Billions of mouths to feed: 5 challenges the planet faces

The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing populations, slated to double by the end of the century.

Credit: Sam Eaton/American Public Media's Marketplace

As our collaborative series Food for 9 Billion prepares to wrap up, we find ourselves leaving the table to relish the nearly two-year look at the daunting task of feeding a population of billions. 

Food for 9 Billion launched in fall 2011. A multimedia project by The Center for Investigative Reporting and Homelands Productions, produced in association with PBS NewsHour, American Public Media’s Marketplace and PRI's The World, Food for 9 Billion is an investigative series that explored the worldwide, universal issues of food scarcity and sustainability. This week, the collaboration comes mostly to a close with a weeklong look at possible solutions people are implementing or testing to meet the challenges of a planet with a growing number of mouths to feed. 

Here are some of our favorite moments from the series.

China's growing taste for meat

"When I was young, my family could only afford to have pork once or twice a year."

 
Due in large part to a burgeoning economy, meat consumption per capita in the country has quadrupled over the past 30 years. The meat of choice: pork. China produces and consumes about half the world's pork and has almost one-fifth of the world's population. The magnitude of this consumption is creating a huge challenge for the Chinese government: how to provide so much meat and dairy to so many people. Mary Kay Magistad of PRI's The World reports
 

Greece's (ahem) widening crisis

"The word 'diet' actually comes from the Greek – it originally meant 'way of life.' "

Although it is home to some of the world's healthiest diets, Greece has one of the highest obesity rates in the world. About 40 percent of its children are overweight. Healthy traditions and obesity don't really correlate, so what gives? Reporter Jon Miller gets to the bottom of the problem
 

Supermarket sweepstakes in Africa

“I’m scared of going to these companies and saying to them, ‘Look, I can supply you with this and this.’ ” 

Supermarket chains are spreading all over Africa. The expansion is seen as both a potential help and potential threat to millions of small farmers in a region where agriculture provides almost 60 percent of all jobs. These new markets can either lift local farmers out of poverty by buying from them or fuel competition from big commercial farms that could ruin them. Reporter Gretchen L. Wilson has the story
 

Japan's graying farmers

"Farming cannot just be a simple capitalistic business practice."

 
Farming in Japan is very much a family business. Much of the work is done by hand on small plots of land that have been cultivated by the same families, sometimes for centuries. But Japanese agriculture is now at a crossroads. With newer generations of Japanese people leaving the countryside for higher-paying jobs in the cities and current farmers rapidly aging, who will be left to grow the food? Journalist Sam Eaton investigates.
 

Egyptian policies feed unrest 

"The revolution started because of the (food) price increase."

 
An Egyptian family that once used to be able to eat off of its own land now struggles to put food on the table. Through the family's story, we explore the skyrocketing food prices that helped contribute to the toppling of a president and witness displaced farmers' anger at the government's agricultural policies. Reporter Sandy Tolan has the scoop

Hungry for more? Check out our Food for 9 Billion project page for a full list of stories.

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