The Epic Challenge Of Food Security

Joerg Koesters

Food security has always been important, but as the world population grows and climate change and other factors make food sources unstable, it’s becoming more critical than ever.

Executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger Rebecca Middleton; senior program officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Christian Merz; executive director of CARI/GIZ Dr. Stefan Kachelriess-Matthess; and moderator Tanja Reith, director & global lead of agribusiness for SAP, recently came together at the Future of Food Forum to discuss how to reduce hunger and improve food security globally.

Does the world have food security?

The discussion began with the assessment that food insecurity is “closer to all of us than we think.” Tanja Reith explained that the World Food Summit’s definition of food security includes all people being able to get enough safe, healthy food at all times to meet their nutritional needs and match their personal preferences.

Unfortunately, food security does not yet exist for everyone. Reith offered many examples of food insecurity around the world, mostly in developing countries. Hunger remains a serious problem in Asia, especially Southern Asia, and in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Reith, one in nine people in the world are undernourished today.

Improving food security

How can we reduce hunger globally? Asked which pillar is most pressing of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s four pillars of food security—availability, access, utilization, and stability—Dr. Stefan Kachelriess-Matthess explained that the four pillars are dependent on each other, making this a particularly complex issue.

While increasing food security is a monumental task, the experts offered several examples of how it can be addressed. For example, Rebecca Middleton described how improving crop diversity can create more resilient farms, increase security even in the face of weather changes, and provide a better selection of food, offering enhanced nutrition for a longer period of time.

Christian Merz added that necessary systemic change can take place in different systems, such as rule advisory and extension services to share knowledge of agricultural practices. He also noted that innovative solutions to food supplies could help reduce poverty—for example, a company could create more drought-tolerant crops, and vary fertilizer blends.

Are there ways that non-farming industry companies can influence food security? The role of technology was an important part of the discussion. Reith noted, “Technology is already being used today to successfully address the food security epidemic.”

Merz agreed. “We certainly believe that digital solutions and technologies are playing an increasingly important role to drive agricultural transformation that is inclusive, putting the small farmer into the driver seat of economic growth in that sector.” He cited the African Soil Information Service, which uses technology to provide detailed soil information, which businesses can use to develop fertilizers for specific needs.

Another example is technology that tracks facilities, replacing error-prone paper-based systems with more efficient electronic ones. Merz explained that people are now able to use smartphones for farmer registration, tracking buying quality and other information.

Learn more about the changing food industry and innovations that are helping address food security by listening to the full replay of this food security session: SAP Future of Food Forum.

About Joerg Koesters

Joerg Koesters is the head of Retail Marketing and Communication at SAP. He is a technology marketing executive with 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, and consulting, Joerg has deep knowledge in retail and consumer products, having worked both in the industry and in the technology sector.