Thursday, November 09, 2017

Let's Feed the World Sustainably and Equitably

There are currently 7.6 billion people worldwide, a figure forecast to rise as high as 12bn by the end of this century.

“World population will stabilise in 2070 or 2080, but before then, sustainable food security is a huge challenge,” said Joachim von Braun, a professor for economic and technological change at the Centre for Development Research in Germany.

According to Vladimir Sucha, a director in the European Commission's Joint Research Centre,“We still have 850 million people who are suffering from hunger or who are food insecure. We have enough food on the planet, but the food is not distributed evenly.” There are, he said, two billion suffering from some form of malnutrition, even if not all of these people go hungry, yet there are also two billion who are obese.
A series of measures need to be taken to address the issue. 
Improving productivity, such as through using plant breeding and advanced methods of genetics, is one. Reducing food wastage is another. As much as 25 to 30 per cent of food is wasted during, for example, transport and preparation. In the EU, an average of 128kg of food is wasted per person per year, a figure that rises to as much as 180kg in some EU nations. Also, ensuring land use was sustainable, in terms of preventing soil from becoming degraded and not over-utilising water resources.
 Professor Sarah Agbor, the African Union commissioner for human resources, science and technology, explained cereal production in Africa is less than 1.5 tonnes per hectare, compared to a world average of 3.8 tonnes. There is, said Prof Agbor, an “urgency” to upgrade to higher technologies, which are already available.
“Why is the majority of Africa still living in hunger? Why have the many years of scientific research in Africa not yielded the ultimate measure of progress? Why are our capabilities still underutilised?” she asked. “Most Africans continue to work in rural areas with outdated tools with very little input from science between the farm and the fork. This all leads to low productivity.”
According to UN figures, 95 percent of farmers in Benin, for example, use subsistence techniques. Subsistence farming can offer a “paradise” for farmers who grow food to feed their own family, according to Professor Jacqueline McGlade of University College London, but when they switch to growing commodity crops, and the prices of those crops fall, they can become unable to buy enough food for themselves.

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