26-28 August 2014
Dr Laurent Zessler
Food security and population growth: are they connected?
Official United Nations population estimates and projections highlight that the world will have almost one billion more people within the next twelve years, reaching 8.1 billion in 2025; this is expected to further increase to 9.6 billion in 2050 and 10.9 billion by 2100. This is on the assumption that fertility rates will decline. One in seven people in the world is chronically hungry. A response to food security has to be considerate of the significant youth population, an ageing population and the impact of climate change. Food insecurity is at its highest levels in countries with high fertility rate; in the Pacific context, while adolescent fertility rates have declined in most Pacific countries, some rates are still above 50. Against the backdrop of population growth, food security (like poverty reduction & employment creation) requires increased economic output to provide for the needed increased agricultural output by 70% to feed the 9 billion people expected by 2050. Nothing short of an effective holistic approach will ensure a balance between population dynamics and food security. Dignity in human rights and non-discrimination for all, universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights and services including international investment in family planning and strong global and national leadership are critical components to our regional and international response. While addressing gender equity, social development and ensuring private sector participation are all important, most critical will be the empowerment of women who will play a key role in lessening food insecurity.
Population and Food Security: Key Trends and Changing Dynamics
One of the turning points in the development world occurred during the 1994 International Conference on Development and Population (ICPD) in Egypt which marked the fundamental shift away from the numerical aspect of considering population and development dynamics to a human-rights approach. A consensus in its Programme of Action provided that: “The relationship of population to development is so intertwined with issue of poverty, patterns of production and consumption, and inequality, that none can be fruitfully addressed in isolation.” Twenty years on, a lot has been achieved, emphasizing however a lot more needs to be done. Developing countries population bases are projected to rise from 5.9 billion in 2013 to 8.2 billion in 2050 and 9.6 billion in 2100. Growth is expected to be particularly dramatic in the least developed countries of the world – from 898 million in 2013 to 1.8 billion by 2050 and 2.9 billion in 2100. Youth and children population now in least developed countries are at an all-time high: 1.7 billion children and 1.1 billion young people. Globally, population aged 60 or over is the fastest growing cohort: developed regions’ increasing at 1.0 per cent annually (before 2050) While less developed regions’ 60 or over-60 cohort are increasing at the fastest pace ever. Respecting fundamental human rights in framing policy interventions that understand the role of sexual and reproductive health and rights in policy and programming will be critical to responding to shifts in population dynamics. People must be in the centre of our collective response to the changing dynamics and key trends presently experienced globally, in particular countries with urgent food security issues.