How can we tackle the food and water crisis?
15 Dec, 2022

How can we tackle the food and water crisis?

Mark Lacey, Head of Global Resource Equities and Felix Odey, Portfolio Manager, Global Resource Equities at Schroders provides a snapshot of the huge issues the world, including South Africa, faces and what might help tackle them.

In the infographic below, we look at the key problems and solutions to the food and water crisis and how society can work together to solve it.

Our commentary appears below the infographic.

If energy insecurity remains a big problem for many countries today, the food and water crisis represents an even bigger problem. But what does this crisis entail?

Since the pandemic, there has been increased awareness of the world’s resources and how to protect them as temperatures rise, populations grow, and the sustainability of the food and water supply chain is put under pressure.

The conflict in Ukraine has placed an extra strain on food production and supply and highlighted the vulnerability of many resources systems.

The problem is especially acute in In South Africa where more than half of the respondents to a Statista survey believe food and water security is one of the main challenges the country faces. Indeed, Greenpeace estimates that 19% of the rural population doesn’t have access to reliable water supply and more than 36% of all schools (including those in urban areas) and 45% of clinics, have no access to water.

Meanwhile, its reported that almost 24% South Africans were affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2020, according to Stats SA.

But the issue is becoming severe in other parts of the world too. In the spring and summer of 2022 many countries in Europe saw some of the most extreme droughts ever experienced. Once a very rare event in this part of the world, the droughts were caused by a perfect storm of a lack of rainfall, pollution and over-consumption. Around 30% of Europeans are currently affected by water scarcity every year.

Worryingly, the vice-president of the World Bank said back in 2009 that “the wars of the twenty-first century will be about water unless we change the way we manage it”.

Across the whole system in food and water, it’s estimated that around $30 trillion needs to be spent to make the system sustainable.

Mark Lacey, Head of Global Resource Equities, said: “If we do not change, we are going to see increasing negative feedback loops. At a two degree global warming scenario, corn yield for example, would fall by more than 20%. Likewise, if we don’t change, we’re going to have to use more land for agriculture, to feed the growing population. That results in more deforestation. That results in collapsing species. And actually, an acceleration in climate change and global warming.

‘We’re going to see mass desertification of areas throughout Africa. That in turn, will trigger food security crises, mass immigration. You can very quickly paint a picture of how this plays out. And ultimately, all of this could end up with a mass hyperinflation of food. Which is really, a terrifying prospect and one that we haven’t seen for generations.”

Despite the gloomy scenario, change is possible and many companies as well as consumers themselves can provide practical solutions to the crisis.

Felix Odey, Portfolio Manager, Global Resource Equities, said: “We are seeing a lot of technologies and data applications coming through that are massively helping to boost agricultural yields. Things like gene editing and genetic modification are controversial in certain markets. But likewise, if that allows continents like Latin America to leapfrog some of the more developed agricultural markets, and actually require less pesticide and lower amounts of fertiliser, all of this is going to have a huge, positive impact.

“The consumer is central to this. If our diets do even just moderate a little bit, we can have huge impacts on global greenhouse gas emissions, throughout the food and water sector.”



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