Equal Food Distribution
One of the leading causes of malnutrition is the lack of equal food distribution. According to the World Economic Forum, Americans spend 6.4 percent of their income on food. Meanwhile, households in impoverished countries can spend up to 80 percent of their income on food. These numbers show a clear uneven trend in distributing food to people in need. Equal food distribution is also at risk from another influencer on poverty: population growth. Even in developed countries, the current rate of food distribution will eventually be unable to keep up with population growth. Distributing food to people in need will soon become an issue for not just underdeveloped countries, but for developed countries as well. 

One way of solving the growing issue of food distribution is through the utilization of new technologies. A combination of developing technologies, new economic models and support from global leaders could lead to curbing the problems behind food distribution for both the developing and underdeveloped world.

Text Message-based Farmer Assistance

In Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, farmers have access to a service that functions through text messages. Provided by CGIAR, an organization focused on water, land and ecosystems, farmers can send a message through SMS (short message service) to request updates on the best way to grow their crops. People know this service as ICT, or Information and Communication Technology. According to CGIAR, farmers send one message code when they want to see an update on their crop growth and water-use efficiency compared to other farmers using the service. Based on this data, experts monitoring the farming data can identify irregularities and alert the farmer. One issue that CGIAR sees going forward is funding. Maintaining its database would require more funding than what farmers or smallholders have already offered. However, this service would be able to help farmers, in areas of need, increase the amount their farms produce.

Using ICTs to help feed people in need has shown promising results. An ICT service will help improve irrigation and water drainage in Egypt. This service has seen a 25 percent increase in crop yields during its first phase of implementation. Magrabi Farms has also implemented ICT to allow the proper irrigation of over 8,000 acres of land.

Farming and Machine Learning

Increasing farm production is a common method of tackling the issue of distributing food to people in need. Sciforce says that almost every step of farm production uses machine learning. Machine learning, according to Sciforce, is “the scientific field that gives machines the ability to learn without being strictly programmed.” Farmers can use machine learning to:

  • Find which genes would help a crop survive in adverse weather conditions.

  • Manage the soil and help farmers understand the ecosystem they are growing in.

  • Manage water and allow farmers to be more efficient with their irrigation systems.

  • Improve the prediction of crop yield.

  • Fight disease and weeds by using a calculated distribution of agrochemicals that only target specific plants.

Machine learning accomplishes all of this by analyzing decades of farming records. It uses a combination of algorithms and scientific models to best apply the trends from decades of farming data.

NBC News reported that Carnegie Mellon University roboticist George Kantor claimed that machine learning could increase the variety of grain sorghum from 100 different variants to 1,000. Machine learning could do this by examining the crop’s genetic code.

Weather Forecasts

Another way to ensure that countries are able to distribute food to people in need is by improving distribution itself. The Weather Company’s Agricultural Head, Carrie Gillespie, stated that “A lot of food waste happens during distribution…” Suppliers often use weather forecasts when distributing food to people in need. Due to distribution including the harvesting process, these weather reports can help farmers know when the soil is at its best for harvesting.

3D Printing

While this may seem like an idea from a sci-fi movie, 3D printing is a technology that may soon allow food printing. Jordan French, CEO at a 3D food printing startup called BeeHex, explains that 3D food printing could allow for customization of food products based on the certain wants and needs of the consumer. This could include developing food with certain nutrients that an impoverished community may be lacking, much like the recently FDA-approved golden rice, which emerged to treat a global vitamin A deficiency.

Jordan French also theorizes that 3D printing food could eliminate the need for distribution altogether, as it would create a bridge between the producer and the consumer.

The market for 3D-printed food is rising in profits by 46 percent each year until 2023. Mark Crawford of alludes that this is due to how the technology could provide a solution to distributing food to people in need.

These technologies aim to tackle the challenges of distributing food to the impoverished for the sake of equal food distribution. Improving farming quality through databases and machine learning, watching the weather to allow for better distribution and even bypassing the need for food production are just some developing technologies that have the potential to assist the world’s hungry.

Jacob Creswell
Photo: United Nations

Agricultural Research
Soil erosion, crop failure and harsh weather are all universal issues that prevent farmers and crop growers from making a living. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a foundation that connects agricultural sustainability development organizations, conducts research on agricultural sustainability in different regions and applies their research to crops before teaching other farmers the proper techniques.

CGIAR uses its agricultural research sustainability to try to eliminate issues like hunger, poverty and malnutrition. CGIAR has 15 centers across the globe, with centers in North and South America, Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia. The centers conduct individual research and then collaborate on how they can disperse it to the regions that need it most.

The scientists who work at CGIAR identify and work on significant science-related problems in development around the world. Using this knowledge, they develop programs to educate farmers on how to solve these problems and work to strengthen their skills and knowledge.

Some of their bigger projects include the Global Rice Science Project (GRiSP), the Water, Land and Ecosystems Project and the Roots, Tubers and Bananas Project (RTB).

GRiSP was founded under the premise that the proper maintenance of rice crops can lead to less poverty. It aims to assist rice farmers with the ability to provide enough rice to bring communities out of hunger and poverty.

The Water, Land and Ecosystems Project was approved in 2011, but consultation for the project began in 2009. The goal of the project is to bring together 14 of CGIAR’s research facilities along with other organizations to help determine proper ecosystem maintenance worldwide and increase food security in underdeveloped communities.

The Roots, Tubers and Bananas Project focuses much of their efforts on proper care and maintenance on farm animals and aspires to increase gender equality in agriculture. The latest program under this project sent CGIAR scientists to conduct agricultural research in Nigeria, where they helped locals start businesses selling cassava seeds—a type of seed that is a popular source of carbohydrates.

CGIAR was formed in the early 1970s, starting off with only four centers and 18 members. Since its inception, it has more than tripled in size and has expanded its knowledge to accommodate for sustainability know-hows in different regions. Today, the foundation focuses its research on sustainable food systems. Recently, Michigan State University delegated its research on agriculture sustainability in Southeast Asia to CGIAR.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: CGIAR, GIZ, Water and Food
Photo: Google Images

Rural communities in Central America and the Caribbean make farming and natural resource management decisions under risky and uncertain conditions. Local knowledge systems are proving to be insufficient for the decision-making process, and outside information is not consistently available when farmers need it.

In some cases, local knowledge systems have been disrupted by local politics or imperial intervention. In other cases, new challenges presented by climate change and increased demand for volume and quality require better dissemination of information.

Fortunately, Humidtropics, a CGIAR research program, has stepped up to help poor farm families across the tropics to boost their income through better, integrated agricultural systems’ intensification, while also preserving their land for future generations.

To help bridge this information gap and provide small-scale, rural farmers with necessary, relevant information, scientists with Humidtropics have created four digital libraries with information about sustainable coffee production, sustainable livestock production, Nicaraguan public policies and rural women.

These themes were chosen based on research by partner organizations in the area. Over several years, researchers chose 300-500 books, manuals, technical reports and scientific articles which are publicly available. The resources are organized by year, theme and source to make them easy to use. The information has now been distributed to the computers of the 50 partner organizations in Mesoamerica.

In 2015, Humidtropics hopes to build more digital libraries and to continually refine the information that is included in each.

Currently, the humid tropics are home to 2.9 billion people, the majority of whom are poor farmers. Combined, these farmers have about 3 billion hectares of land, which are critical to local, and global, food supplies, as well as global biodiversity.

Claire Karban

Sources: International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Nicanorte, CGIA
Photo: Wikimedia Commons