Will the world run out of food?
David Proenza, President of the International Congress on Controlled Environment Agriculture [ICCEA] mentioned some interesting facts during a recent keynote address.
He highlighted the fact that global farmers are facing severe challenges, expected to soar during this century if the status quo on food production stays unchanged.
Some of the main factors mentioned include
- The ever increasing cost of energy, mechanisation and labour
-- Urbanisation - people moving into cities!
--- Water shortages - less water for crop production
---- Shrinking farmland areas suitable for crop production
----- Increased cost of transport
------ High use of chemicals and pesticides, which might be detrimental to our health
------- Controlling pests and diseases
------- -Climate change and inclement weather.
These are only part of the challenges that are treatening food insecurity and food scarcity during droughts, freezing weather, heavy rainfalls, floods and other common natural disasters.
People are moving into cities!
Cities with the biggest population
- Tokyo, Japan, with 38 million dwellers, tops the list as reported by the UN.
- Delhi, India (25 million inhabitants), expanded 40% over the past decade and is expected to rise swiftly to 36 million by 2030!
- Mexico City, Mumbai and São Paulo each has around 21 million urban inhabitants.
- Osaka, Japan has a population just above 20 million.
- Beijing, the Chinese capital, also has about 20 million city dwellers, followed closely by
- The New York-Newark area and Cairo; with around 18.5 million inhabitants each.
The UN report predicts that, towards 2050, India will top the chart with 404 million urban inhabitants while China will come second with 292 million city dwellers, with Nigeria third with 212 million inhabitants.
There will be many megacities with 20, and even 40 million people, with some running up to 120 million people (more than double the total South African population!) living in one city.
From 1950 to 1960, 60% of the growth of megacities was in the developing world.
Between 2000 and 2010, the developing countries accounted for 90% of the growth of megacities.
Out of the 28 biggest cities on Earth, only six are in the developed countries.
Global food output will have to double 50 years from now to meet the demand for food for this rapidly expanding population.
However, almost everything that we need to increase the food production by 50% is becoming scarcer and more expensive every day. These items include soil, water, energy, nutrients, technology, fish, capital and a stable, reliable climate.
It is this collision between huge demand and huge scarcities that is making food the challenge of our time.
Farmers will be expected to produce 50% more food from shrinking production areas using much less water and energy than today.
Ten major challenges of our age:
Population explosion - expected to reach 10,000,000,000 x 2050!
Hunger – 870 million people go to bed hungry every night! (UN 2012 survey).
Water – can trigger world War 3. Agriculture uses 80% of all the freshwater on the planet.
Energy – fossil fuel no longer the long-term answer – renewable energy!
Waste – building up at alarming rates but already replaces coal and nuclear power for electricity generation in Sweden and other countries.
Urbanisation – 80% urban population by 2050; increasing food demand in cities
Shortages – arable land, fresh water, fertilisers, energy et cetera
Obesity – 1.4 billion people are overweight(WHO 2008 survey). Statistically, food is three times more lethal than tobacco!
Pollution – including chemicals such as pesticides etc.; health and other issues
Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
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