hello my name is Evan Fraser and I work at the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada mostly what I do is to try and understand one of the biggest issues facing our world over the next 50 years how can we feed 9 billion people to start let’s consider two images the first shows us how much food you could buy for one dollar on a market in the African nation of Zambia in 2008 the second shows us how much you could buy on the same market for one dollar in 2009 what happened in between was skyrocketing food prices a crisis that has thrown tens maybe even hundreds of millions into poverty what’s more the victims haven’t suffered quietly they’ve rioted smashed markets and toppled governments remember the revolutions that swept the Middle East in 2011 they all began with people in the street upset over the price of food what’s more many of the world’s top agricultural experts believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg unless we figure out new strategies to deal with global food security we may be entering a new and dangerous phase of human history where food water and energy shortages threaten not only worse poverty but also civic unrest and international conflict there are a number of reasons for this alarm the first reason is that in most years we produce only just enough food to cover our uses in fact in six of the last 11 years we actually consumed slightly more food than we produced and the buffer we take from one year to the next has been steadily falling so our system already seems pretty fragile but it’s when we look into the future that things grow very dire indeed rising populations and our rich diets that take a lot more resources to produce than they used to are driving our demand for food up and scientists figure we’ll need 50 percent more food by 2050 but producing this food is going to be hard this is because the rising demand is coming precisely at the same time as high energy prices and climate change are making food harder and more expensive to produce but hidden in these grim statistics is a four-part blueprint we need to follow but since each of these strategies is extremely controversial each requires careful analysis the first strategy includes science and technology today a major scientific hurdle is to develop technologies that will help farmers reach their potential in terms of the amount of food they produce some scientists figure we could easily boost production by 50% just by deploying currently available technologies this is especially important in regions like sub-saharan Africa where many farmers only produce about 20% of what they could do to a lack of good quality seeds fertilizer and better equipment but it’s not as if we can take the seeds and equipment that seemed to work on North American farms and simply give them away to African farmers this doesn’t work because African soils cultures and communities are totally different than in north america or europe so scientists must partner with farmers to develop locally appropriate solutions to local challenges just using science and technology won’t be enough however and this is where the second strategy comes in we must do a better job at distributing the food we’ve got to develop this strategy we need to consider an uncomfortable truth about today’s food system if you take all the food on the planet and divide it equally by all the people on the planet there is plenty about 2700 calories per person per day and 75 grams of protein per person per day that’s more than enough but because we feed a lot of our food to animals or turn corn into ethanol or simply waste vast amounts maybe 20 to 50 percent of the world’s food is wasted or because the people who need the food are poor to afford it hunger abounds so we need to establish ways of making sure that less food is wasted and the food we do have is better distributed one way of doing this is through ensuring that international aid organizations have better access to food stores that can be used as short-term food aid in times of crisis third if we want to avoid a hungry future we need to make sure we keep a healthy population of farms and farmers around our cities this means we need to support local food systems which are important because they stand as a buffer between individual consumers and problems that might occur in global markets even if local food systems do not feed all of us all the time they are a critical line of defence against hunger fourth none of this will be possible without stronger regulation and proactive government policy I was confronted with the need for better regulation while on a recent tour of a feedlot that was licensed to hold a hundred thousand cows there I saw a four hundred and ten thousand ton pile of manure that’s the weight of about 35,000 elephants it was a sad reminder of the need for governments to get serious about promoting more sustainable farming of course each of these four strategies has its drawbacks critics of technology and markets argue that new technologies inevitably seem to enrich corporations more than help in humanity or the environment anti-regulation voices argue that all governments ever do is tie farmers in red tape and stifle innovation arguments for more equitable food redistribution causes some to mutter about the effects of Big Brother forcing us all to eat a uniform diet but most daunting perhaps is the argument that with a world population poised to reach 9 billion by mid-century there will never be a way for modern communities to feed themselves by means of local small farms our cities are simply too big our demands too great to be able to feed ourselves without relying on extremely intensive farms but luckily this isn’t a lost cause take southern Africa in 1992 that year it suffered the worst drought in a hundred years harvest ranked by 1/2 food stockpiles disappeared and 17 to 20 million people almost starved yet apart from in war-torn Mozambique there was no real crisis and the story of how southern Africa overcame the drought is a modern parable for how to feed nine billion humans it was the famine that wasn’t and the reasons for this are that Africans adopted the four strategies proposed here first before the emergency local plant breeding programs introduced drought resistant varieties of the crops that small-scale farmers traditionally cultivate this meant that people had some food to fall back on when their main crops failed also famine early warning systems used up-to-date data and weather forecasts to alert officials to the problems months in advance meanwhile international donors adopted proactive policies like forgiving loans they also contributed to food storage centers close to vulnerable communities and so food prices stayed level as such local production systems on which poorer communities depend bounced back quickly the key lesson from southern Africa in 1992 is that while all these criticisms have their points they aren’t universally applicable and not across the entire complex landscape of the 21st century food system to effectively tackle the challenges of feeding the future the most sensible approach is to imagine these four types of solutions as components of a well balanced investment portfolio one that’s resilient enough to weather economic storms is still able to provide strong year-over-year returns and is secure against fraud and theft think of new agricultural technologies as similar to high-octane IT stocks they’re an important part of a profitable investment strategy but an over reliance on them could cost you your shirt if the market turns against you likewise local food systems are similar to more modest rainy-day investments they can’t be relied upon to feed everyone all the time but they’re a vital buffer between consumers and the dangerous swings of the international market and of course every sound portfolio includes a cash reserve in case of emergencies hence the need for more mechanisms to store and distribute food in times of crisis lastly one of the lessons of the present economic crisis is that left unregulated financial institutions behave badly in the same way we need a robust legal framework to restrain agriculture from destroying the environment the 1992 southern african drought passed without excessive hardship and the agricultural cycle trundled onwards historically it always has one of the few Old Testament stories to have a happy ending was the tale of Joseph and the Pharaoh’s dream the story recounts how the Pharaoh dreamt that seven fat cows emerged from the Nile followed by seven thin cows who followed them and gobbled the fat ones up the pharaoh ended up listening to joseph a prisoner in his dungeons for the correct interpretation joseph told him that the seven fat cows were a good weather report signifying seven rich years they would be followed by seven dry years of no rainfall whatsoever to save egypt from the famine joseph advised the pharaoh to tax his farms store the grain in silos and prepare for the rough times ahead pharaoh took this advice to heart and egypt was saved today stopping the global food crisis may seem like an impossible task the stakes could not be higher if we don’t change how the world produces and distributes its food then the suffering and violence of the past few years will be repeated but a thousand times worse but luckily today we have climate and demographic modeling software that are far more reliable than waiting for god to send a dream to a monarch these models are quite clear the years 2050 eighty are probably not going to be as productive as the ones between 1950 and 1980 but this doesn’t necessarily mean disaster we can avoid this nightmare and replace it with a vision of a world where no one needs to starve we have the solutions all we need now is the will to act on them what can you do to help first go to our website there’s more information about each of the four strategies and things you can do to make a difference locally and internationally we’ll release an in-depth video and associated campaign for each of the four strategies over the next year but we need to know which you’re most interested in so go to www.feeding9billion.com and vote on your favorite topic then share this on Twitter and Facebook send it to your friends your colleagues your neighbors your families and get them to do the same our funding will flow if we have enough demand and votes to make the next video until then thanks for watching and good luck