Closing the Gap: Issues with Global Agriculture and the Need for Increased Funding
October 20, 2017
Globally, one in seven people are hungry. In Africa, one in four people are hungry, and populations are only continuing to climb exponentially. However, in the same place, farmers are only producing at 40% capacity. There are a multitude of issues in food storage, irrigation, and overall infrastructure that prevent these areas from reaching full potential. Post-production, around 30-50% of all food around the world is wasted. In developed countries, much of the loss resides in later portions of the supply chain in retail spoilage and consumer behavior. However, in developing countries, most of the food lost is at the post-harvest processing and transportation stages. These losses can be directly attributed to a lack of infrastructure and capital. Problems with storage and cooling facilities, miscommunications in transport lines, and technology constraints mean that an estimated 200 million tonnes of food wasted per year expires before it even has a chance to reach market. To put it into perspective, if we could save only a quarter of the food lost around the world, we could feed all 870 million hungry people on this earth.
For developed countries, knowing true expiration dates, buying less food in bulk and connecting networks of food banks to grocery stores can help to reduce food waste. But, for these developing countries, solutions are not so simple. In order to mitigate the squandering of these valuable resources, investments in the system must be made. Large investments in infrastructure are needed to bring stability and control to shipping channels and storage areas.
In addition, smaller, more consistent influxes of capital are also crucial to reduce hunger and poverty. One way of doing so is investing in farmers and their means of production in an effort to close the yield gap. The gap is a comparison of what could be produced with existing technology and methods vs. what actually is. In many parts of the world, agricultural land only produces around 50% of its potential. Much of this gap is due to inefficient uses of water and fertilizer, and a lack of stabilizing technology. By giving capital to farmers to be used for training, new equipment, and extra workers, the yield gap can begin to be closed. This is especially important given the fact that by 2050, 120 million more hectares will be converted to farmland in developing countries and 2 billion more people will be on the earth. Investing now and investing often is one of the best ways to try and close that gap, fight back against the increase of hunger, and avoid the utter chaos that comes with billions being hungry.
One of the reasons we invest a great deal in agricultural workers is because with an influx of capital, they can improve their storage systems, they can hire extra workers, and they can begin to derive the full bounty that the earth may provide. In return, they expand production. Yields increase. They begin to start making more money and can buy more goods for their business or their family, paying those in the community and allowing them to do the same. Increased ability to go to market and sell goods means that their food does not spoil waiting in limbo. Increased financial security means that their children may go to school instead of working and bring back more efficient methods of production. As the green revolution showed, when it comes to agriculture, knowledge is power, but this knowledge cannot come without investments in people and training.
However, all of this does require a great deal of coordination with local peoples and governments. It requires quite a lot of communication between those in the agricultural sector that already does not exist. Non-financial services through governments to promote agricultural developments need to be ramped up. Access to long-term financing needs to be widely available to all. There is no simple solution to the hunger problem and there never has been. But here, we are sure that the loans we make and the positive change our loanees create in their families and towns are steps, small though they may be, towards a healthier earth and a stronger global community.