To this day, more than 800 million people around the world do not get enough food to eat, some not even having any. In developing countries, nearly 75% of “poor” people live in rural areas, causing families to rely mainly on agriculture. On the other hand, food insecurity and malnutrition is still a growing urban issue. At this rate, the global population is set to reach 9 billion people by mid-century, and the global food demand is projected to increase by 70%, expressed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) projects.
What is Food Security & Food Insecurity?
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life,” as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security.
“Food insecurity is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food,” as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This problem is often rooted in poverty, having long-term effects on the abilities of not only families, but as well as communities and countries, to continue to develop and prosper. Hunger results from food insecurity and is an individual-level physiological condition.
Environmental issues that continue to threaten and provide uncertain impacts on food security include:
- Climate change
- Rising global population
- Rising food prices
- Rising temperatures
- Unsustainable farming practices
How is Climate Change Specifically Threatening Food Security?
Climate change is affecting all four dimensions of food security, which are food availability, food accessibility, food utilization, and food systems stability. Its impacts are both short term (more frequent and intense weather events) and long term (changing temperatures and precipitation patterns).
In order to identify the risks and adapt to climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was founded in 1988. By releasing their assessment reports, they are able to assess all aspects of climate change and form strategies to mitigate its effects. One report from the IPCC’s Working Group II focused on “Food security and food production systems (Chapter 7).” “The questions for this chapter are how far climate and its change affect current food production systems and food security and the extent to which they will do so in the future,” as stated by the chapter authors. It detailed that climate change will increase the risk of reduced crop productivity associated with heat and drought stress and that the negative effect will likely be visible by 2030.
Climate change is also a hunger risk multiplier. It is projected that 20% more people are at risk of hunger by 2050 due to extreme weather events. The world’s most food-insecure populations are those disproportionately harmed by climate-related events, which include increased heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis, and flooding. With more frequent extreme weather events, there will be immediate impacts on food production, food distribution infrastructure, the incidence of food emergencies, and the livelihood assets in both rural and urban areas. In retrospect, climate change’s impacts on agriculture, which varies by geography, threatens food security.
How Do We Strengthen Food Security & Fight Hunger?
To address the issue of food insecurity, the root causes of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition need to be addressed as well. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) continues to scale up and produce comprehensive approaches to tackle this, such as:
- Leading America’s Feed the Future Initiative – In collaboration with U.S. Government agencies and departments, the private sector, researchers and universities, etc., this is a way to strengthen agriculture-led growth, nutrition, and resilience.
- Providing Emergency Food Assistance – Allows vulnerable and malnourished populations to bounce back in times of crisis and have a higher rate of survival.
- Research Investments – Helps farmers in the United States and abroad to protect their harvests from pests and disease, leading to better and more crops.
“Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food security emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of adults and children,” said the UN secretary-general António Guterres. In 2016, the Global Food Security Act was enacted and in 2018, the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act was passed, which both solidifies the United States government’s ongoing commitment to reducing hunger, malnutrition, and poverty around the world.
In order to feed the expected population by 2050, the world would have to double its current food production. Therefore, passing acts is not enough and we have to be more efficient in our strategies to meet these demands given the scarcity of natural resources and other challenges. Countries need to rethink their food systems and need to incorporate more sustainable farming processes. If we are able to find a way to align the short-term with the long-term, countries can provide and ensure that people have sufficient food.
“Climate Change and Food Security: A Test of U.S. Leadership in a Fragile World.” Climate Change and Food Security: A Test of U.S. Leadership in a Fragile World | Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS Briefs, 15 Oct. 2019, www.csis.org/analysis/climate-change-and-food-security-test-us-leadership-fragile-world.
“Food Security.” Ifpri.org, International Food Policy Research Institute, www.ifpri.org/topic/food-security.
“Agriculture and Food Security.” U.S. Agency for International Development, 15 Apr. 2019, www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/agriculture-and-food-security.