News / Africa

Global Effort Needed to Solve World Food Supply Crisis

Mahata Onrao, a tea garden worker suffering from malnutrition, looks on while his wife Sukha Onrao attends to him at a rural health center in India (File Photo)
Mahata Onrao, a tea garden worker suffering from malnutrition, looks on while his wife Sukha Onrao attends to him at a rural health center in India (File Photo)

The world's food supply is in crisis says the international organization Oxfam and this week it's launched a campaign to fix it. There's some controversy over where exactly the problems lie.

Oxfam says 925 million people are going hungry around the world. In East Africa alone, it says, 8 million people are facing chronic food shortages.

Gawain Kripke, director of policy and research at Oxfam America, told VOA that if things continue as they are now, the problem will only deepen.

"The crisis on the horizon is that food prices could more than double in the next twenty years, which could send those numbers of hungry people much higher," said Kripke.

The world’s population is on the rise. Experts guess that by 2050 the total will be 9 billion. What’s more, as people around the world are getting richer, diets are changing. Meats and dairies are increasingly in demand - foods that take up more agricultural land and resources.

According to Oxfam, food pressures will go up by 70 percent over the next four decades.

But, it says, the world’s capacity to produce food is declining. The average growth rate in agricultural yields, it says, has almost halved since 1990 and to make matters worse, food crops are now being diverted to create biofuels.

It’s a bad situation, Kripke says, but not one without solutions.

He says right now only a handful of big businesses control the food market. He says a new focus on small scale farmers would solve a lot of problems.

"We think that the growth potential and productivity increase from investing in very small producers is very high," added Kripke. "And you can increase both food production but also, very importantly, help the people that most need assistance and who are most vulnerable to the vulnerabilities of high food prices and climate change at the same time."

Heidi Chow, is from the World Development Movement, a campaign group based in Britain.

She has another solution. A big part of the food crises, she says, lies with the markets.

She says food prices are volatile because trading in agricultural futures has become a big money earner for market traders.

And, as with the housing market, she says it’s not a reliable way to make sure prices reflect supply and demand.

"What we have been seeing over the last few years are extreme hikes and extreme dips as well," said Chow. "So even though there are other factors going on here, speculation amplifies and exacerbates these real world changes, making prices much higher than they ought to be."

She says in the United States and in Europe legislation is being reviewed that could see more regulation in the trading of agricultural futures. That’s key, she says, but it will be an upward struggle.

"There's very strong vested interest from the financial lobby to stop this from happening because if they are limited in their ability to speculate on these food prices then that would be limiting their ability to make money from it," she said. "So there is definitely a strong lobby in the U.S. as there is in Brussels to stop this from happening."

Kate Bailey is a food expert at Britain’s Cardiff Business School. In her opinion the effects of the market are only limited and don’t relate to the longtime food crisis that’s been developing over many years.

She says in order for the food crisis to be resolved, a global political effort will be needed.

"There are sort of political elements. Looking at trade, things like export bans - for example, when Russia put in wheat export bans, that restricts the market even further, which exacerbates the whole problem and puts the prices up," said Bailey. "So it's more about coordinated effort, to say there are various solutions but they need to be coordinated globally."

According to Oxfam there are 500 million small scale farms in developing countries. The group says it’s with them that future investment should lie.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs