Feeding Eight Billion Well Isabel Black and Ashley Parker
“In April 2005, the World Food Program and the Chinese government jointly announced that food aid shipments to China would stop at the end of the year. For a country where a generation ago hundreds of millions of people were chronically hungry, this was a landmark achievement. Not only has China ended its dependence on food aid, but almost overnight it has become the world’s third largest food aid donor.”
Hunger is surfacing across Africa and the Indian sub-continent. • Number of people hungry in developing countries has increased from 800 million in 1996 to 830 million in 2003
After 1950, the world’s grain production increased threefold • Developing countries began harvesting high-yield grains like wheat and rice • Irrigation area tripled • 11-fold increase in fertilizer use
1950- 1990- world grain yield per hectare climbed 2.1% per year • 1990- 2007- world grain yield per hectare climbed 1.2% per year • This decline is a result of the diminishing response to fertilizer and the limited irrigation water supplies.
To combat this: • Breed crops that are more drought resistant • Raise land productivity
Drought resistant corn has enabled corn production in the United States to move West to states like Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. • Corn production has also increased in North Dakota and Minnesota as a result of new, cold resistant varieties.
One of the primary reasons the world grain harvest tripled after 1950 was the advent of multicropping. • Wheat & corn and wheat & rice are common combinations and have been used throughout China and India
In Northern China, winter wheat and corn are the most common double crops. • Their production together grew China’s grain production to nearly the size of that of the United States’. • In India, wheat and rice are being double cropped. While this tactic helps enormously, it’s only effective where the soil is moist enough to support two crops a year
Double cropping has not been used to its fullest extent in North America and Western Europe because restrictions were placed on crops to control surpluses. • Restrictions were lifted in 1996 and today winter wheat and soybeans are the most common double crops. • Soybeans fix nitrogen, which reduces the need for fertilizer for the wheat.
Double cropping would be successful in both North America and Western Europe • The latitude and climate in the US and China are so similar that if the multicrops were a success in China, they would be in the US also. • Western Europe has mild winters and a typically high yield in its winter wheat so a summer crop like corn would double the region’s production
The productivity of double cropping could be hindered by the increasing ineffectiveness of fertilizer. • In the United States, Western Europe and Japan, the levels of fertilizer use have reached a point where it is no longer effective. • But elsewhere, primarily Africa, fertilizer would dramatically boost crop yields
The infrastructure in many countries in Africa is too weak to support the delivery and implementation of fertilizer. • Militia groups, sometimes the government, intercept the fertilizer shipments. • Farmers who do receive shipments often don’t know how to properly use the fertilizer.
One solution to this problem is the leguminous trees that many farmers plant with their crops. • When the grain is first planted, the trees grow slowly, which enables the grain to mature. • Then they grow more quickly and drop leaves on the crops, providing nitrogen and organic matter to the depleted soil. • When the trees are grown, the wood is cut and used for fuel.
In China, productivity was increased by allowing farmers to secure ownership of their land. • Previously, farmers were given 30-year leases, but their land could be seized at any time. • Today, a Rural Development Institute survey found that farmers with land rights were twice as likely to make long term investments in their land.
Raising Water Productivity • 1,000 tons of water to produce 1 ton of grain • 70% of water use is devoted to irrigation • Surface water projects show water never reaches 100% of crops. • Postel and Vickers found efficiency ranges between 25-40% in India, Mexico, Pakistan, Thailand and 50-60% in Israel Japan and Taiwan. Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River, India
Drip Cuts water use in half Labor intensive Used on 4% of land in the United States, 1-3% of land in China Pay for themselves in a year Low-pressure sprinkler Switching from flood or furrow to low-pressure systems reduces water use by 30%. Disadvantages: water evaporation Drip vs. Low-pressure sprinkler systems
Water users Associations • Moving responsibility from government to locals can facilitate more efficient use of water • Mexico’s the leader in water users associations • 2002: Farmer associations managed >80% of irrigation system • Tunisia: 340 in 1987 to 2,575 in 1999
Producing Protein More Efficiently 37% of grain harvest is used to produce animal protein • Shift from beef and pork to poultry and fish • Beef: growth of less than 1% from 1990-2006 • Pork: 2.6% growth • Poultry: 5% growth • Fish: 9% growth • China’s aquaculture integrated with agriculture
Conclusion • Shift to more water-efficient crops and multicropping • Convert grain into animal protein more efficiently (37%) • Moving down the food chain • United States: cut grain use by 30 million tons and irrigation water by 30 billion tons. • Principal threat: Climate change