raised questions in terms of the impact of anti-seed saving laws on the food crisis. I haven’t got a direct answer to my question as HOW MUCH did such laws attribute to the 2008 food crisis, how large a role did it play? I really think it is important to shed light on these laws, not to forget it when so much is said about the impact of growing bio-fuels and increased meat consumption in China and India. In order to negotiate with those seed companies and hopefully abolish such anti seed saving laws, we need to have more research bridging the understanding of these evil laws and the understanding of the 2008 crisis.


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