The Future of Food Demand at the Global Level
Maintaining food security at the global and local levels is a growing challenge. In the Global South, vulnerable populations, particularly women and children, lack food security due to a complex web of food production and consumption issues. Globally, our diets lack diversification, with 75 percent of our food coming from rice, wheat, beef, pork and chicken. Meanwhile, 794 million people suffer from hunger, and two billion lack sufficient access to vitamins and minerals necessary for proper growth and development. Inversely, 1.9 billion are overeating, with a record 600 million cases of obesity worldwide.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that the global demand for food, feed, and fiber is anticipated to increase by 70 percent. At the same time, more crops could be directed towards bioenergy and other industrial purposes, accentuating the pressure on scarce agricultural resources. This circumstance begs the question: How must agriculture at the local and global levels change if the world is to feed itself in 2050?
This question should be addressed through a multidimensional approach. The current pattern of our food system needs to be transformed at the production, transformation, distribution, and consumption stages in order to A.) provide healthier food for a growing population and B.) tackle environmental degradation. This can be made possible through the involvement of all actors in the food sector: governments, health representatives, producers, consumers, and traders. Farmers must employ new technologies and strategies to use farmland more efficiently. Likewise, governments must be more accountable and responsive to their citizens.
(1) Land Development & Better Employment to Improve Food Availability
Scholars advocating for equitable land distribution emphasize the importance of land accessibility in making food production more readily and cheaply available to the economically disadvantaged. According to Julian Quan of the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich, “Access to land contributes to food security, households’ nutritional well-being, and the ability to withstand shocks.” In other words, access to arable land could decelerate hunger.
Land reallocation is a powerful approach to ensure global food security. Advocates for equitable farmland distribution report that: “Across the globe, small-scale farmers consistently grow more output per acre than large farms. At the same time, when small family farmers hold secure land rights, they tend to be better environmental stewards, protecting and enhancing soil fertility, water quality, and biodiversity.” it is crucial to launched several land allocation initiatives to balance land distribution, tackle food insecurity, and empower vulnerable communities. Implementing policies that promote accessibility for farms while enhancing land fertility and accentuate input per available crop. Broadly speaking, implementing smarter production strategies where “less is more” and promoting the production of nutrient-dense foods.
Governments need to consolidate an adequate social safety net to support small-scale agriculture and production. It is also crucial to promote existing opportunities for youth, especially in developing countries with limited access to educational programs that correspond to today’s agricultural challenges. Hence, we must invest in the next generation of farmers.
(2) Technology for Global Food Security
Technological innovation is another aspect that could improve production in order to meet the demands of the coming decades. This could manifest in efficient irrigation systems, conservation techniques, and enhanced water management systems to boost efficiency and productivity. According to the Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CGIAR) one of the most promising innovations in the rural sector is technology. By accessing data, “farmers can plant, fertilize, harvest, and sell products more effectively (…) especially as more people in emerging economies connect to mobile networks, and apps designed to collect and share agricultural information becomes increasingly accessible”.
In Canada, Health Canada constructed the Veterinary Database for farmers to promote the prudent use of veterinary drugs administered for food production. Through mobile devices in Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, vegetable farmers are receiving instantaneous weather updates. The World Economic Forum reports that simply allowing farmers to be connected and alert via technology can improve the functioning of markets, especially in developing countries where farmers could have access to accurate price information, which could facilitate easier exchange.
The world has the resources and technology to eradicate hunger and feed the world population in 2050. However, we must rethink and reshape our food systems towards sustainability. We must increase accessibility to tools and technologies, appropriately redistribute lands, and invest in rural employment sectors. This can be made possible through the mobilization of political institutions and engagement of civil society.
Goethie Derenoncourt is a graduate student in a dual Common Law, Juris Doctor, and Master of Arts program in International Affairs with the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. Her research area focuses on international and commercial trade law. In addition to French and English, Goethie speaks Haitian Creole and has intermediate knowledge of Spanish.