What's Needed Most to FEED THE WORLD'S HUNGRY!
Plain Truth Magazine
April 1983
Volume: Vol 48, No.4
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What's Needed Most to FEED THE WORLD'S HUNGRY!
Donald D Schroeder  

Not more industrial development, but a renewed and immediate effort to improve agriculture!

   SOMETHING is seriously wrong in world agriculture!
   Why are so many nations plagued with millions of malnourished or starving citizens? Even certain nations with major industrial and military development also suffer from massive shortages of food that must be made up by imports. Why?
   Yes, why? — when all could be well fed even today!
   Did you know that the earth has not only the capacity to feed its population of four and a half billion humans, but resources to feed a population several times that?
   A potentially bounteous earth, except in a few areas, isn't producing the food it could. It isn't producing the successful farmers it could. We need to ask why it doesn't. And what is needed to lift the curse on world agriculture today!

Greatest Challenge

   Worldwide, farmers are facing their greatest challenge in history. Food supplies must nearly double by the year 2000 — only 17 years away. That's to give the projected world population of around six billion — barring some world catastrophe — an adequate diet.
   But the International Food Research Institute warns that poor nations 17 years from now won't be able to afford to buy the staggering amounts of food needed. And food aid — as distinct from food sales: — from the handful of major food surplus nations will not solve this explosive problem. And the few big food exporters, producing ever more costly food, certainly can't afford to give it away.
   What, then, is the hope to feed hungry peoples?
   Food aid is practical, at best, only in short-term emergencies such as war relief, drought or natural disasters. Prolonged food aid is a positive deterrent to food production in many hungry lands. It allows government leaders to avoid taking the difficult steps needed to place their nation's agriculture on a sounder basis.
   The facts are these: Even now the problem of world hunger could be greatly alleviated. But only if governments worldwide immediately reorder national priorities and devote much more of their research, wealth and energy to agricultural and rural development. Even now cooperative efforts could help needy nations better feed themselves.
   In fact, yields could be doubled or tripled in many nations — even in those whose millions perpetually totter on the brink of starvation, such as in Bangladesh. This startling improvement in food production is presently possible by utilizing the best seeds and crop varieties for a given area, and by more efficient use of water and local fertilizers.
   Food supplies can be dramatically increased in many areas even with present levels of production. How?
   By better access roads to fields and markets, by better harvesting techniques, and by better storage and food preserving facilities. Better rural hygiene, health and living conditions are desperately needed to enable farmers to produce more.
   An old saying sums up the real need in hungry lands: "Give a hungry man a fish today and he will be hungry tomorrow. But teach a hungry man how to catch his own fish and he will eat today and tomorrow."

The Big Problem

   But all this demands a major reorientation of government policies throughout the world. It means agriculture and rural development must be given a much greater priority.
   It means if not land ownership for most farmers, then at least greater access to good land. It means making available affordable credit to poorer farmers so they can utilize better farming techniques. It means establishment of attractive food prices for farmers to encourage them to produce. It means more easily available farm supplies and equipment.
   Sound agricultural development would also require following up with better storage and preservation facilities that often could double food supplies by cutting wastage. And good roads to move crops quickly to storage and markets. It means better rural health care, clean water development, schools and homes. Sufficient supplies of essential food, pure water, health care and hygiene are necessary for peoples to have the energy to produce.
   The task involves development of efficient production systems for every crop, every season, every region in every nation. It means learning about the best seeds, about water management, soil conservation, fertilizers and technology for hundreds of farming environments. And the best animal husbandry systems that enrich, not destroy, the environment.
   What a different world it could be if there were more cooperative worldwide research between advanced and developing nations.
   Most needed now in many hungry nations are crops that require less water, less costly fertilizers, than go into the "Green Revolution." Food experts warn that the Green Revolution has, for all its marvelous yields, only temporarily bought us time to tackle the world's food production problems.
   But the Green Revolution has simply bypassed the vast majority of small, poor farmers who cannot afford it. Too often what's happened is this: The increased profitability of the hybrid strains of lower — protein wheat, rice and corn have led larger farmers who can afford them to devote more and more acreage to these seeds. Less and less is devoted to growing of staple vegetables — such as lentils, peas and beans — which are the only sources of proteins for many.
   Several years ago, Norman Borlaug, noted agricultural scientist and developer of hybrid seeds, estimated only 10 percent to 15 percent of the world's cultivators had benefited from advanced agricultural know — how.
   The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates around two thirds of the cultivated land in developing countries is not suitable for high-yielding seeds and their high requirements for water, fertilizer, pesticides and supporting technology.
   Four fifths of the farms in poor nations are less than 12 acres and many are only around two. Modern tractors and combines do not fit.
   What these areas need is the introduction of small farm machinery and tools that supplement human effort, not replace it; machinery to increase the need for more farm laborers through greater productivity, not drive farmers from the land into unemployment and urban ghettos.
   Labor-intensive agriculture can often produce more per plot of ground than highly mechanized agriculture. This is because laborers on small farms can work harder and longer on each acre. Various combinations of grain and vegetable crops can often double production on a given piece of land. And multiple cropping also reduces the farmer's risk caused by dependence on a single crop.

Pioneer Taiwan

   One of the secrets of Taiwan's success is that rural development in the 1950s paced industrial development, with rapid increases in the earning power of small farmers as a powerful stimulus on the industrial sector. Land and credit protection and technical assistance have more than doubled food production on the average two acres worked by Taiwanese farmers.
   This experience for small farmers has also been repeated in areas of the Philippines, South Korea, India and Japan.
   Multiplying productivity on plots large and small over so many varying soil and weather conditions is a complex task. But it is one that man could have achieved long ago if humans and their governments had their priorities and values right.
   Mankind could still make great strides in feeding the world's hungry, could yet avoid much calamity. But those in responsible positions of authority will have to admit their mistakes and set their will and energies in united effort with other leaders to meet the world's great agricultural challenge.
   Today, one of the most hopeful signs is regional crop development agencies that are concentrating on farming methods and technology appropriate to small farmers — technology that in most cases is neither expensive nor highly technical.
   Yet such effort is the easier part of the problem.
   The hard part is getting the cooperation of political, cultural and social leaders to allow necessary changes to proceed. And to attract qualified people to educate, encourage and show rural populations better farming methods — to demonstrate agricultural benefits others can see with their own eyes.
   Governments need to attract the best people into agriculture: people who want to serve rural populations and their needs. Instead too often what happens after education in many nations is the educated learn to despise rural living and. want an office job in a city commensurate with their education.
   The world food problem is really a problem of political will and right decision making. It is only governments that can protect land rights for farmers, that can offer fair credit systems, that can provide fair and honest administration and handling of money, that can supply the needs of rural development.
   Agricultural development is a long-term project. It outlasts the few years most office holders keep their jobs. Sound agricultural development needs stability of government to ensure its success.
   Unfortunately governments and human beings are locked in competitive and antagonistic political systems. All nations are torn with some form of racial strife and social divisions, with animosity, distrust, confusion, ignorance and self-interest. Vast defense preparations, enormous bureaucracies and, too often, corruption waste billions of dollars that could meet the critical needs of agriculture.
   Imagine what could be done in a cooperative world at peace with money now spent for arms to solve the world's food and agriculture problems. Selfish attitudes and ways of living have put all nations under a curse.

Responsibility of Wealthier Nations

   Wealthier nations now waste vast sums of money and technology on nonessential self-indulgences, on trivia to satisfy every whim or appetite stimulated by modern advertising. A fraction of this money and effort, if devoted to efficient agricultural research and development in hungry lands, could help many needy peoples feed themselves.
   And measurable results would be quickly forthcoming. Modern false materialistic values and greedy ethics have caused many to lose all sense of social responsibility and priority.
   It is true, some areas of the earth cannot produce much more food. Many marginal lands cannot support the growing populations forced to live on them because of recent wars and human conflicts. Or because of generations of bad farming practices, or poor weather or lack of sufficient water. Many nations need to rapidly bring down birth rates further. And develop new lands for agriculture. In these areas there is no easy bailout.
   But in other areas there is still time. But will the nations use it? Bible prophecy says, No!
   Yet a solution is coming!

The Real Solution

   The good news is the world curse on agriculture will be lifted. An astounding agricultural revolution is laid bare in the pages of your Bible.
   God's plan for agricultural reform begins with the reestablishment of the government of God over the earth. It includes free productive land for all. And proper credit for rural development. And bounteous weather, rainfall and peace to develop prosperity. These are guaranteed — to those who are diligent to obey God's laws.
   "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house [God's government] shall be established in the top of the mountains [nations]... and all nations shall flow unto it.
   "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord... and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.... And he [Christ] shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords [military hardware] into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:2-4).
   And more wonderful news! "The wilderness and the solitary place and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose....in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water..." (Isa. 35:1, 6-7).
   "Behold, the days come, saith 'the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed " (Amos 9:13-14).
   God speed that happy solution to the world food and agricultural crisis!

Agricultural Development A Wide Open Field

   Food scientists are discovering that mankind is nowhere near the limits of plant, livestock and soil productivity. There is still room to boost yields and learn how to use more efficiently the earth's acreage for animal and crop husbandry. Here are the facts from around the world:
   Irrigation: For the tropical farmer, water control is crucial. Instead of costly enormous dams, farmers can frequently build smaller earthen dams and dig irrigation ditches.
   Enormous amounts of irrigation water are lost to evaporation before use. Smaller but deeper holding tanks would be more effective in conserving water. Proper water utilization and conservation can allow the farmer to plant two or three crops instead of one.
   Pests: More emphasis is needed on finding natural organisms and natural chemicals that kill pests and don't hurt plants. Petroleum-based chemicals are costly and often are dangerous to humans and the environment. Insects and animal pests often eat more crops than do people. Reducing these losses can easily raise present yields in many areas as much as 30 percent to 50 percent.
   Fertilizer: Particular emphasis needs to be placed on developing fertilizers that are not petroleum-based. In Asia, man-made urea (nitrogen) from petroleum or natural gas is expensive. Manure and composts (crop and vegetative wastes) could be utilized instead of burned for fuel. Building a compost bin or ditch is cheap and easy.
   Rice farmers in Asia have found as much as 90 percent of fertilizer is lost if spread across the top of a wet paddy. But mixing fertilizer with soil (called the "mudball method") and packing it down next to the roots reduces by half the amount of fertilizer needed. It also increases employment for laborers.
   Intercropping and Multicropping: One of the cheapest methods of pest and plant disease control is intercropping. Intercropping is planting different kinds of crops in alternate rows or in various close associations on small acreages. Each crop acts as a barrier to the spread of insect pests or plant diseases affecting the other crop.
   This planting method was widely practiced for centuries by Asian farmers. Yet only recently has scientific evidence been found to support it. Unfortunately, in recent years Western agricultural development has tended to push monoculture techniques on farmers. The result is increased insect and plant disease problems.
   Multicropping is planting more than one crop (of the same kind or of various kinds) during a growing season. This is possible in the tropics and subtropics because of the abundance of sunshine throughout the year. The major constraint is water availability and sufficient fertilizer or soil nutrients.
   Recent intercrop and multicrop research is showing that various combinations of grain and vegetable crops can often double production on a given piece of land. Much research needs to be devoted to the best crop combinations and possibilities for every soil and local condition.
   In some areas, alternate rows of cereals and legumes show dramatic increases in both crops. Several years ago in the Philippines, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) had amazing results intercropping maize (corn) and peanuts It was found these crops, suitably planted together, can intercept 40 percent more sunlight and are up to 60 percent more productive than when either is grown alone. As well, these two crops combined to control pests better than when growing alone: peanuts attracted a spider that kept down stem borer infestation in maize.
   Also, the residual nitrogen from a harvested legume crop, or a well fertilized soil, can be used efficiently by a proper second food crop in some areas.
   Weeding: Certain leafy legumes planted with rice also reduce the incidence of weeds. In one area of West Africa, it was found that cucumbers planted with other food staples controlled weed growth. The roots of cucumber plants were found to produce a substance that inhibits the weeds.
   Weeding is one of the most tedious, back-breaking and strenuous jobs on farms in developing nations. Low-cost but efficient mechanical weeders could multiply the acreages a small farmer could cover with the same human effort.
   Multiuse: Fields can be rotated between raising many kinds of crops and raising livestock. Animals eat leftover food roughage and in turn fertilize the fields. And proper rotation of crops is a good natural method to cut down crop diseases and pests.
   Fish farming, too, is another area of acreage utilization often overlooked in the search for more protein production. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization estimates fish farming in small ponds, irrigation ditches and rice paddies would multiply protein production many times over in many countries. Some Filipino farmers have been able to return to the traditional practice of growing fish in rice paddies — a practice previously severely curtailed by the use of pesticides.
   Aquaculture of fish has been practiced in parts of Asia for centuries, but the output has usually been low. Recently, a successful project run by the Central Inland Fisheries Institute of India was able to increase annual catches from half a ton of fish from a one hectare (2.5 acre) single specie pond to 10 times that amount. They did it by cultivating different species of fish in the same pond under controlled conditions. Some fish were bottom feeders, others were middle feeders, others top feeders. The whole area of the pond was used efficiently.
   Harvesting and Storage: Besides the problem of pests, great quantities of food are lost by improper threshing methods and by poor handling, storage and food preservation. Fermentation and mold during wet season crop harvesting and badly organized drying and milling facilities, lose much grain. Grain dryers that work for North America may be useless in tropical climates. Grain bins designed for gentle prairie winds are no good for Africa's blazing sun. Developing right storage facilities for local conditions is a great need.
   Distribution and Marketing: Efficient ways to quickly transport food to cut down spoilage is needed in many nations. Good roads are necessary to deliver a greater percentage of available food to places where it is needed and in good condition.
   In sum, there is vast room for cooperative agricultural research, development and assistance. If humanity can learn to share research and development in the critical area of food production, the payoff can be big in terms of world peace, happiness and hope for all mankind.

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Plain Truth MagazineApril 1983Vol 48, No.4