Promoting inter-cultural dialogue for fighting hunger

somalian-famine-victims.jpgA piercing heart wrenching wail breaks the silence. It’s the cry of an infant being branded with a fiery hot sickle to get rid of her fever, brought on by not having food for two days. This incident was reported two weeks ago from a village in Jharkhand, India.

September 2007. More than six decades since the victory of the allied powers and the setting up of the United Nations, I seem to be asking myself the question, is the world any different than what it was in August 1945? Sixty years ago people died of starvation and poverty and sixty years hence they still do.

Hunger is in simple terms, a need for food. In India alone more than fifty percent of people live each day in the hope that perhaps, today they may sleep without having to suppress the pangs of their barren stomachs. Is this what characterizes our historic march into the new millennium? Have we failed in the most basic areas, like our system of governance? Is democracy holding us back? Have we been able to give a veto power to all our citizens?

The UN secretary general recently said that we have the means to deal with any problem that confronts us. All we need is the will to do so. And this is what separates us from other creatures. True, we have cut ourselves up into nations and states and districts, but we still remain connected and in more ways than one, dependent on other nations and peoples. History has borne testimony to the fact that dialogue and compromise is the only way to go about doing anything at all. Listening to the dilemmas of other nations and compromising some of our own is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do. It demands of us the capacity to assess situations in every area. Inter-cultural dialogue between developing nations is the fundamental catalyst for stamping out hunger at the grass root level. Dialogue between various cultures within a country itself is also critical. Farmers themselves have a lot of valuable knowledge, and by experimenting and learning from each other, significant improvements in production can be made. Sharing technologies is one of the best ways to go about wiping out hunger.

The situation is grim but it also offers us infinite hope. A nation with sixty percent of its population directly engaged in agriculture must get its act together. But let us also not forget the need for cooperation and discourse with other nations. The tiny blue green orb, which revolves through space, needs our help now more than ever. Every nation, rich or poor needs to join in the human chain and move towards the light, the common thread of humanity binding us all.

Uttara Balakrishnan