The Blog

If Cameron Can't Stop the Hippos...

As next week's G20 summit approaches, David Cameron will be heading off to Mexico to join other world leaders in discussions on how to stop the food crisis that already means Fatou is just one of a billion people going hungry.
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"Last season, we hired a tractor to plough the land, only for the crops to fail because water was not enough. The little that did grow was eaten by the hippos. I don't have enough food to eat. This has never happened to me. It is difficult to cope."

These are the words of Fatou Drammeh, a 30-year-old housewife from Moriya village in The Gambia. The food shortage currently being experienced by Fatou and almost half of the Gambian population is a result of widespread crop failure mainly caused by inadequate and erratic rains, as well as errant hippos. But the problem is aggravated by rising food prices which, on average, have climbed to about 25% above last year's prices.

As next week's G20 summit approaches, David Cameron will be heading off to Mexico to join other world leaders in discussions on how to stop the food crisis that already means Fatou is just one of a billion people going hungry.

Despite his growing reputation as a world leader committed to saving the world from hunger, David Cameron will struggle to stand up to the hippos trying to eat Fatou's precious crops. But the Prime Minister does have it within his powers to do something that could make a serious difference to world food prices and thus also to Fatou's life.

By committing to stopping food from being used to fuel our cars, world leaders would remove one of the significant factors driving up world food prices. The increasing biofuels use by the UK and other major economies of food to fuel the transport sector is pushing up world food prices. That is making an already difficult situation far worse for Fatou and for millions of others like her.

Evidence of the link between biofuels and world food prices is no longer contested, with most experts agreeing that they played a significant role in the food price spikes of 2007/8 and 2010/11. And this is not likely to change, with a new ActionAid report - 'Biofuelling the global food crisis' - showing that prices of key agricultural commodities such as corn, wheat and vegetable oils will continue to escalate sharply in response to EU biofuel policies alone.

If that is allowed to happen, the impact on food prices will mean millions more people like Fatou will face terrible choices - either cut back on their nutritional intake or stop paying for basic needs like education or health. Either way, long term development prospects would be undermined.

In biofuels, David Cameron and his international colleagues have one very clear cut opportunity to have a very significant impact on world food prices and in turn, on world hunger. And there are three specific occasions - the G20 and Rio+20 summits next week, followed by David Cameron's Hunger summit in July - to address the biofuels problem.

World hunger is an extremely complex and challenging issue to tackle, but biofuels offer David Cameron and other world leaders a chance to make a very real difference. They just need to grasp it!

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