Posts tagged under food security
By 2050 there will be 9 billion people on the planet – but will there be enough food for everyone? Food security expert Dr Evan Fraser guides you through a whiteboard presentation of his solution to the Global Food Crisis.
Many experts are worried that the 21st century will be a hungry one. Population growth and changing diets mean that our demand for food is rising fast. Climate change, dwindling water supplies, and high energy prices are set to make food harder, and more expensive to produce. Add to this, the fact that currently almost a billion people go hungry every night and we have to conclude that the world food system is in a very serious crisis.
The following is a post from guest blogger Sri Ranjini Mei Hua, a research associate at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. We hope you enjoy the read!
At least one-third of Indonesia’s babies and toddlers below two years old are stunted as a result of being severely malnourished—which means that they are considerably shorter than children of their age. In addition to a lack of health staff and treatments, the poor quality of food further exacerbates the problem.
With rising prices of pesticides and fertilizers, farmers and fishermen invariably end up with poor harvests due to rampant pest attacks. These problems are not particular to Indonesia, but are also prevalent in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia.
As GM crops were aggressively marketed as the solution to end world hunger, farmers and families were promised increased yields and incomes. The deputy minister of Indonesia was even convinced that GM food was “help from God”.
However, since the introduction of GM foods in India just a couple of years ago, doubts abound that this green revolution is really the miracle it appears to be.
Last week’s blog, ‘Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs): Big in Latin America, Small in Southeast Asia’, concluded by asking ‘what it is, that is holding back governments in Southeast Asia to experiment more with CCTs on a large scale?’ While I do not have an answer to that, I would like to discuss this question in the Indian context where a similar debate over replacing existing in-kind social programs with direct cash transfers is gaining prominence. This is particularly true for India’s largest social safety net, the Public Distribution System (PDS), an in-kind food subsidy program that consumes almost 1 percent of India’s GDP.
Under the PDS, all households identified as living ‘below poverty line’ can purchase 35 kg of food grains (wheat and rice) at rates as low as US$ 0.02 per kg from their local PDS shops every month. Many argue that the PDS is fraught with corruption and cite examples of Mexico’s Oportunidades and Brazil’s Bolsa Familia – two perennial favourites among proponents of cash transfers – to advocate for direct cash transfers as an alternative to the ‘dysfunctional’ PDS. However, those against such a move argue that leaving poor households at the mercy of the markets will only reduce their food security as cash transfers will not be able to account for local conditions such as sudden changes in the supply of food grains.
As a prelude to ATM special issue on Rice, where we profile the future of a crop that feeds over 3 billion of the world’s population, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) senior economist Sushil Pandey stopped by LKY recently to give a talk on “strategic research and policy issues for food security” with reference to rice. Insights can be gleamed by listening to the podcast here.
Sushil was promoting IRRI’s new book “Rice in the global economy: strategic reseach and policy issues for food security” (click here to download). The book presents a new vision for the future of rice farming and addresses key strategic questions for food security in the context of major developments in the global economy. Sushil and co authors reckon that we’ll see increasing diversification of rice farming (farmers growing other, more profitable crops), a declining share of rice as a percentage of farmer’s incomes, increasing input costs (especially labour) in the future, as well as the yet unknown effects of climate change on rice production. The challenge, he says, will be to link up those millions of plots of land (farmers with < than 3 acres), to supply chains that distribute rice to areas where there are deficits (i.e. food insecure areas).
Some of the ATM team are in Thailand this week (post Songkran festival) to do some fieldwork for an upcoming issue on “Rice”. We’ll be speaking with farmers, labourers and academics and industry folk working on rice husk power generation, rice fortification and dissemination of information about new technology to farmers. We’ll be addressing some broad themes relevant to food security and health in this issue. As a prelude to the food security theme in the health systems section, ATM contributor Maneka has written a piece on women’s role in food security in Southeast Asia. Why care? Women are traditionally health promoters and educators, via the food they produce and feed their families and kids. What they feed them directly influences their health (e.g. consider the low income suburban household in an area where processed food is cheaper than nutritious stuff. It’s not hard to do the math (> diet / nutrition > chronic disease pathways). Of course it’s not all about agriculture, or food, but those things are pretty darn important for health. Here’s the piece:
Check out these future scenarios from the guardian newspaper, “20 predictions for the next 25 years” - well worth a read. They’ve gotten the input of a stellar line up of renowned strategic thinkers and doers for this bumper special. Cool predictions include travelators in city spaces, cooperative, problem solving gaming to make people feel better, and Russia becoming a global food superpower “as….climate change opens up the once frozen and massive Siberian prairie to food production”. Ok the climate change part is definitely NOT cool, but would you have foreseen the food production part?
Some health relevant predictions appear inevitable – like the march towards GM crops toprovide global food security for an estimated population of 9 billion by 2030 (we need to be producing 50% more food than we are now). And then there’s the disease predictions – Tachi Yamada, president of the global health programme at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, believes that diseases of the poor will FINALLY be eradicated, or nearly there – malaria, TB, polio. Doesn’t specify how though. And that the global AIDs vaccine will have been discovered, at last.
In the health systems section of volume 6 of the ATM numbers and futures, we consider the impact of chronic diseases on health systems. As chronic disease prevalence is only set to increase globally, what potential impacts might we see unless governments and the private sector step up? Here’s some articulated in graphic speak above – we’d love to hear your thoughts on others we may have missed. Next steps – what do we do to lower the chronic disease burden?