If the world were a food village of 100 people

This is an English translation I made of an essay called If the world were a village of 100 people: food edition by Ikeda Kayoko (ISBN 9784838770045). As far as I know it is only available in the original Japanese. There are many interesting and important facts in it, so I felt it important to get an English translation out there. This translation is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 unported licence.

Grilled salty pike and simmered taro, with rice, miso (bean paste) soup and pickled vegetables … that was the hearty meal one have in Japan forty, fifty years ago.

Everyone had 112kg[1](*see notes at the end) of rice to eat for one year – twice as much as we have today.

Do you still think this is a poor person’s meal? Back then, Japan produced close to 80 percent of all its food needs.

And now in the twenty-first century … the world has 6.7 billion people.

If the world were a village of 100 people and we look how we live with food what do you think this would look like?

Of the 100 people in this village 50 live in countryside and 50 live in the cities.

20 people produce food. 15 live in Asia. 3 live in Africa. 2 live in the Americas and Europe. Of these twenty people 13 use tractors and 7 work the land by hand.

If the food producers became a village of 100 people 50 grow rice, 26 wheat, and 7 people, corn. The rest grow potatoes.

If the food producers became a village of 100 people 16 would be living on 1,290,000 yen[2] per year and would more then enough to eat … 47 would be living on 700,000 yen[2] and would have enough to eat … 37 would be living on 100,000 yen[2] per year and will only be eating occasionally.

12 would be affected by wars, droughts, floods or desertification and would be in constant hunger. 3 of these 12 people live in India, 2 in China, 3 in other parts of Asia, 3 south of the Sahara in Africa, and 1 in Latin America.

The life expectancy of these 100 people is 69 for women, and 64 for men.

Those with the greatest life expectancy are Japanese women at 86 years, but the shortest life expectancy is for those living South of the Sahara at no more than 50 years.

In our village of 100 people 33 will not get enough vitamins and minerals from their diet; they will not be able to work and play as they wish.

70 people will not get enough iron from their diet. Half of the women living in developing nations will be iron deficient.

Because of this many of these women and their child will die.

Of the 100 people in our village 14 are overweight.

If American adults were 100 people 60 would be overweight. Of these sixty people 14 would be categorized as obese.

If the children of America were 100 people 25 would be overweight.

In our food village of one hundred 48 people make more food than they need and sell it to others.

52 people don’t have enough.

In our food village of 100 less than 1 person who is American produces 41% of the world’s soya beans, and 38% of the world’s corn.

In our food village 20 people are Chinese. Of these 20 people 14 are farmers. Of these 14 almost half produce vegetables. The Chinese produce the most eggs, rice, meat, and bulbs. Even so they are the second largest food importers in the world.

If the world were a village of one hundred 75 people will consume only 20kg[1] of meat while the remaining 25 people will consume 80kg[1].

The annual consumption of meat for one person is 5kg[1] in India, 45kg[1] in China, 80kg[1] in Italy.

The annual consumption of eggs for one person is 30 in India, 174 in the US and 226 in Japan.

If the total number of fish to be caught is 100 in our village then China catches 18 fish, Peru 9, US 5, Japan 5 and India 5. But because of overfishing three-quarters of fisheries are reporting decreasing catches.

50 fish from this village are from fish farms. These fish live in crowded pens and are fed fattening feed. They are fed a lot of medicine (steroids).

In our global village 70 % of the water is used for farming. It takes 4 tonnes[3] of water to make 1 tonne of rice. It takes 20 tonnes[3] of water to yield 1kg[1] of meat.

On one hand, one serving of gyudon (a popular Japanese dish of beef over rice) it takes 2 tonnes[3] of water.

On the other, 18 people in our village does not have clean drinking water. 40 people here do not have running water in their kitchens.

We run our tractors in our fields, make fertilizers and farm chemicals. We add labour to the food we produce in the factories, have machines to package them and transport them around the world. This all takes oil.

To get the meat on to the table of a family of four in America takes 1000 litres of oil.

To cook this food 61 people in our village uses electricity and oil, and 37 people burn wood.

Of these 100 people 74 of them have electricity in their houses but only 33 of them a refrigerator. In the village we have increased our consumption of grain by more than 1.5 times. Fertilizer use has increased fourfold. 65% of our fields’ soil is in poor condition because of the overuse of fertilizers and farm chemicals.

Japan, with its four seasons, is a country rich in seasonal foods. So what is the state of our food resources?

Japan is a nation of 128 million people. If we turn it into a local village of 100 people then 10 of them will be working with food. 3 will be in the rice and vegetable fields. 1 will be in the factories processing the food. 3 will be in the shops selling the food. 3 will be in the restaurants serving you the food. Only 0.002 persons will be catching or farming the fish.

The Japanese spends 2.8% of the national budget on agriculture but 5.8% on the military.

Europe is a continent with many overpopulated countries. But their food self-sufficiency is rate is 128% in France, 84% in Germany and 70% in the United Kingdom.

The food self-sufficiency rate in Japan is 40%. Sixty percent of the food we eat comes from abroad.

70% of the food from farm land on our tables comes from overseas.

The food on our tables uses more water than there is water in Japan every year.

Japan’s self-sufficiency rate for grain is 27%. But in Saudi Arabia, a desert country, this number is 35%.

If Japan was to rely only on its food production for survival, then, we will need to do without 1,900kcal of the 2,600kcal daily intake we have today. We will need to decrease our intake of wheat by 35%, meat 89%, oil and butter 93%, fish 14%. Just to make up for this loss we will need to increase our intake of rice by 36% and potatoes by 320%.

In Japan we spend 8% of our food budget on fresh food, 30% on eating out, and 62% on processed foods. Japan is the world’s number one importer of processed foods.

Processed food is full of artificial chemicals. In Japan the average person consumes 24kg[1] of food chemicals every year. On top of this, this person consumes 1,500 different types of chemicals.

And we are also the world’s number one nation for throwing away food. We throw away over 20 million tonnes[3] of food each year. The annual food aid for the world’s poor totals 10 million tonnes.

The philosopher Confucius said, “The person who thinks ‘that is enough’ is a person of great wealth”.

The Indian philosopher/environmentalist Vandana Shiva said it is sustainable to live on the food that the global village produces now.

If the world was a village of 100 people it is possible for every person to have the required daily 2,800kcal of food intake if we share the food equally.

If 25 of the world’s rich people in this village reduced just ten percent of the consumption of meat and milk, then 17 poor people will receive enough grain to survive.

If the people in America and Japan sent their money spent on vitamin supplements and so-called health foods to world’s poorest nations then 11 hungry people can be saved from starvation.

You may say this is a pipedream but think about this: There are convenience stores and supermarkets which sell fair-trade coffee. If you drink that coffee someone working a small plantation in Latin America or the like will have enough to eat.

If you drink locally produced milk and consume locally meat which are fed with locally feed then we can do without imported grain.

If we were more like France and got rid of our vending machines in schools then the young will not be overweight from drinking soft drinks.

Money is our means to voting power. We can move towards a better world if we move towards a better food lifestyle with our buying power. We can move towards a better little by little.

Imagine this – what if you ate more rice, using more locally grown rice produce to bake your bread and sweets. What if you ate less meat, eggs and drank less milk. What if you just changed your habits and made a delicious cup of tea from your tap. What if you cooked with the local produce, buying fish and vegetables from your local area, peeling the skin and eating fresh seasonal produce? What if you ate only what you need and not waste food? What if you returned everything to the soil? What if you said ‘thank you’ to everything? What kind of world will it be?

Again, imagine this – what if people living in the cities grew their own food. The city of Havana in Cuba is such a city. Because of the trade embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Union the citizens of Havana borrowed land and grew their own food in gardens, on balconies, on roofs … tilling garbage dumps and filling empty tin cans they grew their food. Even if they wanted to use fertilizer and agricultural chemicals they couldn’t – there was any. In effect they were organic farmers. Food waste from homes and schools became feed for livestock and fertilizer for gardens. Fresh cheap natural healthy food was what Havana ended up with.

If the world was a food village of 100 people more than 6 people would be counted as urban farmers. There is a need for us to have more of these micro-gardens in our cities and town.


[1] 1kg = 2.2 pounds.

[2] 77.01 yen = US $1.00.

[3] 1 ton = 2204.6 pounds.

3 thoughts on “If the world were a food village of 100 people”

Leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s