In 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.