Demand for food is projected to rise by 50% in 2030. However, the world consumed more food than it produced in seven of the 8 years between 2000 and 2008 and rates of productivity growth driven by the “Green Revolution” is declining. The amount of arable land per capita has halved since 1960, but demand for it is increasing and the demand for water will rise by 25% by 2025 but is already beyond its sustainable use in many parts of the world. Those are some of the issues Alex Evans mentions in his report Ressource Scarcity, fair shares and development.
So we are witnessing a change in the traditional challenge of “there is food for everyone, but is poorly distributed,” towards “in addition of having the food poorly distributed, as we produce and consume it there is no food for all.”
Clearly, the future speaks of scarcity and we must speak also about the justice in the distribution.
As for the shortage seems evident that one of the actions is to increase production, FAO says about the need to rise by 70% food production in the coming years, but how? The first consideration to make is to what extent food production competes in land and water, with other products such as biofuels, -40% of U.S. corn production will go for ethanol this year- timber or the need for conservation in terms of CO2-maintenance of forests for example.
Therefore there is less land and more need in each aspect. The second point has to do with the increase of the global middle class that has led to increased food intake. A third factor to consider is the climate change that is affecting the patterns and amounts of production in much of the planet. All this in an environment of limited resources where we must act now, says Johan Rockstromin his great TED video
This leads us to turn our hear to a place that has traditionally been paid little attention; in the world today there are 3,000 million people who make their living directly from family farming, in Africa alone there are 33 million farms with an area of around one hectare on average. Can these holdings be the new breadbasket of the world? No doubt they can, just remember that most of them have not had access to new technologies, or credit, or marketing tools, and we can find very good examples that demonstrate how those exploitations may flourish with such care as much or more than large farms.
The other part of the equation is the distribution and this has to do both with access to food as with the way we consume it. And talking about access something is very clear, as Amartya Sen has made clear: “Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough to eat. It is not the characteristic of there not being enough to eat”. And the amazing thing is that approximately 80% of hungry people live in rural areas where food is produced. But the poorest are heavily exposed to price volatility and in general spend over 75% of their income on food, which gives them little room to maneuver. So without regulating prices and reducing speculation, with investment in their development, their access to the food they need seems so far away.
And finally, yet closer to all of us, is the issue of consumption, in this case of irresponsible consumption, of waste, of the amount of food thrown away literally. According to Tristram Stuart with just a fourth of the food that is wasted in Europe and the U.S. we could feed 1,000 million people going hungry to bed in the world every day.
Today is the World Food Day, in such a day if we are aware of the limitations of our planet, of the possibilities of small-scale farming, of how the speculation of a commodity such food left over hungry a billion people. And finally we are also aware of our individual personal and civic responsibility in every aspect and of our own waste, we can probably take the first step towards a world in which all of us, and those to come, we will have enough food without suffering to have it.