Archive for ‘World Hunger’

Global food crisis: The challenge of changing diets

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Demands for a more western diet in some emerging countries could have a more detrimental affect on global health and hunger than population growth

Why will nearly one in seven people go to bed hungry tonight? After all, the world currently produces enough food for everyone. Today’s major problems in the food system are not fundamentally about supply keeping up with demand, but more about how food gets from fields and on to forks.

Hunger – along with obesity, obscene waste and appalling environmental degradation – is an outcome of our broken food system. And the challenge of producing enough food to meet demand looks set to increase. With the world’s population expected to grow from around 7 billion today to more than 9 billion in 2050 – an increase of nearly one-third – there will certainly be a lot more stomachs to fill. The UN has forecast that, on current trends, demand may increase by 70% over the same period, and that’s without even tackling current levels of hunger.

But population growth, per se, is not the primary problem. By 2050 an estimated seven out of 10 people will live in poor countries reliant on food imports. The quantities of food eaten by each of these people every day is likely to be an unjustifiable fraction of what anyone reading this blog has already eaten today.

Instead, the real crunch is likely to come from the changing dietary preferences from people in some large emerging countries. Economic growth, urbanisation and rising affluence are increasingly bringing with them higher demand for convenient, processed foods, for meat, and for dairy products – in short, a more western diet.

This change in demand has significant environmental consequences. Feeding livestock is much less resource-efficient than growing grains for human consumption. Already, one-third of the world’s cereal harvest and more than nine-tenths of the world’s soya is used for animal feed. Soy-derived feed may be produced on, or indirectly contribute to expansion on to, cleared rainforest land. Rainforests are very important natural carbon sinks and therefore their clearance accelerates climate change, which is already challenging food production the world over.

The production of 1kg of beef uses 12 times the amount of water needed to produce 1kg of wheat, and more than five times the amount of land.

Changing diets bring significant social challenges. Malnourishment in the form of over-eating as well as under-eating will increasingly clog up healthcare systems and arteries in the developing world. In the rich world, obesity afflicts the poorer segments of society, because healthy foods are frequently more expensive. In the US, seven of the 10 states with the highest poverty levels are also among the 10 states with the highest rates of obesity. But in emerging countries obesity tends to be concentrated in the middle classes – those who lead more sedentary lifestyles and consume more processed foods. Countries such as Mexico and South Africa are having to increasingly deal with problems of the over-fed at the same time as those of the under-fed.

But before we point the finger at emerging economies for their rising consumption, let’s keep things in perspective. In 2007, the average American ate more than twice as much meat as the average Chinese resident. At the same time, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food as the entire food production of sub-Saharan Africa. So while rising affluence and changing diets are certainly set to pose some challenges over the coming years, we should perhaps start by looking long and hard at the contents of own fridges and dustbins.

  • Richard King is economic justice policy adviser at Oxfam GB

Source: Global food crisis: The challenge of changing diets – The Guardian UK

Date: 01 Jun 2011

Drought Hastens Rural Emigration

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

As extreme drought conditions stress agriculture in many areas of Bolivia, rural farming families are having to choose between the prospect of starvation or relocation to urban areas.

According to Simón Pisaya Mamani, a farmer from Ingavi province in the state of La Paz,

“[They] say the drought this year will be stronger than before, which worries us because already we don´t have food. It´s a shame, my sons told me that if we´re going to continue in the same situation they´re going to emigrate to the city.”

Rufino Mamani, a farmer in nearby Tacaca, recalled that last year as a consequence of drought, two of his sons moved to Cochabamba in search of work.

The mayor of Jesús de Machaca, Moisés Quiso (MAS) said,

“We’ve sent information to the municipal experts to calculate exactly what percentage of animals and planted fields are in danger. The dry season has only just begun and we´re worried that all the production will be for nothing.”

In the municipality of Laja, in the Los Andes province, farmers´ wells have run dry and the only reliable water source is the Pallina River which is contaminated by run-off from El Alto.

Many farmers report that their meager potato harvests will only be good enough for making chuño, freeze-dried potatoes. Unfortunately the winter frosts haven´t been very consistent and without the nightly frosts needed to make chuño, farmers fear the potatoes will only be good for feeding pigs. Other parts of Bolivia are also hurting in the dry season, including areas in Santa Cruz and Potosí. The drought is hitting other economic sectors in addition to agriculture. The Laguna Colorada, a major tourist draw near the Salar de Uyuni, has dropped several centimeters this season and lost much of its characteristic red color.

Source: Drought Hastens Rural Emigration - boliviaweekly

Date: 04 July 2010

Climate change threatens food supply

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Climate change and extreme weather events pose a grave challenge to the country’s food supply, agricultural researchers have warned.

Gu Lianhong, a senior researcher with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US, said the lab’s research had shown climate change will cause China’s per capita grain output will dramatically drop after 2020, even taking technological progress into consideration.

The study suggests the projected geographical pattern of earth’s surface temperature will dramatically increase in the late 21st century (2090-2099). This will cause more extreme weather and climate events to impact such industries as agriculture, Gu said.

He stressed that increasing droughts and heavy precipitation, more intense tropical cyclones and warmer days will very likely happen globally.

“These are all closely related with grain output,” Gu said.

The researcher made the remarks on the sidelines of the International Forum on the Mitigation of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD) in World Dryland, which ended over the weekend.

By the 2050s, freshwater availability in Central, South, East and Southeast Asia is projected to decrease, particularly in large river basins, Gu said. The regions’ coastal areas, especially heavily populated mega deltas, will be at great risk due to increased flooding from the sea or rivers.

Because China is the world’s most water-deficient country, climate change will definitely harm its agricultural production, Gu said.

The researcher’s warning came as China is faced with a challenging grain situation this summer because of strong rainfalls in the south during the summer harvest season. Other problems include droughts in northern grain production areas and lingering low temperatures in the south.

In the past few years, the country has experienced more frequent extreme weather events against the backdrop of global climate change. These include severe droughts, ice storms, sandstorms and floods that harm the economy and security.

The severe drought in Southwest China, which has lasted since late 2009 and is one of the worst in decades, has affected about 8.3 million hectares of arable land. It also left at least 17.9 million people and 12.4 million heads of livestock facing water shortages as of this May, the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said in a statement.

A report by McKinsey & Co released last year said extreme drought caused by a “high climate change scenario” could more than triple crop losses in Northeast China. They could reach 13.8 million metric tons, or 12 percent of the total, by 2030.

The average annual temperature in China has increased by 0.5 C to 0.8 C, a little higher than the global average, over the past 100 years and especially in the past five decades. But the country’s precipitation volume did not change much during the period, China’s National Climate Change Program said in June 2007.

The average temperature in China will possibly rise 1.3 C to 2.1 C from 2000 to 2020, increasing the risks of extreme weather and climate events in the country, the plan said.

China must maintain an annual grain output of 500 million tons to feed the nation’s 1.3 billion people, the Ministry of Agriculture said.

The country’s summer grain output rose six years in a row to exceed 123.35 million tons in 2009, 2.6 million tons more than the previous year.

Source: Climate change threatens food supply – China Daily

Date: 22 June 2010

Bolivia Reinforces Food Security Program

Monday, June 21st, 2010


The creation of a National Food Security Committee (Consa) will improve local production capacities, the state-run newspaper Cambio reported Monday.

According to the daily, Consa will be charged with drafting legislation for strengthening and ensuring the national production policy first implemented in 2008.

The deputy minister of farming and rural development, Victor Hugo Vasquez, said the new committee will oversee the coordination of actions with social organizations, international cooperation, and state institutions.

Its main tasks include promoting and ensuring that food sovereignty is recognized in future laws and activities, as well as regulating the creation and implementation of national policies and laws.

The committee will also promote the implementation of a follow-up, monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment system of programs and plans put forward by the Ministry of Development Planning.

Consa is also expected to carry out comprehensive actions to reduce and eliminate malnutrition in the framework of the right to food.

Source: Bolivia Reinforces Food Security Program – Prensa Latina

Date: 21 June 2010

Tackling land degradation crucial for human well-being, UN officials stress

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

United Nations officials today stressed the need to look after the world’s drylands, which are home to more than one billion poor people and where efforts to achieve key development targets face particular challenges.

“When we protect and restore drylands, we advance on many fronts at once,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointed out in his message for the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on 17 June.

“We strengthen food security, we address climate change, we help the poor gain control over their destiny, and we accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said, referring to the global anti-poverty targets world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015.

But, as the Secretary-General pointed out, desertification continues to be a problem. Over the past 40 years, nearly one third of the world’s cropland has become unproductive, often ending up abandoned.

“The unremitting stress of drought, famine and deepening poverty threatens to create social strains, in turn creating the potential for involuntary migration, the breakdown of communities, political instability and armed conflict,” he said.

“Let us reaffirm our commitment to combating desertification and land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought; and let us recognize that enhancing soils enhances life.”

Source: Tackling land degradation crucial for human well-being, UN officials stress – UN News Centre

Date: 17 June, 2010

Nepal to benefit from Feed the Future Initiative

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

The U.S. Embassy is pleased to announce that Nepal has been selected as one of 20 focus countries for President Obama’s $3.5 Billion Feed the Future initiative. Feed the Future is a comprehensive country-owned and agriculture-led approach that aims to significantly and sustainably reduce hunger and poverty in the developing world. The U.S. Government has named food security as a major global priority. USAID Mission Director, Dr. Kevin Rushing, met with the Mr. Nathu Prasad Chaudhary, Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and Dr. Chandra Pokharel, the Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission to inform them of the good news.

Mission Director, Dr. Rushing stated: “The United States is working closely with the Government of Nepal and the other donors to be sure we can meet President Obama’s objectives to reduce chronic hunger and poverty in Nepal.”

One billion people worldwide are hungry,” noted USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah when announcing the selections in Washington, D.C.

Each year, inadequate nutrition contributes to 3.5 million deaths among children under five. Undernutrition robs the developing world of critical human capital and capacity, and undermines other development investments in health, education, and economic growth. It also perpetuates the cycle of poverty and hunger by leading to poor health, lower levels of educational attainment, and reduced productivity and lifetime earnings.”

Nepal demonstrates potential for rapid and sustainable agriculture-led growth, as well as opportunities for regional coordination through trade and other mechanisms. Feed the Future will tackle the root causes of global hunger by sustainably increasing agricultural productivity to meet the demand for food, supporting and facilitating access to strong markets, providing employment opportunities, and increasing incomes so the poor can purchase food and reduce undernutrition through development and diplomatic efforts. Partners in Nepal will include a variety of actors from national and local government agencies, civil society organizations, and the private sector.

Source: Nepal to benefit from Feed the Future Initiative – ReliefWeb

Date: 12 May 2010

Food shortages lead to riots

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

In 2007-2008, rising food prices led to food riots in over 11 countries and caused one government to be overthrown. G8 finance ministers ended their summit last weekend declaring that global hunger had eclipsed in importance the worldwide credit and climate-change crises they had gathered to discuss.

Source: “Food Riots Begin: Will You Go Vegetarian?” – Wired Science

Date: 21 April 2008

33 countries face food shortages & associated potential unease

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

World Food Programme officials say 33 countries in Asia and Africa face political instability as the urban poor struggle to feed their families. Global food prices have risen 57% in the last year: the price of rice is up by three quarters, and wheat has more than doubled.

Source: The Big Question: Is changing our diet the key to resolving the global food crisis? – The Independent UK

Date: 16 April 2008

Non-EU soya imports, mainly from South America, account for 24% of total UK feed imports

Human population: 6 billion – Livestock population: at least 17 billion

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

World meat production has increased almost fivefold since 1950, increasing from 44 million tons to 211 million tons in 1997. Per capita meat production stands at 36 kg, more than double the 1950 level. Today, people share the Earth’s natural resources with nearly 1 billion pigs, 1.3 billion cows, 1.8 billion sheep and goats, and 13.5 billion chickens – over two chickens for each man, woman and child on the planet.

Source: United States Leads World Meat Stampede – World Watch Institute News

Date: 2 July 1998

Results 1-10 of overall 24
REPORTS see all

Reversing Meat-Eating Culture to Combat Climate Change


Livestock Production and Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers


Plant-Based Diets - A solution to our public health crisis


Leaders Preserving Our Future - Insights Paper - WPF - November 2010


Maintaining a Climate of Life - Summary Report


Livestock's Climate Impact


Livestock & Sustainable Food


Reducing Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers Through Dietary Change


The global cost of biodiversity loss: 14 trillion Euros? - EU Commission (2008)


Forests, Fisheries, Agriculture: A Vision for Sustainability (2009)



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