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Food, hunger and poverty – will any real change be visible?

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  11 Aug 2015 12:00 AM GMT

Dr B K Mukhopadhyay

What is happening to the journey towards feeding the world population at a reasoble price? Clearly if the current trends are of any indication, the food and agricultural policy system needs a shot in the arm. The symptoms of such a disarray are not difficult to locate – incoherent/ idequate response to exploding inputs/output prices; slow down in agricultural productivity growth; water problems; a disorderly response to continuously disturbing energy prices; idequate institutiol innovation; lack of progress in addressing scarcity; widespread nutritiol problems [ hunger/ obesity/ chronic diseases] plus agriculture related health hazards [a vain influenza, etc] and adverse impact on climatic fluctuations.

In fact the overall situation of food, hunger and poverty has been far from being satisfactory.

Globally Food Prices Falling: A Temporary Phase?

Yes - prices for global agricultural products fell in July, 2015, to their lowest level in almost six years. The FAO Food Price Index averaged 164.6 points in July, down 1.7 points or one per cent from June and almost 40 points (19.4 percent) less than a year earlier [the index measures prices on intertiol markets of five major food commodity groups: cereals, meat, dairy products, vegetable oils and sugar]. The drop in food prices was mainly caused by falling prices of dairy products and vegetable oils.

However, the overall decline in food prices does not apply to cereal prices. The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 166.5 points in July, up 2% from June, but still around 10% below July 2014 levels. Unfavourable weather conditions for maize and wheat in North America and Europe kept cereal prices rising. Rice prices remained on a falling trend. The sugar price index rose by 2.5 percent compared to June, 2015, mainly due to poor harvesting conditions in the main producing region of Brazil.

What About Feeding So Many Mouths?

Let us look at the grim scerio!!

The current world population will increase from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to the latest UN projections. India is expected to become the most populous country, surpassing Chi within the next seven years. Nigeria will overtake the United States to become the world’s third largest country within 35 years from now. The new report, published on Wednesday by the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), attributes the increase in the world’s population to a small number of high-fertility countries, which already have large populations. By 2050, six countries will have more than 300 million inhabitants: Chi, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and the USA. In the period 2015-2050, half of the world’s population growth is expected to happen in just nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the USA, Indonesia and Uganda. The UN figures project Africa to remain the continent with the highest fertility rates, accounting for more than half of the world’s population growth between 2015 and 2050. In 28 African countries, populations are expected to double, and by 2100, ten African countries are projected to have increased fivefold: Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.

“The concentration of population growth in the poorest countries presents its own set of challenges, making it more difficult to eradicate poverty and inequality, to combat hunger and malnutrition, and to expand educatiol enrolment and health systems, all of which are crucial to the success of the new sustaible development agenda,” John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division at UN DESA is quite right. Although global fertility rates are declining in almost all parts of the world, this is being offset by countries with large populations and a high number of children born per woman.

Driving Out Hunger: Still a Distant Dream?

The 193 Member States of the United tions reached an agreement on a sustaible development agenda for the next 15 years. The new agenda to be adopted by world leaders at a summit in September contains 17 Sustaible Development Goals (SDGs) and a set of 169 targets that aim to end poverty and hunger in all their forms by 2030 while protecting the environment. “They address the requirements for all humanity to be able to live decent lives free from poverty, hunger and inequality, with all men and women, girls and boys being able to develop their full potential,” according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The outcome document with the title “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustaible Development” concludes a negotiating process that began three years ago with the 2012 UN Conference on Sustaible Development, Rio+20. The 17 SDGs will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire at the end of the year. Elimiting hunger is a key issue of the new post-2015 agenda. Goal 2 promises to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustaible agriculture”. It contains targets on ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030, doubling the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale farmers, ensuring sustaible food production systems and resilient agricultural practices, and maintaining the genetic diversity of seeds, plants and animals.

The Swiss organization Biovision Foundation, which was involved in the negotiations, advocated for a strong goal on food security and sustaible agriculture, welcomed the agreement. Biovision [founded by World Food Prize winner and IAASTD co-chair Hans Herren] particularly welcomed the fact that Goal 2 with its eight targets has remained the same throughout the negotiations. Moreover, the outcome document reaffirms the important role and inclusive ture of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and underlines that the UN member states will devote resources to developing rural areas and sustaible agriculture and fisheries, supporting smallholder farmers, especially women farmers, herders and fishers in developing countries, particularly least developed countries.”

The outcome document of the new sustaible development agenda will be formally adopted by member states at a special UN summit from 25-27 September in New York.

Hopefully that will not be an impractical one!!

Source of Fund?

Elimiting hunger is a key issue of the Sustaible Development Goals (SDG) of the new post-2015 agenda, to be adopted by world leaders in September to replace the UN Millennium Development Goals.

But that speaks of huge fund requirement. Ending world hunger sustaibly by 2030 will require an estimated $267 billion per year for investments in rural and urban areas and in social protection, as per assessment made by the United tions. Roughly $160 annually would be needed for each person living in extreme poverty over the next 15 years to provide access to food and improve livelihoods. “Given that this is more or less equivalent to 0.3 percent of the global GDP, I persolly think it is a relatively small price to pay to end hunger,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The report was published by FAO, the World Food Programme and the Intertiol Fund for Agriculture Development.

Worldwide, almost 800 million people are still chronically undernourished, most of them in rural areas. The message of the report is clear: if the ‘business as usual’ approach is accepted, by 2030, we would still have more than 650 million people suffering from hunger. This is why the stress is now on an approach that combines social protection with additiol targeted investments in rural development, agriculture and urban areas that will chiefly benefit the poor.

According to the report, it is necessary “to boost both private and public investment to raise rural and agricultural productivity and incomes, as well as to promote more productive, sustaible and inclusive food systems.” Small-scale agricultural producers and rural entrepreneurs could make a decisive difference. However, formal systems of credit and insurance often discrimite against them, especially small family farmers.

So, huge tasks lie ahead. A number of initiatives have to be been taken by the developing economy governments in particular to make farming competitive, profitable and to ultimately attaining self-sufficiency in providing food for a growing population – by embarking upon a number of initiatives that address the multiple concerns affecting the farming as an enterprise. The governments have to endeavour in a planned manner to enhance productivity bolstering the production front on a sustaible basis, while at the same time addressing the marketing concerns during post production. Such a strategy must take into account rejuvetion of soil health, balanced use of fertilizers, efficient use of water resources and remunerative prices on the returns of farmers emphasizing on risk mitigation through insurance scheme. Only then there will be success to transform the globe into the golden age!!

(The Writer, a noted Magement Economist, and an Intertiol Commentator on Business and Economic Affairs, attached to the West Bengal State University, can be reached at m.bibhas@gmail.com)

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