‘Them belly Full (but we hungry)’: Food rights struggles in Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Mozambique
‘Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)’: Food rights struggles in Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Mozambique is a report published in the year 2014 by Institute of Development Studies, Brighton. It is a synthesis report, presenting the case studies of four countries, of “Food Riots and Food Rights” which is a research project from Department for International Development-Economic and Social Research Council (DFID-ESRC) in United Kingdon. The report studies the “politics of provisions” through the lens of food. It focuses on struggle for subsistence not as singular incidents but as continued negotiations in an evolving global food system.
The report is based on qualitative analysis that draws from case studies of four countries- India, Bangladesh, Kenya and Mozambique. It studies the role that food price hike had in the popular uprisings that emerged in these countries and what the political response to it was. It addresses the global food price spike of 2008-2011 which saw people rise in revolt across the globe and established food riots as markers of fundamental violations of governance functions. The report acknowledges that these uprisings were not just about the right to food but also against the right to profit from others’ hunger.
The 68-page document is divided into six sections which follow a summary: Why this research matters (Section 1); How we did this research (Section 2); Four Struggles for food rights (Section 3); What we learnt (Section 4); Channels of discontent (Section 5); and Menus of official response (Section 6).
While the struggle for food subsistence and provisions is an ongoing one, the primary intention of it is to re-enforce the State’s obligation of protection against subsistence shocks, the report states.
The protests were not against markets but against unregulated markets which benefit the rich. In that process they relegate food markets to ventures of profit over their main objective which is enabling sustenance.
These protests, which were generally a part of a wider or pre-existing movement, have been particularly liberating for some marginalised communities whose rights and inclusion in the market were earlier purely dependent on patronage.
By the year 2013, the food price inflation in India was the highest the country had seen in three decades. Mobilization against the rising prices led to the passing of National Food Security Act in 2013. During 2007-2012, of the 59 events related to mobilization on food rights, 31 events were led by national political parties, mainly Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Communist Party of India (Marxist).
In all four countries reviewed, protests emerged more strongly in urban areas owing to lack of access urban poor have to social security and their relationship with food being determined mainly by their purchasing power.
The urban poor, who were the main participators in these protests, are confronted with lack of able and accessible representation to channelize their concerns, the report states.
The report notes that representation and visibility of these issues in the media are important channels of communicating dissent but they are limited due to biased and flawed reporting.
Giving ‘Right to Food’ “legal, enforceable” sanctity is the strongest way of establishing official accountability of states, the report recommends. Among the studied countries, while Kenya and India have made such progress, Mozambique and Bangladesh have been unable to do so.
Food riots had their impact not so directly on policies but more so in emphasising the moral aspect of economy and reminding policymakers of their responsibility towards the populations’ access to subsistence materials.
Focus and Factoids by Fiona Raval.
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Institute of Development Studies
Institute of Development Studies