Friday, 28 June 2013

Hunger has no color

By Badriyya Yusuf, 1st Year MDP student
I am midway through my field placement and I wish there was more time to soak it all in! I am undertaking my practicum with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) at its head office, based here in Winnipeg. IISD is a public policy research institute with a renowned history of conducting cutting edge research into sustainable development. It was established in 1990 as a Canadian response to the UN World Commission on Environment and Development’s Our Common Future/Brundtland Report and has since contributed significantly to shaping public policy recommendations around the world. 

A highlight of my practicum thus far is my attendance of a Food Hunger conference organized by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, hosted by the University of Winnipeg. The conference was well attended by a spectrum of students, academicians, development practitioners, farmers, policy makers – including CIDA and IISD. It was an enriching participatory experience where we not only got to hear from the authorities in the field, such as David Nabarro, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative for Food Security and Nutrition, John Hoddinott of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Carla Hogan Rufelds, Director of Food Security and Environmental Sustainability, CIDA, but we also had the opportunity to present our ideas on how to sustainably address the UN’s zero hunger challenge.

Mueni Udeozor, Program Officer, Canadian Feed the Children, Rael Marona, Entreprenuer, Kenya & Badriyya Yusuf

I take away with me a lot of lessons learnt from the conference, such as the challenges of conservation agriculture and the imperative to include women in project and policy design and implementation, as emphasized by Carla Hogan Rufelds. However, a few of us also reflected on the absence of attempts to address the food security challenges faced by Canadians, especially the Aboriginal community, at the conference. The conference was largely focused on food hunger in Africa, further perpetuating the stereotype of a continent in perpetual hunger without really addressing some of the root causes. A little insight was given into the situation in Brazil and in India, but the only reference to the situation at home in Canada was made in passing, and only because we brought it up. This was unsettling to me, especially given the fact that the conference was held here in Manitoba where more than 64,000 people use the Winnipeg Harvest as a food bank every month, 47% of whom are children. 

This clearly reflects the relevance of programs like our MDP in Indigenous Development studies in creating awareness and producing graduates who will contribute to addressing sustainable development among Indigenous Peoples all over the world.

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