Overview: Famine

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Author: Yusur al Bahrani

In order to prevent famine and end an existing one, it is crucial to understand what famine is. This introduction will help define famine and identify some of the causes. While famine is a preventable threat to the human population, it will not end if the root causes are not addressed.

According to the www.dictionary.com definition, famine is a “noun” that means: Extreme and general scarcity of food, as in a country or a large geographical area; any extreme and general scarcity; extreme hunger and starvation. This is a broad definition, which could include many countries and geographic areas hit by food insecurities.

However, famine is not a word to be used lightly. Therefore, international organizations have agreed on a scientific frame that would help them identify when to declare a nation to be suffering from famine. According to United Nations, a famine can be declared only when certain measures of mortality, malnutrition, and hunger are met. The measures are:

  1. At least 20 per cent of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope.
  2. Acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 per cent.
  3. The death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons.
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Related Videos and Podcasts

58. Famine in Africa
*Daniel Maxwell, Henry J. Leir Professor in Food Security, Friedman School of Nutrition, Tufts University

57. Gandhi: Justice, Technology
• Anand Mazgaonkar, National Alliance for Peoples Movement, Ahmedabad, India
• Carl Kline, Satyagraha Institute
• Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, Nonviolence International

54. Venezuela
• Nestor Garrido, Venezuelan journalist
• Yuriria Lanza, Venezuelan IT professional
• Isaac Nahon-Serfaty, professor of Communication, U of Ottawa
• Angel Alvarez, political science professor
• Francisco Wulff, economist

51. Biodiversity and Food
• Harriet Friedmann, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Toronto

45: Gandhian Sustainable Development Goals
• Jill Carr-Harris co- leader of the Jai Japal march from India to Geneva, starting in October 2020.
* Rajagopal, co- leader of the Jai Japal march from India to Geneva, starting in October 2020.

37. The War in Yemen
• Qais Ghanem, Retired professor of medicine, Ottawa University
• Paul Maillet, retired Colonel, Canadian Forces, now peacebuilding worker.

22. Famine
• Alex deWaal, Executive Director, World Peace Foundation

13. Yemen
• Yusur Al Bahrani, Journalist living in Yellowknife, Northweat Territories, Canada
• Ahmed Jehaf, Journalist living in Sana’a,

6. Famine and Food Security
• Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Professor of International Development, Trent University
• Mustafa Koc, Professor of Sociology, Ryerson U

5. Food and Regenerative Farming
• Lloyd Helferty, Agricultural Engineering Technologist
• Jodi Koberinski, Regeneration International, Climate Smart Food.
• Joanna Santa Barbara, New Zealand Activisy

General reference sources

Dolly, Justin. 2017. “The Cyber Cold War: The Silent, but Persistent Threat to Nation States.” ITPro Portal. April 19, 2017. https://www.itproportal.com/features/the-cyber-cold-war-the-silent-but-persistent-threat-to-nation-states/.
Hopma, Justa. 2017. “Famine Isn’t Just a Result of Conflict—It’s a Cause.” Newsweek, January 25, 2017. www.newsweek.com/food-insecurity-conflict-sudan-famine-548033.
Kostigen, Thomas M. 2015. “Extreme Weather to Cause Extreme Food Shortages, Task Force Finds.” USA Today, August 22, 2015. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/08/21/extreme-weather-cause-extreme-food-shortages-task-force-finds/32104685/.
Loria, Kevin. 2017. “Even a ‘Limited’ Nuclear War Could Trigger Cruel Nuclear Winters and Global Famine.” Business Insider, August 10, 2017. http://www.businessinsider.com/nuclear-explosions-earth-atmosphere-temperature-2017-8.
Mekonnen, Meedan. 2016. “Drought, Famine, and Conflict: A Case from the Horn of Africa.” Beyond Intractibility. September 2016. https://www.beyondintractability.org/casestudy/mekonnen-drought.
O’ Connell, Simon. 2017. “The True Cause of Hunger and Famine? War and Weak Governance.” World Economic Forum. April 28, 2017. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/04/conflict-and-famine-time-for-honesty/.

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Carol Wells

FEED A BEE! You don’t have to be a tree hugger to respect the environment that you live in. For two million years, before the agricultural revolution, humans foraged the land and brought thousands of species of animals to extinction. We can say that millions of years ago we didn’t know better, but now we do. Bees are pollinators, and without them, we wouldn’t be alive. They are responsible for feeding 90% of the world’s population. David Attenborough, the voice behind The Blue Planet and Planet Earth, warns “if bees were to disappear from the face of the Earth, humans… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Are bees sensitive to artificial sweeteners? This may work as an emergency energy boost – but what impacts do artificial and refined sweeteners have on bees vs. the molecules naturally found in nectar?

M. Jamil Raza

I want to join this group, I entered my name and email but no confirmation on this website.

If you don’t see your name …just try again on the platform for survival page and enter info into the form

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Speaking to the issue at a local level I find it interesting that where I live rather than make use of the farmland we have to grow food, we take that land and hand it over to developers who start stuffing houses on it taking advantage of every square inch of property. As development continues the usable farm land dwindles while many of these houses and condos lie empty and steeply priced. At the same time food prices are rising quickly and it reminds me of Germany just before the onset of World War 2, with its massive inflation problems.… Read more »

Adam Wynne

I often wonder about the risks associated with our increasing reliance on monoculture agriculture. Several years ago, PBS released a fascinating documentary called “Seed” which examined the role of heirloom seed varieties in relation to the rise of monoculture agriculture. It was horrifying to learn that 75-85% of fruit and vegetable varieties have gone extinct in the last 200 years. The increasing use of monoculture — the planting of the same variety on large-scale farms, year after year — leaves regions and societies incredibly vulnerable to famine via blights, diseases, pests, etc. An example is Panama blight – a fungal… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Interesting image at the top of this page. It is the Dublin side of the Ireland Park Memorial. There are mirrored sculptures in Toronto at Ireland Park (near Billy Bishop Airport). The sculptures commemorate the victims of the Irish famine, many of which died on ships and/or at the quayside in Toronto during the nineteenth century.