Climate change could potentially hinder progress towards a world without hunger. A strong and coherent global pattern is noticeable of the effects of climate change on agriculture that could have consequences for food availability. What’s more concerning is that climate change is likely to exacerbate food insecurity in areas that are already vulnerable to hunger and undernutrition. This explains why local governments and international organisations need to adopt action plans for a food system that is more resilient to the climate-change phenomenon.
This is also increasingly important for two reasons. One, the global population is growing and it’s expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. And two, arable land is rapidly shrinking. According to research, the world has lost a third of its arable land over the past 40 years.
Addressing this issue will require a collective effort by local and global communities, as well, local governments to find ways to produce more food with fewer resources.
The problem with traditional agriculture
Agriculture has changed significantly in the past few decades and most of today’s food production and trade is restricted to the G20 countries. There have been changes in farming too with the focus shifting to mass production and speed.
While traditional farming has contributed to increasing food production, it has also led to many problems including increased production costs and soil depletion.
This is why groups such as the G20 and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have started looking into and promoting sustainable agriculture. The effort is bearing fruit with countries such as Saudi Arabia pushing for more organic farming. The Saudi Organic Farming Association recentlyunveiled the government’s new investment initiative in organic farming saying: “There were only two farms some 10 years back, and currently the total number of organic farms is more than 145”.
There are different techniques for sustainable farming and food production which can be applied according to a situation. Moreover, each country has its own issues to deal with. The Middle East has issues with access to clean water, while parts of Asia have been dealing with rising sea levels and rainfall. This explains why there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to a sustainable food future. What’s required is a framework that can be tweaked and adapted according to individual needs.
Countries across the world are implementing different strategies, a one being hydroponic farming. This method can use up to 80% water and produce 40% more food than traditional farming, which is why the Estidamah Research Centre in Riyadh has been working on developing the hydroponics technology.
Another way is to improve crop diversity. According to the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at the University of California, Davis, diversified farms tend to be economically and ecologically resilient. Crop rotation is a strategy that has a stabilising effect on soil and the ecosystem as a whole. One of the best ways to optimise diversification is to integrate both crops and livestock into farming. In a sense, it is about moving away from the current big, one-product farm to a rather old-fashioned farming.
Benefits of alternative farming
Improvements in farming techniques can transform the way our food is produced. These alternative farming methods have the potential to increase food security in all parts of the country and tackle nutritional issues.
In fact, research shows that a focus on sustainable farming could lead to improvements in nutrition. Such methods have proven effective in countries such as Malawi and South Africa, where the permaculture farming programme has helped HIV patientsto take in more calories and improve their micronutrient intake.
Better quality of food can lead to healthier societies. This, in turn, will reduce nutrition-related problems such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The right approach
In order to improve food security and to guarantee a sustainable food future for all, the approach to existing practices and the values societies have developed around food must change. Strategies ought to include an understanding of natural resources, while local farming communities are also needed. This means policies should always be implemented with proper community education so as to maximise the impact of these policies. This ensures the world continues to work together to achieve food security.