Poverty And The Economics Of Hunger

There’s no need for drought and famine when the world produces more than enough food and water to keep everyone alive.

Yet one person in eight – 12% of the population – goes to bed with hunger pangs every night.

Children are painfully thin, but in Europe and North America, thousands of tons of good food are thrown away each day.

A third of food is wasted

The economics of hunger work like this:

  • People living hand to mouth in a poor nation, typically in Africa, do not have any money to buy tools or seeds, so they cannot grow crops to feed themselves
  • A lack of food makes them too weak to provide for their families, which leaves them unable to earn the money they desperately need to feed their loved ones
  • Years of under nourishment stunts the growth of children and often leaves them unable to get a job, so they have no money and fall into poverty
  • Because they are poor, they cannot afford land or water, so they live hand to mouth and the terrible cycle is self-perpetuating

In developing countries corruption, poor infrastructure and hunger combine to stop people from cultivating land, which leaves them reliant on hand-outs.

Yet, according to the World Food Organisation, a United Nations agency, a third of food amounting to 1.3 billion tons a year is never eaten and goes to waste.

“Producing this food also uses up precious natural resources that we need to feed the planet. Each year, food that is produced but not eaten guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River,” said a WFO spokesman.

“Producing this food also adds 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, with consequences for the climate and, ultimately, for food production.”

Water’s not scarce but mismanaged

Meanwhile, researchers from the US university MIT found half the world’s population will live in places where water is scarce by 2050, even though 66% of the planet is covered in water and drinking does not diminish the supply.

Another set of researchers from the World Resources Institute argues drought is the result of bad water management rather than a lack of the liquid.