By 2050, the world’s human population will reach over nine billion. Nearly all of this increase will occur in developing countries. Urbanisation is going to rise at an accelerating rate and income levels could multiply. With an extra two billion mouths to feed each day, how can we ensure Global Food Security is achieved by 2050?
Harsh increases in global and national markets, and the resulting surges in hungry and malnourished people have sharpened the awareness of the general public and policy-makers on the issue that is the global food system. Political will and effective responses must be utilised to render the system better prepared for long-term demand and to ensure it is more resilient towards risk factors that confront world agriculture and adequate food supply.
On average, around five million children die each year due to poor nutrition. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), almost 1 billion people suffer from chronic hunger. Before addressing the issue of our rapidly increasing population, we should question the current situation. As an international community who want to eliminate world hunger, the problem should be viewed from a human rights perspective, and those who have previously been disregarded in development planning must have a place: equality, human rights and economics must frame the sustainable development goals, (SDGs).
Increased food production is not sufficient to achieve global food security. The fight against hunger requires policies to enhance access to fighting poverty, safety net programmes, health and sanitation, food assistance, education and training improvements. Research and development for sustained productivity growth, infrastructure and institutional reforms, environmental services and sustainable resource management necessitate increased investment. Policies should not only focus on supply growth, but also the access to food the world’s poor and hungry need to ensure them an active and healthy life, a journal from Nature stated.
As rural populations expand quicker than agricultural employment, there will be an increased demand for jobs out of the agricultural sector. As competition for space between water and agriculture increases, it must be recognised that we need more from less land. Issues such as climate change, natural habitat preservation and biodiversity need to be taken into account, especially as converting tropical rainforest to agricultural land is a very destructive process, one which we have already exploited. It needs to be asked, what can be done for countries with high demand growth, fragile environments and limited commercial capacity to import food or feed from the world markets?
With increased prosperity in developing countries, diets will shift from grains and other staple crops to vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy, and fish. It has been estimated that meat production alone will have to rise by over 200 million tonnes to reach the required 470 million tonnes worldwide.
It is not only food production that is an issue; many regions in East/North Africa and South Africa have pronounced water scarcity which is likely to worsen due to the effects of climate change. Higher temperatures, carbon dioxide elevation, precipitation changes, increased weeds,pests and disease pressure are some of the products of climate change, which can hold dangerous implications on achieving global food security.
It seems, realistically, that is not necessarily all about space. Agricultural expansion does not appear as a sustainable solution for the problem. Improvements in organic and commercial farming, increasing yields on less productive farmlands, preventing deforestation, shifting to less meat-intensive diets in countries where meat is consumed regularly and reducing waste can all hold positive impacts, say the National Geographic.However, there are many factors that also need to be taken into account. The use of biofuels, pollution, overall capacities, foreign investment capacity in developing countries and the fact that the FAO estimates future consumption levels country by country should be considered.
We have the resources and technology required to eradicate world hunger. However, in order to utilise these resources, proper socioeconomic frameworks and political will is required. The way we shape the future for the global food system is up to us. The time for change is now.
A deal aimed to double agricultural production and end hunger in Africa has underestimated the impact climate change will have on the continent’s food production, a report has found.
The African Union’s Malabo Declaration, adopted in 2014, fails to push for investments in Africa’s scientific capacity to combat climate threats, according to a report produced by the UK-based Agriculture for Impact and launched in Rwanda this month (14 June). “Food security and agricultural development policies in Africa will fail if they are not climate-smart”, says Gordon Conway, director of Agriculture for Impact.
Ousmane Badiane, director of Africa at the US-headquartered International Food Policy Research Institute, and a Montpellier Panel member, tells SciDev.Net that: “African smallholder farmers are among the most vulnerable groups to the effects of climate change globally, and they are already feeling the effects.”
He explains that the Malabo Declaration seeks to make 30 percent of farming, pastoral and fisher households resilient to climate change by 2025. It also plans on scaling-up climate-smart agriculture practices that have been shown to work.
Badiane adds that many innovative agricultural practices and programmes are already taking place across Africa, but these can be small in scale and may remain largely unknown. “There is an urgent need for these to be identified and scaled up, with support from both the private and public sectors,” he says. “Governments need to build climate change adaptation and mitigation into their agricultural policies.”
The report highlights 15 success stories from countries such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia. These include technology and innovation, risk mitigation, and sustainable intensification of agriculture and financing.
Badiane tells SciDev.Net: “It is important that African governments have a voice in the international discussions and commitments on climate change. They also need better access to climate funds such as the Green Climate Funds that can help to implement climate-smart programmes.”
Shem O. Wandiga, acting director, Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation of Kenya’s University of Nairobi, says that the declaration acknowledges the threats posed by climate change but does not recognise the need to integrate resilience into the activities of governments. “No progress towards the goals of the declaration can be achieved without sound scientific knowledge,” he says. “Such knowledge cannot be borrowed. This is often ignored by African governments.”
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Climate change and conflict pose challenges; joint action to deliver on commitments needed – FAO Director-General.
Africa has made great strides in tackling hunger — achieving a 30 percent drop in the proportion of its people facing hunger over the 1990-2015 period — but climate change, conflict and social inequality continue to present major challenges in the continent’s quest for a future free from hunger and want, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.
While the overall proportion of Africans who are food insecure has dropped, there are “significant variations” in the numbers of food insecure can be seen from country to country, he noted.
“Africa’s economic performance remains robust with growth rates above the global average. However, vulnerability to climate change is high, post-harvest losses are considerable, natural resources are being depleted, and not everyone is benefiting from the proceeds of the current strong economic growth. Access to remunerative income, social protection systems and decent employment opportunities remain narrow for too many rural households,” FAO’s Director-General said.
He was speaking at the official opening of the FAO’ Regional Conference for Africa, taking place this week in Abidjan with the participation of the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, Daniel Kablan Duncan..
Graziano da Silva urged his listeners to continue to work together to harness the power of the food and agriculture sector as a catalyst for inclusive growth, poverty reduction and fighting hunger, saying: “In spite of the many hurdles along the way, today I urge you to look at how far we have come in the journey to end hunger in our lifetimes.”
The conference’s theme ”Transforming African Agri-food systems for inclusive growth and shared prosperity” mirrors the vision of the African Union and its NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency to realise a renewed vision for Africa’s agriculture sector.
“This conference adds momentum to the push for a fundamental shift in the orientation of Africa’s agricultural and rural development towards transforming the lives of Africans under the 2014 Malabo Declaration and outlined in the Africa’s Agenda 2063”, the FAO Director-General said.
More than 300 people are participating in the event, including 51 African ministers of agriculture and related sectors, as well as technical experts and development specialists, representatives of regional organizations and institutions, members of civil society, and the private sector.
El Niño and other crisis pose challenges
Graziano da Silva highlighted climate change and conflict as two particularly pressing challenges for Africa.
The ongoing El Niño cycle is affecting large parts of the African continent, especially the southern sub-region as well as parts of East Africa, notably Ethiopia and Tanzania, and has taken a major tool on agriculture, he noted, while conflicts in the Central African Republic, Somalia, and South Sudan continue to have serious food insecurity repercussions.
FAO is working in all these hotspots, providing farmers with seeds, tools, and other support vital to maintaining and strengthening their ability to produce food and earn income.
“These crisis vividly remind us of the importance of scaling up resilience interventions targeting vulnerable populations whose livelihoods mainly depend on agriculture, livestock, fisheries forestry and other renewable natural resources,” according to Graziano da Silva.
He also underscored the importance of preventing future disease epidemics like Ebola, which impacted food security and people’s livelihoods in West Africa. FAO has recently launched a five-year programme in Africa to monitor and tackle emerging pandemic threats at their source in animals, working in 13 countries, he said.
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Delivering on the 2025 Zero Hunger challenge as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require the efforts of an alliance of partners, and
“FAO stands ready to support Africa member states in the delivery of the SDGs in firm collaboration with the African Union, other regional institutions and humanitarian and development partners,” Graziano da Silva said.
In support of CAADP, FAO has participated in the formulation of 95 agriculture and food security investment projects in 40 countries in Africa, with financial support from partners such as the AfDB World Bank and IFAD, the agency’s Director-General pointed out.
And in 2012 FAO helped pioneer the innovative Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF), which mobilizes funds donated by African countries in support of food security projects in less-well off parts of the continent. So far, $34.5 million have been allocated to 15 programmes and projects in 36 different countries, boosting efforts to eradicate hunger.
He encouraged governments to continue to resource the fund, which is working to transforming African agriculture and make it an engine for shared growth and prosperity.
The International community and the big donors who have invested huge amounts of money in Africa over many decades to alleviate hunger and eradicate poverty were not successful in finding solutions to these problems.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the world’s population will increase by one-third between now and 2050.
If current income and consumption growth trends continue, the FAO estimates that agricultural production will have to increase by 60 percent by 2050 to satisfy the expected demand for food.
Agriculture must therefore transform itself if it is to feed a growing global population and provide the basis for economic growth and poverty reduction.
During the period between 2010 and 2012, almost 870 million people were estimated to be undernourished.
In addition, another one billion people are malnourished, lacking essential micronutrients.
About 60 percent of malnourished people are small subsistence farmers. This is shocking because they are the very people on whom most of the countries in Africa and the international community rely to feed the millions of undernourished and malnourished people.
The first obstacle on the road to food security in these mostly underdeveloped African countries is the unwillingness or inability of the countries and the international community to make a paradigm shift and realise that the production of food by small subsistence farmers will never be the solution to famine and poverty in Africa.
These farmers are in many cases struggling to make a living themselves.
It is a fact that no farmers in the world, regardless of their colour, race or the size of their farms, can make a contribution to food security if they cannot produce food profitably and sustainably.
The time has now arrived for everybody involved in wanting to achieve food security in Africa to acknowledge and accept this reality.
Once this obstacle is overcome and the mindshift made towards transformation of the agricultural industry, the road to food security can become a scientific and economic reality in Africa.
But an important question should be asked in this regard: how is it possible that the international community and big donors continued year after year and decade after decade with the same development policy that proved unsuccessful, but then expected a different result?
The ultimate question is, then, what should be done to achieve food security and eradicate poverty in these countries?
The answer is simple: profitable and sustainable production of food commercially.
This is the prerequisite for any country that wants to achieve food security. There is no other way.
The second obstacle to achieving food security and relieving poverty is the fact that the subsistence agricultural industry in Africa has never had the capacity to support an ever-growing population in a sustainable manner.
The fact that the agricultural industry still makes the biggest contribution to economic growth, and that it is still the most important part of the economy, is a further obstacle and remains the most important reason for the underdeveloped status of these African countries.
The only solution is the deliberate transfer of a major proportion of the population out of the agricultural industry to relieve the industry from its enormous burden, even if this takes longer than a generation or two to achieve.
Secondary and tertiary services will provide industries that are essential during the transformation of the current struggling subsistence agriculture to a highly scientific and commercialised industry.
The investment in industrial development, specifically in agriculturally related industries, will have to play a major role in this transformation process.
It will create business and employment opportunities outside the agricultural industry.
Food production must be intensified and vertically expanded. After this further horizontal expansion can be continued.
Production must be commercialised, operated and managed on a profitable basis to be sustainable and to achieve food security and poverty eradication.
Food production should be adapted to climate change and must also be directed towards the conservation of the environment and natural resources.
The international community and big donors should invest in this transfor- mation process by appointing qualified agencies with the required expertise, skills and experience to produce food in these countries.
It should be produced in partnership with and to the benefit of the small subsistence farmers and the population as a whole.
Large projects that are highly labour intensive – such as the production of vegetables, fruit, flowers and other products under irrigation – should also be developed to accommodate a large number of subsistence farmers in a productive way.
The transformation of the agricultural industry should be economically and financially self-sufficient and require only an initial capital investment, with no further financial support.
Industrial development through the investment in agriculturally related enterprises such as seed production, manufacturing of fertilisers, machinery and implements – as well as renewable energy – will be essential wherever it is possible in Africa.
Investment in infrastructure to accommodate the import of production inputs and capital goods which cannot be produced or manufactured locally, as well as for the export of products, must receive a high priority.
Investment in manufacturing and value-added capacity must also have a high priority in developing new markets for agricultural products.
Child labour should not be allowed and all children should attend school and receive further education and training in order to qualify themselves for employment and business opportunities outside the agricultural industry.
An acceptable birth control system would have to be developed and implemented to limit the rapid growth in the population.
As far a South Africa is concerned, the generally accepted goals of the government – of land redistribution and the development of small black farmers – on the one hand and food security on the other can never be compatible.
This is mainly because there is no possibility that small farmers, as in the rest of Africa, can make a meaningful contribution to food security if they cannot produce food profitably and sustainably.
This is a proven fact. Because of the small scale of their farming operations, the severe climate conditions, the fact that most of them might not have the interest, experience, entrepreneurship, or capital or management skills means they could find it very hard to survive financially.
And if they further don’t receive the necessary training and extension services from qualified and experienced agricultural scientists to develop as fully fledged commercial food producers, then it is fair to say that South Africa has taken the wrong road to the longer-term sustainable food security for the country.’
The land redistribution policy and small-farmer development in South Africa, as a purely political objective, may already have placed agriculture on a path to an unprofitable, unsustainable and non-commercial industry.
The question that is also relevant is to what extent these developments – together with the government’s prospects of agriculture apparently being the only industry to create more jobs – have already placed South Africa on a reverse path towards an underdeveloped country?
Fanie Brink is an independent agricultural economist. This article is adapted from a paper he presented yesterday at the Fertiliser Association of Southern Africa Congress in Somerset West.
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