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.
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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More