Even today, the fight against hunger prevails on. This crisis isn’t just about people not having access to an occasional meal, it’s an incapacitating reality that trickles through entire generations. Malnutrition and chronic hunger are debilitating; when people can’t eat, they can’t go to school, work, or live a normal life.
Hunger has millions of people in its grip. I remember when the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in 2015 to end world hunger by 2030. This projection seems far-fetched now, but it wasn’t unrealistic at the time. The decade before the U.N. unveiled their goals, the number of undernourished people slowly dwindled by about half. But by 2017, the number of global citizens facing crisis-level hunger spiked to 815 million, which was up from 777 million the previous year. Since 2017, 9 million global citizens die every year because they can’t sustain the nutrition their bodies demand.
What happened? Flooding, droughts, and conflict have had a negative impact on harvests and output, and farmers have lost networks and structures they’ve become dependent on after all these years. These are harrowing numbers. Many wonder if it will ever be possible to live in a world where people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
No one can answer this with certainty, of course, but one thing we can control is how we choose to respond to the crisis. Truly reversing hunger on a global level is undeniably a challenging feat, but thanks to modern advancements in technology, like artificial intelligence and machine learning in farming, we can continue to push the movement forward. Here are some of the technological advancements that could help fight world hunger.
Dosifier tech and the Internet of Things
The highest rates of malnutrition affect rural populations that don’t have access to processed foods. Project Healthy Children and Vodafone partnered together to form the Sanku-Project Healthy Children (or Sanku-PHC) that combines dosifier technology and IoT capabilities to provide flour to millions of people. Millers can now afford to add more nutrients to their flour and these efforts can be better monitored, with one worker being able to watch after 100 mills.
The Share the Meal app
Americans use their smartphones around 52 times a day. They’re convenient and provide us with limitless entertainment, but now they can also help us save the world. WFP launched an app called ‘Share the Meal’, which allows consumers to literally share a meal with children or adults in the most malnourished parts of the world.
In certain countries like Ethiopia, West Africa, and Egypt, local extension services are sending real-time weather updates to farmers. Apps are able to collect and share this critical information as farmers work to maintain their harvests and livestock. Additionally, these SMS services also support farmers as they adopt new crops and learn completely new growing techniques.
Some startup companies are using innovative hydroponic technology to grow vegetables, greens, fruits, and other crops in what are commonly referred to as “impossible places”. One startup, H2Grow, is experimenting with building a system that uses 75 percent less space, 90 percent less water, and no soil. Their operations are proving successful, as they are growing food in densely populated urban areas and even the Sahara desert.
And this is just a start. It’s clear that we are in the midst of a technological revolution, one that just may save people from going hungry.