"Still more deadly then severe and complete hunger is the phenomenon of chronic or partial hunger, because of its social and economical effects which silently undermine countless populations around the world."
I have so many times said that hunger is the biological expression for sociological evils. It is closely related to economical distortion, which I have called "underdevelopment" before anyone else did, 10
Hunger is a geographically universal phenomenon, which has disastrous consequences no continent can escape from. Every land belonging to men has been, until today, a land of hunger. Scientific research carried out worldwide has acknowledged the fact that two thirds of the world's population suffer, either endemically or epidemically, from the crushing effects of hunger.5
Hunger is not a product of overpopulation: it already existed massively before post-war demographic explosion. The difference is that the hunger which destroyed entire populations in the Third World was scattered, hushed and hidden. People did not refer to the subject, which was considered a shame: hunger was a taboo.4
In a mangrove everything is, was or will be crab, even men and mud.1
It was not at Sorbonne, or any other knowledgeable university, that I became aware of the phenomenon of hunger. It revealed itself before my eyes in the mangroves of Capibaribe, in the miserable neighborhoods of Recife - Afogados, Pina, Santo Amaro, Ilha do Leite. This was my university, my Sorbonne. The mud of the Recife mangroves, swarming with crabs and human beings made of crab meat, thinking and feeling like crabs. 1
These are amphibious creatures - living between land and water, half man, half beast. Fed in childhood with crab broth - this milk made of mud - they became foster brothers and sisters of crabs.
Soon I became aware of this curious mimicry: men resembling crabs. Crawling and flattening themselves like crabs in order to survive.1
I had the impression that inhabitants of the mangrove - men and crabs born on the river banks - just sunk deeper in the mud as they grew. 1
This reality struck me from inside. That's how I discovered hunger.
At first I thought this was restricted to the area where I lived - the mangrove region. Then I realized that the mangroves were like a promised land in the starving scene of northeastern Brazil. They attracted men from other areas where hunger was even worse - regions of draught and sugarcane monoculture; where the sugar industry crushed men and sugarcane alike, turning everything into bagasse.1
To see them act, talk, fight, live and die, was like seeing the tyrannical iron hands of hunger modeling the heroes of the greatest drama in earth - the drama of hunger.1
Through the stories told by men and by following the river's course I came to know that hunger was not exclusive to mangroves. The mangroves just attracted hungry men from all over the northeast: those who came from the draught areas and those belonging to the sugar-producing zones alike. They all came to the promised land, to nestle in the mud nests built by both and witness the beautiful crab life-cycle. When I grew up and began travelling around the world I saw different landscapes and noticed that what I believed to be a unique phenomenon was actually an universal reality. That the human landscape in the mangroves repeated itself all over the world. Those characters from the mud in Recife were identical to others in countless areas plagued by hunger. That the human mud from Recife, as I had seen in my childhood, continues to tarnish our planet until today, like great black blotches of misery: the dark demographic spots of the geography of hunger.1
The issues tackled in this book are of delicate and dangerous nature. To such an extent that they have become one of our society's taboos. It is strange and shocking to see that in a world so full of writings and publications, there is so little said and told on the phenomenon of hunger and all its different forms. 2
What are the true concealed reasons for this silence conspiracy on hunger? It is a deliberate silence that comes from the very essence of our culture: the interests and prejudice of moral, political and economical nature of our so called western civilization made of hunger a taboo or at least an issue considered improper to be dealt with publicly.2
Besides moral prejudice, the economical interest of ruling minorities has also helped to conceal hunger from the modern spiritual panorama. It was in the interest of economical imperialism and international trade that the production, distribution and consumption of food products continued to be considered exclusively as an economical phenomenon - run and encouraged by economical interest - and not thought of as an issue directly related to public health.2
In order to adequately plan solutions to feeding people around the world, it is necessary to overcome one of the main obstacles in the fight against hunger: the lack of a deeper knowledge about it - understanding the notion that hunger is a complex set of manifestations that can simultaneously be biological, economical and social.2
In other words, we will try develop a research of ecological nature - using the richness of the concept of Ecology - relating the actions and reactions of living beings according to environmental influences.2
In this essay of ecological nature we will try to analyze the feeding habits of different human groups, according to their geographical areas. On the one hand, we will assess the social causes that conditioned their feeding habits - with their faults and characteristic imperfections - and on the other, try to investigate to what extent the lack of proper feeding can influence the economical and social structure of the different groups studied.
The idea is to analyze hunger as a collective phenomenon - hunger striking great human masses endemically or epidemically. It is necessary to consider both total hunger, called starvation in English, which is normally limited to extremely miserable areas and exceptional contingencies, and partial hunger - also called concealed hunger - which is more frequent and serious, because of its numerical consequences. This kind of hunger slowly kills entire populations because of a permanent lack of nutrients in their diets, even though they might eat every day. To study this collective partial hunger in all it's different forms is the purpose of our work.2
There are two ways of dying of hunger: one is not to eat at all and rapidly waste away until death and the other is to eat inadequately and begin a cycle of specific deficiencies which might ultimately end up in death. Partial or chronic hunger is more pressing than total hunger. The latter has social and economical impact but the former will silently destroy and undermine countless populations.5
Nowadays the notion of hunger is an incomplete one. The European elite's ignorance of the social reality caused by hunger in the world, and the dangers this phenomenon represents to its social stability, generates a serious gap both in the analysis of current political events, manifested in so many different regions, and in the approach rich countries should have towards underdeveloped countries, endlessly haunted by feeding penury and poverty.4
Brazil's feudal agricultural structure is the most negative factor in the situation of the country's food supply, owing to an inadequate land regime, obsolete labor relations and a misuse of land that spoils the potential richness of the soil.2
Land reform is a historic necessity, specially in this moment of social transformation in Brazil. It is imperative.2
Sixty percent of rural properties in Brazil are large estates, with more then 130 acres. Twenty percent of these have more then 25,000 acres. In the 1950 census, it became clear that dozens of rural properties in Brazil are true feudal estates with extensions greater then 250,000 acres.2
These large land estates spawn masses of landless peasants, who work the lands that belong to others, as employees or in bondage, exploited by the feudal economical mechanisms. On the other hand, small properties mean uneconomical exploration of the land and chronic paucity of subsistence cultures, which cannot fulfill the feeding needs of a family.2
The kind of reform we believe is imperative today is not just an expropriation and redistribution of land to meet the demands of the landless. This simplistic appraoch is not enough to solve the economic difficulties of agriculture. Our concept of land reform includes the process of reviewing economical and legal relations, between those that own the land and those who work the it.
We need to face the taboo of land reform - forbidden, improper and dangerous - with the same courage we faced the hunger taboo. We should talk openly about it to render void its taboo-like characteristic. Through broad clarifying campaigns we should show that land reform is not a bogeyman or an evil dragon that will engulf the riches of land owners. We should show that it will be beneficial to everyone that socially participates in agriculture.2
It is clear that having a diversified and sufficient food supply will not solve the feeding need of the world population. Hunger is not just a matter of insufficient production of food. The population affected by hunger also has to have purchasing power to buy this food.4
Hunger not only acts on the body of the victims of draught, wasting the flesh, eating away the organs and opening wounds, it also destroys the spirit, the mental structure and the moral conduct of these people. No other calamity can disassemble the human character as deeply and as harmfully as hunger, as it reaches the limits of true starvation. When excited by the urgent need to feed themselves, the basic instincts are aroused and man, like any other hungry animal, will show a mental conduct that can be utterly disconcerting.5
Justify world hunger as a natural and inevitable phenomenon is just a way of trying to mystify and hide its true causes. In the past, hunger was a form of colonial exploitation, through which ruling countries would impose themselves on the remaining population. Today it serves economical neo-colonialism, to subdue underdeveloped and dependent countries, with primary economies. These are the hungry countries.4
The human masses became aware that hunger and misery are not indispensable to the world's balance. Today, thanks to the progress of science, for the first time in history we are eyewitnesses of the birth of a new society, where misery can be eliminated along with hunger.12