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17 October 2011

Does the world produce enough food to feed everyone?

Islam, revealed to humanity over 1400 years ago, came with the most just and easy solution to the problem of poverty, hunger and starvation in this world. If Islam is implemented in the world today, the problem of poverty, hunger and starvation would be completely eliminated within a year. Islam, revealed to us by Allah (swt), the most knowledgeable, wise and just, solves the problem of poverty and hunger through several methods

"This sense of equality is important. It is one of the defining characteristics which proponents of Islamic economics say make it different from the conventional western way."
BBC on the topic "Is Islamic finance the answer?"

Number of hungry people in the world

No one really knows how many people are malnourished. The statistic most frequently cited is that of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which measures 'undernutrition'. The most recent estimate, released in  October 2010 by FAO,  says that 925 million people are undernourished. As the figure below shows.

The number of hungry people has increased since 1995-97, though the number is down from last year. The increase has been due to three factors: 

1) neglect of agriculture relevant to very poor people by governments and international agencies.
2) the current worldwide economic crisis.
3) the significant increase of food prices in the last several years which has been devastating to those with only a few dollars a day to spend. 925 million people is 13.6 percent of the estimated world population of 6.8 billion. Nearly all of the undernourished are in developing countries.
In round numbers there are 7 billion people in the world. Thus, with an estimated 925 million hungry people in the world, 13.1 percent, or almost 1 in 7 people are hungry.

Does the world produce enough food to feed everyone?

The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day (FAO 2002, p.9).  The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.

What are the causes of hunger?

There are many but lets take the two main related factors here...What are the causes of hunger is a fundamental question, with varied answers.

Poverty is the principal cause of hunger. 

The causes of poverty include poor people's lack of resources, an extremely unequal income distribution in the world and within specific countries, conflict, and hunger itself. As of 2008 (2005 statistics), the World Bank has estimated that there were an estimated 1,345 million poor people in developing countries who live on $1.25 a day or less.3 This compares to the later FAO estimate of  1.02 billion undernourished people.  Extreme poverty remains an alarming problem in the world’s developing regions, despite some progress that reduced "dollar--now $1.25-- a day" poverty from (an estimated) 1900 million people in 1981, a reduction of 29 percent over the period. Progress in poverty reduction has been concentrated in Asia, and especially, East Asia, with the major improvement occurring in China. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people in extreme poverty has increased.  The statement that 'poverty is the principal cause of hunger'  is, though correct, unsatisfying.  Why then are (so many) people poor?  The next section summarizes Hunger Notes  answer.

Harmful economic systems are the principal cause of poverty and hunger. 

Hunger Notes believes that the principal underlying cause of poverty and hunger is the ordinary operation of the economic and political systems in the world. Essentially control over resources and income is based on military, political and economic power that typically ends up in the hands of a minority, who live well, while those at the bottom barely survive, if they do. We have described the operation of this system in more detail in our special section on Harmful economic systems. 


The Obligatory Zakat:

Islam makes it obligatory on every Muslim to pay a certain "tax", called Zakat, on their accumulated wealth. The money collected from this Zakat is to be distributed among the poor and needy.

The Arabic word "Zakat" means both 'purification' and 'growth'. One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to Allah (swt), and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. Our wealth is purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth in our wealth.

Zakat is due on accumulated wealth that has been in the possession of a person for at least one year. There are rules on how to pay Zakat on each type of possessions, such as gold, animals, crops, shares and so on. A certain percentage of each type of these possessions is to be paid as Zakat. Note that the Zakat is taken from excess wealth that a person is accumulating and has had in their possession for over a year. It is not paid on income. Therefore, people whose save nothing after covering their expenses with their income do not pay Zakat, and in fact may be eligible to receive Zakat money from others if their income does not cover all their needs.

The Zakat is to be distributed among people of the following categories, depending on need:

1) The Destitute: Those who don't have material possessions nor nor means of livelihood.
2) The Poor: Those with insufficient means of livelihood to meet basic needs.
3) The Indebted: Those who are in debt and have difficulty repaying it.
4) Stranded Traveller: The traveller who does not have enough money to complete their journey.
5) To Free Slaves: Zakat money is to be used to purchase slaves and free them. 6) New Muslims: Those who are new to Islam and require help to integrate themselves into the Muslims community.
7) In the Path of Allah: Zakat money can also be spent in the path of Allah. This can include many things, basically any project that helps Muslims or Islamic causes.
8) Zakat Workers: Those whose job it is to collect and re-distribute Zakat money get their salary from the Zakat money.

How Can Zakat Eliminate Poverty and Starvation?

If Islam was implemented in the world today, starvation would be eliminated from the planet within the first year. The Zakat due on agricultural products ranges from 5% to 10% of the produce. There is also Zakat due on various types of animals such as sheep, cows and camels. Imagine if 5%-10% of all agricultural production in the world, plus the required amounts on animals are distributed among the hungry and starving people of this world. The problem would be solved immedeatly. In the system we have today, some nations intentionally spoil a part of their agricultural production in order to maintain high prices for their produce. Can you see the difference between the system driven by human greed and the Islam which was imposed by Allah (swt), the most gracious and most merciful?

In addition, Islam can solve the problem of poverty. Consider the Zakat due on money. Zakat is due at 2.5% on money that has been in one's possession for over a year. Now consider this simple fact: Forbes Magazine reported that in 2004 there were 587 billionaires worldwide, with a combined net worth of $1.9 trillion dollars. If in 2004 these 587 richest people in the world paid zakat, we would have had $47.5 billion dollars distributed among the poor.

This calculation has just considered less than 600 individuals on this earth. What about if everyone contributed to a global Zakat fund in the same way? The total world GDP (summation of gross domestic product of all countries in the world) was estimated in 1999 to be $27,357.9 billion dollars. The 2.5% Zakat on this would amount to $683.95 billion dollars annually. These are just ball park figures to give the reader an idea of how much money Zakat can generate.

This Zakat money should not only be distributed for immedeate relief to the poor. It can also be given in the form of small business loans. For example, poor farmers can be given loans or even grants from this Zakat money to enable them to purchase the equipment and materials they need to lift them out of poverty. The same can be done for small business owners, or for the poor to set up small workshops or factories to lift them out of poverty once and for all. Within a few years, poverty would be eliminated or at least greatly reduced.

Optional Charity:

As discussed earlier, the obligatory Zakat imposed by Islam can easily solve the problems of poverty and starvation in the world. However, in addition to that, Islam greatly encourages Muslims to give extra charity. For example, the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) once said that the person who sleeps full while his neighbour sleeps hungry is not a true believer. Islam also always encourages charity in all situations. For example, for the persons who are not able to fast in Ramadan, they are required to feed some poor people for each day they do not fast. And there are many such examples.

Examples of Charity in the holy Qur'an and the Sunnah

Allah (swt) said: "And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity" [Quran 2:110]

Allah (swt) said addressing the messenger of Allah, Mohammad (pbuh):

"Of their goods take alms (charity), so that you might purify and sanctify them, and pray on their behalf" [Quran 9:103]

When the messenger of Allah, Muhammad , sent one of his companions to call the people of Yemen to Islam, he asked him to tell them the basics of Islam, among which was: "... and tell them that Allah has made obligatory on them a charity that is taken from their rich and given to their poor..." [Bukhari and Muslim]

Allah (swt) said:

"So he who gives (in charity) and fears (Allah), and (in all sincerity) testifies to the Best, We will indeed make smooth for him the path to Bliss. But he who is a greedy miser and thinks himself self-sufficient, And gives the lie to the Best, We will indeed make smooth for him the Path to Misery; Nor will his wealth profit him when he falls headlong (into the hell fire)." [Quran 92:5-11]

Allah (swt) said:

"By no means shall you attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which you love; and whatever you give, Allah knows it well." [Quran 3:92]

Allah (swt) said:

"O ye who believe! Cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury, like those who spend their substance to be seen of men, but believe neither in Allah nor in the Last Day. They are in Parable like a hard barren rock, on which is a little soil; on it falls heavy rain, which leaves it (just) a bare stone. They will be able to do nothing with aught they have earned. And Allah guideth not those who reject Faith." [Quran 2:264]

Who is the cause?

They dont desire taste, they dont demand fine dining... They just desire food. Did God did this to them? God did nothing. We did this. We did all of what it is right now. So why not? Why not change it?

Courtesy: worldhunger.org. | BBC | Al-Islami

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