From climate change to poverty and distance, food insecurity is complex and multifaceted. But how can engineers help to solve this global challenge? We tapped into the minds of some of Lithon’s experts to understand how engineers can contribute to tackling food insecurity.
Willie Knouwds says that climate plays a key role in food insecurity, particularly in regions with harsh environments like drought and extreme heat. Poverty also plays a critical role, restricting people’s ability to afford and access nutritious food. Willie offers three suggestions to help combat food insecurity.
We should educate impoverished communities on growing their own food with the resources they have, how to make healthy food choices and how to reduce waste. This encourages self-sufficiency and resilience. In extreme climates, we must also farm crops more wisely. Hardy, climate-resistant and more affordable varieties are essential for sustainability and food access.
Engineers can contribute by developing innovative technologies for efficient farming, food preservation, and distribution systems. These can increase food availability and accessibility.
Engineers can create efficient irrigation systems like drip irrigation and use rainwater harvesting techniques to conserve water in arid regions.
Mbandeuru Muhenje thinks that the key issues influencing food insecurity include government policies (or lack thereof) – impacting food availability and accessibility; conflict and political instability – leading to a lack of daily necessities; and poor infrastructure – hindering efficient food distribution. Muhenje has his own three suggestions to help reduce food insecurity.
Government policy is a driving force for change, and policies need to be amended to improve access to food. Various governments have identified food insecurity as an important issue, and have started implementing programs to cater for such needs. These programs involve NGOs working with governments to aid the situation.
More research needs to be done into innovative technologies for food production, storage, and distribution. Old technologies also need to be upgraded. Sustainable and regenerative agriculture are important practices and farmers need support to make sure they happen well.
Energy-abundant countries have economic growth. Progress in the energy sector creates opportunities, and in turn, helps alleviate food insecurity. Investment from the government and private sector into the energy space will aid in improving food insecurity.
For Tjomi Shatika, some of the biggest contributors to food insecurity are: poverty – preventing access to nutritious and sufficient food; inequality – making it harder for marginalised communities to access food; and climate change – storms, winds, droughts and floods impacting food production and lack of modern technologies for sustainable agriculture. Let’s see Tjomi’s top three picks to combat food insecurity.
Engineers can develop more energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and sustainable technologies. This includes products and systems that use fewer resources, produce less waste, and have a smaller carbon footprint.
Engineers can design and implement renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal power. These technologies reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate climate change.
By developing specialised agricultural technologies, efficient irrigation systems, and tools for monitoring and managing crop yields, engineers can help towards food security and reduce the environment’s impact on agriculture.
Richard Laborn highlights that a grave challenge with food distribution is that food has to travel long distances from where it’s grown. Crossing distances effectively and cost-efficiently isn’t easy and being able to get fresh produce where it’s needed, as soon as possible, is essential. Now let’s see what Richard’s three priorities for solving food insecurity are.
Most of our food travels by road in Namibia, but railway transport is far more efficient and cost-effective. Rail has more capacity than road transport and less carbon emissions by volume of goods transported. In Namibia railway is non-existent. In other countries, railways have been abandoned for roads. These railways could be rehabilitated for transporting food efficiently and at a lower cost. This would also lower the food price and make it more accessible to everyone.
A great way to shorten the distance from farm to table is to grow and sell food locally. Fruit exports are a huge part of the Namibian economy, and growers do much better business by selling overseas. If government initiatives incentivised local trade, perhaps it would be different. Farmers need to earn and locals need affordable produce. Engineers want to help solve this problem, but they need the support of government policy to kick things off.
Engineers can help make agriculture more sustainable and generate more produce. Efficient, high-tech greenhouses that create a simulated natural habitat using very little space and very little water, are just an example. Vertical planting, hydroponics, aquaculture, and urban gardens are also interesting options worth exploring. We just have to be careful to balance the costs to keep technologies viable and sustainable.
As you can see, tackling food insecurity requires a collaborative approach from various engineering disciplines. Our engineers are committed to contributing to a world where food scarcity is effectively managed. If you feel the same, we’d love to be your partner. Contact us at email@example.com.
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