How We Prepare To Feed 10billion People. My Essay Response.

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Preparing for an Impending Food Crisis.

This was my entry into an international essay competition to pick delegates for the annual, amazingly inspiring Youth Agricultural Summit (find out more about it here). Results come out in March. Wish me Luck!!

Well… I actually won this! And got to go to the International Youth Ag Summit – and we delivered our decleration to the UN Food Security Council in Rome 2015! It was awesome, and an update on what we did together can be found here:

Essay question:

In the next 40 years, it is projected that the world population will grow from 7 to
about 9 billion, yet for many different reasons, 1 billion people today still
do not have enough safe and nutritious food to eat. Demand is rising while resources
are dwindling. Solutions are strongly debated across rural, urban and
international communities. 
Using your own village, town, city or country as your point of reference, tell us
what you think are the underlying causes of food insecurity, and the effect it can have on a population, both at a local and global level.
Based on this, explain what changes to agricultural or food chain practices, or personal and community behaviors could help solve these issues to create a more
sustainable local and global society.



My Response:
842 million people, one eighth of the entire world
population, are undernourished right now. Of those, 826 million live in the
developing world
(FAO,2013)… It seems staggering that this exists
despite the fact that we currently produce nearly enough food for the world’s
7billion people
(FAO,2012; Lappe,1998). But it does. And as the global
population climbs, and the environment changes further due to global warming,
it becomes imperative that we prepare for what may be the greatest global
famine in human history.


But before we find
solutions, we need to understand the problem. Like many of the world’s
problems, the major driver of lack of food security is poverty.
It seems intuitive; if you don’t have money, you
can’t buy food. If you can’t even afford your own food, how can you, the small
scale farmer who produces 70% of the world’s food(FAO,2012), feed your
nation? Asia’s rapid decline in undernourishment rates by 41% from 2001-2012;
in line with the socio-economic progress of many countries in the region, as
opposed to Africa’s increase in hunger rates by over 25% (FAO 2001, FAO 2012,
Lappe 2013); where conflicts and instability spurred an increase in poverty
rates, in the same period, proves that poverty is proportional to reduced food
security. Not being able to purchase ample, quality food leads to chronic malnourishment
and stunting, condemning those affected to lower incomes, bad health and a life
of poverty(WFP,2014). Poverty is directly correlated to higher fertility
rates (Lappe et al,1998), which increases pressure on small, sustenance
and commercial farmers to produce for their families, putting income-pressure
on the family as well as adding pressure to rural systems and the nation as a
whole. Small-scale farmers under constant stress to survive are doomed to not
being able to save or otherwise secure capital to purchase more effective seed,
fertilizer and equipment for farming; leaving them stuck in this aggressive
cycle we know as the poverty trap. When combined with external stressors such
as poor market stability, war and displacement, and arguably the most
concerning of these; climate change and a rapidly increasing population, the
outlook for the world’s poor and hungry seems bleak.
The issue can’t be fixed through the dumping of
food packages though. Food doesn’t appear out of thin air. What we need to do
is increase its production.
The UN knows this. It forecasts that the world
needs to produce 60% more food by 2050; with developing countries needing to
produce 77% more to keep up with caloric demand (APRC, 2013).  From intuition alone, it seems that more
investment into smarter agriculture is key to getting on top of this problem.
The data backs it up; investment in agriculture is five times more effective in
reducing hunger than investment in any other sector (FA0,2012) and GDP
growth in agriculture is twice as effective as reducing poverty than growth in
other sectors (World Bank,2008) too.
My nation, Australia, recognises this, and
invests sizeable amounts in both agricultural research and deliverance of
physical infrastructure that enables our major aid partners in Asia and the
South Pacific to increase crop yields. Yet though we’re making valuable
investments, that are providing undeniable results, we still only allocate 7%
of our aid budget to this sector (DFAT,2014). We need to invest more, as
well as improve some aspects of how we invest this aid. 
Investment into agricultural research is a major
focus of our agricultural foreign aid program. Agricultural research is
responsible for the production of food for 60million people/year domestically
and 400million people/year worldwide (D’Occhio,2011)
and the ACIAR (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research) heads
our aid commitment to research with a very solid, effective framework.
Collaboration with international research-agencies such as the CGIAR, inclusion
and involvement of scientists from the developing nations we’re collaborating
with, as well as a focus on designing solutions to mitigate the effects of
climate change are key parts of our five-pronged strategy that impress strategy
analysts (ACIAR,2011; Marslen,2014).
The $448million invested into international agricultural research gave a
$30.17billion return, a ratio of 67:1 with direct benefits totaling 15:1 (ACIAR,2013). These benefits are derived
not only from the more effective agricultural aid programs that Australia
initiates from it, but the sharing of knowledge and consultancy we provide to
NGOs as well as private partners.  It’s
also key to note that Australia, which shares similar challenges to the nations
we’re helping, such as drought and water management, will receive spill off
benefits from this research (Marslen,2014)
marking it as an even more attractive investment. This staggering value for money, for us, and them, justifies this
investment and makes a strong case for further investment into agriculture.
But right now, Australia’s investment into this research,
if anything, has been dwindling, following an international trend of declining research
in the agricultural sector from 13% of all OECD investment in the Green
Revolution, to 4% in 2008 (Harding et al, 2009, Alston et al, 2000).
Though our research and aid program is effective,
there are many ways we can improve its impact too.
Furthering partnerships with private
organisations, whose investments into agricultural research have increased 4
fold in the last decade (ABS,2001, ABS,2012) and in particular,
partnering biotechnical firms with ACIAR, will allow them the opportunity to
capitalise on markets such as the five major crops of the developing world that
the “Big 7” seed companies currently neglect; sorghum, millet,
pigeon-pea, chickpea and groundnut (UN General Assembly Special
Rapporteur,2008). Encouraging investment into development of superior seed of
these crops, through focusing some public research into this sector, will help
garner our companies a niche which is bound to pay off, both to our own
nation’s economy, and those they’re helping, especially as the world population grows further,
and food security becomes a bigger issue. Furthermore, encouraging these firms
to then initiate programs similar to Monsanto’s Project Share, which gives free
seed and training to small-scale farmers in India (Monsanto,2014), will
result in the spreading of these superior seeds, access to new markets,
reduction in micro and macro-hunger, as well as empowerment of small farmers.
This is but one example of how further public-private collaboration on research
projects can create growth for all parties.
The arguments above makes a solid case for the
need to increase and optimise research and programs that improve agricultural
yield and supply chains, but the latter example highlights a need to get the
benefits of this investment to those who need it most; small farmers. The most
successful aid interventions derived from our research, the use of germ-plasm
in Indonesian forestry, pig breeding in Vietnam, and integrated pest management
in the Philippines; accounting for 55% all conceived benefits of Australia’s research
programs (ACIAR,2013), have two things in common. They produce solutions
that are have wide applications, and ones that can be integrated by small
farmers. Focusing more research and aid programs that do that will result in
more benefits being accrued for millions of starving people.
There are many, innovative ways that we can get
solutions and knowledge to the people who need them most. Delivering products
that increase agricultural yield through a micro-franchise/social-enterprise,
for-profit model, vastly increases the number of people on the ground who can
benefit from research. EcoFuelAfrica is using such a model to deliver kilns
that convert farm waste into energy, fertilizer, and extra income directly to
small farmers, and is doing this for a profit, which is reinvested into growing
it further (EFA,2015). This ensures this innovation spreads, as the
model is scalable and the investment is seen as just that, an investment,
rather than an expenditure. Establishing, or else investing and expanding
similar programs through this model will further ensure our aid, and private
philanthropic ventures go furthest.
Increasing small farmers’ access to knowledge and
markets is another factor that can be improved with innovation. Australia’s
investment into developing  market
infrastructure of Asian/Pacific developing nations (DFAT,2014) is wise,
but utilising the region’s near 70% access to mobile-phone technology by 2017 (eMarketer, 2011) to spread  knowledge of market prices, weather patterns
and farming techniques, and access to financial services is something our aid
program can definitely facilitate. Indeed, partnering telecommunications and
technology providers with biotechnical firms and government aid programs to
deliver such messages can create further economic benefits and employment to
us, those on the ground we’re helping, as well as companies worldwide too,
furthering our impact and making it viable.
Investment into agriculture and delivery to those
who need it most is not only one of the most effective ways to secure
international food security, but also world poverty and world-suck in general.
Australia, though small, is already responsible for much of the world’s food
security, but there are many innovative solutions and effective policies that
can improve our impact, as well as that of others who want to make this world a
better place. These are but some of those, and I’d be excited hear others and
add mine to what I’m sure will be a gathering of great innovative minds at the
2015 YouthAgSummit. 
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