The war continues in the lands of Ukraine and with it the food crisis that the world is experiencing for more than ten years. In addition to the ongoing war in the Black Sea region, which accounts for a quarter of global grain trade and about 20 percent of the corn trade, other conflicts, harsh weather conditions and the economic downturn due to the Corona pandemic contribute in declining food security and the spread of malnutrition in more than one country.
Interruptions in supply chains are currently reducing available resources and increasing their costs. Somalia, which is currently suffering from drought and its six million inhabitants are facing severe food shortages, has increased the price of wheat and oil by almost three times. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to the world’s largest number of hungry people, fuel prices have doubled and the price of cooking oil has risen by 33 per cent in the first three months of this year.
A food disaster on a global scale
It seems that the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and earlier the Corona pandemic, came to throw gasoline on the fire of harsh weather conditions in more than one country of the world. Recently, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced that the crisis in the Black Sea region could push 12 million people into starvation worldwide. The World Food Program also warned that the number of people facing famine in the Horn of Africa due to drought and international change could rise from 14 million to 20 million within a few months.
What is currently happening is a gradual deterioration of the global food situation, with temperatures rising steadily. The rate of world population suffering from severe or moderate food insecurity increased from 22.6 percent in 2014 to 26.6 percent in 2019. And in 2020, which witnessed the outbreak of the “Covid-19” pandemic . The food insecurity rate jumped to 30.4 percent. With geopolitical and economic developments, any crisis in a region critical to food production could lead to catastrophe on a global scale.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that extreme weather events will increase the risk of simultaneous crop losses in key food-producing regions, with serious consequences for food prices and availability. The latest report from the authority, which was published a few weeks ago, shows that food production and quality have in fact been affected by climate change, as productivity has declined globally by 21 percent due to high temperatures and heavy rains. as well as increased levels of carbon dioxide. contributed to reducing the nutritional quality of crops.
The Commission expects that the production of major crops, such as soybeans, wheat and rice, will continue to decline throughout the twenty-first century. The rate of productivity decline varies from 0.7 to 3.3 percent per decade depending on country and culture, despite other variables such as pests and soil quality. The agency warns that yields of rice, corn and wheat could fall by 10 to 25 percent with each 1 degree Celsius increase in global warming.
Not only are temperatures rising and droughts spreading, but floods are also among the most climate-related disasters affecting food production. China, for example, is currently facing major difficulties in food production due to the extreme floods that hit the country last fall. According to official statements, the floods have destroyed more than 12 million hectares of agricultural land, which could make the agricultural production conditions this year the worst in the country’s history.
Climate change is undermining China’s efforts to achieve its food security. Repeated severe weather events actually reduce agricultural production and at the same time, unpredictable seasons can undermine farmers’ confidence and can exacerbate labor shortages within the sector. While farmers in the north of the country are accustomed to drought rather than flooding, most of them have not been able to harvest corn because their machinery cannot function on flooded land, where there is not enough infrastructure to do so. drain the water in time.
Seasonal droughts are expected to reduce yields of China’s three main foodstuffs, rice, wheat and corn, by 8 percent by 2030. In the long run, climate change will lead to rising sea levels along the lower east coast, increased pressure on the agricultural industry.
Rising sea levels in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam are causing more and more salt water to seep inland, through rivers and canals, destroying rice crops. According to the latest official reports, about 232 thousand hectares of land intended for rice cultivation have been affected by drought and salt water infiltration since mid-2016 until now. This problem poses a serious threat not only to domestic farmers but also to global food security, as Vietnam is the world’s most important rice exporter after India.
India, on the other hand, suffers from frequent disasters in the agricultural sector as a result of droughts, floods and rising sea levels. The heat wave, which set a record in India, cut production of this year’s wheat crop as the country planned to boost exports to make up for the shortfall in the global grain market as a result of the war in Ukraine. And in Ethiopia, where crops have dried up and more than a million cattle have died, 7.2 million people wake up hungry every day in the south and southeast of the country because of the worst drought in 40 years. Expected floods during the upcoming rainy season pose a threat to drought-affected communities, particularly as a result of diseases consuming more livestock.
The impact of climate change on food security manifests itself in different ways. The devastating fires that have repeatedly engulfed Australia in the past two years are responsible for destroying fields and pastures and have pushed prices for milk and other products like meat and honey to record levels. According to United Nations reports, extreme changes in weather and ocean conditions have reduced fishing in some tropical regions by 40 to 60 percent.
Food sustainability and emission reduction
While feeding the 8 billion people in the world is a matter of life and death, it has a huge cost to the environment and the global climate. Food production uses up to half of the Earth’s habitable land and food systems based on agricultural and animal production and related activities emit between 21 and 37 percent of global greenhouse gases from human activity.
Currently, there is not a single government in the world that has a serious plan in its national climate strategies to transform their food systems into sustainable and resilient to climate change. In the absence of this change, it will be impossible to maintain global warming within the 1.5 ° C target and prevent massive crop failures, with serious consequences for marginalized people whose role was limited in this crisis.
The latest IPCC report proposes a series of changes in agricultural and livestock production to effectively reduce emissions and ensure food sustainability. The report notes that semi-natural pastures in which ruminants graze can support biodiversity, and grazing on marginal soils and the use of plant residues and food waste provide edible food, with less demand for agricultural land.
Modifying land use patterns, such as agroforestry, interculture, organic inputs, cover crops, and rotational grazing, can reduce emissions, support adaptation to climate change, achieve food security, and protect livelihoods, biodiversity, and shared benefits. health.
The report calls for the diversification of food production systems, combining inputs from different cultures, livestock and fisheries to ensure people’s health and the planet’s safety. The report warns against intensifying food production leading to improved food security in the short term, but at the expense of the environment and biodiversity. Sustainable food system solutions, such as reducing food waste and reducing meat consumption, play an important role in achieving food security and mitigating climate change.
When considering the threats to the global food system, it becomes clear that food insecurity is a problem of global proportions and to a large extent is a man-made crisis, exacerbated by climate change, food habits, and national and international conflicts. To protect food security, resources must be mobilized for regions facing the greatest risks of hunger and malnutrition. It is important that countries do their part in diversifying food production, slowing global warming and adopting greener and more sustainable policies.