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Causes and Solutions to World Hunger

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  • Michael Sylvester

Why is Feeding the Hungry Proving to be Such a Difficult Challenge?

In 2012, it was estimated that 868 million people in the world were undernourished.[1] That’s 868 million people out of the 7,065,410,436[4] people that make up the world’s population going hungry on a daily basis, that’s over 12%.

This is a shockingly large number; a number that I feel can be lowered considerably. Feeding the hungry is a problem shared globally, however the effects of this problem are more severe in less economically developed countries (LEDCs). Money plays a large part in power today and I believe those with money and power should lead the way in showing those without to help eradicate the problem, for example: if each MEDC (More Economically Developed Country) gave 1% of their GDP to fund a food program for those without food in LEDC countries, it would make a considerable difference.

Causes of hunger:

Finance: If people can’t afford to buy food, then they simply don’t eat enough; often forgoing meals so their children can eat. Lack of money usually arises from un or underemployment. Those in poorer, less economically developed countries such as Ethiopia (Africa) struggle to gain jobs for steady income due to lack of education and/or lack of job availability. With little to no income, families in Ethiopia, for example, struggle to provide food and other essentials needed to sustain life. With this in mind, families may be left with the impossible choice of what they spend their money on. (For example: Spending money to feed an ill person who will most likely die without treatment is money wasted. Equally paying for medical treatment but not being able to feed them at the same time makes paying for medical treatment useless, as the person is only going to become ill again.)

The way people choose to spend their money will affect whether they are able to afford the correct amount and quality of food. More commonly in MEDC’s such as the United Kingdom families ‘waste’ their money on unnecessary items rather than the necessities to maintain a healthy life.

The country’s level of economic development plays a part. A country with a lower GDP will not be able to aid its people as effectively/at all whereas one with a higher GDP will be able to. However, this is not always the case and we must be careful to avoid over-generalising as in some poorer countries, the rural dwellers have got together to form farming co-operatives and these have proved surprisingly powerful and sustainable in The Gambia [9]. Other factors such as corruption can affect whether a country is willing to help itself or if it is going to rely on the help of others.

In some places, there is an excess of food. It is estimated that globally we waste 1.3 billion tonnes of food a year. The food thrown away is not only enough to feed all of the undernourished people in the world (Approximately 870 million people [1], 852 million in developing countries (LEDC/NIC’s)) [2] is enough to save 1/3 of the world’s food banks. Wasting food is a huge issue for everyone, especially for those who aren’t even receiving a proper meal daily. It costs money, resources and time to produce food all, of which is wasted in most cases. Producing food has many effects. For example: Agriculture has an effect on global warming, due to high rates of greenhouse gas emissions. 10% of MEDC greenhouse emissions come from producing and transporting food that never gets eaten. [3]

Country

Continent

MEDC/LEDC?

Food Waste /Per capita per year (Approx.)

United Kingdom

Europe

MEDC

7.2 tonnes

United States of America

North America

MEDC

40 tonnes

France

Europe

MEDC

5.6 tonnes

Ethiopia

Africa

LEDC

Unknown

Effects of hunger

Hunger has a direct impact on those without food, obviously, however very few undernourished people die from outright starvation. They die from common illnesses such as malaria and diarrhoea because their bodies that have been weakened by hunger, cannot cope. Hunger can increase the severity of simple illnesses because it weakens the immune system. Not only does hunger increase the vulnerability of a person to common illnesses, it increases the risk of infection, meaning the illness has a wide-spread effect.

Hunger can have an economic impact also. It creates a vicious circle that is almost impossible to escape. People are poorly paid due to the limited economic status of the country, this then limits what food they can buy as well as other things such as medicine, people become ill (often common illnesses contracted due to lack of food) and therefore cannot attend work or are less productive in their job (If the person works) meaning they can’t earn as much/any money or pay taxes to their government. This circle then repeats and the overall effect is that the country makes less money and its people earn less money and are unable to buy essential items to survive.

Solutions

‘World hunger is extensive in spite of sufficient global food resources. Therefore increased food production is no solution. The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food. Therefore measures addressing the poverty problem are what are needed to solve the world hunger problem.’

As suggested in the quote above, simply producing more food is not a solution. Producing even more food will result in more food going to waste, and that’s already a huge problem globally. The challenge we are left with is to supply safe and nutritious food in a sustainable way, globally.

If food was made much more affordable it would help reduce hunger levels. Even those in poorer countries would be able to afford it despite their low incomes. However this may promote food waste since people will be able to afford much more food than they usually would, food which will never get eaten. I think MEDC’s should give short term aid to LEDC’s to help reduce the number of undernourished people in their countries, although I feel that giving money aid isn’t the best solution as the country may use it for something else. MEDC’s should educate other countries and nurture them but not allow the country to become dependent on them. ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ Anne Isabella Ritchie (circa 1885) – this quote stresses the need to teach to be self sufficient as opposed to being dependent.

There is also another idea that could help to reduce the amount of food we waste yearly. The ‘Pig Idea’ [10]is an idea that we should feed our waste food to pigs. This would be effective as the food wouldn’t be wasted since it’s feeding the pigs. ‘Humans have been recycling food by feeding it to pigs for thousands of years’ – this now has the added bonus of helping british pig farmers who are struggling to make ends meet, as a result of the economic climate.

Charities and Aid organisations already operate in areas where there is a hunger is a big problem. Farm Africa has worked in Ethiopia since 1988 and continues to help the people there by educating them, and showing them how to grow crops as well as giving them food and water.

Case Studies.

U.K

In the United Kingdom the causes of hunger are problems like food waste and food affordability. The wealthier people living in the U.K contribute significantly to the amount of food that is wasted annually, because they can afford to buy large quantities of food regardless of the price. However those with lower incomes cannot afford to buy as much food so their food waste is considerably lower. But for some, food affordability is a huge problem. Families can’t afford to buy enough food to feed them due to its ever growing price.

Ethiopia

In Ethiopia the causes of hunger are different to that of the U.K. It is producing the food and distributing it to the people that are the problem. Due to climate difficulties producing food can be difficult, since soil qualities are affected. Also difficult climatic conditions (Flood and drought) can damage crops and reduce productivity. Lack of education in the country also adds to this, since poor farming practises are undertaken, which can further ruin the land being used for farming which then eventually will render it useless more than 31 million Ethiopians don’t have enough nutritious food to eat 5]., with annual costs associated with child malnutrition accounting for 15.5% of Ethiopia’s GDP.

Farm Africa is currently working in parts of Ethiopia to try and help their situation. In the Tigray region of Ethiopia Farm Africa [12] are trying to increase food security via pastoral farming. The project is working directly with 2,950 women and 400 landless youths, providing them with crops and livestock as well as training [5]. They are also training farmers and giving them equipment to produce barley of a high quality meaning farmers will receive 10% more than the local rate for the barley they produced. They have also helped link farmers to Diageo (An international business that brews beer). Farm Africa is also helping communities find new ways of earning a living using the forest’s natural resources eg making bamboo furniture and harvesting wild coffee.

They are also collaborating with the government to design a pilot project to protect 500,000 hectares of forest. This means Ethiopia could benefit from important work to preserve the forest, avoiding further emissions of carbon, and slowing climate change.

Future Scenario: I feel that if this work continues, although it may take time, it will greatly help reduce the amount of undernourished people in Ethiopia and create sustainable life there. Not only do I think it will help reduce malnutrition statistics but I think it will help Ethiopia grow economically and increase their level of understanding and education which in turn will benefit the country greatly.

Kenya

In Kenya the causes for hunger are mostly physical ones, with climatic effects playing a large part in it. Two-thirds of Kenyans depend on the crops they grow and the animals they keep for their livelihoods and survival [6]. However, with prolonged drought killing livestock and withering crops, nearly four million people are at risk of serious hunger, especially in the northern and Rift Valley regions. This leaves small scale farmers and pastoral nomadic tribes-people vulnerable to hunger. Farm Africa is working with these vulnerable groups to help them find a way out of the spiral of poverty.

They are teaching farmers techniques to help conserve water and soil, and by introducing drought-tolerant crops to them. New methods for capturing rainwater are being introduced by NGOs. Those trained can then disseminate these techniques throughout their community and this knowledge passed on to future generations. Selected farmers are provided with high-quality seeds for drought-tolerant crops. These seeds then produce healthy crops and farmers collect and store seeds from the harvest to use the following season. The more widely available these become, the more reliable and food secure communities can become too.

Future Scenario: I believe that if this work continues it will greatly help reduce the amount of undernourished people in Kenya. The continuation of the help will ensure food security for all, regardless of climatic changes.

Global Scenarios

If global hunger isn’t managed further, as our world’s population continues to grow, the problem will become so big that I don’t think it could be managed solved.

Scenario

Benefit

Explanation

If nothing is done to try to manage the hunger problem.

Nothing.

As the global population grows, so does the number of malnutrition. It is going to become even more difficult to manage this problem and the effects it has on people. We simply cannot keep up with the amount of illnesses that will be caused because of malnutrition, making death on an enormous scale inevitable even more so in LEDC’s.

If we were to lower the price of food

More people would be able to afford more or a better quality of food, which would certainly improve the hunger problem.

However, lowering the price of food may create more problems than solutions. For example, in most LEDC’s such as Ethiopia where agriculture accounts for 46.6% of the country’s GDP lowering the price of food is going to hinder the country’s economic development. Since farmers will be getting less money for the crops they sell meaning they have even less income for essentials things for themselves and their families.

Conclusion

Ensuring that every person in the world is fed is an absolute must, arguably more so than educating them although to some extent the two are inextricably linked. This issue has had global prominence since the year 2000 and the millennium development goals and although we have made great strides there is still a long way to go, indeed one in eight people still go to bed hungry, despite major progress. [7] Unfortunately the causes of hunger are wide spread and complex so there is no one quick way of fixing the problem. That said, if we can promote a reduction in food waste by those that have more than enough and supply and educate those that are lacking, we will be heading in the right direction.

From investigating this topic I now have a personal goal to reduce the amount of food that I and those around me waste. I plan to visit local restaurants such as that of my school to investigate how much food is wasted, what is done with that waste food and help them to consider ways which might help them to lower it. I will be looking to find local pig farmers/smallholdings who might be able to make use of such waste food. I have also realised how fortunate I am never to have been truly hungry, even though I often claim to ‘be absolutely starving’, especially when on last lunch at school!

2096 words excluding titles, sub-headings and tables

Bibliography.

[1] worldhunger.org

[2]lovefoodhatewaste.com

[3]feeding5k.org

[4]galen.metapath.org

[5] http://www.farmafrica.org/ethiopia/ethiopia

[6] http://www.farmafrica.org/kenya/kenya

[7] http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview/mdg_goals/mdg1/

[8] http://www.jatrophabook.com/public/image/__world_hunger_map.jpg

[9] http://www.actionaid.org/gambia/stories/how-farming-cooperatives-transformed-community

[10] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/10467298/Whats-the-Pig-Idea.html

[12] https://www.farmafrica.org/ethiopia/ethiopia


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