Message from the Founder of the J&A Oben Foundation on the commemoration of World Food Day 2021

Wednesday - October 13 th , 2021 / Posted by Ms Victorine Neba

Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life. The food we choose and the way we consume it, affect our health and that of our planet

World Food Day 2021 is particularly special for the ‘Friends and Personnel’ of the J&A Oben Foundation, whose slogans “Encouraging Wellness and Longevity” and “Eating the Rainbow”, are seen in the theme of this year’s commemoration – “the food we choose and the way we consume it, affect our health”.

When I visited Wikipedia to find out the significance of World Food Day, I was somewhat disappointed with what I saw: “World Food Day is an international day celebrated every year worldwide on 16 October, to commemorate the date of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945”. CELEBRATED??? I wondered. With English not being my mother tongue, I decided to go back to Wikipedia to find out the meaning of ‘Celebrate’, and this is what I got: ‘acknowledge a happy day or event with a social gathering or enjoyable activity’ !!! At that point, it occurred to me that Wikipedia had missed the point- should we really be celebrating? Should it really be a happy day for us?

How can we be celebrating? How can we be happy, with 32% of Cameroonians being malnourished; a figure that goes as high as 40% for children in the North of Cameroon? How can we be happy when in a land blessed with so much food, 22% of our rural population and 10% of our urban population suffer from food insecurity? How can we be happy when the dangers of hidden hunger (the lack of micronutrients in our diets) are still causing so many premature deaths among children, and reducing the growth and development potential for those who survive? How can we be happy when with all the rivers, seas and cultivable land we are blessed with, we still spend 137 billion CFA francs to import fish, 160 billion CFA francs to import rice, and 3 billion CFA francs to import maize- money that could be used to develop our local food and agricultural sector and make food more affordable for the less privileged… How can we be happy when a fundamental human right, as stipulated in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the right to food is not respected due to ongoing conflicts and social unrest in our country?

Let the commemoration of World Food Day 2021, be a turning point for us- a day to start raising awareness on the need for good nutrition for all, as a tool for social cohesion.

Let it be a day to raise awareness on the need to find innovative ways to feed our population, moving away from dependency on imports as well as handouts.

When food insecurity and malnutrition stop being top on Cameroon’s public health agenda, then and only then can we talk of celebrating. Wishing everyone a meaningful commemoration.

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