By Dr B K Mukhopadhyay
Can we achieve??
Global food production has been assessed to rise by 70 percent by 2050 to cater for growth in world population of more than 30 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population would grow the fastest (+114 percent) and East and Southeast Asia’s the slowest (+13 percent). Urbanization is foreseen to continue at an accelerating pace with urban areas to account for 70 percent of world population in 2050 (up from 49 percent at present) and rural population, after peaking sometime in the next decade, actually declining. At the same time, per capita incomes in 2050 are projected to be a multiple of today’s levels.
It is beyond any shade of doubt that global food security is one of the most pressing societal issues of our time. Though advances in agricultural technology and expertise will significantly increase the food production potential of many countries / regions, yet these advances will not increase production fast enough to meet the demands of the planet’s even faster-growing human population.
Are We In The Safe Zone??
The world food situation is currently being rapidly redefined by new driving forces in as much as income growth, climate change, high energy prices, globalization, and urbanization are transforming food consumption, production, and markets. What is more: influence of the private sector in the world food system, especially the leverage of food retailers, is also rapidly increasing.
Obvious enough: changes in food availability, rising commodity prices, and new producer–consumer linkages have crucial implications for the livelihoods of poor and food-insecure people. At the same time it is also critical for helping to appropriately adjust research agendas in agriculture, nutrition, and health.
It is good to note that renewed global attention is being given to the role of agriculture and food in development policy, as can be seen from the World Bank’s World Development Report, accelerated public action in African agriculture under the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Asian Development Bank’s recent initiatives for more investment in agriculture, to me just a few.
Then what are the options / altertives since tinkering around the present models only succeeded globally to an extent - leaving the gaps uncovered? Food aid to hunger though has a vital humanitarian role to play in countries which require assistance, yet is not a sustaible solution. One has to go deeper to explore how a food deficit country [e.g. Ethiopia, with more than 10 million people dependent on food assistance] can address its problems by relieving the food insecurity of other such countries.
It has been a fact that population pressures would continue to tip the balance against proper land and water magement in many developing countries. While agricultural production is critical for any form of sustaible future, focusing on the agricultural sector alone without regard for other important factors which influence food production is not the right way. But here lies the problem with the developing block. Population programmes requires to be integrated into overall development objectives and be linked to other resource issues so that comprehensive development turns into reality. With falling per caput food production and resource degradation, the strategic plan is to be incorporated with population concerns [viz. population growth, distribution and rural-urban migration patterns incorporate population]. For that matter community development strategy which integrates essential social services as well as production resources is welcome.
The Tasks Ahead
It has rightly been observed that agriculture in the 21st century faces multiple challenges: it has to produce more food and fibre to feed a growing population with a smaller rural labour force, more feedstocks for a potentially huge bio-energy market, contribute to overall development in the many agriculture-dependent developing countries, adopt more efficient and sustaible production methods and adapt to climate change.
Sustaible development strategies [encompassing soil erosion and impoverishment, deforestation, falling agricultural output, and poor water magement] has to gain ground - also be implemented coupled with rural agricultural extension schemes which provide credit, seeds, fertilizers and advice to poorer farmers. Adequate support is still be given to research on the integration of traditiol and emerging technologies for food production. Local knowledge should not be given a back seat. Then, the question of integration with exterl markets just cannot be ignored - to encourage farmers to form cooperatives as a recognised means of accessing urban and export markets – a balance between marketable surplus and marketed surplus.
The G20 group of countries has to make ready a realistic achievable action plan to deal with the volatile behaviour of food commodity markets and the decision has to be taken as to whether bio-fuels [being a key driver of rising food prices], targets and incentives are to be revised in a balanced manner and that food export restrictions that destabilise markets should be permitted only in the last resort.
In Lieu of Conclusion
At this very juncture in order to avoid the unpalatable consequences of widespread hunger and even starvation in the years and decades to come , a firm commitment is needed to increase crop yields of land area, nutrients applied, and at the same time amount of water used. The positive impact of such efforts will considerably lessen the severity of the food shortage and lift hundreds of millions of people out of a state of hunger and malnutrition, thereby preventing widespread starvation, premature death and social unrest
FAO has rightly noted that it is not only fincial resources that are needed. Beyond the factors that exacerbate the current crisis, there is a whole series of fundamental problems that need to be resolved, in particular how aid is channeled and how to make it reach smallholder farmers effectively, as well as reform of the world food security governce system for more coherence in the action of governments and development partners, the share of tiol budgets dedicated to agriculture and private sector investment. ‘It is vital, particularly in times of crisis, that support to agriculture not be reduced. Only a healthy agricultural sector, combined with a growing non-farm economy and effective safety nets and social protection programmes will be sufficient to face the global recession as well as eradicate food insecurity and poverty’.
Food demand and production World population is expected to grow by over a third, or 2.3 billion people, between 2009 and 2050. Though this is a much slower rate of growth than the one seen in the past four decades during which it grew by 3.3 billion people, or more than 90 percent, yet nearly all of this growth is forecast to take place in the developing countries.
It is in a word - optimal resource magement that is capable of increasing crop yields, preventing land degradation, while providing sustaible livelihoods for millions of rural poor. tiol population programmes, on the other hand, should include comprehensive and accessible materl and child health care programmes and family planning services not only to reduce the size of families and improve the health and well-being of the entire community, but increasing also the crucially needed food production ensuring protection of the environment while easing the burdens of the poor.
Alyzing and interpreting recent trends and emerging challenges in the world food situation is essential in order to provide policymakers with the necessary information to mobilize adequate responses at the local, tiol, regiol, and intertiol levels. The task is not small in any case!
Dr Mukhopadhyay, a noted Magement Economist and an Intertiol Commentator on Business and Economic Affairs, can be located at email@example.com