The Growing Challenge – World on the Breadline

It’s Sunday morning, you’re worse for wear and it’s taken all of your effort to leave the comfort of your bed and make your way to the kitchen.

On inspection, what are you greeted with? Nothing.

We’ve all been in that position, you desperately need sustenance yet the cupboards are bare. Although a common place situation in your average student’s house, this lack of food is indicative of issues further afield with an ever growing global problem in existence.

In a world driven by technological advancements, surprisingly, food production is one area still lacking in innovation.

This is not to say there have been no improvements, as increases to agricultural productivity and the creation of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers have occurred since the industrial revolution.

Yet in the last 20 years, these yield increases have slowed which, when coupled with an ever increasing global population, is seen as a growing cause for concern.

By 2050 it is expected that the population will have risen by a third.

Therefore, to feed these additional mouths, current crop production must double to meet the increased levels of demand.

These figures have, consequently, prompted calls from the scientific community for an increase in public funding and a united vision for agricultural research and its associated projects.

At a time where improved farming practices are a clear necessity, their research has instead been ignored for other ‘sexier’ scientific subjects.

One of the main challenges that currently exist is the education of farmers in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia.

By giving them the knowledge to increase their crop yields and improve the health of their soil, they can begin to produce enough food for themselves and others.

These practices will, in turn, help protect the local land and water reserves.

This agricultural knowledge must first be fully harnessed and understood by our research institutions before it can be successfully applied within the developing world.

This would therefore require further research into areas such as water retention, irrigation, crop storage and improved infrastructures. In addition, a further barrier to be overcome is that of waste.

As a society we are unquestionably wasteful, with around 25% of the world’s calories being lost before they can be consumed. Clearly there is scope to greatly improve the levels of food available on a global scale, although action will be required sooner rather than later.

There is certainly a case to be made for the old adage, ‘Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.

However, if we are intent on successfully feeding the world we must first rediscover the best ways to fish.


Dougie Phillips

Feature Image: Flickr

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