The Key to Food Security: Effective Research and Development
The world’s population is expected to reach approximately 10 billion by 2050. To feed this large population, world food production must more than double, food quality and safety must be improved and post-harvest losses must be significantly reduced. That will not be easy, especially with today’s global challenges, including climate change — expected to slow the growth of food production by two percent each decade — changing consumer demands, instability and conflict, etc. Effective research and development (R&D) is the key to achieving the above goals.
Unfortunately, there is limited public agriculture research funding in many countries. For example, in the U.S., agricultural research has decreased from about 40 percent of the research that the government undertook in the 1950s to less than four perecent now — for example, the 2014 Farm Bill’s budget contains about 0.2 percent for R&D. On the bright side, however, public research funding has significantly increased in some developing countries, including India, Brazil and China, which became the world’s biggest investor in public agricultural R&D in 2008 and has doubled U.S. agricultural research spending since 2013. The food system is global; thus, developed and developing countries alike must increase their R&D funding to be able to respond rapidly to emerging challenges to sustainably reducing hunger, extreme poverty and malnutrition.
Effective R&D agendas should be developed and carried out by international experts from all scientific disciplines, including agricultural production (staple crops, horticulture, livestock, fisheries, etc.), nutrition, food processing, food quality and safety, health (human, animal and plant), environment, pest, water, data, resilience, etc. Enabling environments — including policy, gender, youth, finance, HICD, etc. — must be taken into account as well. An effective agenda must be country-led and demand-driven to produce adaptable, scalable and affordable technologies and practices.
Donors and international organizations — including USAID, World Bank Group, WHO, FAO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CGIAR, FFAR, host countries’ research intuitions, etc. — should collaborate, as we can accomplish more when we act together than when we act alone.