PREVENT LAND GRABBING
An ugly side of current scares over future food supply is wealthy, land-poor states, like those in the Gulf and South Korea, acquiring tracts of undeveloped countries to use as allotments. It is a campaigning cause of the multi-charity IF campaign against hunger. Ethiopia, Sudan, Madagascar and Cambodia have been targeted and a total area the size of Spain may already have been acquired.
Problem: Hard to police. Difficult to distinguish between genuine investment in Africa and the expropriation of land from the poor who need it to grow their food. Chances: 3/10
BLOCK THE SPECULATORS
Huge sums of investment fund money have flooded into the commodities markets since the financial crisis, looking for returns no longer available in equities. Automated trading systems that exploit tiny flaws in the market and encourage volatility make it impossible for traditional traders to keep prices stable and hedge against spikes.
Problem: Much discussed in the G20 and G8, an international agreement on reforming and regulating the commodities markets looks no nearer than when the problem was first identified. Banks and investors have marshalled strong arguments against interference. Chances: 3/10
PRODUCE LESS BIOFUEL
The pressure to achieve targets on reduced carbon emissions from fossil fuel has seen rich countries turning sugar, maize and other food crops into ethanol and biodiesel.
Problems: Many economists doubt how important this issue really is in food price rises. Food and fuel prices are inextricably linked, so producing biofuel may lower food prices. A proportion of food crops have always been used for energy – 100 years ago 10% of the world's grain went to feeding horses. Second-generation biofuels won't use food crops, but wood, stalks and other waste. Chances: 1/10
STOP THE MEAT FEAST
Meat production is a wasteful use of the planet's limited resources – even today, 40% of grain crops are going to feed livestock and fish. It is most inefficient with intensive beef farming, where it has been shown that just 2.5% of the feed given to cattle emerges as calories for our consumption.
That is why the UN says agricultural production will have to rise 60% to feed the extra 2 billion mouths in 2050.
Problems: There is no international mechanism to regulate or alter collective human diets, and no models other than famine that have ever worked. Chances: 0/10
SUPPORT SMALL FARMERS
Most African farmers are less productive than a US farmer was 100 years ago. There is a consensus between NGOs and governments that supporting and training small farmers is the best possible solution to future food security. A combination of aid, education in low-tech methods such as better rice planting and irrigation, and the introduction of better seeds and fertilizer could spark a green revolution in Africa, such as the one that transformed South Asia in the 20th century.
Problem: Rich countries have proved poor at delivering on their aid pledges. Genetically modified crops are already part of these schemes.
TARGET INFANT NUTRITION
"Eliminating malnutrition is achievable. It's within our reach," Bill Gates told the London summit, and many companies and rich nations are backing an African government-led plan to tackle it. Big improvements have already been made. The solution lies in education on good feeding techniques and getting the right nutrients to the mother and child from the beginning of pregnancy. Overall, malnutrition makes people poorer – it is responsible for an 11% decline in GDP in affected countries.
Problem: Critics say it diverts policy makers' attention from the job of solving the systemic problems in food supply.
ROLL OUT BIOTECH
Huge gains could be available for health and agricultural productivity if the promises of genetic modification can be believed. Gene-splicing crops to help them withstand drought and flood may be vital. Pigs and chickens could have their digestive systems altered so that they eat food not required by humans, and pollute the environment less.
Problem: There are risks with the technology, and no satisfactory regulatory system in place. Public distaste at the idea of GM, especially in Europe, is holding up research and stopping investment. Safer ideas, like stem cell meat fed on algae, are still far from production. Chances: 6/10
Economic growth has long been seen as the key to reducing hunger. More trade, financial liberalisation and open markets should aid the flow of food, of which there's no overall shortage. Successful poverty reduction in China has led some economists to predict there will be no more hungry people there by 2020.
Problems: Not easy to organise, with the west in economic recession and aid spending falling. More importantly, economic growth does not necessarily trickle down to the hungry poor.Child malnutrition has increased in India during the past decade despite the country's boom.
Save the Children is to be applauded for reminding us all of one of the most extraordinary and humiliating aspects of living in the modern world: child hunger. Drawing a parallel with the fight to abolish slavery, the Ghanaian philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah recently asked what future generations will condemn us for. One sure candidate is the needless human carnage wrought by hunger. Some 850 million people (one in eight of the world's population) go to bed hungry every night. Many of them are children, for whom early hunger leaves a lifelong legacy of cognitive and physical impairment. The human and economic waste is horrifying.
Such hunger is not due to a shortage of food – globally there is enough to go round and if (a big if) we make the right decisions now, we can continue to feed the world despite population growth and climate change. By some estimates, stopping the waste of food after harvest due to poor storage or transport infrastructure, and then in our own kitchens, could free up half of all food grown. The number of overweight and obese people in the world, suffering their own health problems, including a sharp rise in heart disease and diabetes, is roughly equal to the number of hungry people. That highlights one of the underlying causes of hunger – extreme levels of inequality, both within and between countries.
Ending hunger is entirely feasible (indeed, once achieved, the only question will be why it took us so long). It requires action at several different levels. At a national level, progressive governments in Brazil and Ghana have shown how to cut hunger sharply, through cash transfers to poor people, raising the minimum wage and investing in smallholder farmers (especially women), who both produce food, and are some of the poorest and hungriest people in the Alice in Wonderland world of a brutally unfair farming system.
That focus on national decisions and national politics highlights how fast the world is changing. In many cases, aid is no longer the main story – countries like India, growing at 8% a year and with a mushrooming middle class, need to take responsibility for their hungry masses, introducing proper taxation and effective social services to end hunger and malnutrition. Oxfam is working with people's organisations within the country to bring that about. Elsewhere, though, international food aid remains essential, but should be improved, for example by ending the waste and delay of transporting food thousands of miles from donor countries and giving cash instead.
Beyond supporting aid for food and agricultural investment, what else can we in the well-fed countries do? Start by putting our own house in order. The rich countries are part of both the solution and the problem. Europe and America's push to reduce their dependence on imported oil and gas has led them to introduce targets and subsidies for biofuels, but these compete directly with food production, forcing up prices for poor people. Rich country greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change at a pace that outstrips even the most pessimistic projections of the climate modellers, and there are few signs of governments agreeing (still less achieving) the kinds of reductions needed to avoid catastrophic temperature rises that will particularly harm tropical agriculture. We urgently need an international effort to find a way to feed the planet's growing population without destroying its ecosystems, yet current investments are feeble.
Hunger is both a cause and a symptom of poverty. Damaged bodies and brains are a moral scandal and a tragic waste of economic potential. That hunger exists at all shows the urgency of redistributing income and assets to achieve a fairer world. Providing the additional calories needed by the 13% of the world's population facing hunger would require just 1% of the current global food supply. That that redistribution has not already taken place is truly something to be ashamed of.
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