Hunger gamesWe must think and act even more boldly and innovatively to accelerate viable solutions for achieving food security
Darwin’s law of struggle for existence can be evidenced clearly in the food deficit areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, and South-Eastern and Western Asia. In this modern technical era where people are aiming to settle on the moon, some parts of earth still face the basic problem of food insecurity. While in urban areas people are availing themselves of the most modern of technologies, people in other parts of the world are suffering from hunger and their misery is only increasing. Where the urban population is changing their diet from traditional to healthier low-fat foods, the other part of the global population is craving for the tiniest morsels. Where a part of the world is enjoying an abundance and variety of tastes, the other part is occupied with consoling those mothers who lose their children because of malnutrition. Where a part of the population is spending sleepless nights plagued by hunger, the other part is wasting food that amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes every year. Where one part is facing the acute problem of malnutrition, the other part is facing a problem of obesity.
Some of the people in food deficit areas still survive via means of hunting and gathering. The problem is that the urbanised population is destroying these hunting areas due to industrialisation. This adds to the problems that those people in food deficit areas have to face. Unfortunately, most are unable to overcome nutrition deficits and according to estimates, about 36 million have succumbed to malnutrition. Every five seconds, a child under five dies because of hunger, or because of directly related causes. At least those who do die are liberated from the pain that arises from a perennially empty stomach. Malnutrition is a major cause of death. A report revealed that nearly half of all the deaths of children under five are attributable to under-nutrition; this translates to the loss of about 3 million young lives every year.
If we look at the statistics, the number of people who suffer from hunger increased by 75 million in 2007 from the year prior, and by 40 million in 2008. In 2016, the number of people affected by hunger reached 815 million, constituting 11 percent of the global population. Similarly, the number of undernourished people in the world documented a 1.04 time increase from the year 2015 to 2016.
The problem of food insecurity exists not because of the fact that the world does not produce enough to feed the population. Instead, it arises because the food produced in one region is not available to those in other areas and because the access to food depends on the ability of people to pay for it. Most of the people in the world face the problem of hunger because they have a very low purchasing ability. Conflict is another challenge that has evolved as a grave problem that hampers food insecurity. Pakistan, Nigeria, Libya, Somalia, Syria and many other countries are going through the wretchedness of conflict. The conflict in Asia makes it the continent with the most hungry people—two thirds of the total. However, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. And climate change has been the gravest challenge to contend with. Climate change is contributing to food insecurity by increasing the temperature, erratic weather patterns, infestation of disease and pests, invasion of weeds, pest and diseases and through many other ways.
The surplus food that is produced in one region should be made available to those people in the deficit regions. This food should also be accessible to those in even the most disadvantaged groups. To ensure proper access, there is a need of catalysing the development of effective distribution systems and market channels, increasing investment to output markets, and formulating a food security friendly import-export policy.
To solve the problem of food insecurity, we not only should focus on the food system but also on other factors that are related to food security. The attributing factors are women’s education, women’s active participation in agricultural activities, lifestyle, culture, access to health services, basic sanitation, and others. These factors are positively correlated with food security. As we step towards improving these factors, we step forward for food security. Empowering women is critical for solving the problem of food insecurity. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, women could boost yields by 20-30 percent, raising the overall agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent. This gain in production could cause the number of hungry people in the world to decrease by 12-17 percent and also lead to an increase in women’s income. Those countries that empower women tend to see lower rates of stunting (low height for age), the primary measure of chronic under-nutrition. Enhancing women’s control over decision-making in the household, translates to gender equality and thus results in better prospects and greater well-being of children, reducing malnutrition and poverty of future generations.
Post-harvest loss of food is the major problem behind food wastage. Establishment of cold storage facilities is essential for transportation as well as storage. The role of organisations in reducing the food insecurity problem cannot be neglected. Global organisations have been lobbying with regional and local organisations to reduce the hunger and food insecurity problem significantly. As a father organisation, the United Nations has been developing several strategies to promote activities against food insecurity. The Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals have been major strategic tools through which the UN has planned to reach its goal. Similarly, other extensions of the UN such as the FAO and the World Food Programme have been actively promoting its strategies to hit the goal of achieving zero hunger precisely. However, producing double the amount of food than at present and preparing to feed 9 billion people by 2050 with the persistent problem of a changing climate, and combating poverty and hunger along with it is the biggest challenge for food security. We must think and act even more boldly and innovatively to accelerate viable solutions for achieving food security more quickly on a global scale.
Joshi is an agriculture professional