The Developing World and Food Security; When Food Grows Indoors and Farms Float on the Seas

I used to be a big fan of Ben Bruce. I liked how dedicated he was to facts, the state of affairs, and how he often presented sensible views on said issues. He seemed like a good idea, a breath of fresh air compared with the current stock of people in public offices – especially the senate of which he was a part. I soon became disenchanted with him because he was an idealist and while he always seemed to know the right things to say or do, the world quite simply does not work that way. Politics more often requires that you play the game to change the game but Ben Bruce is not a “game player” fortunately and paradoxically unfortunately. However, following his undeniable reasoning that has brought him so much success as a businessman and a super-entrepreneur; I just want to make common sense.

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While food security in developed countries is an issue of utmost importance and a subject that is not trifled with, food security in developing countries is more or less th eopposite. Food security is a topic that hangs precariously on that balance between the moral responsibilities of a government tending to the basic necessities of her citizens and the straining helplessness of knowing that so much effort is being made but so little progress follows. A factor that makes it seem like governments of developing countries are more likely negligent towards this cause, choosing to rely on foreign aid and imports for food to a dangerous degree.

The importance of food security is even more enunciated now as the concerns over a changing climate continue to rise. As climate change takes its toll on freshwater resources and weather patterns (increased flooding, droughts, etc.) around the world, and more effort has to be made to protect and obtain freshwater – especially considering the fact that most freshwater resource (about 70%) is used in agricultural irrigation – the effects on food production and security in developing countries is exacerbated. In dealing with the impacts of climate change on food production for instance, it is safe to aver that the world has run out of time.

To emphasise the vulnerability of the lesser developed world to this global adversity, regarding food security, we can look towards projects like indoors (not to be mistaken with “greenhouses”) and floating farms that have been developed in countries like Japan, the US, Germany and China (who is still technically a developing country but seems to be forsaking that title as quickly as possible). Indoor farms for example have been shown to be more efficient in crop production, suffering less of the pest and diseases problems associated with regular farms and using less than 1% of the spatial and water requirement and a capacity of producing more than 20 tonnes of vegetables alone daily in the case of energy independent smart floating farms. While the developed world will continue to move in inspired directions like these in their adaptation to climate change, the developing can only standby in amazement and financial constraints. Growing scarcity of water might imply more hunger; higher food prices; increased dependency on aid and assistance for feeding; possibility of escalated political tensions and an even messier immigrations scene as more people become more desperate to find better standards of living.

However, climate change is not by any stretch the only threat to food security in the developing world. Using as an instance, Nigeria’s “Tomato Ebola Crisis” that shook the country between late 2015 and a large chunk of 2016, reflects the vulnerability of food production in the developing world to crop diseases. As an issue of food security, the situation as Nigeria encountered, typically showed a lack of planning and preparation due to these systems’ predisposition to reactive rather than proactive handling of these types of situations. Hence, while we do not expect emergencies to happen, it will be reckless of us not to be prepared for the times when the eventually do. It took Nigeria about 9 months to bring the Tomato Ebola situation under control because Nigerian Universities and agricultural research centres were grossly unprepared and more importantly un-funded for decisive action. This begs the question: while tomatoes are more or less peripheral and replaceable to the Nigerians’ diet, how grave would the situation be if cassava, rice or yams – the more popular staple food sources were affected?

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The causative factor for “ebola” in tomatoes; the larval stage of the moth Tuta absoluta which feeds on the tomato plants and berries

The final factor that might affect food security in the developing world would be market volatility for the countries that are dependent on food imports. Nigeria (again) imports around 3 million tonnes of rice annually; more than the 28 countries in the EU combined, while reductions in the prices of the imported food commodities might be welcomed by importing countries, what happens when the indicator swings the other way? Importation of food is unsustainable because even the cost of imports rise, if the citizens cannot afford them, they may drill holes in the pockets of governments in the form of subsidies that when not checked and balanced, spells out significant losses for their economies. A good example of this was seen between 2013 and 2014 and in 2016. The prices of rice were hiked globally owing to a series of natural disasters that rocked the South East Asian rice basin from where comes 90% of the world’s rice. This led to panic buying and countries having to stockpile huge volumes of rice in the possibility that the rice commercial chain took longer to recover than expected; a glaring testament to the fact that it is unreasonable to leave the fate of a country’s food security in another’s hands irrespective of what they stand to gain from it.

The arguments could continue for days but as said earlier: I just want to make common sense. Let this be a wake-up call; the world has run out of time and ensuring our survival in the future that lies ahead would hold very grave prospects if we continue to put off immediate action.

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