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Food Insecurity and New Technologies

Updated October 13, 2020
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Food Insecurity and New Technologies essay

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Introduction

Global food security is the availability of food for all individuals. A nation is considered food secure when all the citizens of the country have access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food that helps them to maintain a healthy and quality life (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020). In ensuring global food security, different countries need to develop food systems that will ensure that everyone has access to safe and sufficient food regardless of his/her physical location.

The government plays a key role in determining areas and populations affected by food scarcity and providing them with access to adequate food (Smyth, Kerr, Phillips, & C.A.B. International, 2019). Even though developed countries may provide food to be distributed to developing countries to address food scarcity, some governments have been criticized for limiting access to nutritious food to certain groups as contributing to the food insecurity across the world (United States Department of Agriculture, 2020).

One of the countries affected by this issue is Uganda in East Africa. About 90% of Uganda’s population is food secure with the population being able to produce their food products as well as access other food products from the food market (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2020).

One of the positive aspects regarding food access in Uganda is affordable food prices that enable majority of individuals to access this important resource. Most individuals in Uganda can afford three meals in a day consisting of a diverse diet. However, the remaining 10% of Uganda’s population is food insecure with majority of groups scattered in Acholi, Teso, and Karamoja regions (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2020). One of the causes of food insecurity in these regions is poor rainfall performance that negatively affects the amount of harvest in these regions. Rainfall is important in enabling farmers to have a bumper harvest that provides them with adequate food supplies during the dry period.

Another cause of food insecurity in these regions is the poor government distribution of food where the government distributes food to certain populations neglecting others (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2020).

This may be attributed to political factors where community leaders prefer to provide certain communities with access to food in a bid to increase their votes during the voting period. Another cause of food insecurity in these regions is heavy rainfall such as the El Nino rains that cause flooding and sweep plants and crops where these populations experience a below normal harvest (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2020). Food insecurity in these regions can be addressed by creating awareness on the importance of food security and integrating technologies that reduce hunger and improve food security.

Background

Food insecurity is the state where individuals have no reliable access to safe, sufficient, affordable, and nutritious food that affects the quality of life of the affected individuals. Food is important to individuals as it directly influences health outcomes of individuals in diverse ways (Schroeder & Smaldone, 2015). This means that for people to stay healthy, active, and happy, they need an adequate amount of food on daily basis. There four components of food insecurity include food availability, food access, food utilization, and food stability.

Food availability is the access of adequate nutritious food of high quality. Food availability can be affected by food production, food distribution, and food exchange (Schroeder & Smaldone, 2015). The second component of food insecurity is food access that involves the ability to acquire sufficient and nutritious food.

Access to food can be affected by food prices, allocation, and preference based on an individual’s religious, social, or cultural norms. The third component of food insecurity is food utilization which involves how individuals eat and metabolize food (Schroeder & Smaldone, 2015). This may be affected by the nutritional value of the food, the health status of individuals, food safety, and the preparation process.

The last component that is used to determine food insecurity is food stability which is the availability and accessibility of food to people who can utilize it effectively. Food instability may lead to malnutrition and food insecurity (Smyth et al., 2019). Population growth may also lead to food insecurity due to the increased demand for food. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that by 2050, population growth will have doubled the demand for food across the globe.

Due to land and water constraints, underinvestment in agricultural infrastructure, trade policies, and climate change in Uganda, this affects adequate food production to address the increasing demand for food products (World Food Program, 2020). An increased population will also lead to increased poverty that makes it difficult for individuals to afford food due to the high prices attributed to the lack of sufficient agricultural land, increasing fertilizer prices, and challenges in getting loans for small-scale farmers.

These challenges also discourage farmers to continue with farming activities where most of them turn into other ways of generating income further worsening the food insecurity situation (World Food Program, 2020). Uganda’s population is expected to double by the year 2025 to reach about 60 million which is calculated using the current fertility rate of seven.

Technologies That Can Reduce Hunger and Improve Food Security

Different countries will require different types of technology based on the available resources, infrastructure, climate, and governance. Developed countries may have different technologies compared to developing countries (World Economic Forum, 2018). Some of the common areas to integrate technology in Uganda to achieve food security include soil and water management, pest/weed control, farm management, harvesting and conservation techniques, and seed production.

Storage and processing technologies will help Uganda to hasten this process preventing spoilage of food products (World Economic Forum, 2018). This will minimize food losses through effective harvesting and post-harvest practices. Technology can be used to enhance food security in various forms that will help to close the gap between demand and supply.

This can be achieved by integrating technology in agriculture where farmers can adopt technologically advanced practices to boost their yields up to 60% (Osabohien, Osabuohien, & Urhie, 2018). Technology has also enabled the development of more efficient farming systems that allow an optimal use of the available land and water to increase food production. Agricultural research allows famers to research crop genetics that enables them to better understand crops (Osabohien, Osabuohien, & Urhie, 2018).

This allows for improvements in the maturity of crops such as reducing the length of the growth cycle and improving their crops such that they can withstand harsh conditions. Genetically Modified food has an extended shelf life which means that farmers can store and use this food during the dry season.

Research in agriculture can help to boost the nutritional content of different foods (Tian, Bryksa, & Yada, 2016). Due to the controversial criticisms facing Genetically Modified food, research can also further on addressing any concerns relating to these foods that may endanger the health and lives of consumers. This technology can be used to address the increasing demand for foods through increased production to ensure that there is adequate and highly nutritious food (Tian, Bryksa, & Yada, 2016). It can also be used to provide basic and extra food choices by improving crop varieties which will prevent unhealthy diets that lead to health issues such as diabetes and obesity.

Specific Factors in Chosen Developing Country

Although there is food availability in other regions of Uganda, populations in some areas are unable to access the food for various reasons. Some of the factors that contribute to this include low levels of income, cultural food preferences, inadequate nutritional awareness, poor storage, food wastage during the high harvest seasons, and poor food preparation practices (Uchendu & Abolarin, 2015).

One of the factors that interrupt the flow of food form the source to the people in Uganda is political factors where leaders will choose to distribute food to places of their interest with the aim of increasing votes during the political season. Leaders are in control of their respective regions and may refuse to distribute relief food to areas where they had few votes.

The government may also limit access to nutritious food to certain groups for various reasons (Uchendu & Abolarin, 2015). In a report from the guardian article, information reveals that trucks are loaded at Kampala which is the capital city of Uganda. However, these trucks do not reach their target destination. These trucks were seen being offloaded in undesignated areas with the reason being that these areas do not support the government (Uchendu & Abolarin, 2015).

There is also a poor partnership between NGOs, humanitarian agencies, and the government that are responsible for collecting information and helping in food distribution in affected areas. This leaves these organizations with limited resources to transport food products to affected regions (World Food Program, 2020).

There is also poor coordination among government ministries that may be attributed to a weak leadership structure. This increases operation costs and poor implementation of food initiatives and programs. Due to the distance from the point of distribution to the affected regions, there is a high cost of transporting food products to these regions (World Food Program, 2020). This may be attributed to the long distance between the two points as well as a poor road network that makes transport a challenge during rainy seasons.

Uganda is not politically stable with political unrests being common within the country. Due to this, relief food may be hijacked and stolen on its way to the affected regions which is then sold for financial gain (World Food Program, 2020).

Conclusion

Food security is important for any country due to its impact on economical development and health status. One of the major contributing factors to food insecurity across the globe is increasing population that translates to increased demand for food products (Ferranti, Berry, & Anderson, 2019).

Other factors that contribute to food insecurity are climate change, a decrease in agricultural land due to urbanization, and culture that affects a person’s food preferences, food preparation, eating patterns, and food intake. Sub-Saharan Africa has been identified as one of the places with the lowest agricultural productivity in the world with most countries having a large number of undernourished people and people living in poverty (Ferranti, Berry, & Anderson, 2019).

Limited land is attributed to the increasing urbanization that converts most of the land to towns and cities minimizing agricultural production. Different countries that have food insecurity need to step up food production to ensure food security for all members (Ashley, 2016). One of these ways includes integrating technology in food production that helps to increase food productivity and provide individuals with a wide variety of food products.

Farmers can be trained on the use of advanced machinery in their farms to plant, cultivate, and harvest minimizing on the costs that are incurred using traditional practices (Ashley, 2016). The use of evidence-based practices will enable farmers to better manage their farms leading to high yields. This will encourage farmers to join the farming profession increasing food production within the country.

References

  1. Ashley, J. M. (2016). Food Security in the Developing World. San Diego, CA, USA: Elsevier Science.
  2. Ferranti, P., Berry, E. M., & Anderson, J. R. (2019). Encyclopedia of food security and sustainability. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2020). FAO in Uganda. Uganda at a glance. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/uganda/fao-in-uganda/uganda-at-a-glance/en/
  4. Osabohien, R., Osabuohien, E., & Urhie, E. (2018). Food Security, Institutional Framework and Technology: Examining the Nexus in Nigeria Using ARDL Approach. Current Nutrition and Food Science, 14(2), 154–163. https://doi.org/10.2174/1573401313666170525133853
  5. Schroeder, K., & Smaldone, A. (2015). Food Insecurity: A Concept Analysis. Nursing forum, 50(4), 274–284. https://doi.org/10.1111/nuf.12118
  6. Smyth, S., Kerr, W. A., Phillips, P. W. B., & C.A.B. International. (2019). GM agriculture and food security: Fears and facts. Oxfordshire, UK; Boston, MA: CABI.
  7. Tian, J., Bryksa, B. C., & Yada, R. Y. (2016) Feeding the world into the future – food and nutrition security: the role of food science and technology. Frontiers in Life Science, 9(3), 155-166, DOI: 10.1080/21553769.2016.1174958
  8. Uchendu, F. N., & Abolarin, T. O. (2015). Corrupt practices negatively influenced food security and live expectancy in developing countries. The Pan African medical journal, 20, 110. https://doi.org/10.11604/pamj.2015.20.110.5311
  9. United States Department of Agriculture. 2020. Global Food Security. Importance of Global Food Security. Retrieved from https://nifa.usda.gov/topic/global-food-security
  10. World Economic Forum. (2018). How new technology could help to strengthen global food security. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/03/food-security-s-social-network
  11. World Food Program. (2020). Uganda. Retrieved from https://www.wfp.org/countries/uganda
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