The past decades saw millions in Africa suffering from hunger and malnourishment. The coming four decades could see millions more around the world suffering a similar plight.

The United Nations predicted that there may be widespread hunger by 2050 if mitigation efforts and preventive measures against current global food security threats are not put into place.

Strong income growth, urbanization and the rapid growth of the world's population could double the demand for food, fiber and feed in the coming years, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf told a high-level dialogue on global hunger in Rome. He said additional agricultural investments may ensure there is enough food to feed the world in 2050, when global population is expected to reach approximately 9.2 billion.

But the U.N. official acknowledged that increased food production itself is not the answer to the looming food security concern.

The bigger challenge is to increase production in countries where the demand for food would be highest. It is also not much an issue of using more land for food production as it is of improving cropping intensity and yield.

The world also has climate change effects to contend with. FAO estimated that climate change effects could reduce Africa's potential agricultural output by 30 percent and that of Asia by up to 21 percent.

The strong typhoons that struck several Southeast Asian countries recently gave a sneak peek at how plausible climate change effects such as higher temperatures, greater rainfall variability and more frequent extreme weather events could leave world food security on shaky grounds. In the Philippines and Vietnam, typhoons have damaged billion dollars worth of crops and agricultural infrastructure. Torrential rains and subsequent floods also rendered several hundred thousand hectares of farmland unusable.

Similarly, the multiyear drought in East Africa has affected crops and livestock to such an alarming degree that left millions of people with inadequate food and water supply.

World Food Day this year would be observed Oct. 16 under the banner "Achieving Food Security in Times of Crisis." It is guided by the goal to help eradicate current food security problems in Africa and around the world. 

A month later, the World Summit on Food Security will take place in Rome and is expected to pursue further discussions of the current and future problems plaguing global food security. The world would wait if this summit would produce solutions to ensure that there is food on everyone's table in the next 40 years.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.