News / Africa

Can We Feed the World?

Book by Sir Gordon Conway examines world hunger and its remedies.
Book by Sir Gordon Conway examines world hunger and its remedies.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Decades after the Green Revolution took place in many parts of the world, food shortages, high prices, hunger and poverty are major problems. It’s estimated there are about one billion chronically hungry people. Now, a new book poses the question – can we feed the world?



Sir Gordon Conway is the author of One Billion Hungry. He says the answer to the question – can we feed the world? – is yes, but a qualified yes.

“We can feed the world if we focus our efforts. If we provide sufficient aid and investment. If we utilize new technologies. If we create fair and efficient markets. If we really utilize the power of women as farmers and as mothers as nutritionists, as it were, and if we tackle climate change,” he said.

Conway described hunger as not having enough food of the right nutritious quality to lead a reasonable active life.

However, he added, “It varies of course in terms of whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re old or young. I think the worst hunger is child malnutrition. We’ve got about 170 / 180 million children in the world under the age of five who are stunted in their growth. In other words, they’re below the height they ought to be for their age. And that comes about because they don’t get enough micronutrients. They don’t get enough Vitamin A. They don’t get enough zinc. They don’t get enough iron.”

The Green Revolution saw increased agricultural research and technology, much of which occurred in the late 1960s. The development of high yield crops, modern farming techniques, fertilizers and hybrid seeds have been credited with helping to save the lives of over a billion people.

Conway said, “It was a success because it allowed food production to keep pace with population growth. And it was particularly successful in India and south Asia, generally. You have to realize that at the time of the Green Revolution India was highly dependent on shipments of grain from the United States. And they wanted to gain independence. So they wanted to be able to produce their own grain and that’s what the Green Revolution did for them.”

But it had its limitations.

“It only focused on the best lands in India. It was over-reliant on pesticides and fertilizers. Only some of the poor really benefitted. There were many poor who were left out, even in India and South Asia, generally. And of course it passed Africa by. So those were big limitations,” he said.

Conway calls for a new Doubly Green Revolution. A revolution that produces just as much food, but takes it a few steps further.

“To ensure that productivity goes to the poor and in particular that it doesn’t have a negative effect on the environment. So it’s green in two ways. It’s green because you’ve got fields of green wheat and rice and it’s green because it’s environmentally friendly,” he said.

During the Green revolution, the environment often took a back seat to productivity. Conway says there are “four routes” that should be pursued to ensure food security: innovation, markets, focusing on people and political leadership.

“If we take innovation first, what we’re trying to do there is to produce appropriate innovations -- innovations that bring about high productivity, but don’t have the side effects that maybe occurred in the past. And with markets, we want fair markets and efficient markets. With people, it’s particularly about engaging women, because a large number of farmers in Africa and the developing world as a whole are women. And political leadership – it’ll only work if leaders really focus on agricultural development and food security,” he said.

The Imperial College London professor said this also hinges on mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

“If you take Africa, the prediction is by 2050 the growing seasons will have shortened by five percent. I was in northern Ghana last year and the growing season was very short. In other words, the rains came a month late and they finished a month early. Secondly, the temperatures are going up. In Africa, as the temperatures get above 30 degrees [Celsius] the maize crop begins to suffer,” he said.

Food security on the household, country and global levels becomes even more important as the world population grows. The U.N. estimates it will rise to more than nine billion by 2050. That’s about two billion more than we have now.

Conway’s book -- One Billion Hungry: Can We feed the World? --will be published October 9th.

You May Like

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid