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Feast to Famine: Understanding the Root Causes of Hunger  

By Dayib Sh. Ahmed

Throughout the stages of human evolution, scarcity, hunger, and homelessness have been persistent challenges. These issues profoundly impact people’s lives, leading to malnutrition, pain, and even death. Despite advancements in technology and systems to combat these problems, they persist in various forms. In his book “The End of Poverty,” Jefferson Sachs highlighted Africa’s transformation from a net producer to a receiver of food aid. This transformation raises questions about the root causes of scarcity and hunger and underscores the need for comprehensive solutions.

Horn of Africa devastating impact of drought and climate change/ Photo credit- Horn of Africa Initiative

Addressing hunger, poverty, and scarcity requires a multi-faceted approach. This involves examining issues such as corruption, conflict, agricultural development, and access to resources. African nations, rich in natural resources, face challenges due to poor governance, exploitation by external entities, and historical legacies of colonization. Food security is essential for these nations, and agricultural development is often seen as the backbone of their economies. Access to modern technologies and skills is crucial for African farmers to increase crop production and achieve food security.

The journey from hunter-gatherer societies to modern civilizations has been marked by adaptation, innovation, and resilience. Early humans learned to survive by hunting, gathering, and adapting to their environment. Over time, they developed agriculture, animal husbandry, and other practices to sustain themselves. Pastoralism, influenced by the hunter-gatherer stage, emerged as a lifestyle focused on domesticating and herding animals for sustenance and economic activities.

Today, as we combat hunger and homelessness, we draw on the lessons of our ancestors and the advancements of modern society. We have developed advanced technologies, systems, and social welfare programs to address these issues. However, challenges remain, including homelessness in America, where individuals and families lack stable housing. Addressing homelessness requires comprehensive solutions, including affordable housing, access to healthcare and social services, and support for vulnerable populations. hunger, scarcity, and homelessness are innate aspects of human existence, rooted in our history and shaped by social, economic, and environmental factors. By understanding the root causes of these issues and drawing on lessons from the past, we can work towards comprehensive solutions that ensure the well-being and dignity of all individuals, both in Africa and America.

During a pivotal moment in human history, pastoralism emerged as the second stage in the journey of human civilization. Early humans didn’t start from scratch in this new era; they carried invaluable skills and lessons from their hunter-gatherer ancestors. These skills became the foundation for their new way of life. African pastoralism benefited from the wisdom gained from hunter-gatherers. Across the world, people began to uncover the secrets of domestication, taming animals, and harnessing resources. Pastoralists became adept at identifying edible plants and cultivating the land for crops.

They centered their livelihoods around herding animals, deriving sustenance from their milk and utilizing their skins for clothing. Pastoralists nurtured a close bond with animals like camels, goats, and sheep, understanding the delicate balance required for their well-being and meeting their own basic needs. However, pastoralists realized that relying solely on herding wouldn’t fulfill all their requirements for a fulfilling life. They sought a more varied diet and began embracing farming as a new way of life. Within pastoralism, two distinct practices emerged: nomadism and transhumance. Nomads formed close-knit communities, adopting a seasonal migration pattern following their herds. On the other hand, transhumance involved regular movement throughout the year, guiding livestock from one pasture to another, particularly prevalent in regions too cold for year-round inhabitation.

As time passed, pastoralism continued to evolve, serving as a bridge between the hunter-gatherer stage and subsequent stages of human civilization. Pastoralists’ wisdom and knowledge were passed down through generations, shaping history and laying the groundwork for agricultural societies that followed. Pastoralists’ deep connection to animals and the land laid the foundation for agricultural societies. Their understanding of nature’s cycles, adaptability, and resilience propelled humanity forward, reminding us of our deep-rooted connection to the natural world.

The agricultural revolution, considered the third stage of human development, began in England in 1750. It marked a transition from a nomadic lifestyle to settled urban communities. Agricultural practices enabled the cultivation of crops like wheat, rice, and grains, eliminating the need for constant movement in search of food and water. African farmers cultivated large quantities of domesticated plants and adopted new farming techniques, increasing production and creating a surplus of food. This surplus facilitated trade, connectivity between settlements, and the rise of transportation networks.

Despite the benefits, the agricultural revolution brought challenges like societal inequality and concerns about food scarcity. However, it significantly reduced poverty and met the basic needs of the population. Each stage of human evolution, including hunter-gatherer societies, pastoralism, and agriculture, played a crucial role in shaping our world today, contributing to the development of civilization and the advancement of human societies.

Sharing scarcity refers to the distribution of limited resources, a pressing reality in regions like Africa. Implementing fair resource distribution is crucial in addressing challenges equitably. Unequal resource distribution can lead to conflict and resentment among societies, reducing cooperation. Sharing scarcity prioritizes the common good, ensuring vulnerable populations receive their fair share. However, misinformation can create uncertainty and anxiety, exacerbating these challenges. False information can cause panic and mistrust, impacting physical and mental health.

In times of crisis, individuals tend to prioritize their survival, guided by deeply ingrained values and beliefs. However, this doesn’t preclude acting for the common good. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is common, especially among younger people, further complicating responses to scarcity. During crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages of essential items led to panic-buying and empty store shelves. People’s fear and uncertainty can lead to unpredictable and complex conditions, including violence and instability. Despite these challenges, people seek ways to cope with present difficulties, emphasizing the need for effective strategies to address scarcity and ensure equitable resource distribution.

Sharing scarce resources during critical times is crucial, but human behavior and attitudes toward survival can present challenges. Equitably distributing limited resources among the entire population, including the poor and marginalized, is essential, alongside efforts to prevent corruption that can worsen scarcity.

Researchers have explored various approaches to fairly distributing scarce resources, such as rationing based on need. While rationing is considered effective, other approaches prioritize access based on factors like registration order or societal contribution. However, these methods may be susceptible to favoritism and require careful implementation. Despite the different approaches, none are perfect, and implementing them requires consideration to avoid bias and ensure fairness. In “Sharing Scarcity: The Influence of Resource Scarcity on the Sharing.

Scarcity throws a wrench into human cooperation. When resources are limited, our survival instincts kick in, making sharing difficult as seen in studies like Liang and Sundararajan’s (2016) on Airbnb during Hurricane Sandy. This can lead to social unrest, especially in regions facing food and water scarcity, like parts of Africa, where competition for limited resources can escalate into violence. Conflicts, however, are more complex than just resource scarcity. Wars, for instance, can have political or territorial roots, disrupting economies and leaving deep scars on societies. Leaders may be driven by a thirst for power or economic gain, often with unforeseen consequences. Major powers can also get involved, using propaganda or military force to influence outcomes. But ultimately, the outcome of a conflict hinges heavily on the spirit of the people involved.

Read more: Feast to Famine: Understanding the Root Causes of Hunger

Dayib Sh. Ahmed (Faracadde)
Email: [email protected]


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