Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hungry for Change

The number of hungry people has grown by the millions. We can’t continue “business as usual.” Hunger is at a crisis level in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. Hunger there is extreme. In Kenya, drought means that crops are failing and livestock are producing little milk. Around 370,000 Kenyan children aren’t getting enough to eat.
20 million people are on the edge of starvation right now. More than half the population of South Sudan know life-threatening levels of hunger. In Yemen, 17 million people are at risk of starvation. Somalia’s rate of malnutrition has reached the emergency threshold and hundreds of thousands of children are in critical need of life-saving treatment.

Hunger is the world’s number one health risk, greater than HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. When a person has the hunger for a sustained period of time, he or she can develop malnutrition, either mild or severe, depending on one’s body needs and food intake, it adds. Children who do survive long periods of severe malnutrition experience stunting and brain damage that affect their physical and mental well-being for the rest of their lives. Whether children have the chance to live and grow is based on how we act now.
In India, the number of undernourished people accounts for world’s 14.5% at 190.7 million, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 report. The report said that children and women at reproductive ages are most vulnerable. 38.4% of children under five in India are stunted and 51.4% of women in reproductive ages suffer from lack of iron in the blood, the report said. Food wasted in India accounts up to 40% of the total food produced.

Every year, consumers in wealthy nations waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons). And food wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.

More than 42 million people in the United States face hunger, including nearly 13 million children and more than 5 million seniors, according to Feeding America, a nationwide nonprofit organization that feeds more than 46 million Americans through pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community outlets. Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Kentucky are the states with the highest rates of food insecurity in households — meaning people do not have reliable access to enough affordable and nutritious food — according to Feeding America.

Although fertility levels worldwide are declining, life expectancy is increasing - and therefore, the global population keeps growing. The United Nations estimates that the world's population is increasing by more than 80 million people every year. The global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100. So how can we feed all these billions without destroying the Earth? While it won't necessarily be easy to feed 10 billion people sustainably, it is possible, experts believe.

"Today, we would be able to feed many more people than we do," Ralf Südhoff, head of the World Food Program of the United Nations in Berlin. "But we waste too much of the food we produce, and we lack efficient production - particularly in Africa," Südhoff said. Population growth is not the key cause of hunger, Südhoff said - it is rather a lack of efficiency in managing our resources. 

Average productivity in African countries is around 20 percent of its capacity, said Reiner Klingholz, chairman of the think tank Berlin Institute for Population and Development. Farmers in rural areas of some African and Asian countries still lack the necessary means to maximize crop yields, misusing vast areas of land. Experts agree that productivity could be increased through very simple means. 
"Efficiency could be doubled or tripled in African countries by providing basic means such as training, credits and land rights," Südhoff said.

Valentin Thurn, director of the documentary 10 Billion- Whats on your plate? ,Farmers in rural areas are the most affected by hunger - and the ones most commonly left behind. He believes smallholders should get integrated into the modernization processes - until now, only limited to big industrialized farms. Global agriculture currently produces some 4,000 calories per capita per day - the double of what each person needs.  "We are already producing enough for 9 to 12 billion people - but we discard a third of the harvest worldwide," Thurn pointed out. This huge amount of food waste can realistically be reduced by 80 percent, Thurn said. He believes that multinationals like Bayer are not the correct actors for leading global agricultural change. "They always have capital-intensive solutions, and they want to make farmers dependent on buying seeds from them every year," Thurn said.

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