The Global Issue Of Food Shortage Environmental Sciences Essay

3117 words (12 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 Environmental Sciences Reference this


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If you have never experienced the pangs of starvation you are luckier than 1.02 billion people that suffer daily. In fact, “if you have food in your fridge, clothes on you back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world.” The idea of food shortages is sometimes hard to grasp for people who have never experienced this before. Evidently, the gap between the rich and the poor has caused a great inequality in life standards. This gap is magnified greatly when looking at the food shortages and general food distributions around the world. Food shortage occurs when food supplies within a region do not provide the energy and nutrients needed for that region’s population. The amount of people suffering from huger today is devastating. Especially due to the fact that our Earth is rich with natural resources; in reality, there is more than enough to provide for every single person in every country across the globe.

So we ask ourselves, why are so many people starving? With today’s technology and advancements in agriculture and food production, what is our excuse? Why can we not provide an African child with more than one tenth of the amount of food that richer countries take for granted? In the 21st century it is a shame to see that young children are still forced to abandon their education so they can have food on the table. It is a shame to see diseases like malaria and rabies still causing deaths. Why are entire countries still left to live on basic staple foods such as bread and rice? Do we have an excuse? Is it greed, war, lack of stability, lack of international unity? Is that the reason that 1 out 6 people are starving everyday?

This report will discuss the terrifying statistics of food shortages around the world. It will explain the causes and the effects of food shortage and explore solutions. Even though food shortage has a long rooted history, it is our job to come together to raise awareness, give support, and find solutions that may give at least one person a better future.


The United Nations reported that the main cause of mortality is hunger, being responsible for the death of 25,000 people every day. Regrettably, the percentage of children suffering is greater than that of the adults. Altogether, 1.02 billion people do not have enough to eat, this number is more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union. 907 million people in developing countries alone are hungry. In fact a whopping 65 percent of the world’s hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.  The amount of people suffering from malnourishment increased by 75 million in 2007 and 40 million in 2008 mostly due to rising food prices.(Source: FAO news release, 2006-2008), (Source: The State of Food Insecurity in the World, FAO, 2006-2008).

The following charts demonstrate these facts:

A study taken in 2005 observes the combined income of the world’s richest individuals and compares it to that of 416 million of the world’s poorest. This study brings to light the following shocking statistics. 982 million people out 4.8 billion living in developing countries live on $1 a day. An additional 2.5 billion live on below $2 a day. The income of 40% of the world’s poorest totaled up to a mere 5% of the world’s income; whereas 20% of the richest population made up 75% of global income. Food shortages in a population are caused either by a lack of food or by difficulties in food distribution. This huge gap in between the rich and the poor contribute greatly to the unfortunate distribution of food.

A Timeline of Food Shortage in developing countries:

As reported by Oxfam the current food shortages in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are proof that this problem has not been solved and it is indeed still a major world crisis. The past years we have seen prices rising mostly due to the failing economy, before prices increased there were over 850 million people classified as undernourished. Now, that number has nearly reached one billion. This increase is directly influenced by rising prices, alongside other factors such as political conflicts and instability.

The Causes of food Shortage:

Another major cause for food shortage is natural causes. Water supply in terms of both heavy rainfall and drought are popular culprits. Hurricanes and tornadoes are also common. Along with tsunamis that can easily wipe out entire populations. The causes of food shortage can be categorized into two major factors: physical and biological, political and economical.

Physical and Biological Effects on Food Shortage:

To determine the food shortage in any country we look at the production level. The production level is mostly determined by the climate and soil type. Across the globe we see a range of various patterns regarding climates. The difference in temperatures and amounts of­­­­ rainfall are indicators of which organisms are allowed to survive and grow in a certain area. Temperature and rainfall directly influence the type, quantity and the quality of the crops. Alongside these climatic factors is the richness of the land’s soil.

The production of food varies according to soil structure and fertility but these factors can be modified more easily than factors related to temperature or rainfall. For instance, some tropical soils contain fewer amounts of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, which decrease the capacity to absorb fertilizers. One the other hand, other tropical soils contain different amount of nutrients that change its level of absorption or other characteristics. When the agricultural methods and inputs vary, the productivity of the soil differs. Many countries facing the challenge of climate changes overcome this by using techniques that help the soil keep its productivity as required. Some of these techniques are changing the fertilizing rate and monitoring the use of irrigation.

When the natural resources in an area are naturally capable of carrying agricultural demands the cost of production is cheaper. None the less, agricultural advancements have made a significantly large difference in the past. In countries where rainfall is rare, such as the deserts of United Arab Emirates, it would still be possible to grow crops that naturally grow elsewhere; however this comes with a high price, including a constant supply of water. In less fortunate countries water would be considered a critical resource and agricultural success would be left to depend greatly on the richness of its soil and the climate.

Biological factors are ones which are related to the organisms in an environment. Bacteria, insects, and animals have a significant effect on crops and are often cause yield reductions. Many countries try to make a huge effort to overcome the bacterial and fungal diseases by addressing them through many different procedures and some chemical applications. Also animals are taken care of by blocking inoculations and restorative methods. To avoid insects or pests, many countries breed resistant varieties. This involves strategies revolving around mixing and planting in a certain way that will create a shield for particular species from their characteristic pests. Target populations are commonly killed using insecticidal chemicals. Other animals that negatively effect crops are: rodents, birds, or livestock. These animals are usually scared away due to their damaging effect on food productivity.

Political and Economical Effects on Food Shortage:

Production levels are not solely determined by physical and biological factors. Political and economical factors also play a significant role. Political and economical factors involve international trade, and government policies for modernizing agriculture as well as the rate of food exchange. This is closely intertwined with cultural factors which include the organization of land and labor use, as well as dietary preferences. Under this umbrella are many inadequate reasons for production levels, trade and import restrictions, structural adjustments, and food aid.

Food Distribution: The richest 20% of people in the world consume nearly half the meat and fish in the world, but the poorest 20% consume just 5% (FAO, 2000). Looking within the borders of a certain country, or even a certain city, we often find rich areas and poor areas. In many countries the rich are a small percentage of the population, however they account for large amounts of property and possessions. While, the poor will be left to share the little amount of land that is left and struggle in the intense and rather unfair world of trade. Many small farmers in developing countries will make a significantly low profit compared to the rich when producing the exact same product. In the end, the old saying “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer,” proves to be the harsh truth.

Insufficient incentives for food production: This occurs when the government activity works in a way that alters consumption patterns only for their benefit, and not the benefit of the community at large.

Cash-crop promotions: Governments seeking to increase export earnings, this policy has a negative effect on the production of food crops for local consumption.

Opportunity costs and food production: The income that is gained from crops must be high enough to meet opportunity costs of producing the crops. Unfortunately, the government may eliminate these calculations so the cost of production is higher than the benefits.

Food aid: Sometimes importing food aid is limited because of the availability of humanitarian aid. Some scientists look at the problem of food shortage from another dimension. In their opinion, there is no global food shortage, but there is disordered political agendas. These political agendas are prioritizing the service of aid for reasons other than strictly humanitarian ends; thus not enough aid reaches the people suffering the most. ­­­­­­­­

A Closer Look: Africa

The hunger problem in Africa today cannot be changed unless Africa itself decided to change. The root of Africa’s problems is the agriculture crisis it’s facing. “According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, this has left 200 million people malnourished.” ( Africa is an area with consisting of desert and low amounts of rainfall. The growth of its population is incredibly high. Unfortunately, “Things are moving in the wrong direction, if we look at Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, all the projections area that poverty and hunger are­­­ going to get worse.” (Mar Cohen, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington). There are several conditions that occurred in Africa that lead to hunger and poverty, which are: marginalization of women food farmers, poor leadership, too little investment in building people’s capacity in rural areas, AIDS, and the gender inequality that fuels the epidemic. (Clinton Global Initiative, Sep 2005)

Africa is facing political pressure, which only adds overwhelming stress to its already vulnerable population. “Poor governance is a major issue in many African countries, and that has serious repercussion for long-term food security,” says a statement by the International Food Policy Research Institute. ( While donors continue to generously donate to the Africans in need, the government (Sub-Saharan) is not helping ease the process. Due to the governments lack of action the Africans will continue struggling to rise above the problem of hunger. We cannot expect to see positive changes unless the government starts supporting zits people in the name of stopping the hunger.

A Closer Look: Ethiopia

Ethiopia has been ranked 171 out of 182 on the list of poorest countries in the Human Development Index (UNDP HDI 2009). About 50 % of its GDP relies on its agriculture as the single source of food. Unfortunately, its agriculture is very unreliable due to poor cultivation tools, unpredictable rainfall and climate changes in the past two years. Alongside these agricultural struggles, the increase in food and fuel prices that struck hard on Ethiopia, during the 2008 global financial crisis, made it even more difficult for people to get food. A whopping 50% of Ethiopia’s total 74.7 million are bearing the burden of poverty and 80% live on bread sources. 47% of males and 31% of females are literate. The infant mortality rate (per 1000 live birth) is 109 (2005 UNDP). Some parts of Ethiopia are overwhelmed with diseases. People are highly vulnerable to hepatitis A, hepatitis E, typhoid fever, malaria, and rabies. These fatal diseases are mainly due to malnutrition. The same can be said about many countries such as: Niger, The Central African Republic, Bissau, The Republic of Liberia, Somalia and others.

I think that the African communities should adopt new methods in policy, education, industry and agricultural activities. Food Shortage here has reached extreme levels. However, if proper action is taken this tragedy can be eased and eventually solved. Some areas have sufficient natural resources and rich soil that are not nearly meeting their productive potentials.

“The Sadomo region of the Ethiopia is known for producing the best coffee second to Harar….Make Trade Fair!” – mcandrea

The Outcomes of Food Shortage:

The effects that food shortage has on societies as well as individuals can be very damaging. Children that are malnourished won’t grow properly, including their brains. This will make them incapable of receiving a proper education and instead of growing into capable adults that will serve the community they become a burden on society. Adults and children alike may even turn to crime out of desperation. They will not be able to afford a proper marriage, thus they may turn to unlawful and sexual relations. They will produce illegitimate children and then very likely abandon those children; and the negative cycle goes on and on.

Malnutrition & Poor Health:

The countries that suffer from food shortage face many health problems and they have low health standards. One out of 4 children in developing countries are underweight. This puts them a higher risk to a number of diseases and lowers their body’s natural immunity. Malnutrition commonly leads to not only Hunger, but also: AIDS , Malaria , Diarrhoea, Pneumonia, and Measles. In addition there is one more health problem closely associated with food shortage which is Malnutrition. We can define it as an imbalance in the consumption of nutrients. It causes a disorder which affects the overall heath and the functions in the human body. If the body is in this state for too long it stresses the heart, and other organ’s such as the kidney’s, liver, and damages the esophagus. Eventually, malnutrition leads to death from either organ failure, or other diseases that the body could not fight off due to a weak and failing immune system. Thus, we see higher rates of mortality in areas suffering from food shortage. UNICEF reported that: “Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of the deaths.” (Source: The State of the World’s Children, UNICEF, 2007)


In poor countries children have a great deal less healthcare and this ultimately results in many absences from the academic education. They may even prefer working and gaining money than studying. The countries which suffer from food shortage have a population that lacks the motivation to achieve any educational progress. They believe that there are no benefits from education because of the poverty and lacking food. This shifts their direction from education to working.

Possible Solutions:

What can be done to stop this cycle? Who is responsible for this imbalance in the world? Nobody likes to see others suffer, yet so many are suffering daily. The true solution will take great organization and uniting on a personal level as well as an International and Governmental level. As individuals however, we need to remind ourselves to buy only what is enough for our families and never waste food or throw it away. We need to make conscious efforts to give extra to any needy individuals in our own communities.

However, outside of our little community circles, we need to work on an International and Governmental level. Food banks need to be set up. Governments need to help other countries to not only be able to draw out their natural resources, but even to teach them how to maintain and farm their own land. This takes water, man power, and knowledge. Water may even have to be imported as either loans (which are usually impossible to pay back for these impoverished countries) or just as charity. Also countries need to work together to produce a long term program that will assure progression throughout the coming years. They need to ease the immediate problem and take some of the stress off their citizens. If the government can provide a positive atmosphere for its people that will in turn play a large role in advancing the economy. The people will be able to go out and serve their communities by advancing in various fields (education, medicine, technology, agriculture, etc.). Hopefully, once these countries get organized internally and are supported internationally, they can become more independent.

In countries that don’t have many natural resources, they should be receiving international support. The ratio of rich to poor could all balance if governments would just take it seriously. There is no need for all the suffering and it does affect all mankind. It is our job as citizens of the Earth to take part in finding solutions to the problems we face. Hunger is not a problem limited to the people in developing countries, but it is in fact a problem that we are all facing together. The toll starvation is taking on our human population is a shockingly large number. It is making our fellow neighbors vulnerable to diseases; this will sooner or later catch up to us anywhere in the world. If we all come together, there is much that can be done to assure that needs are met, it’s called Globalization!

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