To end hunger in the world, all we need is just a 3% increase in agricultural production. However, that relatively minor boost should be combined with a sea change in the way food is distributed around the world, scientists say.
Eliminating hunger around the world is one of the United Nations' key sustainability goals, yet in 2017, more than 821 million people around the world were undernourished. Zero hunger policies have often focused on increasing production, but new research published in Nature Sustainability recalls another important element: food equity.
To look into the future of food provision, the researchers behind the study created two scenarios for 2030. In one scenario, they tried to solve hunger by increasing food production. We can eliminate hunger by increasing production by 20% by expanding the area of land used for agriculture by 48 million acres. However, that will have a considerable environmental impact.
In the second scenario, they tried to explore whether a wiser approach was possible. This time they included programs such as food stamps, support for the most vulnerable populations and provision of food for the school cafeteria with the aim of channeling food where it was most needed. This time, a 3% increase in production turned out to be all we will need to get zero hunger.
The paths diverge in many other ways. Following the first model would also mean further growth in the number of people consuming more than they need, from 3.1 billion today to 4.9 billion in 2030. That will mean a 550 Mt annual increase in CO2 emissions , destruction of more forests, More people suffer from lifestyle diseases and waste skyrockets due to the abundance of food.
However, in the second scenario, the researchers found that the environmental offsets would be negligible, while the new system would allow us to reduce livestock production. And if we combine those efforts with agricultural intensification, reducing overconsumption and curbing food waste, this could lead to an overall decrease in food production by 9%, which fits in well with another recent study on the sustainable future. of food.
Tomoko Hasegawa, co-author of the study from Ritsumeikan University, emphasizes that “just one policy is not enough. We need to combine different policies to avoid unwanted negative impacts on others ”. Petr Havlik, another co-author of the study and deputy director of the Ecosystem Management and Services program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, points out that "malnutrition is in fact, not a problem of agricultural production capacity but of the current economic system and political ".
To achieve the changes described, the researchers point to the need for political will and the rapid adoption of new policies that address global food challenges at their source.