Population growth an impediment to food security
As World Food Day (Sunday 16 October) approaches, Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) has warned that continuing population growth in many regions is making it harder to deliver sufficient safe, nutritious food to all people.
SPA notes that those countries currently experiencing food insecurity, made even worse this year by extreme weather events and the war in Ukraine, tend to have high population growth rates.
SPA national president Ms Jenny Goldie says Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen are the countries with the highest levels of hunger.
“According to the UN Population Fund, these countries have population growth rates between 2.1 and 2.5%,” says Ms Goldie. “The population in Nigeria, for instance, doubles every 28 years.
“These rates are unsustainable at the best of times but, in 2022, floods and heatwaves have reduced crop yields across the northern hemisphere. The war in Ukraine has meant crops are not being planted and grain has not been exported at sufficient rates to stave off hunger in importing countries.
“In Pakistan, much of the country is still underwater. The country is normally self-sufficient in food, but it has lost almost 15 per cent of its rice crop in the floods, and destroyed many farming families’ grain reserves.
“Pakistan endured another massive flood in 2010. In the intervening years, according to the UN, the country’s population grew from 184 million to nearly 230 million people. How much harder will it be to find food with so many extra people?”
Ms Goldie says the heatwave and drought that affected Britain this norther summer has meant that harvests of crops, including potatoes, onions, sugar beet, apples and hops, fell by between 10 and 50%.
“It’s not just yields. Supply chains can be affected by extreme weather. In Australia, for instance, in January and February this year much of central and northern Australia experienced food shortages as widespread flooding cut road and rail links from the south. Food had to be airlifted to the town of Coober Pedy and, for a while, supermarket shelves remained bare across the Northern Territory.
“Unfortunately, because of climate change, these extreme weather events appear to be the new normal,” says Ms Goldie. “There is no guarantee the world will be able to feed eight billion people, let alone another projected two billion by the end of the century.”
“We simply have to end population growth everywhere so that all people can be fed.”