ITU-T Technology Watch Reports
ICTs and Food Security
Figure 1: Grain Prices $/ton from 1990-2008
Famine and hunger have plaguedmankind throughout history and remaincritical problems. Most recently, attentionhas been focused on the problem of foodsecurity
, which has become one of themain issues on the global agenda.Concerns over food security have beenprompted by the impact of climatechange, sharp rises in food prices inmany countries, and energy policies, inparticular the issue of biofuels. In thisreport, the term ‘food security’ refers tothe availability of adequate food suppliesand access to it.The impact of climate change on foodsecurity has drawn great attention.Extreme weather events can have animmediate, adverse impact on foodavailability
, while shifts in weatherpatterns can increase crop vulnerability to infection, pest infestations, and choking weeds.
The increased use of agricultural lands to produce biofuels instead of food, global populationgrowth, loss of agricultural land to residential and industrial development and growingconsumer demand in developing countries have also been cited as reasons for rising prices andshortages.
The magnitude of the problem of hunger and food security is alarming. Every six seconds, achild dies from hunger and related diseases.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO
), aspecialized agency of the United Nations, estimates that more than 860 million people in theworld today suffer from hunger. Of those, about 830 million live in developing countries, thevery countries expected to be most affected by climate change.
Sharp recent increases in the price of food have raised special concern and calls for globalaction. Food prices rose by nearly 40 per cent in 2007 and further large increases took place inthe first part of 2008 (see Figure 1). For the poor, higher food prices mean a reduced ability topurchase staples such as rice, maize, wheat, and dairy products. Lack of affordable food cancause long-term, irreversible consequences for health, productivity, and well-being.The reduction of extreme poverty and hunger is the first of the eight United Nations MillenniumDevelopment Goals (MDG).
As the lead UN agency for ICTs, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is playing akey role in promoting the use of ICTs to address emergency situations and food security.Increased access to and use of ICTs can be beneficial to farmers and the agricultural industry.Nonetheless, efforts to date to employ these tools have not been uniform or sufficientlywidespread. There are many factors (policy, legal framework, technology, knowledge, markets,research, etc.) to be considered when addressing food security, but in all of them informationand communication technologies (ICTs) can act as catalysts.This report presents examples and initiatives, which make use of ICTs to improve food security,and describes how ITU work can help to address the problem.
ICTs and Food Security (July 2009)