Historically, having enough to eat has always been a major issue of concern to political leaders because it not only directly affects the survival of the people, but also involves the rise and fall of civilizations. Many empires were destroyed because of famine, which is caused by climate, war, disease and increasing populations.
However, food security has not been attained even with advances in farming technology. On the contrary, the crisis has been worsening because of the quickly increasing population. British economist Thomas Robert Malthus postulated that population multiplies geometrically and food arithmetically and thus whenever food supply increases, the population will rapidly grow to eliminate the abundance. From the end of 2019, there have been successive outbreaks of Africa’s locust plague and COVID-19, increasing the uncertainty of agricultural supply chains, causing market fluctuations and further exacerbating the global food crisis.
According to the World Food Programme, the number of people facing acute food insecurity may have reached 265 million in 2020, up by 130 million from the 135 million in 2019, as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19.
This issue is themed “The Impact of Disaster and Disease on Global Food Security.” Through different aspects, we discuss the current food security issues facing the world, and analyze what Taiwan can do to address the root causes of extreme hunger.
It is generally believed that due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, market prices may fluctuate greatly, further triggering the food crisis. However, Dr.Yi-Chun Lin, professor in the Graduate Institute of Development Studies at National Chengchi University, brings a different point of view in his article “Global Food Security Under the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Professor Lin believes that while the impact of the pandemic has caused the number of hungry people in the world to increase significantly in 2020 compared to 2019, international food prices are under control when three major regions – Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific- maintain the transparency of the global food trade. In addition to suppressing food protectionism and slowing the trend of rising market prices, food security governance in the three major regions have had positive spillover effects and stabilized the volatility of agricultural market prices in Latin America, Africa, and the Pacific.
In the article “Reducing Food Loss and Waste, Creating a Double Dividend: Taiwan’s Participation in the APEC Food Security Forum” co-authored by Dr. Shih-Hsun Hsu, professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at National Taiwan University, and Dr. Ching-Cheng Chang, research fellow in the Institute of Economics at Academia Sinica, the authors subvert the traditional “addition” approach of increasing food security by adding agricultural production. Instead, they advocate using “subtraction” as the starting point to increase food security by reducing food loss and waste. The authors cite data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and highlight that about 1.3 billion tons of food are lost or wasted in the process of harvesting and consumption every year. Therefore, a reduction in the loss and waste of food will help increase the supply of food, bringing a new perspective to the traditional myth that “food security is equivalent to increasing the self-sufficiency rate of food.” Dr. Hsu and Dr. Cheng further posit that reducing food loss and waste can also slow climate change.
The Pacific Island countries have been severely affected by climate change for a long time. With the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, these countries have not suffered large-scale infections, but a reliance on external resources for supplies combined with a decrease in international trade have made these island countries vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic in other ways. Thus, in the article “The Threats and Impacts of Climate Change and the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Food Security of Small Island Nations: from the Perspective of the South Pacific,” Dr. Edwin Tsung-Rong Yang, professor in the Department of Chinese as a Second Language at National Taiwan Normal University, mentions how in the past, international aid focused on capacity building and establishing local systems. However, small island countries require urgent assistance under the impact and influence of climate change and the pandemic. Therefore, Taiwan’s assistance to the region should develop an emergency response system for food security to cope with the current crisis.
Finally, Dr. Wen-Jui Su, research fellow in the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction, and Ming-Hong Yen, director of the Technical Cooperation Department at the TaiwanICDF, co-author the article “Using Disaster Prevention Technology to Strengthen Global Agricultural Development Resilience: Practical Applications and Achievements of the Taiwan Model” to share with readers how Taiwan uses science and technology to prevent and reduce disasters to strengthen domestic food security. The authors also share the experience of the TaiwanICDF in using the science and technology disaster reduction technology of Taiwan to help partner countries increase the resilience of the agricultural sector to climate disaster events.
In the special report titled “Agricultural Innovation and Transformation under Climate Change,” we interview the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Chi-Chung Chen. In the interview, he shares how Taiwan maintains food security and sustainable agricultural development in the face of climate change, and details how Taiwan uses foreign aid projects to share successful experiences with island countries to improve food security.
“Zero hunger” is United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2, showing the importance of food security to the global community. Taiwan is not only internationally renowned in the fields of agriculture and science and technology, but has also used this comparative advantage over the years to provide assistance, aiming to help the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. However, in the face of external challenges, foreign aid projects need to be more flexible and efficient. Through the articles in this issue, we hope to bring innovative inspiration to Taiwan in enhancing global food security.