vegetable_bigIn the run up to World Food Day on October 16 new UN figures showed there were 132 million fewer hungry people around the world than there were 20 years ago. Despite that, almost 870 million people still get through every day without enough food. Malnutrition kills more than two-and-a-half million children each year. Most of the progress has been in Asia and Latin America – in African there are actually more hungry people than in 1992.

How can those numbers be reduced? Can the world still  meet its Millennium Goal target of halving the number of hungry people by 2015? As the world population heads toward 8 billion, can production keep pace? Can a hungry planet afford to turn crops into biofuels?

At last week’s European Development Days, we put comments and questions  from Debating Europe commenters to senior public officials and leading food security experts. Debating Europe reader Miguel said:

There is enough food on this planet, but we needed to stop wasting food in the West.

And Todor added:

We should cease food charity for Africa, which as suffocated African agriculture to death! Africa has never been hungry until the 20th century when Europe and the USA began dumping their excess harvests due to subsidizing.

Here’s the reply from Paul Engel, Director of the European Centre for Development Policy Management:

Paul Engel said there is enough food to feed the planet, but it needs to be better distributed. The 70 percent of poor people who live in the countryside can usually produce enough food for their own needs, he said, but there must be more investment to help small farmers produce food crops, rather than products for export. Governments should open up internal markets to ensure the right balance between providing cheap food for the cities and getting a fair price for farmers.

Debating Europe commenter William put the emphasis on finding homegrown solutions to developing world hunger:

Real food security must find credible ways to help people in danger to find ways to plant, grow and consume adequate kinds and amounts of foodstuffs to secure basic health and growth. Local solutions to local problems will achieve more in the long run.

Here are the thoughts of Luis Brites Pereira, Portugal’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation:

Luis Brites Pereira agreed that supporting local solutions is essential. The international community can help by empowering local farmers through science, technology and training to improve resilience and boost prosperity.

The question of biofuels loomed large at the Development Days. The European Commission last week changed its policy by proposing tighter restrictions on biofuel use as in its drive to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Debating Europe contributor Davey said:

Global Food security? Stop land being used for bio-fuels. Job done.

Here’s the response from Rahmawati Retno Winarni, Programme Director at Sawit Watch, which monitors palm oil production in Indonesia.

In Indonesia, Rahmawati Retno Winarni explained the drive to produce biofuels has already led to palm oil plantations covering 11 million hectares, leading to widespread deforestation and destroying the staple food crops of local populations.

What do YOU think? How can food distribution be improved to ensure everybody gets enough to eat? Is greater liberalization of agricultural markets going to help or harm food security? Should Europe be doing more to help small scale farmers in developing nations? What is the future for biofuels? Let us know your opinions in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts.

21 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Bußmann Dang

    Start to establish more plantage plants, especially the rice, coffee, sugar salts, and dried fish, build more artificial soil for the sinseble food like potato, carrots, tomato and mais, try to save more healthy seeds right ahead for the constitutional future, and avoid what might be conflict, which may affected this plans, for our wealth. And it would be very interested, when the ESSENTIAL GROUP LEADERS, will try to resolve the World conflicts, about the WAR, CRISIS, FINANCIAL CONFLICTS AND HUMANITARY NEEDS, 1) like WAR-try to recall, what was the reason ? try to find out whatever need to prevent this war for our well and harmony lives together.2) Financial crisis–try to resolve the needs of people with out several papers to sign, before they gets draught, try to feeds them as soon as possible, because as long as you take more details and time, people are getting hungry and angry due by thier madness feelings for no food to eat and handling money, AND, WHAT WAS THE REASON WHY IT CAMES THE CRISIS ??? try to find out and restore back as it was….3) Humanitary needs– this must be organize in the world forum, to have a big place in the otherside of the country or continent, BUILD an ARTIFICIAL RACE, FOR OUR WORLD SUPPLIES, AND THIS MUST BE NO TAX TO be ISSUED, JUST ONLY PLACE FOR THE SAVING WORLDS FOODS,,,PROTECTED BY OUR HONEST SECURITIES. ( I hope my humble statement will help you a little bit )

    • avatar

      i afraid its not that simple, as it is mentioned again and again in this article and in various other sources, people are not hungry because there is not enough food, but because they don’t have money to buy the available food.

    • avatar
      Suresh Singh

      It is right, the situation is not simple. Rightly said that people are not hungry because there is not enough food, but because they don’t have money to buy the available food. But it is true other way also. Increased money (income) in the hands of these people will put further pressure on existing supplies, and might result in higher price increase, again making food inaccessible for these people. It is like “catch me if you can” situation.
      Therefore, while increasing the level of income is important, more important are several other factors, including but not limited to increased production, strengthening food distribution system, and promoting trade.

  2. avatar
    MandyandPj Leneghan

    The UN is the forum for global matters and the EU for European member nations. So the question that I would ask is what needs to be done to provide food security for Europeans?

    Certainly, your humanitarian blockades/sanctions and bombs are creating quite a bit of insecurity, not only in food in the world…so STOP doing that.

    STOP supporting that regime that has close to 1000 military bases in every corner of the globe, including many nuclear war machines on and under the worlds oceans.

    Remove NATO and its non European weapons of mass destruction out from Europe.

    Disband all offensive military apparatus in Europe and replace with a purely defensive capability.

    The world would have a lesser chance of a food shortage if Europe were to take these basic steps…pj

  3. avatar
    MandyandPj Leneghan

    Yep that CAP needs to be more transparent, it is getting to look like another means to transfer wealth from the poor, via subsidy to wealthier land owners or lessees not to grow food…pj

  4. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    A UE precisa de apoiar as pequenas médias empresas de agricola incentivar os pequenos agricultores a criarem agricultora sustentável e formar grupos de empresas para entrarem no mercado unico

  5. avatar
    Todor Borissov

    Europe or any other entity should always consider that it does not own the food in first place in order to distribute it.
    The very idea of Europe (a legal entity which does not have any possessions) distributing food to Africa is disturbing.
    In first place it should be considered what drives the sympathy for hungry Africa. Is it driven by Christian or other religious beliefs or there is another stimulus.
    The other stimulus could be the need for another partner. Or the need for neighbouring civilized continent or another such stimulus leading to market expansion, healthy competition, culture and labour exchange and etc.
    Africa is somewhere long before the new age. The technology level in all spheres of society and economy have made little progress since the stone age, at least this applies to the hungry parts of that continent. This is said by considering the social and state structure, economy structure and manufacturing customs to be all technologies.

    Even granted with the latest agricultural technologies, the African farmer will not be able to exploit it’s potential. Further it is very likely that the revenue from his efforts will not be sufficient to meet the expenses for maintaining this technology. The discrepancy between supply and demand will lead to sudden death of random farms or even whole branches of the local economy.

    The answer to the question is access to commodity exchange, local and worldwide.
    Giving technology and access to markets to inexperienced market participants would surely mean making gifts to all participants accustomed to the market rules. And surely the revenue would not reach Africa back but boost interests of other participants which will act against the manufacturers in the rest of the world.
    So the answer as always is the same, Education and transfer of manufacturing and trade customs.
    The alternative is invasion of European companies using African land to feed the Africans – obviously there is no one to pay the bill.

  6. avatar
    Becky S

    Well I don’t want to pressure people into becoming vegetarian but by just REDUCING meat consumption by even a quarter we would do the entire planet a gigantic favour. Massive amounts of water are needed to produce a little bit of meat so that us rich privileged people in the West can have a steak for dinner every day. Which is not even healthy, to be honest. Massive amounts of water are needed to plant crops which are then used as feed, and a huge amount of the meat is not even consumed but actually thrown away or then shipped off to Africa, destroying its agriculture. Livestock farming also takes up a lot of land and produces greenhouse gases which are causing global warming, this has been proven by many scientific studies but is still not entirely accepted by the world. We need to drastically reduce the subsidies to livestock farms and foster the agriculture in third countries rather than dump excess food into those countries.

    • avatar

      sweetheart i m not against vegetarians at all, and i myself eat fruits and vegetables more than meat, but if we humans are OMNIVORES, we are omnivores for a reason, our bodies need both veggies and meat, that is why we normally eat both, eating less meat is not going solve the world food problem, rather it will increase our dependence on crops and plants to extremely high levels. the amount of water required to form wheat will still be spent, because HELLO !!!! animals are not going to stop giving birth or stop grazing are they, just that it wont benefit us anymore !!!

    • avatar

      The water required to produce meat will dramatically reduce if we just stop breeding animals for food and clothes. These are not natural conditions under which animals give birth and reproduce. Animals do not normally live in farms, stuck extremely tightly together, feeding on crops and hormones. So yes – the less meat and leather we consume the least resources we will spend on this business. It is a profitable business indeed but for whom? In addition to that According to the United Nations, raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and land used to grow feed crops) now uses a staggering 30 percent of the Earth’s land mass – you have to agree this is quite a lot. about our bodies need for meat…ah well according to a recent national poll there are 7.5 million vegans in US only and being vegan is extreme no one is asking for that at least at this stage of human evolution but you have to agree if 7.5 million people can manage to live with no animal products (that is not only food but everything) and they are actually doing it, then what – their bodies are not normal? Take a look at the recent findings in Australia about the myths eating meat you will be quite surprised – here is a link
      Best regards!

      “Healing the Planet through healing ignorance”

  7. avatar

    i am sorry , i meant to say “amount of water required to make meat ” not “wheat”

  8. avatar

    i believe its very noble of EU to give food charity to hungry children and disabled people all over the world, specially in the third world countries, however charity is only a very very temporary solution. you feed a child in the morning and in the afternoon you will have to feed him again because he will keep getting hungry after every few hours. it can’t go on forever for all the 870 million people of the world. yes it is a great step to prevent the wastage of food, food MUST MUST MUST NOT be wasted, and giving exess food in charity is a logical solution, though not the best solution.

    my idea is that EU with the help of UN ensures policies that impel the country governments and business leaders, and specially those of the third world countries where most of the hungry children are found, to manage their food export and food circulation in market such that is in proportion with the population of the country, i know most will view this solution as usurping of the freedom and autonomy of the country governments, but this is the only solution which can work in the long run, at least a longer run than charity.
    the the corrupt governments of the third world countries receive ships full of containers of food, which is then sold and exported to other countries for profit, if not by government or beurocracy, then by middlemen. people remain hungry all the same. but if the governments set percentages and proportions on the export of food per exporter w.r.t to the country’s population, then atleast the hunger problem will be greatly reduced because it will also lower the local food prices. now that is a completely seperate story that businessmen will view it as a destruction of free market, but i am sure a treaty can be worked out such as to give these business men subsidies and lowering their losses through other means.

    Come on people, there is enough in this world for everyone’s needs, but not enough for everyone’s greed,

  9. avatar

    another huge problem that is contributing to lack of food in the world is that in many a third world countires, vast vast fertile and cultivable lands lie barren and not put to use, if only UN could ensure the cultivation in these lands it would help reduce food shortage greatly, although i m not sure what EU can do in this domain to help.

  10. avatar
    Suresh Singh

    It is difficult to generalise factors that drive in food insecurity. These in fact vary one country to another, even within the same country from place to another. The issue has really become highly involved — while increasing income a section of people in food insecure countries are helping them to become food secure, the same income is putting up more pressure on existing food supplies, resulting and demand-supplies mismatch and thus rising price levels.
    Recently I read a very interesting piece of article. A poor household when posed with the question ” what will you do with more income” said “he will buy food”. But when he got more money, the first thing he bought was a mobile phone”. Strange but true! This happens at various places in India, and probably in other developing countries.
    It is a fact that a section of people in India has practically seen their parent surviving with the minimum quantity of food, and such people are seemingly accustomed to live on a minimum calorie — they are neither aware of need for nutritious food, nor have much options. Once this minimum calorie requirement is fulfilled, people choices immediately shift from food to non-food items. To break this cycle, there is need for breaking their perception on what constitutes food security. Purchasing power is important but equally important is the need for generating awareness.

  11. avatar
    Elysse Vincze

    stop wasting, change industrial to eco, cut of coke, chips and so, and direct the money to milk, vegetables and responsible fishing.

  12. avatar
    Taylor Charleston

    Greatly fix the end of the supply chain where shops and supermarkets can throw away tonnes of perfectly good food for landfill while people are starving on the streets. They clearly have the profit margins to offer that food at a greatly reduced price or free to those that need it. Shouldn’t they have an obligation to do so?

  13. avatar
    Katarina Vella

    take the money from the corrupt leaders that hide all the billions in Swiss banks and use it to feed the poor

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