Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Digitale Medien – Projekte und Plattformen

Escape the Malthusian Trap

Ein Interface zur Visualisierung und Simulation von Forschungsergebnissen zur Welternährung auf Grundlage der Forschungsergebnisse von Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Harald von Witzke. In einem Zeitraum von 25 Jahren hat man durch prozentuale Aufteilung von Mitteln für Bildung und Forschung, Gesundheit sowie Subventionierung von Nahrungsmitteln die Aufgabe den Anteil der Mangelernährten an der Weltbevölkerung zu senken, sowie den Verlust an Regenwald einzuschränken. Bestimmte Konstellationen von Krieg, Bürgerkrieg und der schwankende Verlauf des Wetters beeinflussen die Ergebnisse.

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Harald von Witzke

HU Berlin | Institut für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften des Landbaus | Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Harald von Witzke | Uwe Pirr | Head of Multimedia-Service | Heizo Schulze | 4434-2747 |


This interface was created to visualise and simulate the results of
research into issues of world nutrition. The foundations of the idea
came from a scientific study conducted by Professor Harald von Witzke
of the faculty for Agricultural Science at the Humboldt University,
Over a period of 25 years, using funds for Education and Research,
Health and Food subsidies, the goal was to reduce world hunger as well
as stopping the destruction of the rainforests. War, civil war and
variations in weather patterns effected the results. Food production
and consumption have changed dramatically during the past decades.
Farmers all over the world have produced ever more food for ever more
humans. Still, hunger and malnutrition remain prevalent in many parts
of the world. Of the 6 billion humans living on earth in 2000, about
one billion were malnourished. Every day, 16.000 children die as a
consequence of malnutrition. Many people fear that the world is caught
in what is known as the Malthusian Trap.

Be the Wise Policy Maker
Imagine you have been elected president of the large developing
country of Agronomia. Your party has a large majority in the parliament
and your party s representatives typically approve of your political
strategies. You face the following economic situation:
- Overall per capita income is low.
- More than 50 percent of household income is spent on food.
- Agriculture represents 70% of the work force and 35% of gross
national product. It is the single most important industry of
- Population size is at 20 million humans.
- Population growth is rapid. About 2 million humans in Agronomia are
- A considerable part of your country is covered with rainforests.
However, farmers are cutting down the rainforest at a rapid pace
because of a lack of land for food production.
- The larger the number of humans which are malnourished, the more
rainforest is lost.
- Rainforest acreage which has been lost cannot be reconverted. It is
lost forever, even if in later periods malnutrition is alleviated.

- Keep in mind that increasing agricultural productivity acts to
reduce both malnutrition and loss of rainforest acreage.
- Public infrastructure for agriculture and the food economy is poor,
and there are trade restrictions in place which are beyond your
control. As a consequence, domestic food prices are only loosely
related to world market prices.
- Variables beyond your control affect the overall budget available to
you. Therefore, you cannot determine how much you can spend in each
budget category. Rather you can decide what percentage of the budget
you wish to allocate to each budget category.
- The budget categories are R&E: investment in research and
education; no more than 25% of the budget may be allocated to research
and education.
Health: investment in the health care system; no more than 25% of the
budget may be allocated to health care.
Subsidies: subsidization of food consumption to keep the price of food
low; no more than 10% of the budget may be allocated to subsidize food
Misc.: other consumptive policy measures; e.g. salaries for public
administration, police, army.
- R&E + Health + Subsidies + Misc. = 100% in each period.
- Political stability is a concern of yours as well. Therefore, the
annual change in budget shares for investment in research and
education, health, and food subsidies respectively must not be larger
than 3 percentage points - up or down.
- The international donor community has made limited quantities of
food available. You may ask for food aid 5 times during the entire
- As you are a wise politician, you aim at minimizing the number of
malnourished individuals in your country without losing much of your

You may consider yourself a rather successful President when you
succeed in reducing the number of malnourished humans by 50 percent
after 25 years. Even with wise political decisions you may not see much
success when your time in office is haunted by external shocks such as
wars, civil wars and bad wea