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Chronic hunger represents the great ethical failure of the current global system - President Michael D Higgins

Irish President Michael D Higgins speaking at the opening of the Hunger • Nutrition • Climate Justice • 2013 conference in Dublin. Photo: eu2013.ie.President Michael D Higgins this week described the food crisis facing the world in strong language more often heard at conferences on torture or other human rights issues.

Speaking at a two-day conference on hunger, nutrition and climate justice in Dublin, President Higgins said urgent problems face us.

“Global hunger in the 21st century represents the grossest of human rights violations, and the greatest ethical challenge facing the global community.

“The source of this hunger is not a lack of food, but the moral affront of poverty, created and sustained by gross inequalities across the world - inequalities of power, economics and technology,” he said in an opening address to the 350 delegates from 60 countries.

The conference, part of Ireland’s EU presidency, was hosted by the Irish government and the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice (MRFCJ) in partnership with the World Food Programme.

President Higgins went on to talk about “the great ethical failure of the current global system” saying it is striking how rarely famine is caused by natural disaster or war.

He said: “Although many people might imagine that deaths from hunger generally occur in times of famine and conflict, the fact is that only about 10% of these deaths are the result of armed conflicts, natural catastrophes or exceptional climatic conditions.

“The other 90% are victims of long term, chronic lack of access to adequate food which represents, I repeat, the great ethical failure of the current global system.”

Former Irish President Mary Robinson beamed out from Irish newspapers following the conference opening; clearly delighted climate justice was being addressed through grassroots communication with those in power.

She said: “If we continue to address hunger, nutrition and climate change as separate issues we will not solve any one, much less all three of the challenges.

“People are hungry and under nourished for many reasons, including lack of access to resources, the absence of rights, conflict, natural disasters and now, climate change. Climate change is the last straw for many.”

An unusual feature of the “Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice Conference” was the focus on listening with panels and question and answer sessions taking place throughout.

This was designed by Mrs Robinson to allow grassroot voices to have an impact, to tell the stories of hunger and climate change which hide behind the pie-charts and diagrams.

She said people on the ground see the connection between climate change, nutrition, food security and human development very clearly.

“Our challenge is to understand these linkages in the same way that those experiencing them do, and to design responses that solve the closely related problems.

“That’s what this conference gives us an opportunity to do. I hope that through our discussions we can extract some wisdom and powerful messages to help shape the way we do development in the future,” she said.

Other conference partners include organising partner CGIAR Research Group for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CGIAR/CCAFS) and supporters The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).

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Lar Boland: Solar Grandmothers

Solar GrandmothersPuppetry knows no language barrierFrom student to master
Solar GrandmothersTogoaliseAkouavi
HotitodeMialo TassiHailed by the chief
Student to master 2Going solarMialo Tassi
AkouaviInstalling panels for a clinicSolar power for the clinic
Life in Agome SevahThe river MonoTrade across the Mono
FishingPetrolLife in Agome Sevah
VeteranBuildingLight
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Solar Grandmothers

Supported by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund, Photojournalist Lar Boland documented the solar technology training of 4 Grandmothers (pictured with mentor) at Rajasthan's Barefoot College and their return to Togo.

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Puppetry knows no language bar

Puppetry is used for training at the Barefoot College as many of the women being trained are illiterate. Photo: Lar Boland.

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From student to master

An Indian instructor who herself trained at the Barefoot College demonstrates the working of electronic panels to the Togolese solar grandmothers. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Solar Grandmothers

A trainee working on the installation of a mobile solar lamp. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Togoalise

  Togoalise is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Akouavi

Akouavi is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Hotitode

Hotitode is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Mialo Tassi

Mialo Tassi is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Hailed by the chief

On their return to Agome Sevah, the Solar Grandmothers are greeted by the Chief of the village. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Student to master 2

Having returned to Agome Sevah after a six month training period at the Barefoot College, the Solar Grandmothers set about training others at their workshop. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Going solar

A group of Solar Grandmothers and helpers on their way to erecting solar panels at a small village home in Agame Sevah, Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Mialo Tassi

Mialo Tassi, a Solar Grandmother, on her way to erecting solar panels at a small village home in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Akouavi

Akouavi, a Solar Grandmother from Agome Sevah erecting solar panels at a small village home. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Installing panels for a clinic

Solar Grandmothers outside a newly built clinic which they are about to solar electrify. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Solar power for the clinic

Solar Grandmothers install solar panels on the roof of the newly built clinic in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Life in Agome Sevah

A family from the rural village of Agome Sevah have their daily wash in the Mono river which seperates Togo from Benin. Photo: Lar Boland.

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The river Mono

The much used Mono river which divides Togo and Benin. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Trade across the Mono

The river Mono between Togo and Benin is regularily crossed by traders. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Fishing

Children fishing in the Mono River. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Petrol

Petrol bought at a reduced price in Benin, and smuggled across the Mono river, is later sold on the streets of Togo, such as the capital Lome. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Life in Agome Sevah

Everyday life in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Veteran

A Togo war veteran with his grandaughter. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Building

A man builds a small dwelling in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Light

Children can now study in the evening with the help of solar power. In Togo, near the equator, it gets dark at around 5:30. Photo: Lar Boland.

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