The study conducted under the leadership of Dr Joachim von Braun, director-general of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) says the world food situation has come to major crossroads. Fifty years from now, one child in four could be suffering from chronic hunger, or it could drop to one child in ten. The outcome depends on decisions made now and in the next few years.
IFPRI is one of the 16 future harvest centres of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research that guides national governments in formulation of food policy.
Under an optimistic scenario, the study projects that 38 million children will be malnourished in 2050, down from the current 166 million. The progressive policy scenario projects that after 2015, child nutrition will improve steadily in all the developing regions, including the sub-Saharan Africa. Latin America, West Asia and China will virtually eliminate child malnutrition by 2030.
The study also provides two pessimistic scenarios, which will leave 135-140 million children malnourished by 2025. The policy failure scenario assumes increased conflict over policies to increase investment, no progress in agricultural trade negotiations, more protectionism, and other political failures. The technology and resource management failure scenario assumes water mismanagement, worsening pest problems, and lack of adaptation to global climate change.
In CGIARs challenge programme on water and food, scientists have warned that many countries in sub-Saharan Africa can face a future of increasing malnutrition and dependence on food aid unless steps are taken to address water scarcity across the region.
Co-author of the study and the director of IFPRIs environment technology production division Mark Rosegrant points out, while being pessimistic, these scenarios are possible, if current trends worsen. These projections should raise alarm bells for governments in both developing and industrialised countries.