In 2018, almost 11% of the world’s population was undernourished. Over the years, there had been a trend of decline in hunger. Unfortunately, since 2015 the statistics are showing an increase in the number of people in the world that are undernourished. Food insecurity is more than simply feeling hungry. It is a person who is not being able to provide food for themselves and the ones they take care of. To tackle the issue of food insecurity, it is essential to look beyond hunger (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2019). The four criteria that must be covered to be food secure are listed below:
In this reaction paper I will discuss all four criteria based on, amongst others, seminars I have attended and literature I have read about this topic.
‘Annually, enough food is produced to feed the world.’ (Timmermans, 2019) This statement was made by Toine Timmermans, a Dutch professor at the Wageningen University. According to his research, there is enough food available for every single person on this earth. However, over 820 million people were undernourished in 2018 (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2019). So how come that there is this large group of people, which is increasing in number, who do not have access to the food they require to live a healthy life? This is a hot topic in my studies in the Netherlands (International Food and Agribusiness) about which I have had many discussions in class. There are a few reasons in my opinion that in some parts of the world there is not enough food available to feed everyone in it.
Firstly, conflict and war. When there is political unrest or war in an area, food production and distribution is often disturbed. Besides that, if a country is very dependent on the import of food, and the relation with the providing countries gets disturbed, it could have great effects on the net supply of food in that country. In my opinion, it is the duty of the leaders of the country to make sure that their people can provide themselves with enough food. But, if there is war or other unrest in an area, usually the poorest who are often in the agricultural sector, are harmed first. They are producing for self-subsistence, but often also for the community directly around them.
Secondly, the occurrence of natural disasters such as floods, mudslides and so forth are devastating for the yields of agricultural produce. These natural tragedies often occur in the poorest parts in the world and directly affect them the most. The reason that it affects them the most is that they have the least expertise and tools to protect themselves against possible threats and harm caused by nature. Often because they also lack the financial needs to protect themselves against the damages by for example insurances or crop protection.
Lastly, climate change. The second and last reason go hand in hand. There will be more natural disasters and extreme weather events in the future that will threaten the yields across the world. Together with bad farming practices, such as improper soil management causing losing a vital part of the soil which takes centuries to recover, or misuse of chemicals which make pests and diseases more resistant to those chemicals, will all threaten the yields across the globe. In my opinion, it is very disturbing that there are still people, often very influential people in the diplomatic world, that deny climate change and say it is a hoax. Those people should be stepping forward and should do their best to make a change because if they don’t, the group of people that are not food secure will only increase in the future. Recently, Greta Thunberg has formulated the urge of acting against climate change really well: ‘Entire ecosystems are collapsing, we are at the beginning of mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth’ (Thunberg, 2019). Now I can only hope that the leaders of the world will act upon their words to push this world in the direction of progressive change for all.
As mentioned above, there is enough food produced in the world to feed its entire population, however, many people do not have access to food. How is that possible? The first reason being economics. As Hans Rosling mentioned in his TedTalk, there is an uneven distribution of money in the world. He showed statistics about income distribution in the world. It stated that in 2006 the poorest 20% of the world population only accounts for 2% of the total world income (Rosling, 2006). Since 2006, not much has changed in the distribution of income. The poorest in the world can’t afford the food that is available in shops or markets. For them to become able to buy the food they need, requires a tremendous structural change in the way the economy and world politics are organized these days. However, in my belief that will be very difficult to do so, since the need for power and success are embedded in the nature of many people, particularly many political leaders who will do anything for success. Also, the Rostow’s stages of economic growth are very applicable to see at which stage a country is in food security. As mentioned in Katie Willis’ book, many countries are still going to several stages of development other countries have already gone through and might even have reached the end goal of ‘mass consumption’ (Willis, 2005). As discussed in class, is it fair to say as ‘the Western world’ to the countries that are going through rapid changes in terms of economic and social development that they are not allowed to experience the richness and wealth as ‘we, the Westerners’ have experienced? I am personally still contemplating this issue. On the one hand, I think that I cannot say to someone that he is not allowed to have the same experiences and feeling of being wealthy whilst I have had the opportunity and luck to be able to be at the front seat of it. On the other hand, I think that to get to that state of wealth, our society has crossed many ethical boundaries in order to achieve, in what we think and are educated to believe is wealth. I think it is our job to protect the actual wealth in the world and those are our natural resources. Concluding, we should reform the definition of mass consumption and wealth so that it can meet everyone’s state of well-being of this generation and the generations to come.
The second reason that people facing food insecurity due to inaccessibility of food is inadequate infrastructure. Some people might be economically able to afford the food they need, but the means to get to the food are insufficient. I think that this sounds like the easiest problem to solve. However, I do realise that there are many more aspects related to it. Usually, when the infrastructure is insufficient, the country is either not able to or not willing to providing the people living in it with facilities that could make their lives better. Infrastructure is the beginning of economic development. Without the means to trade or to connect with other communities around, there is little potential in developing an economy. This is in my opinion also the most deeply underlying issue of food insecurity, since the lack of infrastructure does not provide people with a chance in changing their situation. It is all out of their hands.
The utilization of food is related to the nutritional value of food, the preparation of food, ability of the body to take up the nutrients and diversity of the diet. For example, a person can have access to the right quantity of food, but if it is not prepared in the correct way or the body is not capable of absorbing the nutrients in the food, it still results in food insecurity. Suffering from malnutrition can be the result of food insecurity, but does not has to be the consequence of it. Malnutrition means that a person is suffering from a range of conditions that are hindering good health. This is caused by inadequate food intake or poor absorption of the food that is consumed. Malnutrition refers to both under-nutrition and over-nutrition (World Health Organization, 2016).