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Parliament taking on the task to end hunger

Hunger is a serious threat to the well-being of a nation and in the past the problem has been addressed on a small-scale level in Belize. The problem is now being addressed at the highest level with the launch of the “Belize Parliamentary Alliance against Hunger and Malnutrition”. This initiative saw parliamentarians come together and committed to work towards ending hunger in the country.  Speaker of the House of Representatives Laura Tucker-Longsworth told the media that there will be supportive legislation to eliminate hunger and increase food security.

Laura Tucker-Longsworth – Speaker of the House of Representatives: “The idea is building and creating strategies to address hunger based on evidence and statistics so we have global statistics, we have regional statistics and there is a lot of evidence that shows hunger and malnutrition is increasing for the first time since 2016. What it needs is for Parliament to lend their weight and lend their efforts to achieving the goals of ending hunger for our people. For us locally this is a first, it is a historical event because we are not in the habit of doing cross-party collaborations to advocate and lobby for activities that are directly related to the community. If we have our Parliamentarians onboard cross-party, working an initiative, advocating, putting their weight behind the legislation. For instance to have legislation for school feeding, legislation to institutionalize the parliamentary front, then regardless of what happens whether we are in an electoral cycle or not these initiatives will move forward. What we have are those statistics from the Ministry of Health which tells you that we still have a prevalence rate of stunting in our communities. We also clearly have issues on non communicable diseases which is a direct result of obesity, being overweight and poor eating so we have to pay attention to the statistics on obesity because it is one of the modifiable risk factors that we can do something about. When we start to talking about parliamentary alliance we are more focusing on the wellbeing of our people.”

Parliamentarian from both sides of the floor were present at today’s launch. Jose Mai, the Area Representative for Orange Walk South, shared why his party is also committed to the cause.

Jose Mai – Area Representative for Orange Walk South: “Food access, food security and nutrition constitute of basic human rights. It is not a political game, it is a national matter and must be addressed by all. That is the reason why I am here to support. Secondly we need to focus on the utilization of all that is produced through processing and value-adding which is the surest way to make food production a viable and sustainable industry. In theory good policies lead to appropriate legislation, regulations and programs which will require prioritization and an allocation of budgets for human resources, operations, equipment, infrastructure so I can understand and fully  appreciate the key roles of the Parliamentary Alliance. The Belize chapter which is to establish teamwork and create partnerships: partnerships to support legislation, to achieve zero hunger, reduce malnutrition and increase food security to ensure the adequate budgets and resources, appropriate surveillance and accountability processes.”

The Minister of Agriculture, Godwin Hulse, highlighted efforts that are already in place to achieve this end.

Godwin Hulse – Minister of Agriculture: “And what we have been doing for example is we have been pushing these school gardens. We have every year in conjunction with the Police Department a Youth in Agriculture Seminar that we bring kids for two weeks to introduce them to this, introduce them out of unhealthy food and into healthy food. The Ministry is also pushing at the small farmer level, as you would know we have registered pretty much all our small farmers, not all our farmers but all our small farmers. We took a delegation of vegetable producers to Salvador to show them how they do it over there. We have had recently a very lengthy symposium with the Potato farmers. Yes there are some challenges, economics play a major role in this country and you have a lot of importers that import a lot of stuff and they have clout because money is a clout thing. It may not necessarily be in their interest to discontinue the importation and it is not in the interest of Government to be putting in rules and legislations to control because even for example not selling soft drinks. I have said to the manufacturers of that to find a healthy alternative so that there is a win-win, there is a marriage where  the product will sell but at the same time it is healthy for the kids.

Ending hunger and achieving food security is one of the Sustainable Development Goals which countries including Belize have committed to achieve by 2030.