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)
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid