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Public Health Significance of World Food Day

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Introduction World Food Day is celebrated October 16, every year to commemorate the importance of food availability, safety and security for all populations worldwide. This year theme focuses on “Investing in agriculture for food security”. But how much are we focusing in agriculture in order to achieve food security? If this important entity is neglected, it may lead to tremendous human pain, suffering, losses of valuable human potential, collapse of fragile economies, put undue strain on health care systems and perpetuate the cycle of poverty leading to significant public health consequences.

Despite the best efforts of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Community to control, reduce, or eradicate poverty and food shortages, hunger still remains at an unacceptable level in both developed and in particular developing countries. It is estimated that 850 million people worldwide remain chronically hungry. This may seem unacceptable in a world of plenty. Food is not just a requirement for survival and nourishment, but a basic human right.

Some of the biggest investors in agriculture are small, medium and large scale farmers. These farmers are faced with numerous challenges and there is an increase dependency on extra-regional food imports. This serves to impact negatively on the nation’s food security.

Problems facing farmers and food security worldwide • Lack of political will and policies by Governments worldwide. • Insufficient funding and infrastructure development. • Increased competition for limited resources, particularly in developing countries. • Use of prime agricultural land for housing and other non-agricultural uses. • Restricted access to agricultural lands for crop and livestock. • Lack of needed agricultural extension services. • Poor agricultural practices. • Abuse of pesticides leading to appearance of resistance strains of pests. • Poor crop yields due to poor crop rotation and pest induced crop losses. • Insufficient irrigation and drainage channels. • Lack of or minimum animal health surveillance and disease prevention. • Lack of emergency response plan for new and emerging diseases such as Avian Influenza H5N1. • Insufficient training programs in crop production, livestock rearing and food processing. • Lack of incentives and financial benefits for farmers. • Seasonal flooding and drought create hardships for crop and livestock production. • Increased emphasis on imports and little or no support for sustained agricultural development. • Poverty. • Lack of trade initiatives.

Conclusions • Sustained agricultural development is needed as a prerequisite for sustained growth, development and hunger eradication in all communities, societies and countries. • Governments should invest sufficient resources in agriculture so that they can make their individual nations self sufficient in food production. • A nation’s wealth is its human resources. Humans depend on good nutrition from well grown, harvested and prepared food for good health and well being. Economic prosperity can only be achieved through good nutrition of its human resources. • Increased training programs for farmers in good agricultural practices. • Better surveillance and monitoring of crops and livestock. • Improved financial incentives for farmers. • Better agricultural extension services to assist farmers in implementing good agricultural practices such as integrated pest management. • Commitment by Governments not to use prime agricultural land for non agricultural purposes such as housing. • International funding, networking and collaboration for the proper development of agricultural resources. • Development of national and international markets for agricultural products thus making agriculture a self sustaining entity. • Utilization of the latest research in improving crop yields and food production, for example genetic engineering and nanotechnology.

Dr Deryck D. Pattron is a Public Health Scientist and Consultant.

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Dr. Deryck Pattron
Public Health Safety and Management
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