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A film by Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger

The various faces of hunger

A film by Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger

The various faces of hunger 

The movie

The various faces of hunger

By Marcus Vetter & Karin Steinberger

One knows the picture by now. A boat full of people at the tourist beach of Gran Canaria. They drag themselves through the sand, half starved, just stay lying there and look at the tourists lying under parasols. They are messengers of an explosive population growth, 95 percent of which is taking place in developing countries. They pay a fortune to ferry on crowded fishing boats to a world they do not know but have heard wonderful things about. They believe they will find unimaginable wealth there, and happiness. But what drives people to leave their families and their homeland behind and risk their lives for an uncertain future?

One in seven people worldwide goes to bed hungry, every five seconds a child starves to death. In total, 850 million people have too little to eat. 25,000 people die of starvation and its consequences every day, that is nine million people a year. A frightening balance. The enormous increases in the prices of food and raw materials in recent months are having a dramatic impact on the poor and poorest people in the world: Since the inhabitants of many developing countries are only able to provide for their own food to a limited extent, or have long been producing mainly for export, they are dependent on food imports and in many cases can no longer afford them. For decades, major international organisations such as the IMF, WTO, World Bank, EU, G8, as well as governmental, church and non-governmental organisations have been working to solve the problem of hunger. But the number of people suffering from hunger is growing – day by day. Hunger is the result of economic, political and ecological misconduct by people and governments.

The causes are manifold: state mismanagement, consequences of globalisation and the abolition of protective tariffs, natural disasters such as droughts and floods, wars. The documentary ‘Hunger’ tells in five to seven stories why hunger exists and how people, groups and organisations struggle to solve one of the worst social, political and economic problems of our days. The stories told here are very close to the people who suffer from hunger or fight against it.

They illustrate the problem of hunger and the power structures behind it. The documentary film draws attention to the global context of the topic. Its aim is not only to name and expose grievances and disasters, but also to show the positive approaches to solving the problem of hunger. The film should not only trigger dismay but also hope. Hunger as a consequence of natural disasters should be excluded. Not, however, armed conflicts and the consequences of human-induced climate change. Similarly, the topic of hunger in industrialised countries should not be considered.

The documentary “Hunger” tells how people, groups and organisations try to get the worldwide food problem under control. For the film, journalist Karin Steinberger (book) and documentary filmmaker Marcus Vetter (book and director) travelled to Kenya, India, Mauritania, Brazil and Haiti and portrayed people whose lives are chronically marked by hunger.

In addition to individual fates, the social, political and economic circumstances that cause the tragedy are also examined. Topics such as the so-called green genetic engineering, the EU fisheries policy, the lack of access to water, the displacement of food cultivation in favour of feed production and the effects of cheap imports on developing countries are discussed.

The 90-minute documentary film was broadcast as part of the ARD theme week “Essen ist Leben” (Food is Life) on 25 October 2010 on the Ersten. “Hunger” is a production of Eikon Südwest on behalf of SWR, which was supported by the former DED and the former GTZ.

Trailer

HUNGER | 88:09 Min.

Available for free

Five countries
Five backgrounds

Why is it so difficult to combat hunger?

The fact is that ten percent more food is produced than is needed to feed everyone. Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger have been searching for traces in five countries: What are the reasons for hunger?

Mauritania

This story starts where it actually ends. For those who are fleeing from hunger. In Mauritania, Nouadhibou, in the north of the country. Some say Nouadhibou is the southernmost city of Spa-niens. Some say Nouadhibou is the gateway to Europe. For many, it is only the gateway to death. Modou Lô Diop also knows the stories of the dead who are thrown overboard, he has heard of the storms on the crossing and the cemeteries full of dead refugees in Morocco. But for him, these are all lies that are supposed to stop him from going to Europe. Not because he is still here, but because the crossing costs a lot of money. 900 euros and more, the traffickers are greedy.

And so Modou Lô Diop has been waiting in Nouadhibou for months now. The whole town is full of young men from all over, from Senegal, from Mali, from Guinea, from the Ivory Coast, some of them have been travelling for years. Modou Lô Diop has left his parents, his wife and his children in Senegal because there is nothing there. It is not only the hunger for food that drives them here. It is also the hunger for a chance, for a life. And so he sits in the dark nights on the street and sells his fragrant coffee to the fishermen who go to the harbour in their bulky suits.

But business is not going well. Not for Modou Lô Diop and not for the fishermen. The sea is choppy, world trade is choppy. And outside, strangers are out in ships as big as factories. The Europeans, who have been fishing their own waters empty for years, have also noticed that there is a lot of fish off Mauritania. Europe has bought the fishing rights from Mauritania for 86 million euros. The small fishermen can still remember the times when the sea could feed them. But everything is different now. Now the fishermen often come back without fish. And all the time they see schif-fe like the “Kristina”: Icelandic crew, Belgian flag. They catch more in one day than a small fisherman has caught in years. They catch more in a day than a small fisherman catches in years.

Thousands of tons of protein, huge catches for Europe, fished by foreigners – and on land, people are starving and no longer understand the sea. That is how it is in Nouadhibou, Mauritania. There is only one thing they understand: You can no longer live on fish, but you can live on bringing people to Europe.

The EU is paying the West African country €86 million to allow powerful EU fishing fleets to fish the species-rich waters off Mauritania. The sea is being cleared so efficiently that the Mauritanians’ fishing nets often remain empty. Because they can no longer live off the sea, many sell their boats to human traders. In recent years, the fishing town of Nouadhibou has thus become a refugee town. This is where thousands of people set off on their journey to their supposed paradise – or to their death.

Picture: Hardly any prey left for the local fishermen: Mauritania’s population suffers from globalisation (SWR/ Eikon Südwest)

Kenya

This story starts where it actually ends. For those who are fleeing from hunger. In Mauritania, Nouadhibou, in the north of the country. Some say Nouadhibou is the southernmost city in Spain. Some say Nouadhibou is the gateway to Europe. For many, it is only the gateway to death. Modou Lô Diop also knows the stories of the dead being thrown overboard, he has heard of the storms on the crossing and the cemeteries full of dead refugees in Morocco. But for him, these are all lies that are supposed to stop him from going to Europe. Not because he is still here, but because the crossing costs a lot of money. 900 euros and more, the traffickers are greedy.

And so Modou Lô Diop has been waiting in Nouadhibou for months now. The whole town is full of young men from all over, from Senegal, from Mali, from Guinea, from the Ivory Coast, some of them have been travelling for years. Modou Lô Diop has left his parents, his wife and his children in Senegal because there is nothing there. It is not only the hunger for food that drives them here. It is also the hunger for a chance, for a life. And so he sits in the dark nights on the street and sells his fragrant coffee to the fishermen who go to the harbour in their bulky suits.

But business is not going well. Not for Modou Lô Diop and not for the fishermen. The sea is choppy, world trade is choppy. And outside, strangers are out in ships as big as factories. The Europeans, who have been fishing their own waters empty for years, have also noticed that there is a lot of fish off Mauritania. Europe has bought the fishing rights from Mauritania for 86 million euros. The small fishermen can still remember the times when the sea could feed them. But everything is different now. Now the fishermen often come back without fish. And all the time see ships like the “Kristina”: Icelandic crew, Belgian flag. They catch more in one day than a small fisherman has caught in years. They catch as much in one day as a small fisherman doesn’t catch in years.

Thousands of tons of protein, huge catches for Europe, fished by foreigners – and on land, people are starving and no longer understand the sea. That is how it is in Nouadhibou, Mauritania. There is only one thing they understand: You can no longer live on fish, but you can live on bringing people to Europe.

In the north of Kenya lives the people of the Turkana. For centuries they have lived in this barren region as pastoralists. For years, their land has been increasingly affected by droughts and their herds have been destroyed. The people are supplied with food aid, aid that degrades them to beggars. Little of it is sustainable, much is meaningless. The Massai in the south of the country are not much better off. There the water of Kilimanjaro is piped to Nairobi, past the Massai. At the end of the pipeline is a flower farm where roses are produced for the First World.

Picture: Starving so Europeans can give roses for Mother’s Day: Scene from the ARD documentary “Hunger” with a young Kenyan Masai (SWR/ Eikon Südwest)

India

Suman Sahai sits in her cream-coloured ambassador and smiles. Rice fields rush by in front of the car window. Beautiful Jharkhand, cradle of rice. It is no coincidence that the habilitated human geneticist is active here with her “Gene Campaign”. She, too, wants to solve the world’s nutritional problem – but in a different way. For years now, she has been trying to convince people that India’s farmers have bred the best seeds over the millennia. Where there have been many floods, there have been flood-resistant varieties, and in drought regions drought-resistant varieties. Everything that the genetic manipulators now want to create already exists. All we have to do is preserve the old knowledge. So why replace old rice varieties with high-yield varieties from international corporations? That would only lead to dangerous dependencies.

She gets off at Bhandra village. On the walls of the huts are “Gene Campaign” slogans: “The only owner of seed is the farmer.” Suman Sahai walks into a dark room, no electricity, just shelves full of glasses filled with rice. Bishnu Bhagat is in charge of these jars. He says everyone in the village who needs seeds can get them here, he only has to give something back after the harvest. That is the principle. No payment, no debts. That’s how it is in Jharkhand. They are small farmers – but in the end, says Suman Sahai, they are the ones who feed the great India.

Kishor Tiwari looks something like that. He is an activist, not a scientist, he is someone who acts. When a widow sits in his office, crying because her husband killed himself with pesticide, he puts money in her hand. It’s his way of saving the world. Tiwari lives in Vidarbha, in the cotton belt of India, where many farmers commit suicide.

So many that people say the only thing that is still booming here is the funeral industry. The newspapers wrote about the “GM genocide” and the killer seed, about people who are locked up in the cage of the world economy, abused by international corporations, sucked dry by money lenders and forgotten by politics. Tiwari has made the world aware of what is happening here. It will continue anyway.

The “white gold” they used to call cotton here. But now, cotton often brings death. Because there is only the expensive American genetically modified seed and the corresponding expensive pesticides and fertilizers. They are slaves of Monsanto, the farmers say. And then they buy genetically modified seed because it is supposed to be a miracle seed and because one should earn twice as much with it. So say those who sell them.

It’s all a big lie, Tiwari says. He sees the corpses of those who have followed these promises and who have exchanged the traditional seeds for the genetic seeds. But nobody explains to the farmers how to handle the new, highly sensitive seeds. And so the worms also destroyed the genetically modified seeds, and in the event of drought the miracle seeds dry out much more quickly. Only the rich farmers with their irrigation systems make money with it. The small farmer, however, has only higher debts. Deadly high debts.

For years Suman Sahai has been fighting against the power of the food companies. She teaches Indian farmers that the seed belongs to them, not companies like Monsanto. She sets up seed banks in villages to preserve the indigenous seed. Further south, the indigenous seeds of cotton have almost disappeared. Only genetically manipulated seeds are left. But no one explains to the people how to handle them properly. The smallholders get into debt because the expensive, sensitive seeds dry up in their fields, because they use far too much fertilizer, because they have to buy new seeds every year. Thousands have committed suicide in recent years because of over-indebtedness.

Picture: Seed war in India: Suman Sahai (centre), founder of the Gene Campaign, is committed to the preservation of old, traditional seeds in order to stand up against the power of the big corporations. (SWR/ Eikon Southwest)

Brazil

André Muggiatti does not look like a fighter at first sight. He knows the dangers of monocultures and the problems of the gigantic cattle farms in the Amazon. And he knows the importance of the rainforest for the world climate. For it is a truism for someone like him that it will not end well if man mercilessly destroys nature. Together with Sergio da Silva he drives along the BR-163. Whoever drives from Cuiaba in the south towards Santarem in the north will have a different view of things at the top, in the end. It’s as if one is going through the development backwards in fast motion. First the timber companies come and take out the precious woods that bring in a lot of money, the rest is rolled down and burned. Then come the small farmers, driven by hunger. Then come the cattle breeders, some of whom can claim to be the greatest individual destroyers of the rainforest. And then, at the very end, come the soybean farmers.

The two men drive into Soybean Land around Cuiaba, kilometer after kilometer, fields without end. Between them are silos the size of nuclear piles. They belong to the soya barons. The Pivettas and the Maggis, and whatever their names are, and Fabiano Martini is one of them. Sometimes he can’t believe his luck that God gave them soya. The rich green makes him happy. It is pure money, he says. Martini’s happiness began with the BSE crisis. Europe needed vegetable protein as a substitute for animal meal, since then soya has been booming.

Brazil alone produced 57 million tonnes of the protein-rich beans last year, in fields that are being eaten further and further north. He is not worried that 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest has already been cut down, he has no problem with the fact that 80 percent of what they produce here becomes animal feed. Sergio da Silva does, he grew up along this road. He can remember what it was like, back when the forest was still standing. But the world has an appetite for meat. And more and more can pay for it. So it needs more cattle, and they need more pastures. Meat consumption in the developing and emerging countries is set to almost double by 2030, and in the West it is expected to increase by a fifth. Instead of 260, 373 million tons of meat would then be needed per year, 40 percent more than now. This does not bode well for the jungle, says Muggiatti.

While grain for a loaf of bread requires about 500 liters of water to grow, a roast chicken gobbles up at least twelve times that amount in its short life in the form of animal feed. And one kilogram of beef is the product of eight kilograms of grain, which corresponds to 20,000 litres of water. A steak contains shower water for a year. On top of that, the animals produce gigantic quantities of exhaust gas: the stomachs of cattle and sheep produce a large part of the methane emitted worldwide, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more aggressive than carbon dioxide.

Timber companies, small farmers, cattle breeders, soy farmers: that is the course of destruction in the Amazon. People earn a lot of money by destroying one of the most important climatic lungs in the world. 20 percent of the Amazon has already been cut down. Greed continues to eat its way into the rainforest, activists and small farmers are fair game. All this just so that the First World can be supplied with meat, and with soya, which in large part becomes cattle feed.

Picture: Soya instead of rainforest: In Brazil, huge areas of Amazonian rainforest are being cleared in order to gain cultivation areas for soya. (SWR/ Eikon Southwest)

Haiti

Suman Sahai sits in her cream-coloured ambassador and smiles. Rice fields rush by in front of the car window. Beautiful Jharkhand, cradle of rice. It is no coincidence that the habilitated human geneticist is active here with her “Gene Campaign”. She, too, wants to solve the world’s nutritional problem – but in a different way. For years now, she has been trying to convince people that India’s farmers have bred the best seeds over the millennia. Where there have been many floods, there have been flood-resistant varieties, and in drought regions drought-resistant varieties. Everything that the genetic manipulators now want to create already exists. All we have to do is preserve the old knowledge. So why replace old rice varieties with high-yield varieties from international corporations? That would only lead to dangerous dependencies.

She gets off at Bhandra village. On the walls of the huts are “Gene Campaign” slogans: “The only owner of seed is the farmer.” Suman Sahai walks into a dark room, no electricity, just shelves full of glasses filled with rice. Bishnu Bhagat is in charge of these jars. He says everyone in the village who needs seeds can get them here, he only has to give something back after the harvest. That is the principle. No payment, no debts. That’s how it is in Jharkhand. They are small farmers – but in the end, says Suman Sahai, they are the ones who feed the great India.

Kishor Tiwari looks something like that. He is an activist, not a scientist, he is someone who acts. When a widow sits in his office, crying because her husband killed himself with pesticide, he puts money in her hand. It’s his way of saving the world. Tiwari lives in Vidarbha, in the cotton belt of India, where many farmers commit suicide.

So many that people say the only thing that is still booming here is the funeral industry. The newspapers wrote about the “GM genocide” and the killer seed, about people who are locked up in the cage of the world economy, abused by international corporations, sucked dry by money lenders and forgotten by politics. Tiwari has made the world aware of what is happening here. It will continue anyway.

The “white gold” they used to call cotton here. But now, cotton often brings death. Because there is only the expensive American genetically modified seed and the corresponding expensive pesticides and fertilizers. They are slaves of Monsanto, the farmers say. And then they buy genetically modified seed because it is supposed to be a miracle seed and because one should earn twice as much with it. So say those who sell them.

It’s all a big lie, Tiwari says. He sees the corpses of those who have followed these promises and who have exchanged the traditional seeds for the genetic seeds. But nobody explains to the farmers how to handle the new, highly sensitive seeds. And so the worms also destroy the genetically modified seeds, and in the event of drought the miracle seeds dry out much more quickly. Only the rich farmers with their irrigation systems make money with it. The small farmer, however, has only higher debts. Deadly high debts.

The poorest country in the western hemisphere was promised prosperous landscapes when the agricultural state joined the international free trade zone. With the opening of the market, however, the prices for raw materials fell so sharply that imported products became cheaper than the products of the locals – thus depriving the farmers of any means of livelihood. On top of this comes a corrupt government and a nature that knows no mercy. Last year’s earthquake further exacerbated the already dramatic situation.

Picture: Famine in Haiti: Inhabitants of the slum Cité de Soleil make mud cookies from butter, salt and earth. (SWR/ Eikon Southwest)

Directors Statement

by Karin Steinberger

It was clear that there can be no other name for this documentary than – Hunger. Nothing else is at stake. What does he look like? Where does he come from? How does it feel? How to fight it? Why does it exist?

This is the most outrageous thing that ever happened to him. Even though people in the First World have so much to eat that they don’t know where to put their excess weight. 3400 kilocalories a day – average. The big food. The world is producing more food than ever before. And then you meet children fighting over an almost empty pot in the heat of an African night, children who are small and sometimes a little retarded because no body can cope with the eternal shortage. You can’t even look at them, they are all malnourished, they are all small. Hidden hunger – concealed hunger, no hunger bellies compatible with donation calls. The scientists postulate the third world food crisis and fiddle around with their facts and figures, drawing hunger diagrams that look like children’s fantasies, because no one can really see through the web of market analyses and world population forecasts, national food balances and personal consumer preferences.

So many causes, so many factors, so many imponderables. 25,000 people die every day as a result of malnutrition. Almost nine million people a year, more than the Greater London area. A child starves to death every five seconds. Abstruse figures in a world where millions of tonnes of grain are fed to cars as fuel. An insane competition between food and energy.

Nevertheless: 925 million people go to bed hungry in the evening and wake up hungry in the morning. And it does not get better, on the contrary. In Asia, 100 million more people will go hungry this year than two years ago. That is far from the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger by 2015. Why? Who is to blame?

The First World, which is sealing itself off with tariffs and trade barriers, which is feeding its farmers with subsidies and throwing its leftover poultry parts onto the markets in developing countries at dumping prices? Is it because more and more people can afford meat when seven vegetable calories are consumed for every animal calorie? Is it because of climate change, the spreading deserts, the ever more frequent droughts and floods? Or the cash crop monocultures that respond to markets, not needs? Is it the investors who now speculate with food after real estate, or the multinationals for whom seed is a commodity? Is it the corrupt governments or the outdated methods of subsistence farmers?

One thing is certain: every morning there are 224,488 more people. Every morning a new Oberhausen. By 2050, there will be 9.3 billion people on Earth. They will be hungry, but they will not have room to grow food. No one will claim to know the one, big, global cause of hunger – or the one solution. Perhaps it is many small solutions that have to be sought, very close to the people. In Mauritania, Kenya, India, Brazil, Haiti – five countries. You could have gone to a hundred others.

Hard work for survival: Indian farmer Bhandra with her meager harvest

Picture (SWR/ Eikon southwest)

Press

(German)

Beggars in spite of raw material wealth – Who benefits from hunger?
Netzfrauen.org, 30.07.2016

Documentation- Prize for Hunger
Saarklar, 8.11.2013

Protestant Media Prize for six radio and TV productions
Evangelische Lirche in Deutschland, 25.08.2011

A film about causes and solution strategies
Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 28.06.2011

ARD documentary on hunger: roses in, food out
Spiegel Online, 25.10.2010


Hunger – About a global problem
Tagesspiegel, 24.10.2010

Documentation Hunger – Biscuits from mud
Frankfurter Rundschau, 24.10.2010

The many faces of hunger
3Sat Programmankündigung

Broadcast dates

(Germany)

ARD – Das Erste

on 25 October 2010 at 10.45 pm

The film will be shown as part of the ARD theme week “Essen ist Leben”, a program focus on radio, television and the Internet of the ARD. The ARD Theme Week runs from 23 to 29 October and covers a broad spectrum, including healthy eating, child obesity, fair trade, sustainability and consumer protection.

Phoenix

Tuesday, 26 Oct. 2010 at 8.45 pm

In order to provide another prime time slot for the outstanding documentary film by Karin Steinberger and Marcus Vetter, PHOENIX will broadcast the film on Tuesday, October 26 at 20:45. Afterwards the PHOENIX round will discuss the topic “Hunger – Are we to blame?

Planet School

5 Nov. 7.30 a.m.: Kenya: The battle for water
5 Nov. 7:45 a.m.: India: Dead-end genetic engineering
12 Nov. 7.30 a.m.: Brazil: Sellout in the rainforest
12 Nov. 7.45 am: Haiti: Delivered to the world market

The four times 15-minute series “Hunger” on Planet School uses footage from the documentary film to show undesirable developments and makes it clear to students how far the world’s population is still from achieving the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. It thus provides a basis for analysis and evaluation in class.

Picture (SWR/ Eikon southwest)

Credits

Festivals & Awards

A production by ARD and SWR

Year of production2009
Lenght89 Minuten
FormatHD/35 mm
A production byARD, SWR
In cooperation withEikon Südwest
Script & DirectionMarcus Vetter
Karin Steinberger
Director of PhotographyThomas Mauch
SoundKlaus-Peter Schmitt
EditingSaskia Metten
MusicPeter Scherer
Project coordinationBernhard Foos (SWR)
ProducerAxelle Hourrier (Eikon)
Production managementKristin Holst (Eikon)
Thomas Lorenz (SWR)
ProducersUlli Pfau
Ernst Ludwig Ganzer
Commissioning EditorsGudrun Hanke-El Ghomri
Peter Latzel
AwardsEvangelischer Medienpreis 2001
NominationsGrimme-Price 2011
German Television Price 2011
FestivalsIDFA 2009
Food and Film Festival 2011

Marcus Vetter (left) and Karin Steinberger (right)

Picture (SWR/ Eikon southwest)