Continuing from my last post here
Why is there HUNGER in the world? Why do people still die because of Hunger? The days when the world did not produce enough food has been gone for years now, yet we have over a billion people who suffer from Hunger in 2010! There are children dying because of hunger world over, why is it?
No one really knows exactly how many people are malnourished. The statistic most frequently cited is that of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which measures ‘under-nutrition’. The most recent estimate, released on October 14, 2009 by FAO, says that 1.02 billion people are undernourished, a sizable increase from its 2006 estimate of 854 million people.
Lack of food is not the problem. Enough food is produced in the world today for everyone to be properly nourished and lead a healthy and productive life. Hunger exists because of poverty. In a Developing country like India where the GDP is growing by 6-8% every year the agrarian way of life still supports more than 50% of her 1billion plus people and forms less than 18% of the GDP. Indian Government estimates say around 30% of the population lives below the poverty line. In 1995 India became and agri-exporter because Green Revolution had succeeded and she was producing surplus food! Add to that the fact that India is ranked second in Agricultural out put! Yet her farmers are killing themselves in the 1000′s because of hunger and debt!! Isn’t that a huge disconnect?
Agriculture the First Revolution for Human kind
One common thread that binds all the species on our earth is the fact that we all at the end of day work for food, every thing else is secondary. Agriculture for all practical purposes can be considered the first revolution for human kind. We discovered agriculture some 10,000 years back which lead to man settling down creating cities and civilizations.
Today half of human kind depend on agriculture for survival. Almost 3/4 of this population still use their hands and do traditional farming. Agriculture was passed down from generation to generation and the agrarian way of life could be called almost ritualistic. The farmer toiled on his farm every year, depending on his hard work and nature for his yield. Industrialization and the discovery of coal and crude oil changed agriculture too. The unbridled power of oil changed agriculture in ways we would not imagine 50 years back. Machines replaced men; a liter of oil produced enough energy to run machines which replaced almost 50 people working 24hours!
In the US with a population of approximately 300million, there are only 3 million farmers left and they produce enough food to feed 2 Billion people! Most of this feed is not used as food but transformed into bio fuels and cattle feed.
Agriculture uses 70% of all water we use in the world! Crops adapted to the weather patterns and the soil where they grew gave way to the high-yielding Transgenic varieties which produced more and were easier to cultivate. In the last century we have lost over 3/4th of all native seeds developed by farmers world over by cultivation over 1000 years…
An example for a modern Agricultural “marvel” would be Almeria in Spain- Europe’s vegetable garden. As far as the eye can see it is plastic roof tops with controlled artificial environments below. The home project film describes it like this “As far as the eye can see plastic above and fertilizer below. A city of uniformly sized vegetables wait everyday to be transported to Europe’s super markets”.
This is modern day Agriculture, where hybrids are the name of the game. We get inbuilt pesticides, herbicides and viruses so that the vegetable crop survives. The producers “guarantee” there has been no case of transference of genes from plants to humans noted. The only study done has been with soy and it has been seen it does transfer to our colon. More about it in the next post as am still reading Jeffrey M Smith’s book Genetic Roulette (see the link at the bottom of the page, I got it from there)
Development in the Developing World
India, China, Brazil etc are all part of the world referred to as the developing world. Today over half of the 7 Billion people in the world live in cities. I pick India as an e.g. because it is the largest democracy in the world and has the second largest population in the world, add to it the fact that I grew up there . During my recent visits what has stuck me most is how fast India’s Urban landscape is changing. Overnight small cities have skylines and suburbs keep encroaching rural areas around to expand.
Right now the population of cities in the developing countries are increasing in ten folds every year. As rural life becomes more difficult people head into cities looking for jobs as they did eons back.
As the Indian economy surged, matters that call for the urgent attention of the public and government are ignored in favor of the stock market, and India’s famed IT boom. Agriculture though it feeds the country is left behind by the Government and the press. As farms become non-sustainable and farmers become debt laden their only recourse is to either head towards the urban areas to look for menial hand to mouth existence jobs or end their lives.
Effects of Green Revolution in India
The North Western state of Punjab was the poster child for Green Revolution, it was the success story which was on every ones lips. Schools taught it as the shining example of what farming can accomplish. It was dubbed the “Bread Bucket of India” during the 80′s and 90′s. Punjab took to Industrialized farms effortlessly and the results were stunning to say the least. The state was producing surplus in agriculture and their GDP was way ahead of the rest of the country. Now Punjab is referred to as a case study in “How industrial agriculture boosts yields in the short term, but leads to the long term destruction of the land on which agriculture depends and of the social and environmental contxt with which it is immediately linked”.
The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAAKSTD) concluded after assessing Punjab’s situation that “Business as usual is not an option and If radical changes are not made in how we produce and distribute our food the world’s people can not be fed over the next half century and we will be left with a world which nobody wants to inhabit!”
Now India adds 18 million people every year to her population! Her farms are producing lesser and lesser food and her farmers are getting deeper into debt. What can help them?
India will have to alter her course and go back to her roots in the agrarian way of life which sustained her for long. Some things that come to mind are as follows:
- Community based natural farming.
- Using native non-transgenic seeds which are adapted to the native conditions.
- Rotating crops there by not letting pests get out of control.
- Using natural herbicides and fertilizers etc…
A radical over haul of thinking and action is what will help the world in reaching a balance where everyone will have access to food and the environment will be taken care of too. Returning to a sustainable way of farming is the only recourse for mankind. As the Native American saying goes:
“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”
GMO’s and other problems will be covered in the 3rd part of this post… have to finish reading Jeffrey Smith’s book
Genetic Roulette Digest