Saving And Sharing Food
By Devinder Sharma
26 November, 2011
World produces enough food for the year 2050. The problem is access and distribution
With the world population crosses 7 billion, feeding the teeming population is becoming a major concern. At times of diminishing land resources, and in an era of climate change, ensuring food security is the biggest challenge.
All efforts are aimed at increasing food production. Somehow an impression has been created that the world needs to increase crop production manifold if it has to meet the food requirement for the year 2050. The global population would then be 9 billion. What is however deliberately being glossed over is that there is at present no shortage of food. It is not production, but access and distribution that need immediate attention.
At present, the total quantity of food that is produced globally is good enough to meet the daily needs of 11.5 billion people. If every individual were to get his daily food requirement as per the WHO norms, there would be abundant food supplies. In terms of calories, against the average per capita requirement of 2,300, what is available is a little more than 4,500 calories. In other words, the world is already producing more food than what would be required in 2050. So where is the need to panic?
Why then is the world faced with hunger? Simply put, one part of the world is eating more and the other is left to starve. Hunger has grown over the years because of gross food mismanagement. Let me explain. At the 1996 World Food Summit, political leaders had pledged to pull out half the world's hungry (at that time the figure was somewhere around 840 million) by the years 2015. In other words, by 2010, the world should have removed at least 300 million people from the hunger list.
Instead it has added another 85 million to raise the hunger tally to 925 million. In my understanding, this too is a gross understatement. The horrendous face of hunger is being kept deliberately hidden. But nevertheless, let’s again go back to the question we posed earlier: If there is no shortage of food than why the growing pangs of hunger?
Consider this. An average American consumes about 125 kg of meat, including 46 kg of poultry meat. While the Indians are still lagging behind, the Chinese are fast catching up with the American lifestyle. The Chinese consume about 70 kg of meat on average each year, inclusive of 8.7 kg of poultry meat. The Indian average is around 3.5 kg of meat, much of it (2.1 kg) coming from poultry. If you put all this together, the Chinese are the biggest meat eaters, and for obvious reasons - devouring close to 100 million tonnes every year. America is not far behind, consuming about 35 million tonnes of meat in a year.
When I said earlier that one part of the world is eating more, this is what I meant. Six times more grain is required to provide the proteins that are consumed by the meat-eaters. Changing the dietary habits therefore assumes importance. But still worse, Americans throw away as much as 30 percent of their food, worth $ 48.3 billion. Why only blame the Americans, walk into any marriage ceremony in India and you would be aghast to see the quantity of food that goes waste.
Food wastage has therefore become our right.
Considering FAO's projections of the number of people succumbing to hunger and malnutrition at around 24,000 a day, I had calculated that by the year 2015, the 20 years time limit that World Food Summit had decided to work on to pull out half the hungry, 172 million people would die of hunger. These people are succumbing to hunger because both at the household and at the national level, we have allowed food to go waste.
In America, for instance, hunger has broken a 14-year record and one in every ten Americans lives in hunger. In Europe, 40 million people are hungry, almost equivalent to the population of Spain. In India, nearly 320 million people live in hunger. The International Institute for Food Policy’s Global Hunger Index 2011 ranks India 67th among 81 countries. While India ranks lower than Rwanda, what is still more shocking is that Punjab – the food bowl – ranks below Sudan and Honduras in ensuring food security.
Is it so difficult to remove hunger? The answer is No.
A simple act of saving and sharing food is the best way to fight hunger. It can begin at the household level, at the community level and of course at the regional and national levels. If every household were to ensure that no food is wasted, and then organise the left over to be delivered to the poor and needy, much of the hunger that we see around can be taken care of. A small initiative in Rewari town in Haryana has galvanised the township into saving and sharing food. If it can happen in Rewari, it can happen in your neighbourhood too. Try it, and you will see you too can make a difference.
Devinder Sharma is a food and agriculture policy analyst. His writings focus on the links between biotechnology, intellectual property rights, food trade and poverty. His blog is Ground Reality
Comments are not moderated. Please be responsible and civil in your postings and stay within the topic discussed in the article too. If you find inappropriate comments, just Flag (Report) them and they will move into moderation que.