Food for a Hungry World

Article excerpt

Food for a hungry world

FOR years, the vast problem of world hunger has been the focus of lengthy debate in various organizations at the governmental, non-governmental and international levels.

In a noteworthy study entitled Agriculture: Toward 2000 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned all nations of the deteriorating situation and offered concrete suggestions for controlling hunger effectively. Today, however, it must be admitted that the plight of the world's underprivileged is steadily worsening. Nearly 500 million human beings, stagnating in poverty, are under daily threat of famine. The population of the most vulnerable countries increases by 2.5 per cent a year, whereas the annual increase in cereal production has levelled out at 1 per cent. If current trends continue, requirements for cereal aid, which totalled 7.6 million tonnes in 1979, will reach some 21 million tonnes by 1990.

Land resources are very seriously depleted in many regions. Demographic pressure, which is responsible for the increasing over-exploitation of arable land, the destruction of plant cover and the damaging effects of extensive grazing, is the ultimate cause of accelerated desertification, whose consequences in the medium term are just as harmful as a nuclear holocaust. Our planet is threatened by famine and yet, at the same time, we continue to exhaust almost 20 million hectares of land every year.

Why does the problem seem insoluble despite all indications that it has been carefully and perspicaciously analysed? There are undoubtedly many reasons, the most serious of which, it would seem, is that both the developing and the industrialized nations lack the political courage needed to implement the measures recommended.

It is important to seek methods of approach that involve farmers as much as possible rather than insisting on taking decisions for them and imposing solutions on them without taking the precaution of soliciting their opinion. This is an essential prerequisite to obtaining their collaboration. Without the farmers' wholehearted involvement no profound changes can take place. Their participation cannot be obtained by presidential decree or ministerial decision. Tangible, co-ordinated measures are required which will progressively create a favourable environment, working at a pace acceptable to the farmers and not racing ahead at the speed of technicians and politicians. …