Strategies to increase food security

As the global population continues to increase, countries are finding ways to grow more food.

Irrigation

Irrigation can double the amount of food produced. Some parts of the world still do not have irrigation systems in place. Only 10% of the food produced in Africa comes from irrigated crops and so there is the potential to improve yields in these countries.

Over 40% of the land in the Middle East and South America is equipped for irrigation. Very little land is equipped for irrigation in Russia, northern Europe, Canada, southern Africa and Australia.

Aeroponics and hydroponics

Aeroponics and hydroponics are systems that allow plants to be grown without soil. Plants grown in this way take in water and nutrients efficiently. These methods are also good for countries where soil erosion or poor quality soil is an issue. However, they can be costly.

  • Aeroponics involves suspending plants in the air and spraying their roots with a fine mist of water and nutrients.
  • Hydroponics involves growing plants in a porous material (other than soil) and allowing water containing nutrients to filter through it.
A hydroponic system growing salad crops
A hydroponic system growing salad crops

The New Green Revolution

The Green Revolution first began in the 1940s. It refers to the application of modern farming techniques in low income developing countries (LIDCs), eg fertilisers and pesticides, irrigation and high-yield crop varieties.

From the 1960s to 1990s, yields of rice and wheat in Asia doubled, but also produced economic and social problems for small-scale farmers.

Many LIDCs could still benefit from the Green Revolution.

The Blue Revolution

The Blue Revolution refers to using the fruits of the sea, lakes and rivers to provide food and nutrition. Fish are a very good source of protein and do not require good soil.

However, fish stocks must be managed sustainably or numbers will fall to unsustainable levels and the resource will be gone, negatively affecting people and the aquatic environment.

Biotechnology and appropriate technology

Biotechnology is the selective breeding or genetic modification (GM) of plants and animals to produce specific features and adaptations. Both involve mixing two species, both of which have beneficial characteristics. For example, selective breeding has been used on dairy cows to increase milk yields. GM has been used on wheat to produce crops that are disease resistant.

Appropriate technology involves using suitable machinery and sustainable techniques in LIDCs. Appropriate technology is usually affordable and easy to use - it can improve yields for many communities.

A hand-operated nut-shelling machine, used to shell nuts, is an example of appropriate technology. It is affordable, easy to use, fast and simple to maintain. It saves time and effort and is vital to the nut farming economy in parts of Africa. Farmers can now afford to shell their own dried crops and this adds value to the product when they sell it.