Living in the Hollow of Plenty and the Hunger Map

The 20 page briefing paper, Living in the Hollow of Plenty: World Hunger Today and its accompanying support activities are part of the Food Rights Now education and awareness campaign and is designed to provide a set of briefing notes on:

  • different dimensions of world hunger today (definition, measurement, who’s at risk, causes and debates) in addition to
  • providing an annotated guide to readings
  • relevant online sources of information
  • a set of suggested activities for introducing and exploring the issue of hunger

It can be used flexibly to support the teaching of geography (and other subjects) at Junior and Senior Cycle.

Download: Living in the Hollow of Plenty  (2.31MB)

Visit the interactive online hunger map:

Additional information:

Activities for Group Work and the Classroom

1. Review the Hunger Map itself; brainstorm immediate reactions.

What does the map say about the shape of our world? Use the information to make 4 key points about the geography of world hunger today; consider the following questions:

  • What human rights issues does the Hunger Map raise?
  • What challenges does hunger raise for the societies or countries shown?
  • What challenges does it raise for us here in Europe?

The answers to these questions could then form the basis for additional debate and discussion focused on how such challenges might be met.

2. The individual sections in these briefing notes are designed to be photo-copied and used in small and large group work. They can form the basis of debate and discussion as well as of additional research and reporting.

Pick four images of hunger from varying time periods and countries using the internet or magazines – these can be photographs, political cartoons, famine relief campaign posters etc. Take note of the year, country and any captions or background information that accompany the images – these will be given to the students later.

Divide the class into four groups; ask each group to describe the image that they see by making a list of keywords. Now distribute the relevant captions/information and ask them to compare these with their own descriptions. Are there differences? Are the words largely positive or negative? What do they think the photographer/artist is trying to say? How accurate are the images? Should an alternative image(s) have been used?

A general discussion of all of the images can follow assessing the use of images to depict situations of hunger, deprivation and famine. Students should question how influential images are in their everyday lives. This activity calls into question the way in which images are constructed, portrayed and to what ends they are used. The notion of the role of the media and how they control access to images of hunger can be applied to any of the images.

See also to explore the voluntary code on images and messages adopted by Irish aid and development organisations.

3. Imagine you are the editor of a national newspaper and have been asked to write an editorial based on the content of either one of the following facts recently published in a report on world hunger.

  • 925 million people do not have enough to eat. 98% of these people live in the developing world (FAO 2010)
  • Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths with 2.8 million adults dying each year as a result. In 2008, over 200 million men and 300 million women were obese (WHO 2010).

4. Split the class into groups of 3 or 4.

Give each group a copy of the quotes below on a page and ask them to read through and pick a quote which strikes them most. Ask them to give feed back to the class as to why they picked the quote they did and what its implications might be?

‘The loss of human life [due to hunger] is as great as if an atomic bomb – similar to the one that destroyed Hiroshima during the Second World War – were dropped on a densely populated area every three days.’

Source: Womenaid Press Release on hunger

‘It’s been called the invisible killer, the silent emergency. It is not famine and it does not make the headlines. It is the grinding poverty which, day in day out, deprives millions of people across the globe of the essentials of a decent life. In particular, they are deprived of an adequate diet. This ‘normal hunger’ will kill their children in the first year, destroy their health in adulthood, and take them to an early grave…They die very quietly. They are the brothers and sisters of Alberto, who died aged six months from malnutrition and infection, because his father, a cocoa worker in Brazil, does not earn enough to buy sufficient food, let alone medicine. They are the cousins of Hassan, who died aged three months from malnutrition and TB in a hospital ward in Sudan, long after the famine had ended.’

Source: Chris Bryer: The Hunger

‘Starvation is death by deprivation; the absence of one of the essential elements of life. It’s not the result of an accident or a spasm of violence, the ravages of diseases or the inevitable decay of old age. It occurs because people are forced to live in the hollow of plenty. For decades, the world has grown enough food to nourish everyone adequately. Satellites can spot budding crop failures; shortages can be avoided. In the modern world, like never before, famine is by and large preventable. When it occurs, it represents civilization’s collective failure.’

‘…[it is] a man-made catastrophe, caused by one anonymous decision at a time, one day at a time, by people, institutions, and governments doing what they thought was best for themselves or sometimes even what they thought at the time was best for Africa’.

Source: Thurow and Kilman (2009) Enough: Why the Poorest Starve in the Age of Plenty

‘Rather than promoting food production for the domestic market, the donors were encouraging the development of so-called ‘high value-added’ fruits, vegetables, oilseeds and cotton for export on the best irrigated farmland’ – Q for students: What high value food products from developing countries are available in your supermarket – Kenya peas/beans; American asparagus; etc. – consequences?’

‘On the contrary, famines are spurred on as a result of a global oversupply of grain staples. Since the 1980s, grain markets have been deregulated under the supervision of the World Bank and US grain surpluses are used systematically as in the case of Somalia to destroy the peasantry and destabilise national food agriculture. The latter becomes, under these circumstances, far more vulnerable to the vagaries of drought’

Source: Professor Michel Chossudovsky of the University of Ottawa

5. Ask students in groups of 2-3 to prepare a research report on one of the following topics:

  • Hunger among plenty
  • Food security for human development requires the empowerment of the rural poor and particularly women.
  • The right to food is not about charity. It is about ensuring that all people have the capacity to feed themselves, in dignity.

The reports could be presented in a variety of media and styles.

6. Discuss the facts below with students and review ‘The Girl Effect’ – this can be found on How do these facts relate to world hunger?

  • Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the world’s food, but only earn 10% of the world’s income and own only 1% of the world’s property.
  • A study by London School of Economics found that boys are more likely to receive preferential treatment in rescue efforts following natural disasters and that girls suffer more from shortages of food and lack of privacy and security.
  • Drought and food shortages have led to higher rates of early marriage for girls – or famine marriages as they have been called. In Uganda, for example, daughters are often exchanged for commodities by their family.
  • Women make up just a little over half of the world’s population, but they account for 60% of the World’s hungry

Take a look at Concern’s 1000 days campaign. In 2008, medical journal The Lancet compiled a research report which stated that if a child does not have adequate nutrition in the 1000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday, the damage is irreversible. Ask the student to read the facts and information around this campaign. Ask them how do the above facts relate to the 1000 days campaign – what are the links?

See also especially essential documents (advocacy toolkit).

7. Invite students

…to review a range of internet sites (and especially their blogs) such as Pambazuka News, Socialwatch, International Food Policy Research Institute, The Guardian Development Blog. What do they have to say on world hunger?

8. Distribute copies…

…of the Oxfam Ghanaian case study on biofuels below and use it as the basis of a discussion in groups around the role of Irish people in causing and challenging world hunger. What is the problem with Europeans using biofuels? How is a pro-environmental policy – like biofuels production – problematic for people in Ireland? Isn’t the creation of new market opportunities and economic growth in Ghana supposed to be a good thing?

‘In 2003, smallholder agriculture accounted for about 80 per cent of total agricultural output in Ghana, and large-scale agriculture tended to involve medium-sized plantations of about 3,500 hectares. Since 2006, investors have shown an unprecedented interest in acquiring much larger tracts of land to grow crops for biofuels. The biofuels sector in Ghana is still in its infancy, but most biofuel crops grown in Ghana are likely to be exported to the EU to make biodiesel. Supply chains between Ghana and European countries have already been established.

Case study evidence of one biofuels plantation in Ghana shows that land deals for biofuel production can exacerbate rural poverty, as communities lose access to vital resources. 69 families lost their land when a 14,000 hectare plantation of jatropha plants for biodiesel production was established in north-eastern Brong Ahafo, but these families neither participated in the negotiations nor received any form of compensation for their loss. Only 18 of these families received replacement land, for which they had to pay themselves.

Women in particular lost out: they had used much of the land taken over by the plantation to grow food like groundnuts, peppers, okra and tomatoes, or to collect highly nutritious food like mushrooms and small game, as well as shea nuts and locust beans to sell at local markets. The story isn‘t over yet. 1,500 more families could lose land should the plantation develop as planned over the coming years.’

Extract from page 17, The Hunger Grains (September 2012) by Ruth Kelly, Monique Mikhail, and Marc-Olivier Herman. Oxfam Briefing Paper no.161.

Now ask the group to read George Monbiot’s extract below and to discuss the roles and responsibilities each of us has in terms of our use of biofuels and the impact that this has on others, such as the families from Brong Ahafo. Is it our responsibility, as individuals, to act on this, or does it fall on the Irish government?

‘Biofuels are the means by which governments in the rich world avoid hard choices. Rather than raise fuel economy standards as far as technology allows, rather than promoting a shift from driving to public transport, walking and cycling, rather than insisting on better town planning to reduce the need to travel, they have chosen to exchange our wild overconsumption of petroleum for the wild overconsumption of fuel made from crops. No one has to drive less or make a better car: everything remains the same except the source of fuel. The result is a competition between the world’s richest and poorest consumers, a contest between overconsumption and survival.’

Must the poor go hungry just so the rich can drive? George Monbiot (13th August 2012) The Guardian newspaper

Note the points down from the discussions as sign posts for further action – such as investigating NGO campaigns already active on these issues and for further reading/research work (i.e. Monbiot’s full article about the impact on global food prices due to the biofuels industry), to draw up a manifesto of what we should start/stop doing with relation to the biofuels and world hunger.