Hunger is exclusion – exclusion from the land, from income, jobs, wages, life, and citizenship. When a person gets to the point of not having anything to eat, it is because all the rest has been denied. This is a modern form of exile. It is death in life…
Josue de Castro
This is how Josue de Castro explains the food insecurity of this world! There are three things, around which the life of a person revolves i.e. food firstly, then shelter and clothes. That’s the way agriculture is defined too; to provide the people with food to eat, a roof to live and clothes to wear.
However, the world is moving towards a highly dramatic situation of food insecurity. That’s because the agriculture sector isn’t functioning well due to many reasons. Low crop and livestock productivity, increased costs of fertilizers and seeds, varied land-use patterns due to desertification, soil salinization, and climatic changes are impacting the food availability and prices, pushing millions of people below the poverty line. But food security can be enhanced only by focusing on the agriculture office from every angle.
Challenges to food security:
Food security is defined as increasing agricultural productivity or food granting people easy access. This definition gives two points; production/availability or accessibility. However, access will only be possible when there is enough food production. Agricultural productivity or food availability can fall more if the following challenges persist this way.
According to FAO, the world population is consistently increasing. It is estimated that the world population is expected to grow to 10 billion by 2050 boosting agriculture demand. Moreover, by the year 2100, out of 11 billion of the total world population, 9 billion will live in Asia and Africa (Source: FAO). In this way, Africa and Asia are at greater risk of food insecurity including Pakistan. Satisfying food security by 2050 demands rapid advances in agricultural productivity and competitiveness.
Capital-intensive agricultural assets:
Small-scale farmers and landlords are the first to lose out and seek employment more willingly outside agriculture. It is happening because of the capital-intensive input provisioning for agriculture. It is leading towards the feminization of farming in different countries.
Natural disasters, conflicts, and crises:
Natural disasters, conflicts, and crises like covid-19 seriously reduce food availability pushing many people back into hunger and poverty. For example, in Pakistan by 2010, 70% of farmers lost more than half of their incomes because of floods (ADB, Government of Pakistan and World Bank, 2010). According to FAOSTAT, the ratio of undernourished people in low-income countries with crises is between 2.5 to 3.0 times higher than in other poor countries.
Water scarcity is the main threat to agricultural productivity. It is reported that by the next few years some African countries may experience farm harvests drop by 50% because of water shortage. Moreover, It was reported that because of climatic change, between 75 and 250 million people would go through the extreme situation of increased water stress.
Disease and Pests:
Plants diseases and pests destroy the crop and ultimately reduce the crop yield. This also poses a challenge to food security by destroying the agriculture sector. For example, tsetse fly transmits a disease named Trypanosoma and infects some 60 million people and result in 3 million deaths in cattle every year, and costs about $4.75 billion to the agriculture sector in sub-Saharan Africa.
How better crops, improved land and water management can lead to more food secure world?
The use of lands and healthy soils efficiently is very important for food security. Moreover, integrated land and water management practices enhance agricultural production, soil productivity, and its capability to resist desertification and climate change. If the developing countries desire to get advantages from the improved crop varieties and better soil fertility practices, then sustainable fertilizer and soil-water management are essential.
1. Enhancing Crop varieties:
Several poor or developing countries are on the alert of water scarcity. As a result, they are suffering from drought, limited resources for irrigation, and high levels of soil salinity. These water constraints are further aggravated by climate change and varying wind patterns.
However, by using nuclear techniques one can develop such crop varieties which are highly adaptable to such challenges. Varieties with enhanced characteristics e.g. high-yield and adaptation can be formed such as resilient to fluctuating high and low temperatures, pests or diseases, saline soil, and droughts.
2. Decreasing soil erosion:
Soil is the base of agriculture. Climatic change is causing heavy soil erosion or degradation due to heavy rainfall patterns. Soil erosion is the main threat to agricultural productivity, food security, and environmental sustainability.
Soil erosion occurs naturally because of winds and rain but accelerated soil erosion – the eradication of soil much faster than its formation – results from poor soil, water, and cultivation practices. Soil erosion and land degradation problems can be studied by techniques like Radionuclide and stable isotopic techniques. Furthermore, Countries can also use “Nuclear technology” to assess and improve their soil and water management practices.
3. Balancing the fertilizer and water usage:
While applying fertilizers, optimization or balance of fertilizers and water, for both is very important. it is because excessive or poor use of water and fertilizer can adversely affect agricultural production. Moreover, It can harm the environment and pollute the water supply.
To know the soil’s need for fertilizers, environment-friendly tracer elements can be used to track the optimal placement and timing of fertilizers and water. This will help the farmer to identify crop residue management practices and nitrogen requirements of the soil within a given cropping rotation.
In light of the above discussion, agriculture and food security are closely related. Downfall in agriculture can lead to a severely food insecure world. To stop this from happening, it is necessary to enhance crop varieties, reduce soil erosion and optimize fertilizer and water usage to enhance agricultural productivity.