Food and development expert Raj Patel recently asked ‘Can the World Feed 10 Billion People?’. He argues that food production in the developing world must increase substantially to meet the demands of a growing world in which 1 billion people are already living without food.
As the food crisis in the Horn of Africa continues and global food prices rise, we look at the pressures of living in a world that is so rapidly expanding and ask another question- Do the numbers matter?
The world population is expected to hit 7 billion people in October of this year. If we took just one step for every person on the planet, that would be enough to walk around the entire circumference of the earth 168 times. If you took a step for every one of us, it would be enough to go to the moon and back five times – but what could it mean for global poverty?
Developing regions are growing faster than the rest of the world – and the vast majority of the global population currently lives in Asia and in Africa where population density is higher than elsewhere. Africa is also the fastest growing continent, whose population alone is expected to triple in the next 90 years.
For the world’s poorest people, population pressure dramatically affects access to food and resources. It increases vulnerability to shocks such as inflation and climate change. The world’s most marginalised communities also overwhelmingly live on the world’s most marginalised land. In Bangladesh it is possible to see these pressures first hand as low lying farmland literally falls into the sea or is washed away in annual floods- leaving large numbers of the people homeless and without food. Bangladesh has the highest population density in the world and is home to 2.3% of the world’s people.
There is not enough food… or space
Common arguments suggest that the world is not producing enough food to feed everyone. This is not true.
If we took current food stores, every person could eat up to 2,700 calories a day for the near future. What’s more, the entire population of the world could fit into a space no bigger than the city of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, food stores in the developed world are often repurposed, used for feeding animals or industry, or plain thrown away - while food production for the world’s poor hangs in the balance.
The World Bank suggests as much as 75% of the rise in food prices from 2002-2008 was due to the ever growing demand for biofuels made from maize and wheat, which are heavily subsidised in the US and Europe. Maize and wheat are also widely grown in the developing world – but these subsidies make it impossible for farms to compete in the global market. At the same time, prices for these products as food are often too expensive for the world’s poorest – adding to a cycle of poverty that can cause famine and food riots.
Space is not a problem, but poverty is
Failure to reduce poverty means that an increasing number of the population are born in countries where access to education, food, healthcare and human rights is low. What seems clear is that neither food nor space are the problem… but poverty is.
At the Global Poverty Project we believe that we can help end poverty within a generation- and our 1.4 Billion Reasons presentation proves it can be done.
In October the world population is expected to hit 7 billion people. That’s 7 billion people who can fight poverty and improve the world. That’s 7 billion reasons to look forward to our future.