“That’ll be 35 rupees,” says the vendor. Shankar Vemula stops. “But it was just 25 rupees yesterday…I only have 25 rupees…” The vendor shakes his head. “The price go up since yesterday. Nobody give us any food. So little food, how you expect price stay the same?” Shankar stares at her 25 rupees. She looks down at her ripped and tattered clothes and her holed shoes. She needs the milk. Her newborn son is starving and she is too malnourished to breastfeed him. Lack of food aid was not going to stop her. “But please…my son…he needs it…” she begs. “No money, no milk,” the vendor says adamantly. Shankar gets down on her knees. “Please…” she pulls on the vendor’s clothes. He ignores her. “Please…” she continues. Finally he kicks her away. “No money, no milk!” he screams angrily. Wearily, she pulls herself up and walks away. She finds the most bustling street of the market and kneels down. She stuffs her shoes underneath her clothes and takes some sludge to smear her face. Then she begins bowing continually at the passersby. “Krupaya, krupaya, krupaya…” she repeats over and over again like a mantra. “Please, please, please.”
The global food crisis is a cause of suffering for too many. Thus, we must do everything in our power to find a solution to the global food crisis, to stop their suffering. There are long-term and short-term solutions for solving the global food crisis. Short-term solutions tend to have more disadvantages but do not take long to implement, so they are suitable for temporary relief. On the other hand, long-term solutions have more guaranteed benefits but take longer to put into practice, which is why they are suitable for solving the root of the problem. To completely resolve the good crisis, the government must use both long-term and short-term solutions. The following is a few proposed solutions to relieve the world of this global food crisis.
Suspension or Improvement of Biofuel Production
The Bright Side
As mentioned before, the production of biofuels has been draining much of the resources available to both humans and livestock. Due to their resulting contribution to the food crisis, it would be effective to temporarily suspend biofuel production until the crisis is over, thus allowing more land, time, capital and food to be devoted to the making and shipping of emergency aid packages to countries in need. This solution will also improve domestic food security and lift export barriers, as there will be a greater food supply for the domestic population.
For countries reliant upon biofuels, alternative sources such as algae are a better solution. Unlike soybeans or wheat, algae are not an important source of food for humans, has a faster growth rate, and is extremely abundant in aquatic ecosystems. It is also more efficient as a form of biofuel, with 30 times the per unit area yield of other crops. In addition, the production of this biofuel does not impact freshwater resources, as algae can be grown in seawater or even in wastewater. Finally, algae are biodegradable so the environment would not be largely unaffected should a spill occur.
The Fine Print
Unfortunately, one drawback of “algaculture” is that algae are difficult to grow in a controlled manner and be harvested efficiently. Furthermore, the use of algae is still relatively expensive compared to other crops, at US $5-10 per kilogram dry weight. This is compounded by the fact that not all strains of algae are suitable for biofuel production; it is difficult to find an ideal algal strain with a high lipid content and fast growth rate. However, much research is being put into making algal fuel more economically feasible in future.
Raising Public Awareness
Ignorance Is Bliss?
One of the leading reasons for the food crisis is ignorance. People are unaware of its severity and continue to consume resources in excessive amounts. According to recent statistics, 19% of U.S. energy is spent on producing food. It has also been estimated that Americans consume an average of 3747 calories a day, exceeding the recommended daily limit by 1500 calories. It is essential that the public is educated to reduce our intake, suspend the stress on food producers, and help the ecosystem return to its equilibrium.
For example, a large factor affecting crop consumption is livestock. Cows, poultry, and pigs require tremendous amounts of grain and wheat in order to grow to “acceptable sizes” that can be sold for maximum profit. A hundred calories of beef, for instance, require over 700 calories of grain. The current total amount of grain that is used to feed livestock stands at 760 million tons. This is enough food to relieve the food crisis 14 times and over. Such inefficient dietary habits are just one of the many factors contributing to the excessive use of resources. If a vegan diet were promoted instead, the strain on the food supply could be reduced dramatically.
There would also be a remarkable difference if people were to buy foods according to their needs rather than their wants. Buying foods that are in season is one such example. Preserving and storing food wastes large amounts of energy and water, thus purchasing less processed foods can ease the situation. Artificially-flavored foods such as soft drinks and candy should also be consumed less, as processing them requires much energy and at the same time, their nutritional values are nowhere near those of natural crops. Apart from the decreased consumption of certain foods, it is also wise to make sure that the minimal amount of food is wasted. For example, in many high-class restaurants, it is not uncommon to witness people leaving large leftover portions on their plate simply because the taste does not agree with them. Implementing fines for wasted food would reduce this occurrence.
These simple changes can save up to 50% of the fossil fuels that are used in production processes and this energy can then be used to produce more food and provide for more individuals with greater need.
More is Less
Population growth is also a major contributor to the global food crisis. It has been estimated that by the year 2050, India will have a population of 1.7 billion, China 1.4 billion, the United States 400 million, and Indonesia 297 million. According to Steve Jones of University College London, Humans are 10,000 times more common than we should be, according to the rules of the animal kingdom, and we have agriculture to thank for that. Without farming, the world population would probably have reached half a million by now. The WWF report in 2006 “Living Planet” also put into perspective that if the entire world were living at a high degree of luxury (such as in Europe), then humans would be using up three times more than the Earth could supply. A large population coupled with the luxury that we desire severely strains the world’s limited resources, a direct cause of the food crisis. Studies show that the global population must be reduced by at least two-thirds in order to maintain a sustainable economy.
Thus, as a long-term solution, world population must be controlled. A controversial solution would be to implement a regulation that limits the number of children per household, as in China. Another way to achieve this goal would be family planning, along with the promotion of contraceptive use. Again, public awareness of this issue is essential.
Improvement of Agricultural Development
Straight to the Source
In order to obtain maximal yield and relieve hunger directly, sciences such as agronomy and agroecology must be more heavily researched and refined. Useful developments in agriculture would include making the land more fertile, using nutrients in a more efficient manner, producing �better crops� (such as GM foods or super foods), and raising more livestock. One such development would be the use of probiotics. Probiotics are regarded as �friendly� bacteria that are able to increase yield by bio-activating plant roots, increasing their biological activity and ability to break down nutrients. However, probiotics are also able to �revive� dead soil by replenishing its nutrients, doubling plant growth and building their resistance against harmful diseases. Consequently, pesticide-use can be reduced, eliminating the fear of being poisoned.
New and Improved
Another similar development is the use of "fertilizer trees". Research indicates that farmers can easily double basic cereal production simply by planting a few leguminous trees. These trees obtain large amounts of atmospheric nitrogen and systematically fix them into usable nitrogen compounds in the soil to stimulate plant growth. The use of the leguminous trees is similar to that of mineral fertilizers, which use vital biological processes to improve soil quality. These trees will increase harvests with the added effect of mitigating effects of severe heat by shading soil and retaining its moisture. This kind of tree is also extremely economical, as only one purchase is required for years of improved soil quality and increased crop yields. Another important aspect of tackling hunger through agriculture would be to improve crop types. Superfoods, such as spirulina, are able to provide massive amounts of nutrition, boost the immune system, and fight cancer at the same time. One gram of spirulina is nutritionally equivalent to one kilogram of assorted vegetables and contains a multitude of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fatty acids. Furthermore, it can be cultivated in the harshest of regions, including the Sahara Desert. More controversially, genetically modified (GM) foods can also be considered as improved crops. With the use of GM foods, there will be easier farming, fewer pesticides, and more adaptable plants. Crops will obtain the ability to grow quickly and produce larger yields. However, it is critical to convince the public to accept GM foods and adopt these foods as quickly as possible. In order to achieve this, it is important to prove the safety and effectiveness of GM foods.
Ready, Set, Action!
In the meantime, as opposition to GM foods still continues, we must resort to more intensive farming of normal crops. At a London briefing, Professor McKelvey, the chief executive of the Scottish Agriculture College in Edinburgh, supported such intensified farming solutions. �There is a need to continue to intensify farming. Organic farming has a place but it will never feed the growing population of the world,� he believes. An example of intensive farming is to temporarily focus on monoculture, which involves growing one crop over a wide area, and then switching to polyculture, with multiple crops, for sustainability later. Only when the food crisis improves through monocultural farming, can we consider using sustainable, organic foods to increase biodiversity. With so many options, it is easy to think that agricultural output will improve tremendously. Nonetheless, suitable farming techniques must be applied to appropriate geographical regions. For example, geoponic techniques should be applied to regions with normal soil, hydroponic techniques for regions with abundant water, and aeroponic for regions with airy or misty environments. Only by using the most appropriate technique for a given region's conditions can maximal yield be achieved.
Improved Efficiency of Food Aid
A Good Cause
As mentioned in our Causes section, food aid policies today are extremely flawed. High transportation costs, inefficiency, and spoilage are all working against our good cause. Thus, it is vital for us to improve the overall efficiency of food aid.
One of the most pragmatic ways to achieve this goal is to provide aid in the form of monetary funds rather than edible goods. As World Food Program spokesperson Jennifer Parmelee says, “Cash enables us to purchase closer to the area in which we want to deliver the food, which means it will be at a lower price, it will cost less to transport it, and it gets there faster.” However, if monetary aid is not realistic, then food aid itself must be improved. More efficient means of transporting crops can be adopted and crops can be planted in all possible areas, including cities. Planting crops in the recipient country instead of the donor country is also a prospective solution, as it eliminates the problem of transportation and spoilage. With increased efficiency, more food can be produced and delivered, and fewer people will be forced to go hungry.
Providing Sufficient Aid to Poor Farmers
Capital is Power
From the study of economics, we learn that increasing capital is the fastest way to increase yield, be it human capital, such as knowledge and skills, or physical capital, such as hoes and rakes. This is because through the process of capital deepening, farmers are able to obtain the most output from their limited input.
Many farmers do not have all the necessary skills for efficient agriculture. They may have no idea about the exact time of each season to apply fertilizer, or the optimum time of each day to water the crops. However, if they are taught these skills, farmers can make crop production much more efficient. Thus, if we can increase their knowledge about agricultural activity, or increase human capital, there will be potential for much higher yields.
Unfortunately, relying solely on human capital is not enough. Physical capital greatly affects productivity of farmers and should be considered. Without the equipment, these skills are useless. For example, a farmer who uses a tractor to plow his fields rather than manual laborers could produce over twice as much in the same amount of time. An effective irrigation system and high yielding seeds could also drastically increase efficiency. By increasing physical capital, crops are produced in larger quantities and at a faster rate, and more food can reach the mouths of the hungry in less time.
There are many farmers producing food for us in today’s world, but with very limited capital. Public- and government-subsidized farmers already have more than enough experience and capital to provide an adequate amount of food. Thus, the capital should be distributed to the poorer farmers who are in great need of it. These poor farmers make up the majority of global growers and often face the same challenges, such as seeds that do not promise optimal yield, limited area available for farming, or outdated and inefficient equipment. By granting this much-needed capital to the poorer farmers, governments can help them catch up with their more productive counterparts and, consequently, help combat the global food crisis.
Regulate, Not Speculate!
Price speculation has been a massive contributor to the volatility of food price levels in the market. One strongly opposed zealot has gone so far as to say that speculation has “stolen” the markets due to the price volatility triggered. High prices are the result of a pouring-in of heavy investments, while low prices result from a massive pulling-out of investments. What can we do to stop speculation from affecting food price levels so dramatically?
Economically, the simplest solution would be to create regulatory agencies that could help control the exchanges of futures (contract granting anobligationto a party to sell particular asset/good in the future at an agreed price to another party) and options (contract granting aright to a party to sell particular asset/good in the future at an agreed price to another party). Such agencies could enforce rules on exchanges that were previously ignored and return stability to future exchange markets. These agencies could also easily oversee transactions and practices of speculators while at the same time propose suggestions to the national commodity-exchange authorities. In turn, these authorities, acting on such suggestions, could successfully impose new rules and regulations that could help reduce price volatility on all fronts.
With regulation from both agencies and authorities, people will finally be able to realize the effects of speculation and the impacts of their very own actions. If people continue to invest without considering the price volatility they are triggering, food prices will never stop fluctuating. Only through a fixed set of rules will people be successfully restricted within a suitable region of speculative trading. If this restriction were to be ignored, it will be impossible to control future price cycles within the commodity markets and thus cause people to be more susceptible to high food prices.
Removal of Trade Barriers
Less is More
Trade barriers set up an artificial market shortage to improve social security in countries such as China and Ukraine and reassure them of their national food supply. However, this potentially leads to starvation in foreign countries. There may be a Chinese family enjoying three meals a day while an African family starves. A solution to this unequal distribution of food must be found if the food crisis is to come to an end. As more and more countries continue to impose trade barriers on agricultural products, the market becomes more and more distorted and economic growth is thwarted. The straightforward solution would be the immediate removal of misanthropic food barrier policies. Such removal would make a global impact instantaneously, as large amounts of food would be available on all fronts, and aid programs would find it easier to purchase foods closer to disaster regions and distribute them accordingly. The benefits of the abolition of trade barriers are plentiful but it seems unlikely that all countries will be willing to remove trade barriers unless a powerful country sets an example by abolishing its own trade barriers first.
The sun was setting. The vendors began packing up their goods, leaving not a scrap behind. Shankar’s knees are numb. Her forehead is bleeding from the bowing. Despairingly, she looks into her cup. Three rupees. She puts them in her pocket and wraps her arms around her legs. She curls herself into the fetal position and then right there, in the center of the marketplace, she weeps. If only there was a way to end her hunger. If only there was a solution to all her problems.