Food Security in Our Lifetime
By Jeff Simmons
With courage and commitment, we can solve the world’s number one health problem—hunger—and create a food secure future. A food secure 2050 is a world in which people can afford and access enough healthy, nutritious food. It’s a healthier, more productive, more peaceful world.
Of course, the challenge to produce enough nutritious food keeps building as the world keeps growing. In 2012, the world’s population shot past the 7-billion mark on its way to reaching 9 billion by the year 2050.1 It’s not an infinite problem—the rate of population growth will slow significantly by then. But the steepest part of the growth curve is happening now. And in the next seven years, we’ll experience the fastest growth of the global middle class in history.
Of course, “middle class” means different things in different places. But, to put it simply, in the next few decades, billions more people will live a better life. And regardless of the specific income figure for a family or a particular country, one thing is consistent: as income grows, one of the first things most people do to improve their diets is by eating more meat, milk and eggs.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts a 60-percent increase in demand for meat, milk and eggs by 2050.2 Based on today’s production trends, we might not have enough. As hard as farmers are working to sustainably feed a growing world, a gap is beginning to emerge between what we’ll need and what farmers can produce.
And, we need to produce more with less. At our current rate of consumption, it takes the Earth 1.5 years to regenerate the renewable resources we use in a single year.3 If we stay on course, by 2030 we’ll require double the planet’s resources to meet our needs.4 And if we don’t start producing more with less, our impact will keep multiplying.
The challenge is great but not insurmountable. We have the tools to change this. The choices we make between now and 2020 will determine whether we’ll make it there. To achieve a vision of a food secure 2050—a future where people have the means and opportunity to eat enough safe, nutritious food—we need to draw on three solutions:
Innovation: The tools and techniques that help farmers produce more food more sustainably—innovations that, in many cases, are already available and proven.
Choice: For societies, this includes sound, science-based policy choices. Farmers need to be able to choose among tools that help them produce successfully and sustainably, and shoppers need to be able to choose food that fits their cost, taste and nutritional needs. People feeding their families around the world can’t be held hostage by small groups of powerful, ideologically driven consumers. We need the courage to stand up for choice against a highly vocal minority.
Trade: The mechanism that allows us to produce food where resources permit and deliver it to people who need it.
We believe every person on earth deserves a minimum of a glass of milk and an egg a day. That’s a modest—and achievable—goal, and it’s just enough protein and complete nutrition to make the world healthier and happier. And, frankly, less than that is just not enough.
One step we’re taking in this direction is the East Africa Dairy Development program, or EADD. This project, which will bring sustainable livelihoods to people across East Africa, is important because many of those living on close to $1 per day in sub-Saharan Africa depend on their livestock to provide nearly half of the family’s income. So increasing milk production and improving access to markets is paramount to keeping families fed and thriving.
Elanco dairy experts have volunteered their time to travel with Heifer and EADD representatives to visit participant farmers and support organizations in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda in the days ahead. Our goal, together with the EADD teams, is to identify where we can have the greatest impact on the success of the program. Things like milking schedules, cow comfort, and care practices—all of this can result in each cow producing more quality milk for the farmers each day. By having this experienced team with us, we’re able to more deeply engage these farmers and uncover critical details that should help increase success of the overall project.
As we began visiting farms and communities near Mbeya, one thing started to shine through with great clarity. These farmers and community leaders are passionate, talented, and committed people. They want to learn ways to grow their farms and create sustainable livelihoods for their families and their communities. One couple we spent time with used skills they learned to help them decide to switch from a coffee crop on part of their land to growing high-quality, nutrient-rich feed. This has ultimately helped them increase the production of their cows.
With Elanco’s commitment to ensuring there will be enough food for our growing global population, organizations like Heifer and the EADD project are critical partners. It’s in collaborations like this where we can directly use our talents to make a sustainable difference. The global population will grow to an estimated nine billion people by 2050. So the success of this project—and ultimately the farmers who will efficiently produce their food—is both urgent and important. It’s also just a start in Elanco’s commitment to global food security.
In the next five years, Elanco will use its resources to “break the cycle” of hunger in 100 communities. We will make food more secure for a sustainable period. By breaking the cycle of hunger we help create hope and opportunity for the hungry, while we experience hunger up close and personal. This builds on our past and present hunger initiatives in Indianapolis and other locations, along with Heifer projects. This initiative allows us to have more employees touch projects, include customers and to be even more global.”
– Jeff Simmons
Breaking the Cycle of Hunger
Elanco supports diverse global projects through employee and customer engagement to fight hunger and food security. Through Elanco’s innovations, volunteer efforts, customer engagement and financial support, we’ve already begun “breaking the cycle” in more than 20 communities, starting in 2013.
We’re committed to make a difference in communities that:
Impact a specific group of people with a hunger/food project;
involve Elanco employees for support;
Can be sustainable for at least one year;
May connect with Elanco key stakeholders and customers.
Our efforts to break the cycle will impact the following:
100 communities: “Break the Cycle” of hunger in 100 global communities by 2017 through local efforts and with customers.
100,000 families: A strategic relationship with Heifer International will help bring 100,000 families out of hunger.
Half-day per quarter: Providing all employees with an opportunity to use a half day per quarter to volunteer with a local hunger project.
Today’s reality is that more people live without nutritious food. As the global population continues rising and demand for meat, milk and eggs increases, we must be able to produce more with less. We believe that by breaking the cycle we can help ensure appropriate nourishment, improving growth and education, and ultimately impacting families, communities and countries.
Jeff Simmons serves as president of Elanco, the animal health division of Eli Lilly and Company. Elanco provides comprehensive products and knowledge services to improve animal health and food-animal production in more than 70 countries through its 6,500 employees worldwide.
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