Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Buddha once said that the greatest disease of all mankind is “hunger.” Today, poverty and hunger are the most devastating problems facing the developing world. Over 800 million [people] or one in nine of the global population go to bed hungry every day. All most all of them, or 13.5 percent of the population, are in developing countries….

If we look at the situation with regard to children, some 250 million children are at risk of vitamin A deficiency, and an equal number from deficiency of minerals, such as iron, zinc, calcium, etc. Nearly 25,000 children under the age of 5 die every day, one third of them due to malnutrition. These statistics are difficult to digest, but are true….

In 2000, the world’s leaders set a target to halve the [proportion of people who suffer from] hunger and malnutrition by 2015, this year, through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While countries have made some progress, hunger and malnutrition still remain major problems for most of the developing countries….

If we are not able to meet the projected demand for food, the consequences will be increased poverty and malnutrition in developing countries, leading to political unrest…. I strongly believe that sustainable peace, whether it is within the family, among communities, religions, or across political borders, can be achieved only when issues of poverty and hunger are addressed.

Fish, food security and peace

In this context, let me humbly and briefly mention my efforts in the last five decades, looking at how fish farming or aquaculture — through making science relevant to the needs of the farming community in developing countries, including war-torn countries, such as Laos, and least developed countries, such as Bangladesh — can bring changes to the lives and livelihoods of the rural poor by providing adequate food and nutrition security….

When we think of “fish,” perhaps we think of oceans, reefs, rivers and restaurants, but we do not think of malnutrition, high infant mortality rates… It is a well-known fact that fish are a rich source of protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and a major source of animal protein to people in developing countries. Fish provides over 4.5 billion of the global population with at least 15 percent of their animal protein intake. From an economic standpoint, fish is by far the most internationally traded commodity, with the global trade in fish estimated to be around $ 160 billion per annum… In addition, fish farming is environmentally friendly compared to the production of other animal proteins, such as beef and pork. … Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon has rightly identified the potential of oceans and other aquatic systems as a major source for contributing to food security and peace….

Over 80 percent of food globally is produced by small-scale farmers … so ensuring the survival and livelihoods of small-scale farmers is of utmost importance. As the Chinese proverb says: “give a man a fish, he eats for a day, while teach a man how to farm fish, he eats every day.”

Aquaculture and women

My work over the years has focused on reaching the unreached with aquaculture technologies and capacity-building of resource-poor, small-scale farmers for sustainable development, in different parts of the world…. This meant going to farmers and understanding the social, cultural and economic [conditions in which they live and work], along with the natural resources they are endowed with, and developing simple, low-cost, low-risk technologies that could be adopted and sustained by them.

This approach — which began in the 1970s in India, followed by other Asian countries and subsequently adopted by African countries — has resulted in a multifold increase in fish production and laid the foundation for what we call today a “blue revolution.”

For example, aquaculture production, which was about 1.3 million tons in the 1970s in India, has increased to over 4.2 million tons today. Likewise, aquaculture production in Bangladesh has increased from around 75,000 tons in the 1980s to over a million tons today. This innovation has not only resulted in increased production of fish, but has also improved the livelihoods of millions of rural households….

Our work has involved [enabling the] rural women to contribute to household income and food security through aquaculture. It was not an easy task. It took much effort to motivate and convince them [to learn aquaculture], because in some cases, cultural or religious stigmas came into play. But once [they learned and saw the benefits of] aquaculture for their family, there was no going back.

This resulted in an increase in their household income, improved nutrition [in their family] and better education of the children. The end result was empowerment of women within the family and in society.

Further, studies have shown that if women farmers have the same access to resources as men have, agricultural output in developing countries would increase by 2.5 percent to 4.0 percent. Another study has shown that equalizing the status of women with men in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa can reduce malnourishment among 13.4 million and 1.3 million children, respectively.

Our studies have shown that when a woman becomes an income-earning member of the family, there is more security and happiness in the family and the children are better educated. These studies have proved the importance of women’s innate capacities as farmers, innovators and household managers in rural communities….

In closing, I would like to say that the “blue revolution” is in its early stages; however, much more needs to be done if it is to contribute to food and nutritional security, and improve the livelihoods of millions of rural poor. For this to happen, countries need appropriate strategies and development plans for and to allocate adequate resources to it.

Let us all join our hands in addressing the issues of poverty, hunger and malnutrition to make the world a peaceful one for every one to live happily.

These excerpts are from remarks given by Dr. Modadugu Vijay Gupta, a fisheries scientist in India, to the World Summit 2015 in Seoul, Korea, provided courtesy of Universal Peace Federation International. Dr. Gupta received the Sunhak Peace Prize medal and a cash prize of $500,000 for his pioneer work in aquaculture in rural communities.

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