In 1996, representatives from more than 185 countries came together to address lack of food security at the World Food Summit. During that time, the summit came to the conclusion that, “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life,” food security would be a global reality.
Thus, as the World Health Organization clarifies, food security necessitates three things:
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there is plenty of food to fulfill the nutritional needs of every single person living today. However, food is often wasted and unable to reach the hands of the hungry through current distribution channels.
Thus distribution is by far the greatest explanation for why we still have hunger and malnourishment today.
For consumers and farmers trying to sell their produce, market access is often unobtainable because of time, danger or cost. In fact, an estimated 16 percent of rural persons in the developing world lack easy access to markets to sell their produce.
Furthermore, while enough food is produced globally to feed every living person, not everyone can afford the prices, which further exacerbates food insecurity.
To combat distribution problems, investments in high-quality infrastructure, such as roads or railroads to provide better access to centralized markets, are vital. Because many governments don’t have the capital to spend on large-scale infrastructure, private investments or grants provided by the International Monetary Fund could pay for, or at least offset, the cost of infrastructure.
Food subsidies are another option for governments with impoverished and food-insecure populations. Subsidizing the cost of food can help the poor afford it while ensuring farmers have enough incentive to bring their food to markets in the first place.
Educating farmers about more efficient techniques for crop production would help global food production and reduce waste. The farmers that would benefit most from improved crop production techniques are often those who cannot make enough money from their crops to pay for their own needs or feed their families.
Research conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment found that “60 percent of nitrogen and nearly 50 percent of phosphorus applications exceed what crops need to grow.” The report also noted that over 30 percent of food is wasted worldwide, indicating farmers have a lot to learn on maximizing crop output while minimizing environmental impact.
Many university-sponsored programs already go out and educate farmers on this subject, but much more could be done to ensure farmers, particularly those in developing countries, have the knowledge to succeed at the highest level of food production.
The globe is already seeing increased food production from many countries in the developing world, especially in Africa. A March 2013 report by the World Bank predicted that the food and beverage markets in Africa would triple by 2030.
Unfortunately, food insecurity will remain an inevitability of global poverty if the core issues above are not addressed. Lawmakers in developing countries, members of the agribusiness sector and individuals affected by poverty all have a vested say in making the globe food-secure; time alone will not solve the problem.
– Joseph McAdams
Sources: World Health Organization, Food and Agricutlure Organization, MIT, University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, sciencemag.org, The World Bank
Photo: Natural Habitats