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World food expert: Population presents challengesTell North Platte what you think
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Young boy in Kuthri, Kenya. The population of Africa will grow the fastest, analysts say.

World population is expected to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050. Africa will be home to a 2 billion increase, the fastest rate of increase in the world.

As world population increases, so does the demand to feed the hungry.

Catherine Bertini, 2003 World Food Prize Laureate, spoke Nov. 15 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on “Where America Must Lead: Ensuring the World Can Feed Its People.”

Bertini is the co-chair of the Global Agricultural Development Initiative at The Chicago Council of Global Affairs.

She has “tremendous expertise in feeding people and avoiding starvation in times of famine, war, natural disasters and other catastrophes,” said Ronnie Green, vice chancellor for NU’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

To keep up with the growth, food production will need to increase by 60 percent, Bertini said.

But price volatility, especially in war-torn countries, makes it hard to plant and sell crops.

“We have to think -- where are markets going to be in the future and we have to think about where people are going to be,” Bertini said. She noted that 1.3 billion people live in poverty, on less than $1.25 a day.

As one of the nation’s top food producers, Nebraska farmers are expected to be major contributors to relief.

With only 12 percent of the world’s arable land remaining, Bertini said spreading farther out is not an option. Instead, major steps toward increased production are the only way to meet future food security pressures.

“Agriculture productivity is 2-4 times more effective than any other productivity in alleviating poverty,” Bertini said.

Among the productivity enhancements Bertini discussed was technology, such as advancements in irrigation.

In Africa, only 6 percent of the continent’s arable land is irrigated, compared to 37 percent in Asia.

She said that despite its toils, some of Africa is starting to see increases in output, specifically Angola after the end of its civil war.

Bertini also addressed the cultural gender gap.

“When the income comes into the household through the woman,” Bertini explained, “it’s much more likely to go to the betterment of the family rather than if it comes through the man.”

But because women do not have the same rights as men in most of Africa, they have less access to the farm necessities such as grain and monetary loans, despite comprising 43 percent of the workforce. Bertini said if women were granted these opportunities, the number of impoverished from 100 million and 150 million people would leave poverty.

The United States is part of a $22 billion hunger-relief initiative by G8 countries. Bipartisan efforts like the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act have been implemented, but Bertini said food relief is currently low on the U.S. agenda.

“In John Kennedy’s time, he said his vision was to put a man on the moon,” Bertini said. “Our vision could be to end world hunger in our lifetime.”

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 11/19/2012
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