Is there enough planet for all of us?
Recent events—drought, scrambles to invest in farmland around the world, shifts in energy prices, and shocks in energy supplies—underline the scarcity of resources we depend on to produce the world’s food supply. It is increasingly clear that sustainably feeding 9 billion people—the projected world population in 2050—who will consume at the rate of 12 billion people, if they follow the current consumption pattern of industrialized countries, will require a much more careful and integrated approach to the use of land, water, and energy than we currently apply.
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It is an absolute must that we start now to produce more food using fewer resources and to use the harvest more efficiently. But we also face the reality that decades of effort and rhetoric have so far failed to eradicate hunger. The 2012 Global Hunger Index, published jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Concern Worldwide, and Welthungerhilfe, shows that progress in reducing the proportion of hungry people in the world has been tragically slow.
According to the Index, hunger on a global scale remains “serious.” Twenty countries still have levels of hunger that are “alarming” or “extremely alarming.” Among the world’s regions, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa continue to have the highest levels of hunger. These results represent extreme suffering for millions of poor people.
This is the seventh year that IFPRI has calculated the Global Hunger Index and analyzed this multidimensional measure of global hunger. It is important to note that the GHI scores present country averages: even in countries classified as having “moderate” or “serious” hunger, there can be areas where the situation is “alarming” or “extremely alarming.” This report offers a picture not of the present, but of the recent past. The calculation of the GHI reflects the most recent data available from governments and international agencies, but these data suffer from significant time lags. Because up-to-the-minute data on global hunger are not available, the report does not reflect the impact of the latest events. We hope that governments and international agencies will work together to gather more timely and complete data on hunger in their countries and worldwide.
The 2012 GHI report focuses particularly on the issue of how to ensure sustainable food security under conditions of water, land, and energy stress. Demographic changes, rising incomes and associated consumption patterns, and climate change, alongside persistent poverty and inadequate policies and institutions, are all placing serious pressure on natural resources. In this report, IFPRI describes the evidence on land, water, and energy scarcity in developing countries and offers two visions of a future global food system—an unsustainable scenario in which current trends in resource use continue, and a sustainable scenario in which access to food, modern energy, and clean water improves significantly and ecosystem degradation is halted or reversed. Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe provide on-the-ground perspectives on the issues of land tenure and title as well as the impacts of scarce land, water, and energy on poor people in Sierra Leone and Tanzania and describe the work of their organizations in helping to alleviate these impacts.
Based on these research findings and experiences in the field, IFPRI, Concern Worldwide, and Welthungerhilfe propose holistic strategies for dealing with all four sectors—land, water, energy, and food. These strategies involve governing natural resources more responsibly, scaling up innovative solutions for using scarce resources, and addressing the factors that contribute to natural resource scarcity, including climate change. Such strategies will not emerge spontaneously; they must be expressly designed and implemented. All disciplines that can contribute must do so—from the water specialist to the energy expert, from researcher to practitioner, from farmer to policymaker, and from economist to nutritionist.
There is enough planet for all of us—if we don’t waste it.