The United Kingdom advocates for technological solutions to address worldwide hunger, while some argue that inequality is the root cause.
According to British officials, advancements in food production have the potential to reduce hunger for millions of individuals. This was discussed at a global summit on food insecurity on Monday. However, some critics argue that the emphasis on technology overlooks the increasing wealth disparity.
The gathering was a collaborative effort among the United Kingdom, Somalia, the United Arab Emirates, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its goal was to enhance food security through advancements in science and innovation.
The British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, stated that addressing hunger should be a top priority.
Rishi Sunak, speaking in London, expressed disbelief that in 2023, nearly one billion people worldwide still struggle with food insecurity. He also noted that millions are affected by hunger and over 45 million young children suffer from severe malnutrition. In a world of plenty, Sunak believes that no one should perish due to lack of food and no parent should have to witness their child go hungry.
He described the UK’s proposal to establish a digital center for advancement in food production, named CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), with the goal of increasing the resilience of global food systems in response to potential disruptions caused by climate change.
According to Sunak, we have already made progress in developing crops that can withstand drought and have higher vitamin content, which are now providing sustenance for 100 million individuals in Africa. In addition, we are taking it a step further by establishing a new U.K. CGIAR science center that will lead groundbreaking research on flood-resistant rice, wheat that is resilient to diseases, and other advancements. These innovations will not only benefit millions in the most impoverished nations, but also enhance crop productivity and lower food costs in the U.K.
The summit also heard from Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who reported that their stabilization program, created in collaboration with Britain, was making progress in addressing the humanitarian crisis in his country.
Somalia is among the countries worst-hit by climate change and food insecurity. The government recently declared a state of emergency after 113,000 people were forced to flee their homes following extreme rainfall and extensive flooding, which also caused widespread damage to crops and farmland. The floods come a year after Somalia suffered its worst drought in 40 years.
Could advanced technology be the solution to ending food insecurity worldwide, such as what is experienced in Somalia and other developing countries? According to food security expert Steve Wiggins from the ODI development think tank, it is one possible solution.
“The core causes of worldwide food insecurity stem from poverty, exclusion, and individuals facing extreme vulnerability. These are the underlying factors of hunger and our focus should be directed towards addressing them,” he stated in an interview with VOA.
Wiggins stated that there have been technical advancements that have brought us great satisfaction and have made tasks more manageable. He specifically mentioned the use of solar-powered irrigation in Mali as an example. This technology has made it easier and more cost-effective to pump water onto fields, eliminating the need for expensive diesel fuel.
Critics argue that prioritizing technology overlooks the primary cause of food insecurity.
Nick Nisbett from the Institute of Development Studies expressed his appreciation for the summit. He believes that some of the proposed solutions are beneficial. However, he also acknowledges that these efforts may not be sufficient in addressing the long-standing issue of hunger that has plagued us for decades and appears to be worsening despite our efforts.
“Commonly, technological advancements prioritize addressing supply-related issues, such as developing new technology for agriculture and supply chains. However, our true goal should be addressing the underlying inequalities that contribute to food insecurity.”
According to Nisbett, the easiest solution would be to provide individuals with food or give them the funds to buy food from the markets themselves.