Perspectives On The World Food Situation 6Presentation Transcript
A Perspective on the World Food Situation Presentation by Jim Goering ECHO Agricultural Conference Chiang Mai, Thailand September 22, 2009
By Way of Introduction…
The sharp increase in world food prices in the past three years, after almost steady declines over the previous half-century, is perhaps the most dramatic recent development in the world food economy.
Reviews some of the reasons behind these price increases;
Looks at a few of the factors that are likely to impact global agriculture in the future
Attempts some speculation about world agriculture a couple of decades down the road
First Some Historical Perspective What have the “experts” in the past said about future global food security?
Rev. Thomas Malthus (1803; pastor and social scientist): “The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce sustenance for man, that premature death must in some shape…visit the human race.”
Dr. Paul Ehrlich (1967; Professor, Stanford University): “…the battle to feed all of humanity is over…In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”
Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (2002) : “Massive strides have been made in improving food security. Global shortages are unlikely. But serious problems already exist at national and local levels and may worsen unless focused efforts are made.”
The “World Hunger Problem” Today
“ World Hunger” now defined to include:
“ Undernourished” (inadequate calories and protein): About 950 mn people
“ Malnourished” (poor balance among all nutrient groups): Some 2 bn people, or more than one-third of world’s population
Underweight children (“stunting” from inadequate food and frequent disease): more than 125 mn
Overweight and obese (unhealthy diets; sedentary lifestyle) growing numbers worldwide, even among the poor.
Vitamin A deficiency: affects about 40% of all children under 5 years of age and developing countries
Iron-deficient anemia: perhaps 50% of all women in Sub-Saharan Africa
Underweight children: a serious nutritional issue with long-term consequences
Malnutrition stunts children’s physical and intellectual growth for a lifetime—it is not reversible!
A vigorous democracy and rapid economic growth does not always result in reduced stunting of children—in fast-growing, democratic India, more than 40% of all children are malnourished. In China the figure is 7%.
This is severely-malnourished Vivek at 23 months on a scale in Shivpuri, India
Where in the World Are the Malnourished?
FAO predicts that 15% of the world’s population, or about one bn, will be chronically hungry in 2009. This compares with 11.5% in 2008.
Obesity: An Increasingly Important Aspect of the World Food Situation
Body Mass Index (BMI): an index from a formula involving one’s weight and height
Overweight: BMI of 25.0-29.9
Obese: BMI of 30 or more
USA: 39% of men are overweight; 28% are obese. Women: 28% overweight; 34% obese
China: (surprisingly) 30% of the men are overweight; nearly 29% of the women
Let’s begin by looking at price changes. In the 40 years, 1960 to 2000, grain and food prices declined almost steadily.
Wheat prices : lower purple line; corn by lower yellow line; rice by middle yellow line; the overall food price index by the upper blue-black line. (Prices in constant US$/metric ton.)
Source : World Bank
Now let’s look at what’s happened to world food and cereal prices in 2002-08 2002-04 = 100
In the 2002-08 period world food prices rose by 90%. Cereal prices more than doubled—up about 138%.
Prices moderated somewhat in the first months of 2009.
The overall index includes six major food groups, dominated by cereals.
The cereals price index includes wheat, rice and maize.
Source: UN FAO
237.9 190.9 2008 121.5 122.4 2006 107.4 111.5 2004 94.6 90.2 2002 Cereals Price Index Overall Food Price index Year
When food prices increase which socio-economic groups are hurt worst?
Those suffering the most are the poorest in society—they spend a much larger share of their income on food than do the rich.
This chart shows that relatively-poor Nigerians spend perhaps 65% of their income on food. The figure for Asia is about 60%.
The figure for much richer Americans and British is less than 20%.
When food prices rise, civil unrest frequently results. This is Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. In April 2008 food riots resulted in the death of six people, the wounding of 200, and dismissal of the Prime Minister.
Food prices rise because supplies are growing more slowly than the food demand . Let’s first look at factors affecting the global supply of food . (1) The surge in world energy prices and links to nitrogen fertilizer costs
Crude oil prices nearly tripled in the 1990-mid 2008, with sharpest increases since 2003, (but have fallen sharply since Sept. 2008);
Natural gas prices follow crude prices very closely.
Natural gas is the basic raw material for most nitrogen fertilizers.
When fertilizer prices rise, less is used and crop production falls.
Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug : “The basic problem is to feed 6.6 bn people. Without fertilizer, the game is over.”
A Second Factor Reducing Food Supplies (2) Diversion of corn (maize) to ethanol production.
In the US the share of the corn crop going to ethanol production has risen from less than 5% in 1995-6 to more than 30% in 2008 (4.1 bn bushels).
The US ethanol industry is heavily protected by import duties from cheaper sugar-cane based Brazilian ethanol.
The USG says biofuels account for less than 3% of the recent increase in food prices. The International Monetary Fund puts the figure at “15-30%”. The International Food Policy Research Institutes uses a figure of 30%.
A third factor reducing food supplies (3) Diversion of oilseeds and oil crops to bio-diesel for use in diesel engines.
The EU now accounts for most of the world’s bio-diesel production, largely in Germany and France.
Rape seed as the major raw material, but palm oil from Malaysia is of growing importance.
In Argentina, significant quantities of soybeans are converted to biodiesel.
The chart shows a six-fold increase in six years in EU production of biodiesel—from about 1,000 mt in 2002 to 6,000 mt in 2006.
Another Factor Reducing Food Supplies (4) Adverse weather or natural disasters
In recent years global grain production has declined while consumption continued to rise.
In 2007 world grain stocks were equal to 55 days of consumption, as compared with 112 days in 2002.
Source : FAO, USDA
A recent natural disaster: Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, early May 2008
Two-thirds of Myanmar’s rice production is in the Irawaddy Delta (above). Much rice land was seriously damaged by cyclone water surges of more than 10 feet. Myanmar’s rice production in 2008 was down sharply from the 20 mn tons normally produced.
Source : FAO
Another natural disaster: Six years of drought have sharply reduced Australia’s grain production and exports
In recent years Australia suffered the worst drought in 100 years.
The 2007 winter wheat crop was down 62% from 2006. The area planted to rice was 81% below 2006 levels.
The graph shows the sharp decline in rice production and the large increase in grape production as farmers sell valuable water rights for more profitable grape growing ($1,600 per acre vs. $240/acre).
Source : ABARE
A fifth factor constraining world food production : (5) Declines in public sector/government investment for agriculture
Wealthy countries cut official development assistance to agriculture from $6 bn in 1980 to $2.8 bn in 2006 (adjusted for inflation)
The World Bank cut its lending for agriculture from $7.7 bn in 1980 to $2 bn in 2004
In recent years the US, the largest bilateral aid donor, cut its support to the international agricultural research centers by 75%
Let’s now look at factors adding to the demand for food. (1) Rapid per capita growth, especially in China and India
In recent years there have been substantial gains in per capita income in many countries.
The most rapid gains in per capita income have been in India (top graph) and China (lower. These gains have accelerated since 1995.
With higher incomes, individuals change their diets, consuming more grain-intensive animal and poultry production.
As incomes grow, dietary habits change. (2) One of the biggest changes is higher per capita consumption of meat.
In China yearly per capita meat consumption increased from about 5.5 kg in 1975 to 50 kg in 2005. McDonald’s has 950 restaurants in China!
In India, the dietary shift has been toward higher per capita consumption of dairy products, eggs, fruits and vegetables.
Higher consumption of meat, dairy and poultry products has sharply increased amounts of grain fed to livestock and poultry.
This dietary shift toward animal products has added to the global demand for grains.
Today more than one-third of the world’s grain is fed to livestock.
In China the share fed to livestock and poultry has gone from 8% in 1960 to 26% at present.
Cattle are inefficient converters of grain to meat: more than 6 lbs. of grain are needed to produce one lb. of grain-fed beef.
For pork the ratio is about 4 lbs. of grain per one lb. of meat;
Poultry: just over 2 lbs. per pound of meat;
For herbivorous, cultured fish the ratio is less than 2 lbs. of grain per lb. of meat.
Source : Earth Policy Institute
A third factor adding to global demand for food: Continued population growth.
The world’s population today is about 6.5 bn and is growing at just over 1.1% per year, down from its peak of 2.2% in 1963.
At the current rate, the annual increment is 78 mn, a new “Philippines” each year
Top graph : Current distribution of world population (China and India make up nearly 40% of the total.)
Lower graph : Projections through 2050. Note steady decline.
Source : UN
When world food (i.e., grain) prices increase, who wins? Who loses? The answer is complex!
At the international level : Food importing countries lose; food exporters gain.
National level : Food producers win and consumers lose.
Farm level : Farmers with marketable surpluses win; subsistence farmers, or those who must buy some food, lose.
But the above scenarios ignore the incentive to agricultural investment from high food prices, and the resulting later increase in production . Examples:
The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s was facilitated by high grain prices.
The World Bank plans to increase support to African agriculture by $350 m in 2009 in response to high food prices. It is committed to increasing annual lending to agriculture and food from $4 bn to $6 bn by 2010.
The Asian Development Bank has pledged to double to $2 bn lending for agriculture in 2009.
A Key Point: When assessing the impact of high food prices, make a distinction between the short- and long-term.
A new response to food price volatility: international land acquisitions, 2006-09
Benefits : New investment in rural areas; rural employment; may introduce improved production technology. Risks : Loss of land by small farmers without a political voice.
Focus has been on food crops, but some lands sought for industrial (rubber) and biofuel (jatropha) crops. Some is sought for non-agricultural uses—e.g. China.
In Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia have been affected. Globally, the largest acquisitions have been in Congo and Sudan. Some deals have failed.
Some Guidelines on International Land Acquisition
National policy in “target” countries: maximize potential benefits and minimize associated risks.
Transparency in negotiations. All stakeholders must be involved;
Respect for existing land rights; adequate compensation for those who lose land;
Equitable sharing of project benefits through, e.g., contract farming or out-grower schemes;
Environmental sustainability of project activities: avoid soil loss; preserve bio-diversity; encourage careful use of water; limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Keep local food security in mind . Don’t allow food exports during local scarcities.
Source : International Food Policy Research Institute
Now a Critical Question: If world food production is to increase and food prices moderated, what is required of the international community?
In the very near term, expand supplies of humanitarian food aid to the most seriously-impacted communities—the urban poor, disaster victims, victims of civil unrest and drought (e.g. Congo, Darfur, Ethiopia).
Looking forward, give increased emphasis to global agriculture , by expanding financial support to this sector.
Sharply increase agricultural research and outreach activities to improve crop production.
Increase supplies of fertilizer and improved seed and other planting materials to small-scale farmers.
What would a multi-year program of this nature cost? The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization says about $30 billion per year. Let’s explore this matter further.
Another Important Question: What Should be our International Priority? Global Agriculture, Primary Education or the Wars Such as Those in Iraq and Afghanistan?
The FAO says about $30 billon/year for agricultural development would eliminate global hunger and nutrition within 20 years.
The Iraq war has been costing $12 bn/month ($144 bn/yr), or a cumulative total of $607 bn.
That latter sum would pay all costs for employing 8 million elementary school teachers around the world for one year!
Harvard economists Stiglitz and Bilmes have estimated the total cost of the Iraq war at US$ 3 trillion, including life-time treatment of seriously wounded soldiers.
Let’s Now Shift the Focus from the Past to the Future
We look at five factors that are likely to impact agriculture and world food supplies in the future:
The role of bio-fuels
Bio-technology and agricultural research
Water and world agriculture
We conclude by providing some speculative comment on the face of world agriculture in 2030
Bio-fuels in World Agriculture
A definition : Fuels produced from renewable resources especially plant bio-mass (grains, sugar cane) or vegetable oils. The first is bio-ethanol ; the second, biodiesel .
Most US ethanol production is from maize. Virtually all of Brazil’s production is from sugarcane. Each now produces about 5 bn gallons annually.
In 2006 bio-diesel production was 5-6 mn tons, of which 4.9 mn tons were produced in the EU.
The top picture shows a modern ethanol factory in Brazil.
The US maize-based ethanol program is under increasing attack on environmental, economic—and ethical—grounds.
The number of ethanol plants in the US has grown from 54 in 2000 to 110 in 2007. Others are under construction, but work on some has been suspended because of weaker ethanol demand.
US law mandates 9 bn gallons of ethanol in 2008, rising to 36 bn gallons in 2022.
Reliable studies suggest that more energy is required to produce ethanol than results from its use as a fuel.
Ethanol is profitable when crude oil prices are high and maize prices low. World oil prices in the past two years have declined and maize prices have risen. One result is that ethanol profits are under pressure and a number of plants have closed.
A sounder American policy in economic terms would be to reduce subsidies for maize-based ethanol in the US and import more sugar-cane based ethanol from Brazil.
US Ethanol Industry Is Facing Tough Times This plant, owned by VeraSun Energy of Brookings, SD, the second biggest ethanol producer in the US, is in SW Minnesota. VeraSun declared bankruptcy in October, 2008.
Cellulosic Ethanol: A Possible Way Forward
Cellulosic ethanol, produced from wood, grasses or the non-edible parts of plants, doesn’t compete with the food chain.
Process is complex—from non-food bio-mass to pre-processing to treatment by enzymes to convert cellulose to sugars, then fermentation by microbes to ethanol.
Enzymes are very expensive, but may fall in price.
Capital costs/gallon of plant capacity are at least 3 times those for maize-based ethanol, but also would fall with program expansion.
Bio-technology: A Promising, But Sometimes Controversial, New Frontier for Global Agriculture
Also called “genetic engineering”; involves transfer into a food crop genes from another plant or bacterium to give the crop certain desired characteristics, e.g. drought tolerance.
Process involves biology, chemistry and engineering.
Some have questioned, and continue to question, its nutritional and environmental safety.
In early 2009, the WHO said: “GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health.”
Five examples of applied bio-tech follow
Example #1: Round-up Ready Soybeans
A soybean variety genetically-engineered by Monsanto to be tolerant of the widely-used weed killer, Round-up.
This tolerance permits farmers to use Roundup as an effective weed killer in soybean production.
Involves minimum tillage and results in higher yields, healthier soil, lower energy use and reduced emissions of greenhouse gasses.
Although the technology, now used on 90% of US soybean acreage, has been verified as environmentally-safe, it has opponents (see photo at right).
“ Round-up ready” crops now include soybeans, corn, sorghum, canola, alfalfa and cotton.
Example #2: Golden Rice A technology with remarkable potential to improve human nutrition.
Traditional rice is the world’s most widely-eaten food grain in the world, but contains almost no Vitamin A.
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) affects 100 mn people, largely children, and results in an estimated 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness annually.
Golden Rice, developed in Germany and Switzerland in 2000, is rich in beta-carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A (See photo).
Widespread consumption of Golden Rice would mark a major step in reducing VAD world wide.
It is not yet available for human consumption because of continuing opposition, largely by environmentalists.
Example #3: Drought-tolerant Corn W ater E fficient M aize for A frica—the WEMA Project
In Africa rainfall is highly variable and extended droughts are common
More than 300 mn Africans depend on maize as the major food staple
This research, just getting underway, is expected to produce within 10 years maize varieties capable of 20-35% yield gains above those from current varieties
Partners are Monsanto, the Governments of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa, with major funding from the Gates and Buffet Foundations ( $47 mn)
Seeds will be made available to farmers free of royalty payments
Example #4: Striga-resistant Grain Sorghum
Striga is one of the greatest biological impediments to food production in SSA where grain sorghum is a basic food crop for some of the continent's poorest farmers.
In 2009 a UN report estimated that Striga affects 40% of arable savannah land and over 100 mn people in Africa.
The Ethiopian agronomist, Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, working at Purdue University, in 1983 released the Hageen Dura-1, Striga-resistant hybrid sorghum variety. By 1999 over 400,000 has of this variety, with yields at least twice national averages, were harvested in SSA.
More recently, other varieties, incorporating genes for drought and Striga resistance, have produced yield increments as much as four times those of uninimproved varieties.
For this work, Dr. Ejeta was awarded the prestigious World Food Prize in June 2009.
Example #5: Virus-resistant papaya in the Philippines
Papaya in the Philippines is grown mainly by small farmers.
It constitutes a major source of Vitamin A, fiber and minerals in many rural communities.
This USAID-supported project at the University of the Philippines, Los Banos, is expected to release for commercial production in 2009 engineered varieties resistant to papaya ring spot virus (PRSV).
With traditional varieties, losses from PRSV range from 30% to total crop failure.
Global area planted to bio-tech crops continues to increase rapidly This rapid expansion reflects principally the profitability of the technology, but also environmental benefits (e.g. minimum tillage in Round-up ready crops) Data source : Int’l. Service for Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) 8.7 25 23 No. of countries 11.1 12.0 10.8 Of which “resource-poor” (mn) 10.8 13.3 12 No. of farmers (mn) 9.4 125 114.3 Total hectares (mn) % gain 2008 2007
The US continues to dominate the global area planted to bio-tech crops: 2008 Source: ISAAA Note : (1) No significant area of bio-tech rice and wheat; (2) Only 3 African countries grew bio-tech crops in 2008: S. Africa, Egypt, Burkina Faso. 5 6.7 Rest of world (19 countries) Cotton , tomato, poplar, papaya, sweet pepper 3 3.8 China Canola, maize, soybean, sugar beet 6 7.6 Canada Cotton 6 7.6 India Soybean, maize, cotton 13 15.8 Brazil Soybean, maize cotton 17 21.0 Argentina Soybean, maize, cotton, canola 50 62.5 USA Principal bio-tech crops % of global bio-tech area Area (mn has) Country
What Happens if Ag Research is Inadequately Funded? The case of the brown plant hopper
Rice is the basic food staple for nearly half of the world’s population. An outbreak of plant hoppers, which live only on rice, can quickly destroy 20% of a harvest.
By the 1990s the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) had found fourteen types of genetic resistance to plant hoppers among wild rice varieties.
In recent years IRRI’s budget had been cut in half. With budget cuts, IRRI was unable to fund the work to breed these traits into widely-used rice varieties.
If money could be found, it would take another 5-7 years to breed this resistance into available varieties.
A similar story of inadequate research and its negative effect on world food production exists with respect to stem rust in wheat (left).
Water and World Agriculture The issues : poor global distribution and weak management of available supplies. Total supplies are generally adequate. An important fact : 70% of the world’s fresh water used for irrigation; 30% by industry; 10% human consumption.
Falling water tables
US Ogallala aquifer: in some areas, water table has fallen by 30 meters
North China Plain/Beijing: dropping almost 3 meters/year from heavy pumping
Falling river levels
Colorado River (US) and Yellow (North China) increasingly don’t reach the sea
Dams on the Mekong (China) have reduced flows to Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam
Shrinking or disappearing lakes and glaciers
Lake Chad (West Africa) has shrunk by 90% in the last 40 years
The Dead Sea level has fallen by more than 30 meters since Israel became a state (1948)
In Qinghai Province (China) the number of lakes has declined by half in the last 20 years
Farmers losing to the cities
In Chennai (Madras/India) the 13,000 water tankers supplying the city are mining ground water supplies for nearby agriculture
In 2003 San Diego, CA bought water rights for 200,000 acre-feet from Imperial Valley farmers. The area gets 3 inches of rain/yr. W/o irrigation, the area is desert.
One Consequence of Water Scarcity: Growing political tensions—international and national
Turkey and Iraq—Euphrates River
Israel and Jordan—Jordan River
Ethiopia and several countries of NE Africa—Blue and White Nile Rivers
US and Mexico—Colorado River
China and countries downstream—Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam—Mekong River
In the United States
Seven states in SW United States—Colorado River
Kansas and Colorado—Arkansas River
Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska—Republican River
Colorado farmers (Rocky Ford) selling water rights to Denver developers
Let’s look more closely at the impact of melting glaciers on global agriculture About 70% of the world’s freshwater supplies is stored in glaciers. Most are now melting at increasing rates. The result: first, downstream flooding; then, decreased river flows
In Asia, up to 2 bn people rely on meltwater from Himalayan glaciers
These glaciers have lost 21% of their mass since 1962
They are the main source of water for five major river systems
These systems irrigate much of the rice and wheat lands of China, India and Pakistan
Ganges River Basin 407 mn people
Yangtze River Basin 368 mn
Indus River Basin 178 mn
Yellow River Basin 147 mn
Brahmaputra River Basin 118 mn
India’s Gangotri Glacier on the border with China supplies 70% of the Ganges River flow during the dry season. It has receded by 76 meters in the 1996-99 period.
The Ganges River is the largest source of surface water irrigation in India.
Source : Earth Policy Institute
China’s Yangtze and Yellow Rivers are fed by glacial snowmelt on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau
The Yangtze (top right) is China’s leading source of surface irrigation water.
It is a major contributor to production of least half of China’s 130 mn ton annual rice harvest.
It is a major source of water for the 368 mn people living in the Yangtze watershed.
The Yellow River basin is home to about 150 mn people who depend heavily on this water in China’s semi-arid north and northwest.
Receding glaciers is also an African phenomenon
These aerial photos of Tanzania’s magnificent Mt. Kilimanjaro (5,900 meters) were taken only seven years apart—the top in February 1993, the bottom in February 2000.
Kilimanjaro is a major source of irrigation water for smallholders on its southern slopes.
In 2009 an African scientist said: “By 2020 yields from water-fed agriculture in Africa could be down by 50 %.
Rapid glacier melt is also of great concern in Latin America Here’s a rendition of the shrinkage and recent disappearance of Chacaltaya Glacier in Bolivia
Chacaltaya Glacier, 5,400 m in height and 30 km from La Paz, disappeared in early 2009!
Peruvian glaciers have lost one-fifth of their mass in the past 35 years, significantly reducing water flow to Peru’s heavily populated coastal region.
If present trends continue, many other Andean glaciers will disappear w/in 20 years, affecting water supplies for 77 mn people.
Source: World Bank
The Uncertain Future of the Rocky Ford (Southeast CO) Cantaloupe A Case Study in Agriculture-Urban Competition for Limited Water
The cantaloupe—from the Middle East to Spain (Moors; 730 AD ?) to the New World (Columbus; 1493) to Rocky Ford, SE Colorado (1884)
In the US, Rocky Ford melons are considered of exceptionally good quality
Current situation in Rocky Ford, CO
Historically, about 160,000 has in SE Colorado were irrigated with Arkansas River water. Today: about 93,000 has
Since 1980 developers have “dried up” 22,000 has near Rocky Ford by purchasing water rights for urban development.
Officials say water in urban use has twice the economic value in irrigation.
Is the Rocky Ford cantaloupe an “endangered species”?
What Can be Done to Address Global Water Scarcity? Keep in mind that today 70% of world’s freshwater supply is used for irrigation; 30% for industry; 10% for human consumption.
Most important : Find ways to conserve existing supplies. Finding new supplies is costly.
Use more efficient technologies.
Globally, only about 40% of irrigation water reaches the roots of plants. The balance is lost through run-off, ground seepage, evapo-transpiration, etc.
A shift from furrow irrigation (upper right) to drip irrigation (lower right) increases efficiency by more than 50%. Widely-used in Israel; very little elsewhere.
Choose more water-efficient cropping patterns where possible. Rice and corn are the “thirstiest”; wheat less so; grain sorghum the least demanding of water.
Price water at its true economic cost, not subsidized. Should California be growing irrigated rice?
Global Soil Degradation From Wind and Water Erosion
Today perhaps a third of the world’s cropland is losing top soil through erosion faster than new soil is forming.
Examples of serious wind erosion
Dust bowl, 1930s, of the US Great Plains. Picture is of wind erosion in Oklahoma, 1937
Virgin Lands Project, 1954-60, Soviet Union
Gobi Desert, currently, in NW China
Sub-Sahara Africa, losing 40,000 has/year)
Example of serious water (gully) erosion
Dealing with Soil Degradation: What Has Been Done? What is Being Done?
Planting of shelter belts
Strip cropping and fallow
Conservation tillage (no-till/minimum tillage)
Government-funded Conservation Reserve Program
China’s “Great Green Wall”
To be completed in 2074; 4,500 km
A formidable task; inhospitable environment (see photo)
Africa Sahara’s Green Wall
Calls for planting of 300 mn trees on 3 mn has
Now at a conceptual stage; a challenging task
The Uncertainties of Global Climate Change and Agriculture: More is becoming known; much remains unknown
Physical evidence is accumulating that change is occurring, but exact causes remain unclear
Good science is providing greater understanding of those changes (work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)
Although scientific predictions of impact continue to change, they generally are increasingly negative
Changes relate to such factors as h uman health, natural disaster, water scarcity, food security (famine, drought) and civil conflict)
There is growing urgency and agreement that concerted international effort is needed to slow man-made emissions of green-house gases
A recent (July 2009) study by Oxfam concluded that “…the most savage impact on humanity in the near future is likely to be an increase in hunger”, particularly in tropical/semi-tropical countries with existing problems in feeding their people.
Among the best documented evidence of global climate change is the rise in sea levels
These data show annual averaged sea level changes over the past century.
Measurements are from 23 geologically-stable tide gauge sites around the world.
They suggests a sea level rise of about 8 inches/century or 2 mm per year.
Source: Surveys in Geophysics
This synthesis suggests the truly long term (beyond 2050) negative impact of climate change on agriculture and food supplies will be larger in the southern hemisphere, and in particular, Africa and Australia.
World Agriculture in 2030? A Plausible Scenario
Population may grow from 6.5 bn today to 8.3 bn, with almost all of the increase in developing countries
The number of hungry may decline from about 950 mn today to 440 mn in 2030. Most will be located in Sub-Saharan Africa
Diets will continue to shift to greater consumption of livestock, dairy and poultry products, requiring larger volumes of grain fed to livestock.
Another billion tons of cereals will be required to meet total demand, an increase of about 45% from current levels.
Most of will come from higher yields/ha; not from new land
Irrigation in developing countries may increase by as much as 15% from current levels—along with similar increases in water demand
Bio-technology will play an increasing role in meeting food demand, with significant benefits to small-scale farmers
Livestock and poultry production will continue to shift to large, intensive operations, creating greater environmental and health problems
Effects of climate change are likely to be very significant beyond 2030.
Note: Some of these observations are provided by the UN’s FAO.
What are the implications of such scenarios for the work of ECHO and similar organizations?
Let ECHO’s vision drive its program: “…to bring glory to God and a blessing to mankind by using science and technology to help the poor”.
The “poor” is a broad group: the landless, those with few economic assets, pastoralists, rural women, ethnic minorities
Support “pro-poor” development—with emphasis on small farmers and women in marginal agricultural areas
Look for technologies that increase local-level food production and marketable surpluses
Emphasize production systems that minimize use of purchased inputs
Don’t overextend—focus on programs the organization does best and can finance adequately
Look for synergistic links with other NGOs and development organizations
Above all, remember the critical linkages: Hunger is centered among the poor; reduced hunger requires increased income; higher incomes come from increased farm production.
Agricultural production remains key, but also look at how that output is used—improved nutrition, commercial sales, local-level processing, employment creation.
What do Some of the Experts Now Say About the Future World Food Economy?
The World Bank : “Food crop prices are likely to remain high…in 2009 and then begin to decline. But they are likely to remain well above 2004 levels through 2015 for most food crops.”
The Economist Magazine: “The era of cheap food is over. The transition to a new equilibrium is proving costlier, more prolonged and much more painful than anyone had expected.”
International Food Policy Research Institute : “World agriculture has entered a new, unsustainable and politically risky period.”
But As We Try to Forecast the Future, It is Well to Keep in Mind the Wisdom of Yogi Berra, Baseball Player and Philosopher: “Prediction is always difficult, especially if it’s about the future!