The statistics indicating that one billion people in the world today do not have enough safe and nutritious food to eat are really shocking, having in mind that the total population is still growing while at the same time the resources are getting diminished. This means that if something is not done to bring a solution, many people will continue going hungry and succumbing to this unfortunate challenge. This essay highlights some of the key causes of food insecurity, their effects on population and also outlines some changes to agricultural practices and food chain practices, as well as personal and community behaviors that can be employed not only to reduce the rapidly growing number of ‘hungry’ people but also secure our natural resources across the planet. I will majorly use Kenya, my home country as a point of reference as I address these issues globally.
According to the World Health Organization, food security is built upon three main pillars which are; food availability, food access and food use. Therefore, anything that deters these three pillars becomes a threat to food security in the world.
Some of the key causes of food insecurity include the lack of access to good and sufficient food. This can be caused by the unavailability of the food or the lack of enough resources to obtain it. Many people across the world are poor and live for less than a dollar each day. This makes it very difficult for them to afford basic necessities including food, with the increased cost of living. Natural calamities like drought, floods, fires and crop pests and diseases often lead to poor production of food in most parts of the world especially where no proper prevention or counter measures are employed. In Kenya, for instance, we only have two rain seasons. The ‘long rains’ between October and February and the ‘short rains’ between April and June. Sometimes these rain seasons fail leading to a great famine characterized by crop failure, scarcity of water and food, death of animals among other severe results. It is usually a very difficult period for many people who go even for days without food of water and have to depend on relief food from either the government or from international organizations like the United Nations.
Apart from that, some environments do not have the capacity to provide enough food for the total number of people living within those areas. Literally, the food is not even there. This is mainly caused by factors such as soil infertility, poor rains and poor farming methods, natural disasters, increased population as well as the lack of a place to cultivate. This leads to a scramble of the limited resources by the inhabitants resulting to a depletion of those resources and negative impact on the environment. Effects such as deforestation, over cultivation of the land, soil erosion emanate as a result.
Other factors such as poor storage of food, lack of quality food as well as crop diseases also contribute to increased food insecurity in the world. Poor education standards for the people has led to the lack of use of environmental conservation practices and continued application of harmful methods of farming and depletion of the natural resources.
These causes of food insecurity have had negative impacts on population not only locally but also globally. The greatest of them all is loss of lives. In the year 2010, several people lost their lives in the North-Eastern part of Kenya due to hunger, and the people of Kenya had to come together and contribute money and foodstuffs under a programme which was dubbed ‘Kenyans for Kenya.’ Through this initiative, a lot of hope was found for the hunger stricken people, even though this was after several lives had already been lost. Across the world, children born under poor conditions die from preventable diseases like flu, leukemia, malaria and HIV AIDs. Poor health and malnourishment also arise due to lack of quality food.
Globally, the realization of the Millennium Development Goals is facing a great hindrance from food insecurity. MDG number one is about eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. This can only be realized when everyone in the world has the access and the capacity to obtain sufficient and quality food. To achieve environmental sustainability, proper measures have to be put in place to curb depletion of the natural resources and ensure proper utilization of the same having in mind the future generations.
Several changes can be made in our agricultural and daily practices to bring a solution to this disaster. The two main areas which need to be addressed are Education and the use of Modern technology.
To begin with, great emphasis should be made on the production sector, which happens to be the core of the whole food chain. Education should be a basic thing for all players in the food chain beginning with the individual farmers, the entire community and all other players in the food chain. This education should touch on proper farming methods and practices, soil conservation methods, water storage and conservation methods, avoiding land and forest depletion, as well as being educated on the need to embrace new technological practices in farming. Education on practices like cross-breeding, crop rotation, new planting methods, new type of seeds and crops will go a long way to eradicating poverty and increase productivity.
Also, in ensuring that sufficient food is produced for the people, current technology should be employed in the farming methods across the globe. The type of seeds put on the ground reflects a lot in the amount and type of produce achieved. Not only in Kenya, but also many parts of the globe experience shortage of rains. Sometimes this comes unexpectedly and many farmers suffer a big loss after an unproductive season. Growing of drought resistant crops which produce a harvest even under minimal rains should be made available to the farmers, and the farmers educated on the importance of embracing such especially in these times of continuous global climate change.
Employment of machinery in food production. In Kenya, for instance, combine harvesters are only used in the tea, wheat and sugarcane fields but not on maize farms whereas maize is the staple food of Kenya. Manual labor is the main labour force in the country, and happens to be slow and expensive although it provides an employment opportunity for many jobless Kenyans. This makes both the land tilling, planting and harvesting processes very slow, leaving many fields unutilized. If proper machinery was employed in the food production activities, more potential land would have been utilized, activities done faster and as a result more produce harvested. And the country would have enough for domestic use as well as for export.
Modern means of fighting pests and diseases should also be made available to the farmers and at a favorable price. This will prevent damage of crops in the fields as well as the stored food products. This, together with proper storage facilities of the harvested food, will greatly reduce wastage, damage as well as early expiry which lead to loss of large quantities of food products.
Modern technology has changed every sphere of life and the same has been experienced in some of the developed countries like Sweden, Netherlands and Switzerland. If employed in every other country, and properly instilled in the food chain, production, transportation, storage as well as exportation of food products to the global market will be impacted positively.