Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

“According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory, with respect to psychological (basic) and safety needs of a human being, once individuals have basic nutrition, shelter and safety, they attempt to accomplish more.” --- Abraham Maslow

According to the World Health Organization,Nutrition is the intake of food, considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs. Good nutrition – an adequate, well balanced diet combined with regular physical activity – is a cornerstone of good health.”

With reference to the preamble and definition above, one can conclude that basic nutrition (on the aggregate level) will more likely develop a very productive labour force, thus the country’s development.  However, due to the rise of the fast food industry in Guyana it is evident that people are more concerned with the convenience of getting food faster rather than the most  important point, which is, proper nutrition. Most individuals in society presently rely on processed or packaged “less nutritious” foods because of its low time consuming characteristics to prepare. It is therefore of importance to note that the lack of a healthy labour force is likely to cause a decline in productivity and a loss of efficiency.

The world today is faced with its own unique challenges. As highlighted before in the forum, poverty eradication and a growing population approximated to exceed 9 billion by the year 2050, creates a sense of urgency on the matter of food security and nutrition.

As stated by Thomas Malthus, “That the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence, that population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase, and, that the superior power of population is repressed, and the actual population kept equal to the means of subsistence, by misery and vice.”  However, Malthus ignored one key element which has seen the exponential increase in population today. Technology has allowed mankind to produce more at faster rates to feed our growing population.

From an economic perspective, nutrition is integral to individuals and the population as a whole since it has a positive correlation with population growth. When inspecting the Solow Growth Model (Macroeconomics 6th Edition, N. Gregory Mankiw), it can be clearly noted that growth in the capital stock, growth in the labour force, and advances in technology can significantly boost the productive capacity of a nation. In essence, in magnifying the point of population growth which is synonymous to growth in the labour force the focal point of the private sector along with civil societies should definitely be pointed in the direction of proper nutrition because through proper nutrition, only then a massive labour force can be developed thus economic growth and development. This can be substantiated from the following statement

“the improvement of average nutritional status in the poorest countries will generate a positive social effect way beyond its economic effect”-(does nutrition enhance economic growth? The economic cost of hunger by  Xiaojun Wang and Kiyoshi Taniguchi)[1]

(It makes no sense that the population is growing and individuals lack proper nutrition since poor nutrition can lead to reduced immunity, increased susceptibility to disease, impaired physical and mental development, and reduced productivity. Basically this population will be a liability to the labour force.)

Solutions to the problem of nutrition and food security are numerous. However, we shall concentrate on civil society and the private sector.  We shall examine the roles they play in the solution to the problems associated with nutrition and food security.

“Civil societies also known as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — are critical actors in the advancement of universal values around human rights, the environment, labour standards and anti-corruption. As global market integration has advanced, their role has gained particular importance in aligning economic activities with social and environmental priorities”[2]-

The role of civil society in solving the solution encompasses sensitizing the public on nutrition to lobbying governments to engage in policy making which can promote the production of highly nutritious food. To illustrate, civil society can persuade governments to subsidise technology used on farms.  As a result, farmers can benefit from the use of these technologies and increase production.  Hydroponics is a viable alternative agricultural technique as it is cheaper and delivers nutrients directly to the plant root.  This encourages efficiency and is a simple process for farmers to learn and adapt. However, like most developing countries farmers in Guyana are an aged population, risk averse and may be reluctant to engage and learn a new technique. By creating an attractive policy the farmers can benefit significantly through hydroponics and thus promote social mobility among small farmers. The need to lobby for nutrition specialists through health centres, television programmes and school programmes can all aid in educating the population on the importance of a balanced diet. When an individual works hard to attain their money they should be able to spend their money on proper nutrition as opposed to “fast food” which  is likely to lower productivity and cause illnesses such as diabetes thereby reducing the individual’s welfare and in the long run resulting in a premature death.

On the other hand, the private sector which is more profit oriented can seek to exploit the opportunity to invest in developing large agricultural lands for food production.  As in the developed world farm lands are concentrated mainly among large scale producers since an incentive exists for farmers to invest more into the accumulation of stock and land.

Collaboration of the private sector and civil society will likely promote growth of small farmers through access to credit, grants and advice. This is likely to translate to greater production as farmers are now better able to access the resources they need to expand their enterprise.

The documentary Life and Debt by Stephanie Black highlighted the flaws in economic policy which was supposed to encourage economic growth and reduce poverty.  However, the policies failed as the IMF imposed certain restrictions and the domestic economy was not allowed to flourish. Thus, protective barriers and subsidies can arguably be utilized by developing countries to cultivate an efficient agriculture industry.  As in most cases developing countries are at a disadvantage or face unfair competition by the developed countries because they have heavily subsidized agricultural industries and they are exceedingly larger, hence more efficient and control a greater part of the world market.  Therefore our objective will be to explore possible strategies which the private sector and the civil society can be involved in, most importantly how both of these bodies can collaborate to make hydroponic farming and thus the agricultural sector in Guyana one of pre-eminence.   

Richard Leo

Devon Seeram

Tiffany Adams

Romel Bheer 

Venetia Smith

Samantha Thierens