“You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world.”
― Woodrow Wilson
It is universally acknowledged, the world over, that the basic necessities of human life are food, water and shelter. However, today food is more of a luxury to many on our planet; according to recent estimates, about one-third of the earth’s population is malnourished.
A recent United Nations report states that by 2050, Earth’s population is projected to reach 9.7 bn. In stark contrast, the 2018 Global Agricultural Productivity Report reveals that for the fifth straight year, agricultural productivity growth is not accelerating fast enough to sustainably meet the food, feed, fibre and fuel needs of the global population by 2050. This indicates a serious lapse between the resources at hand, and the population to be fed. This calls for an expeditious solution, which can systematically bridge this gap. This is where sustainable development comes into play. Food production has to be sustainable, so it won’t deplete the world’s resources.
A 2018 Food and Agriculture Organization study states that global shortages are unlikely, but serious problems do exist at national and local levels and may worsen unless focused efforts are made. Some of the foreseeable impacts of inaction could be farmers in low-income countries, that are also struggling with a rapidly rising population, will need more land and water to increase their output, straining a natural resource base already threatened by extreme weather and climate change. This would lead to an increase in food import despite insufficient income, which would, in turn, become a vicious poverty circle.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, however, as the role of each stakeholder is crucial in augmenting the supply side on one hand and propagating responsible consumption on the other.
Hence, many universal and life-altering solutions can be brought forth that encompass all aspects, sections of society including corporates, the common man as well as key industries. One of the potential solutions to manage production effectively would be thrust on agroforestry, a combination of agriculture and forestry having benefits of increased biodiversity and reduced erosion. The flexibility in the integration of trees, crops and/or livestock on the same plot of land can be leveraged for better yield while addressing carbon emissions. Water harvesting measures help storage and recycling of rainwater for irrigation and household requirements. This simple age-old technique can be replicated in drought-prone regions to increase water availability and additional crop cycles throughout the year. The issue of marginal farming needs to be addressed to increase income which would be an incentive to produce more and provide relief from debt traps.
Corporates also play a key role in spreading awareness among their workforce and can act as the ambassadors of change. Measures could be taken to reduce food waste in canteens and composting to avoid sending it to landfills. Opting for Fair Trade products throughout their value chain would provide impetus to farmer’s earnings and enable them to deal with volatile market prices. Further grassroots change is feasible through impact investing in social enterprises and Corporate Social Responsibility.
Even consumers can help assist sustainable development goals by practising and imbibing certain simple tasks into their daily lives. As a consumer, the easiest thing to do in our daily lives would be to reduce wastage actively by following certain guidelines. One-third of global food products making it to dumping grounds reflects a lot on how we respect food which finally makes it to our plate. Cook as much as you are likely to consume, buy as much as you need, being the simple mantra. Any amount of effort at the macro level could not match the scale, if the consumption demand is not controlled. There are chefs opting for no-waste cooking. The hospitality industry has been sending excess food to charitable organizations. NGOs have initiatives for collecting excess food and distributing among the needy. It might be a bit difficult to break the mental barrier about recycled food, but have you heard of wine made from bread? That might help change perspective!
A recent exhibition on food futurism in 2050++ has a profound take on this. It intricately elaborates on how today 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be apportioned to the cattle industry as half of everything we grow goes to feeding animals, which then accounts for meat production, too.
It gives us a peek into a green future, where it would be necessary to start using the fields primarily to produce food for humans. Milk-like beverages manufactured from plants will grow more popular as an alternative to cow’s milk — oat milk, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, pea milk, coconut milk, quinoa drink and hemp drink to name a few. Green products with a ‘meat feeling’ will be more common in grocery stores. It also forecasts that throwing away edible food in 2050 will be considered unthinkable, owing to the massive population and limited resources. With the advancement in research and innovation, most of what we today toss into the compost bin would probably end on our plates as new food instead.
Contrary to popular belief, each and every human on the planet can make a difference and contribute towards the efforts made to sustain food, an absolute necessity of life. This is an extremely critical and monumental agenda that cuts across all Sustainable Development Goals and can act as a true saviour for mankind in the years to come.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
Shipra Sharma heads Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at Larsen & Toubro Infotech, leading poverty alleviation programs in marginalized communities through better education, livelihood generation and women empowerment programs. Her role in leading Sustainability function involves creating strategies for low carbon business way of working and reporting as a responsible corporate citizen.
Thank you for reading the column. Please drop a line and help us do better.
The CSR Journal Team