Higher incomes and urbanization are leading to major changes in dietary patterns. A massive increase is foreseen in per capita consumption of fish, meat, and milk products, especially in populous and increasingly prosperous Asia (Delgado et al, 1999). Expanding poultry and livestock demand, in turn, will result in major increases in the share of cereal production consumed by livestock, a trend which runs the risk of reducing cereal availability for the very poor and food insecure in coming decades. Rural to urban migrations will also affect farm production in several ways. First, with an out-migration of labor, more farm activities will have to be mechanized to replace labor-intensive practices. Second, large urban populations, generally close to seaports, are likely to buy more food from the lowest-price producer, which for certain crops may very well mean importing from abroad. Domestic producers, therefore, will have to compete in price and quality with imported foodstuffs.
Of the 800 million hungry and malnourished people in the developing world, 232 million are in India, 200 million in Sub-Saharan Africa, 112 million in China, 152 million elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific, 56 million in Latin America, and 40 million in the Near East and North Africa (UN Development Programme, 2003b). Of the total number of hungry, about 214 million or 26%, have caloric intakes so low that they are unable to work or care for themselves. The 800 million hungry people can be grouped into four broad types, based on their household means of obtaining food. Roughly 50% of the hungry are farm households in higher-risk environments for crop production, such as low, highly unreliable, or excessive rainfall; inherently poor or degraded soils; steep topography; and remoteness from markets and public services. Another 22% live in non-farm rural households, and another 20% in poor urban households. The remaining 8% are herders, fishermen, and forest-dependent households.
These statistics on hunger point to the need to improve drastically the food security of farmers in higher-risk environments and remote regions — to bring the Doubly Green Revolution that Gordon Conway, Rockefeller Foundation president, talks about (Conway, 1999). The statistics also point to the need to develop poverty-reduction strategies that will provide employment options for marginal farmers, especially in marginal lands, in sectors other than agriculture. Clearly, too many people in the developing world are trying to gain their livelihoods through agriculture, with too few resources. Reducing agricultural populations — and increasing the land and water resources available to those that remain — will be one of our greatest challenges in the 21st century.
Was this article helpful?