Numbers do not lie: the global population is growing extensively, 7 billion people now towards 9 billion by 2050; all these people need food and water. Scientists have calculated that as much as 50 % more food must be produced than today, in order to feed all by 2050. That seems an almost impossible task to accomplish, but still: it can be done...
The growing population is not the only problem: the climate is changing, energy prices are rising and resources are becoming scarcer. The result: producing food is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive. Feeding the world is a complex challenge that cannot be answered with óne solution, according to Feeding Nine Billion. Only a structured approach with 4 different strategies is likely to be successful.
Many farming techniques utilise only a portion of their potential. African farmers often only produce at 20 % of their maximum capacity. By increasing the level of knowledge and using innovative technologies food production is able to rise by 50 %, according to expectations. Not by emphasising to implement of Western techniques, because that would be counterproductive, but to find local solutions for local challenges is the main point.
At this time, enough food is produced to feed the entire global population. Per person per day, there are on average 2700 calories and 75 grams of protein available. Yet in many parts of the world there is a food shortage, which has several causes. For instance food is used to make animal feed and ethanol. In addition, the rich countries throw a lot of food away and large groups of people in other countries are simply too poor to be able to feed themselves. Optimising food distribution is therefore crucial. Feeding Nine Billion recommends giving international aid agencies a key role in the coordination of food aid, in order to increase the efficiency and prevent conflicts of interest.
Food problems often have a global scale. To protect individual citizens against it, it is important to create local food systems. As a community you create a security buffer when you are less dependent on supplies from far away.
Change at global level does not happen by magic. National governments will have to work together to make collective agreements about laws and regulations and monitor their compliance. A ‘no strings attached’ policy is not enough. Sustainable farming systems need more than just a nudge.
The ambitious plans of Feeding Nine Billion have harvested both praise and criticism. The sceptics point to the danger of a patronising government that would limit innovation. A misconception, because the opposite is true: the point is to structurally improve both the production and distribution of food. And jointly the authorities must monitor the parameters to make sure that financial institutions do not take irresponsible risks for example. The Credit Crisis (2007) has clearly demonstrated that this is not a luxury.
Once based on laws and regulations, the market is at play: smart entrepreneurs realise a future-proof food industry also brings big opportunities. Think of software for distribution systems, new agricultural equipment leading to greater efficiency, and the development of crops that also thrive in dry areas. We have said it before: real sustainability makes financial and non-financial interests go hand in hand.
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