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Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom
We are a team of five cross-disciplinary students from the University of Manchester taking part in the Thought For Food Challenge. For more information, please see our About Us page. It's just down there on the right.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

How to feed 9 billion?

There are 925 million hungry people on Earth and by 2050 the world population is expected to increase to 9 billion, while most of the extra 2 billion people will be born in China, India and Indonesia, where a significant proportion of the world's hungry people live.  65% of the world's hungry live in South Asia, while almost all of them live in developing countries.  If we are to feed an extra 2 billion by 2050 then we must combat water and energy shortages, as well as battling the effects of global climate change.  It is possible that an increase in carbon dioxide could cause yields of crops, such as rice, to increase (see the video below).  However, carbion dioxide is not the sole cause of climate change and gases such as methane can have a relatively stronger and longer lasting effect on temperature increase, which would nulify the positive effects of increased carbion dioxide.  Furthermore, climate change is also causing natural disasters and famines around the world today.

If we are to sustain this increase in population, then despite the fact that we currently produce enough food to feed 12 billion (but throw most of it away), we will have to increase food production.  What would be the best way to go forward?  Some argue that organic farming is the best solution to the food crisis, with smallholder farmers growing food to be consumed locally in rural communities.  Organic farming couldn't sustain a city such as Mumbai, however, which is home to millions of people living in one of the most densely populated areas in the world.  GM crops have been shown to increase wealth in certain areas, which is likely to reduce hunger - as well as the increased yields that can also be produced.  In reality, it will require a combination of all of the available forms of agriculture in order to sustain a rapidly expanding population.  It is regrettable that many aquifers - which irrigate most, if not all, of the crops of Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations - are depleting, never to refill.  However, it is possible that large scale desalination could help to irrigate crops in these areas - as the Seawater Greenhouse Project aims to achieve.

The above video shows an opinion opposed to organic food production, which may be inefficient compared with more technical agricultural practises.  However, staff and customers of the locally-sourced organic food shop Unicorn, in Chorlton, Manchester, explain how organic food production can be sustainable.

Of course...  not all people in the world are hungry.  70 million people in India are overweight, yet 47% of India's children are stunted or wasting.  Guatemala is the tenth fattest country in the world, yet malnourishment levels are around 20%.  How can it be that both gluttony and hunger can occur on such a large scale in developing countries?  Surely the overweight could spare some food, or waste less, in order that the hungry could be properly nourished...  The video below highlights the gluttony of "Western" diets, where consumers often eat far more food than is necessary, while this food is also low in nutrients.  In some developing nations fast food is the cheap and easy to get hold of - which may be one reason why malnourishment is so high in Central and South America.

So, what is there to be done about world hunger?  Our next challenge will be to brainstorm, starting Thursday...  we'll keep you posted on our ideas - and we welcome comments and suggestions!  What would YOU do to combat global hunger?


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