Providing sufficient food to the global population will only become more difficult as time goes on. As the population grows, natural resources will grow more and more scarce and demand on food will increase (“The State of Food Insecurity in the World,” 2011). While the rate of population growth is expected to slow, the global population is still expected to undergo significant growth over the next century, increasing by over 30% by 2050 and over 50% by 2100. Nearly all of this population growth is expected to occur in developing regions (“World Population Prospects-Population Division,” 2015). For example, in Africa, the average woman has 4.7 children while developed nations may have a fertility rate of 1.6 children per mother (Population Division, 2013). As such, efforts to decrease population growth must be focused on developing nations (“World Population Prospects-Population Division,” 2015).
Figure 1: (Upper) Expected Population Growth for More Developed Regions, (Lower) Expected Population Growth for Less Developed Regions (“World Population Prospects-Population Division,” 2015).
Since the 1960s, growth of agriculture production has been sufficient to exceed population growth. In 2006–2008, global per capita food availability rose to 2790 kilocalories per person per day, far more than the recommended average of 2100 calories per person. Even in developing countries, global per capita food availability is as high as 2640 kilocalories per person per day. The world’s food production is high enough to provide the global population with enough food (“Feeding the World”; Alasfoor; Collins, 1988).
However, rather than continuing to increase, production yields over the next century may be on a decline. Natural resources are growing more and more scarce, and rates of yield growth have been declining for some commodities (“The State of Food Insecurity in the World,” 2011). The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has found that crop production will consistently and negatively be affected by climate change–increasing the likelihood that production increase will be unable to meet the demands of a growing population (Hallegatte, S.). Even if, contrary to these findings, production does continue to increase, feeding a growing population will not be easy (UNFPA, 2014).
Many cannot afford the food they need due to poverty and inequality. As demand for crops on the market grows, prices rise, making it even more difficult for impoverished populations to purchase food (“The State of Food Insecurity in the World,” 2011). Crop prices can be decreased by decreasing demand of crops not directly related to the production of human food. Over 45% of the world’s crops don’t go to feed people. 33% of croplands are used for livestock feed–a practice so inefficient that over half of the calories fed to livestock are lost (Cassidy, 2013; Lipinski, 2013). In addition, 2% of global croplands are used to produce biofuels (“Climate Change and Bioenergy Challenges for Food and Agriculture,” 2009). 24% of calories produced for human consumption are simply wasted, the failure to use this resource further increasing the global demand for crop production (“Climate Change and Bioenergy Challenges for Food and Agriculture,” 2009). By decreasing the demand of these alternate uses of crops, food prices can be lowered and made more available to those in poverty (“The State of Food Insecurity in the World,” 2011).
There are several measures which can be taken to reduce competition for food resources.
- Eliminate Harmful Farming Practices
- Prevent the Discarding of Unsold Food
- Implement Sustainable Practices in Developed Countries
- Phase out First Generation Biofuels (e.g. corn starch, sugar cane)
- Phase out Government funded food-crop subsidies for biofuels
- Reduce Subsidies to the Livestock Industry
- Educate the Population on Environmental Impact of Meat
In addition to decreasing existing demands on food resources, measures can be taken to promote a more sustainable rate of population growth. Women’s rights are an important factor when looking at the difference of birth rates between developed and developing nations. Women in underdeveloped countries are less likely to have easy access to contraception (Population Division, 2015). The education of women, and the inclusion of women in higher roles has been shown to decrease the birthrate (Fullerton, 2013, Reading, 2011). Some have even linked the education of women, particularly education of women in health related fields, to a decrease in child mortality (UN, 2011).
One of the reasons girls are often denied more schooling is because they work for their families (Reading, 2011). The United States has laws that say children may not work during school hours, which would be particularly useful to implement in countries where this is not the case. Laws such as these allow adolescents to help support their family, but makes school attendance far more likely, and makes having children for the purpose of helping with work far less appealing (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2000).
It is important to note that children in developing countries can significantly contribute to family income, and if child labor is left legal the majority of children will leave school to help provide for their families. Child labor can be an intrinsic component of survival in a developing country, and simply passing laws making it illegal can have negative effects on a community economy. Further, if child labor is a necessity to an economy, it is very likely that the laws will not be enforced (Siddiqi).
While many countries have child labor laws in place, they need to be be more stringent, better enforced, and should address family businesses as well as industry (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2000). By providing subsidies in the short term, and decreasing poverty in the long term, families in poverty would lose their motivation to employ children (“Data Highlights,” 2011; Siddiqi). Huge increase in school attendance can be seen by devoting as little as 1% of a country’s GDP to Educational Subsidies (Morley). In addition, by providing free school lunches, schools would be able to both feed children as an emergency response measure and significantly improve their attendance (Miller Del Rosso, 1999). Studies have shown that educating children in developing countries–even only to the level of primary school–is extremely effective in improving female rights as well as decreasing fertility rates and poverty levels (“Data Highlights,” 2011).
Plan for Improving Education in Developing Countries
- 2020–Developing Countries provide families with Educational Subsidies, minimum total budget 1% of GDP
- 2025–Case By Case Implementation of Mandatory Primary School Education
In addition, the more economically developed a third world country becomes, the less reliant populations will be on child labor (Siddiqi).
The more that countries become developed, the more we should be concerned about the high amounts of food waste in developed countries. For solutions regarding food waste in developed countries, see Decreasing Food Waste. For solutions regarding maintaining food security in urban and upper–income, see Urban Food Insecurity.
As the world moves towards the future, the population will continue to increase. In the face of climate change and depleting natural resources, we cannot count on a continued increase in the efficiency of agricultural production. We must take measures to decrease the demand on our food supply and ensure the global population can afford the food they need. By decreasing the demand on our food supply, our rate of population growth, and global poverty, we can move towards a more sustainable future for global nutrition (“The State of Food Insecurity in the World,” 2011).
- Farmers’ Cooperatives
- Mobile Applications in Agriculture
- Decreasing Food Waste
- Decreasing Use of Food Crops for Biofuels
- Decreasing Waste from Livestock Inefficiency
- Urban Food Insecurity
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