If bran is strong m will sacrifice himself

World food

Andrea Fadani

Dr. Andrea Fadani studied agricultural science in Bonn and Stuttgart-Hohenheim. He is a specialist in world food issues and has headed the Father and Son Eiselen Foundation, which runs the private Museum of Bread Culture, since 2000.

A look at history shows that the lack of food is a permanent threat to people. The main causes are natural disasters, wars and politics. Lack of food and rising food prices lead to hunger, poverty, disease and death.

Care packages for families in need in West Berlin (1956). (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)


Nutrition is crucially important for the development and history of mankind, because it shaped people's lives - their work, their well-being, but also their suffering. For large parts of the population it has always been the case that if food becomes scarce, they are threatened with hunger, disease and impoverishment. For the poorest sections of the population in particular, every bad harvest inevitably meant famine.

Grain and bread were sacred to many peoples. Grave goods from the advanced civilizations of Egypt or Latin America show that people at that time revered wheat and maize. These staple foods also played an important role in the rites of religions, in customs and legends. Peoples in regions in which other staple food plants predominated for ecological reasons also often worshiped these plants in ritual terms.

Up to modern times, the cultural and social history reflects the famines of the people.

Historical development

Diet in Ancient Egypt
In Pharaonic Egypt, people were used to recurring food shortages and prolonged famine. The amount of annual Nile flood that carried fertile mud and precious water into the Nile Valley was decisive in determining whether the harvest was good or bad. If the Pharaoh did not ensure an adequate supply and fair distribution of grain, the majority of the population soon ran out of bread after a bad harvest. After the harvest, the Egyptians therefore stored part of the grain in state granaries. They could store surpluses in it for years.

Diet in ancient times
In addition to offering sacrifices for the gods, the respective political ruling class in Rome, the Senate or the emperor, was responsible for providing the people with food. The state provided a sufficient quantity of grain at a reasonable price. The state intervened against the overgrowth of grain. From the year 123 BC. Registered citizens could buy cheap, state-subsidized grain. 58 BC A free grain distribution began, which was reduced by Gaius Julius Caesar for reasons of cost and expanded again by Augustus. Eligible, for the most part the impoverished population, received grain from a state store and were thus able to secure their livelihood. This measure also served to take this part of the population for the incumbents of the republic and subsequently the emperors. Large urban centers of the Roman Empire relied on grain imports from the provinces.

Diet in the Middle Ages
Food crises and famines were interpreted by people in the Middle Ages as God's punishment for their sins. For them, crop failures seemed to have a supernatural origin beyond their immediate causes such as wars and natural disasters and were heralded by celestial phenomena such as solar and lunar eclipses or comets. Even secular princes therefore ordered additional prayers and services by decree during times of hunger. However, this did not rule out political measures such as trade bans, grain purchases and price regulations. There was no central supply like in antiquity.

Diet in modern times
Since the end of the 18th century, grain shortages, mainly due to natural disasters or wars, led to food prices in Europe, which led to increased unrest and uprisings. Due to the lack of transport options, food in the individual regions became scarce after looting or the lack of labor for growing grain during a war. The protesters wanted to force the authorities to issue measures such as export bans. This should make food cheaper again.

A particularly bad famine occurred in the early 19th century. When the Tambora volcano on Sumbawa (Indonesia) erupted in 1815, a huge amount of dust was thrown into the atmosphere. This resulted in extremely cold and wet weather in large parts of the world in the following months. The "year without a summer" in 1816 led to the worst famine of the 19th century in parts of the northern hemisphere (see source text).

Source text

Famine 1816/17

A document from the famine of 1816/17 from Laichingen on the Swabian Alb describes the helplessness of the people of that time who were at the mercy of hunger:

"With us, however, there is a year that has not been the same since the famine years of 1772 to 74, -which the ancients say. In the last few years we had heard nothing more than war and war cries and from Russians and French , Bavarians and Austrians, who went through the country and had to be fed. But nothing at all has worked against the outrageous misery that has now befallen us. It began in March (1816), when my children met for the first time screamed for bread and we hardly had any. Meanwhile in the 1814s and 1815s everything turned out badly. And afterwards everything became so expensive than anyone could ever have paid for it. The Bretzgen (pretzels) and Kreuzerwecken were so small on Palm Day, that one of the healing pools, who still made it, was able to eat several at once without being full, like two or three of the loaves of bread. That made 1815 a very lean year e cow farmers have barely cut their food and the Gäul farmers (horse farmers) have nothing or not too much left over. They said; The next year may be better, and now the price increases and hunger is already there in March. And the weather doesn't look like a good year this spring. As early as January (January), but even more so in Hornung (February), it was hot than it was not on many days in the distant summer. In March weather it thundered in the sky than usual around Jakobi (July 24th). While the flour is now so scarce and almost impossible to get, my wife puts bran in the bread and ground pear (potato), grated. In March it started raining after the first change of the moon and afterwards it rained than at the flood, so that there was water everywhere in the place ... We have such weather now in spring, when we should sow, and we hope so to a good summer. May God help us! "

Source: Dorothee Bayer O give me bread - The famine years 1816 and 1817 in Württemberg and Baden, series of the German Bread Museum, 1966



Diet in World War I
The famine in Germany during the First World War is one of the worst of the 20th century in Western Europe. Economically, the German Reich was not prepared for a long war. There was a lack of large food supplies, and the conversion to the war economy severely restricted the production and distribution of grain. In addition, England had a policy of blocking grain imports from abroad.

The "turnip winter" of 1916/17 was a high point of need: the extreme shortage of food could not be compensated for by rationing or by using additives or substitutes. Extenders and substitutes were used when there was not enough grain available for bread-making. The dough was stretched with different materials, such as acorns, straw, sweet peas, grated roots, sawdust and other things. Almost the entire population suffered from malnutrition. After it became clear in the first months of the war that people were threatened with a lack of food, bread and other basic foods were rationed from 1915 and were only available against the appropriate brands until well into the post-war period. Nevertheless, hunger remained omnipresent in Germany until around 1924 and was also a constant topic in public political discourse. All political parties in the Weimar Republic use the food issues in the political discussion and campaigned for themselves with the indication that they would work for the solution of the hunger question.

Hunger in communism
In most communist regimes, the expropriation of private farms and their amalgamation into large, state-controlled complexes led to massive food crises. The economic policy of Mao Tse-Tung (President of China from 1954-1959) - the so-called "Great Leap Forward" - brought a devastating famine to the People's Republic of China. From 1958 onwards, all farmers had to unite to form people's communes. At the same time, the political leadership withdrew workers and raw materials from agriculture - and used them in steel production. The result: in 1960 the harvest yields had already decreased by more than a third. Nevertheless, the People's Republic financed the purchase of industrial equipment with grain exports. This sparked a famine in which it is estimated that between 20 and 40 million people died. China kept the catastrophe and its extent a secret; the world only found out about it 20 years later.

Causes of hunger

Hunger as a weapon
History has shown that wars generally lead to hunger because the foundations of food supply are destroyed. In addition, the warring parties use hunger as a weapon against their enemies by systematically depriving them of food ("scorched earth tactics").

A recent example of this is the conflict over Biafra in the late 1960s. Biafra is a part of the state of Nigeria, which emerged from many often hostile ethnic groups after independence from the British colonial empire. To prevent the establishment of an independent state, the central state of Nigeria attacked Biafra militarily in June 1967. Already at the end of the year there was a threatening supply crisis for the Biafran population. International and church organizations were only able to alleviate the misery temporarily with aid deliveries, as the central Nigerians attacked the transports. They specifically rely on the strategy of starving out their enemies. A total of 500,000 to three million people were killed in this war, the majority of whom died of starvation and its consequences.

Hunger from environmental disasters
Droughts and floods are still devastating to the food supply in poor countries. By acting wrongly or not reacting at all, people exacerbate difficult situations caused by environmental conditions such as drought.

For example, many countries south of the Sahara were hit by a prolonged drought in the late 1960s. The farmers had depleted the soil there through too intensive livestock and agriculture. In addition, they had hardly taken any preventive measures such as irrigation systems or storage facilities - a drought occurred. Because people reacted hesitantly and then wrongly, and because the political situation was unstable, the situation got worse. Hundreds of thousands eventually lost their lives to hunger and malnutrition disease.

Table 1 lists "only" the greatest famines of the last two centuries. It is worth remembering that the greater part of hunger occurs without disaster.

Famines of the past two centuries
yearcountryestimated fatalities
1845 ff.Ireland1.200.000
1850 ff.China10.000.000
1892 ff.China1.000.000
1915 ff.Germany800.000
1917 ff.USSR2.000.000
1928 f.China500.000
1931 ff.USSR4.000.000
1941 ff.Leningrad (USSR)1.000.000
1949 ff.China1.500.000
1967 ff.Biafra800.000
1975 ff.Cambodia700.000
1996 ff.North Korea1.000.000
Source: after Josef Nussbaumer violence - power - hunger. Serious famine since 1845, Studienverlag, Insbruck, 2003

The modern fight against hunger

After overcoming hunger in Europe after World War II, many people in rich countries felt they had a moral obligation to help the starving people in poor countries. With the founding of the United Nations and its Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945, the world community assumed part of the responsibility for improving the food situation. Over the next few decades, other specialized international organizations were founded, such as the World Food Program (WFP), and many international regulations such as the international food aid convention or the human right to food were adopted to combat hunger.

In addition to state aid, private aid initiatives (non-governmental organizations, NGOs) were organized that wanted to do something against hunger and poverty in the world. After the end of the Second World War, on November 27, 1945, the aid program CARE ("Cooperative for Assistance and Relief to Everywhere") started in the United States. In the CARE packages, food was sent directly to families in need in Europe. Together with the Marshall Plan, which coordinated the economic reconstruction of Europe, food in Europe could be sustainably secured. Today, NGOs around the world are active in the fight against hunger. In addition to charitable projects, they are also committed to structural and political solutions.

But comprehensive food security can only be achieved through political and structural changes in the developing countries themselves. Even today, around one in seven people is affected by malnutrition and malnutrition. Despite all efforts, the impression remains that politicians are not addressing the problem of hunger decisively.


Weingärtner, L .; Trentmann, C .; Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e. V. (Ed.): Handbook World Nutrition, Frankfurt 2011

Father and Son Eiselen Foundation Ulm (ed.): Museum guide through the Museum of Bread Culture, Ulm 2007

Jacob, H. E .: Six thousand years of bread, Hamburg 1954

Roudart, L .: History of world agriculture, Taylor & Francis Ltd, 2006