Globally, places with high agricultural production tend to have some of the world’s most well-maintained infrastructures, especially in terms of roads and railroads. In pursuing stable, global food security, such statistics may seem promising; it is essential that those geographic entities that produce the largest percentage of the world’s food supply have the resources to distribute it. Roads and railroads rarely have the geographical coverage that is required to effectively reach regions in need of food and ensure global food security. Although inadequate infrastructural reach is a global issue, it is a geographically varied problem, and it must be addressed on a case by case basis.

Ideally, the infrastructural model to follow would be that of North America and Europe. While it is true that these regions have a higher than average agricultural crop yield, the agricultural output of each sub-region is variable. In Europe, crop yields are dominated by Western Europe, namely France and England, whose lands can cultivate as much as fifty million kilocalories per hectare. Southern France, Southern Italy, and Spain, however, produce only about twenty kilocalories per hectare. Scandinavian countries also produce comparatively little food. A similar trend exists in North America, where the Great Plains and Mississippi river delta display some of the world’s highest agricultural outputs, yet some regions in the Rocky Mountains and Northwest do not engage in agricultural practices at all (Foley, 2011). Despite the variance in agricultural output in North America and Europe, the prevalence of undernourishment (POU) of these regions remains so low that world hunger organizations, and the United Nations for that matter, tend to give no indication as to how hungry the populations of these regions are (Prevalence, 2015; International, 2015). These countries’ success in ensuring food security can be partially credited to a close-knit system of roads and railroads that traverse both agriculturally rich and poor regions, and converge in urban centers, where agricultural produce tends to be rather low (figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1: This map shows the roads, railroads and relative crop yields in the United States. Dark lines represent major roads or railroads, while light grey lines represent local roads. Lines in red represent ferries. Regions in white have no agricultural activity, while those in green do, but at various degrees. The darker the green is the more production there is in that region. The scale ranges from zero to fifty kilocalories per hectare (Esri Roads, 2015; Esri Railroads, 2015; Foley, 2011).
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Figure 2: This map shows the roads, railroads and relative crop yields in Europe. See the caption in figure 1 for a description of the map’s different colors and lines (Esri Roads, 2015; Esri Railroads, 2015; Foley, 2011).

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Regions where the POU is alarmingly high, like Central and Sub-Saharan Africa, tend to have some of the lowest global gross domestic products (GDP) and thus typically do not have the financial resources to create the infrastructural model that has been so effective in North America, Europe, and China (GDP, 2014). It is thus imperative to sub-divide the map of the globe and analyze regions in a case-by-case method, looking at existing infrastructure and sources of high agricultural production, to find an optimal infrastructure improvement program that can ensure food security for the next century.

The Central African Republic has one of the highest POU of any country [38] followed closely by its neighboring country Chad [35] (Prevalence, 2015). While other factors, such as political instability, have contributed to these countries’ unreliable food distribution, the fact that central Africa has some of the world’s worst road and railroad coverage is noteworthy. In figure 3, Chad and the Central African Republic are located in the middle of the pictured region. While there is some agricultural activity in southern Chad and most of the Central African Republic, there are no roads connecting these agricultural regions with the rest of the population. Connecting central Africa with roads is key to ensuring food security in one of the regions in most desperate need. Given that these agricultural regions spread mostly in the East-West direction and that northern Chad is mostly deserted and uninhabited, roads should be constructed in the East-West direction (Foley, 2011). While Nigeria’s POU is still relatively high, it is rich in agricultural produce (Esri, 2015; Foley, 2011). If Nigeria is connected with Chad, the Central African Republic, and maybe even South Sudan and Ethiopia, the central African region would become an independent geographic entity, suitable for the adequate distribution of food.

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Figure 3: This map shows the roads, railroads and relative crop yields in Central Africa. See the caption in figure 1 for a description of the map’s different colors and lines (Esri Roads, 2015; Esri Railroads, 2015; Foley, 2011).

Unfortunately, most central African countries need to reach a certain level of political stability before they can venture into such ambitious infrastructural projects. The international community should thus aid central African countries to reach political stability and subsequently fund infrastructural projects shortly thereafter. The United Nations has been sanctioning the Central African Republic since 2013, but these keep being modified as they have been largely unsuccessful (UN Security Council, 2015). A more promising solution seems to be the use of peacekeeping forces. Since 2014, France and the United Nations have had peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic, and the UN representative to the Central African Republic, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, reassures that the “international presence in the country is nothing but helping the country move forward throughout these difficult times… which is essential for the return of peace, stability and prosperity for all in CAR” (Central, 2015). Given that it takes about five to ten years to construct a highway, it is still realistic to create a more geographically linked central Africa in the span of fifty years, even if, initially, the projects need to be delayed as a result of political instability (Highway, 2013).

Sub-Saharan Africa also has areas with high  Global Hunger Indexes, with about twenty countries whose POU average at 28. Of these countries, South Africa has the lowest POU with a score of five (Prevalence, 2015). Although several factors contribute to these trends, significantly better infrastructure in South Africa plays an important role, as shown in figure 4. In terms of coverage, South African infrastructure closely resembles the North American and European model. Although South Africa’s neighboring countries have the potential of producing as much as the rural areas near Johannesburg and Cape Town, they lack infrastructure fit to distribute such massive amounts of food, making such production neither purposeful nor profitable.

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Figure 4: This map shows the roads, railroads and relative crop yields in Southern Africa. See the caption in figure 1 for a description of the map’s different colors and lines (Esri Roads, 2015; Esri Railroads, 2015; Foley, 2011).

Connecting Southern Africa with roads and railroads will involve a significant amount of diplomacy. Given that South Africa has existing adequate infrastructure in place, the easiest way to connect the rest of the subcontinent is by merely expanding the pre-existing roads. Countries like Mozambique and Botswana, whose POU indexes are much lower than that of South Africa, should divert their budget to infrastructural development, and in doing so, follow a mixture of rational and incremental planning as to not put too much strain on their limited budgets. Not only would investing in infrastructure ensure adequate distribution to the regions that need food, but once these countries are linked, international trade between these countries would increase. As a result, such an investment could both lower the POU and raise the GDP of these countries; it is thus in the interest of these countries to invest in infrastructural development. According to studies conducted by the University of Colorado, South Africa is “the largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa and is a member of several regional and international development organizations”. In the interest of South African foreign exports and given its relative economic power in Southern Africa, it is in the interest of South Africa to invest in the expansion of its domestic roads to an international level. While some Sub-Saharan African countries like Zimbabwe are similar to its central African counterparts in that they need to reach a higher level of political stability to begin such infrastructural projects, countries like Botswana and Mozambique are politically stable enough that such a project can begin to be implemented in the near future.

While there is no clear universal solution, by looking at North American, European, Central, and South African infrastructural models, a general course of action can be deduced. In the next fifty years, countries that lack or have little infrastructure must divert their budgets to infrastructural development, and countries with developed infrastructure must help those in need fund their projects. With a global close-knit system of roads and railroads, global food security will be one step closer to being a reality.

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Works Cited

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UN Security Council. (2015, January 22). Resolution 2196. Retrieved November 24, 2015, from http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2196 (2015)