Food campaign news
Uprisings on the horizon as the latest spike in food prices hits
"Maybe it's time we went the way of Egypt." This was the conclusion of a Nairobi transport worker, who took part in research into how people are responding to the latest spike in food prices. He is not alone. Researchers from the Institute of Development Studies and Oxfam found "significant anger" among many of the communities in Kenya, Bangladesh, Zambia and Indonesia that they visited in recent months.
Many people are being hit hard by spikes in food prices. One retired government official in Naogaon says that when he goes to the market, "The prices often give me a heart attack."
Admittedly, there are some winners from higher prices - such as export sector workers, though many of their gains are down to long struggles for better wages. But there are many losers, who are going hungry or switching to cheaper, lower quality food. In Bangladesh, people complain of having to eat chicken feet or broken eggs.
People are also having to travel further to find affordable food and work longer to pay for it. Much of the heavier burden is being shouldered by women. Families are breaking up as men migrate to seek work or even form relationships with women food traders.
Workers in informal jobs face many hurdles. In March for example, Dhaka’s rickshaw pullers demonstrated and vandalised cars in protest at the government's clampdown on their trade. Alongside these pressures and stresses, people say they feel ashamed of their poverty. Employers are also anxious about high food prices putting pressure on wages and sparking social unrest.
This is Mrs Banu's weekly shop from the Notun Bazaar in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Rising prices over the last year have meant she has had to buy extra rice instead of more nutritious foods such as lentils, and can no longer afford soap for washing and laundry. Even with these cutbacks, she pays 40 per cent more than a year ago.
A complex array of causes were picked out by people, including market failures and insufficient action by governments. Not many people took a global perspective: of course the role of complex financial products traded London or Chicago is less obvious than say, local flooding or high fuel costs. But they were clear that governments should do more.
Rocketing food prices hit those on low incomes the hardest. The human costs and calls to action revealed by this research confirm the urgency of tough new rules to curb the speculators who dominate and distort food markets.
Take action here: email the Treasury to demand they stop bankers betting on hunger.
Read the researchers' full report, 'Living on a spike: How is the 2011 food crisis affecting poor people?'
Amy researches and campaigns on food speculation.