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Feeding a Hungry Planet

Stephanie Piper
In the next 40 years the worlds population will grow from 7 billion to 9 billion, yet already today, 1 billion people do not have enough safe and nutritious food to eat. Using your own village, town, city or country as your point of reference, tell us what you think the underlying causes of food insecurity are and why, and the effect it can have on a population (both
Email address: Mailing address: PO Box 28, Maryborough, QLD 4650, Australia. Phone number: +(011 61) 0428 717 990 Age: 19 Country of origin: Australia

Australia is a fantastic example of a country that has risen out of the darkness to prove itself as a country capable of feeding itself while facing adversity. This essay will explore Australias agricultural methods as a reference point to feeding the rest of the world. Solutions to solving World Hunger also lay in embracing science, biotechnology, simplicity and an attitude change.

World Hunger is not a new problem; it has always existed and continues to be ever-present in our growing populations. Since 1960, we have more than doubled our world population from 3 billion to over 7 billion1. Communication inventions such as the mobile phone, the internet, satellite imaging technologies and fast international travel have allowed us to capture glimpses of life all over the globe and get a full perspective of the plight of all people. Nothing can be hidden from the rest of the world while such technologies exist. Considering our history, our standards of living have jumped in the last century. Hygiene, medication, nutrition, cleanliness and proper plumbing have become top priorities, allowing us to lengthen our life expectancies. Strong values of multiculturalism and empathy have led us to a unanimous realization that living to anything below our standards is unacceptable in a western society.

As a young person of today, I struggled to realize why my forefathers had not already addressed this problem to some extent. This is what I found: If we look at the past century of Australian history, we escaped the clutches of two world wars in 1918 with losses like nothing our young country had ever experienced. With the vast numbers of the male population lost in both wars, it was left to women in untraditional roles and the new generation to heal wounds of the past. To feed itself, Australia had to overcome harsh and ongoing droughts, water security issues, low soil fertility, weeds and pests. Aside from Antarctica, Australia is the worlds driest continent with the least rainfall. The weather flicks from one extreme to the other in the summer months, from flash flooding to large scale bushfires. Only last year, Queensland experienced extreme flooding affecting 200,000 people over an area larger than France and Germany combined.2 Most recently, in 2013 while I write this essay Australia faces a catastrophic heat wave and resulting bushfires. Temperatures have risen to above 45C and 100 fires rage across the continent. Conditions are mimicking 2009s Black Saturday wildfires in Victoria which killed 173 people and caused 4.4bn worth of damage.3 Large tracts of land throughout inland Australia are prone to droughts,

Google Public Data, 2012. Population. Viewed on the 9 January, 2013. < world%20population> 2 th BBC News, 2011. Australia: Queensland Floods spur more Evacuations Viewed on the 9 January, 2013. <> 3 th McGuirk, R. 2013. Officials Search for Casualties in Australian Fires Viewed on the 9 of January, 2013. <>


sometimes lasting several years. Furthermore, Australian soils generally have a low fertility to take into consideration. Superphosphate and nitrogen fertilizer supplements are widely used to compensate. Farmers also face issues with soil erosion and salinity.4 To face all of these issues, scientific and technical advances have made our farming world renowned in efficiency and productivity. Before science stepped in, however, Australia relied on food rationing and struggled to feed itself. Good examples of Australian inventions which contributed to farming expansion include the stump jump plough, the combine harvester and the scrub roller.5 With time and Aussie spirit, we were able to rebuild and become self-sustaining.

Most recently, large scale mechanization replacing human and animal labour have enabled us to produce excess food, remain price-competitive and expand into the export markets worldwide. Australian farmers have also been able to consistently increase their productivity by 2.8% a year over the last 30 years6. Despite our successes, many other countries around the world have not been able to keep up with our progress. Currently 1 billion people worldwide do not have enough safe and nutritious food to eat. The underlying problems we face with food security is not food scarcity we currently have an obvious imbalance of food across the globe. Approximately half of the populations of all industrialized nations are obese. In fact, the rate of global food production has increased faster than the rate of global population growth. The world already produces more than 1 times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. We have enough to feed 10 billion people. So how could world hunger still possibly exist? The underlying cause is poverty.

Poverty is defined as the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; the condition of being poor. People currently earning less than $2 a day cannot afford to buy enough food, let alone buy the equipment to farm it using modern western techniques. Furthermore, economic status does not fully encompass the root cause of poverty. Looking beyond this, we can see that problems also lie with a distinct lack of human rights. Impoverished people live in perpetual insecurity which reinforces the status of poverty. They often lack legal security in relation to their home, possessions, livelihood and social security that would promise some minimal protection in the event of illness, crop failure or unemployment. The report, Voices of the Poor concluded: From the poor peoples perspectives, ill-being or bad quality of life is much more than

Australian Government, 2011. Australian Farms and Farming Communities Viewed on the 9 January, 2013. <> 5 th Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2001. Agricultural Interventions Viewed on the 9 January, 2013. <> 6 th National Farmers Federation, 2013. Farm Facts Viewed on 9 January, 2013. <>


just material poverty. It has multiple, interlocking dimensions. The dimensions combine to create and sustain powerlessness, a lack of freedom of choice and action. These multiple, interlocking dimensions that the report speaks of are analogous to many pillars or pins in a game of bowling. Each pillar represents something that we often take for granted, but is not available or poorly functioning for the impoverished. Examples would be a stable government, functioning economy, reliable trade, established educational system, etc. If we were to attack the agricultural pillar of poverty and assist until the area of choice became sustainable, you would be able to kill many birds with one stone. For starters, having a stable source of nutritious food reduces health issues surrounding malnutrition and presents a stronger defence against common ailments and afflictions. Furthermore, the mortality rate would lessen, an increased workforce would be available to help towards a better quality of life. An abundance of food also allows greater opportunities to embrace education for the younger generation. When this milestone is overcome, growth and improvement is difficult to hinder. We must make Agricultural developments paramount in our priorities in giving aid for these reasons.

Back in 1995, the world production of grains was lower than average, attributed to a wet spring in the US, bad weather and economic turmoil in the Soviet Union. Experts argued that with this new turn of events, world hunger would find new reaches in the poorer nations. However, what many did not foresee was the effect of the Green Revolution, and how scientific advances impacted the yield of crops. In India in particular, the effects have been spectacular. Between 1955 and 1995, grain production tripled to give the country sufficient food reserves to prevent famine, now allowing India to reach self-sufficiency. 7 Science has been able to pull us out of the dark ages faster than we ever anticipated because of the Green Revolution. Industrialised nations grow fat on their agricultural success, and have plenty to share with others. In fact, the industrialised nations gave $120 billion in aid in 20088. These payments, which include food, go far and I am consistently amazed by the great work that the AusAid agency delivers across the globe. I also understand that simply throwing money at some problems is not the answer, and a hands on approach is necessary. Volunteer efforts overseas are a personal, sustainable approach which, rather than gives a man to fish, teaches him how to. I believe volunteers play a key role in building these countries, but I understand volunteering has its risks and can often be dangerous. Furthermore, it requires dedication and skills which are often reserved for building up our own tradesman and farmer shortages here in Australia.

Lye, K. 2000. Agriculture The Phillips Concise World Atlas George Phillip, London. th Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2008. World Aid Contributions Table 8 Viewed on 9 January, 2013. <>

With this attitude in mind, I would like to present a solution which tackles the issues of education and agriculture simultaneously. I propose an educational broadcast daily as a method of reaching the masses. Australia currently has a shortage of people employed in the agricultural sector, so it would be impractical to send farmers overseas to teach. A broadcast provides many benefits, including worldwide guest speakers and ease of contact. A radio such as the old fashioned Crystal radio which requires no power to function and is very cheap to manufacture. These Crystal radio sets could provide continuous broadcasts detailing basic education. Topics could include sustainable agriculture methods specific to the country in question, which crops to plant in season, new methods of farming, how-to lessons and up to date weather broadcasts. It could even provide education non-specific to farming such as sex education and birth control, as well as education for children. I also propose a public indestructible phone box of sorts which makes it easy to contact the broadcasters to request education on a particular subject. I do realise that this is a solution that will not solve all our problems, but I hope that it will act as a start to a future resistant to regression. I would be grateful for the opportunity to share and gain insights from others to help build a better world for the future. I also heavily believe that science will play a very large role in the eradication of world hunger through the green revolution. A particularly good example of this is the work of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. They conduct research specifically for impoverished farmers to prevent crop and livestock disease, increased produce and many other projects.

My passion is within the sciences and I will be beginning my third year in a degree in Biomedicine in 2013. My dream is to seek employment and make a real difference within the CSIRO or the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research to help others to the best of my ability. I hope that the Youth Ag Summit will provide me with the opportunity to make contacts and secure employment for the future through such organisations. To eradicate poverty, agricultural developments alone are not panacea. We also need to consider education on how to live and farm sustainably and self-regulated population control. As the father of the green revolution, Norman Borlaug quoted famously as he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970: There can be no permanent progress in the battle against hunger until the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control unite in a common effort.9

Sachs, J. 2009. The Scientific American - Can We Feed and Save the Planet? Viewed on 9 January, 2013. <>


The solution must not only contain practicalities, but also an attitude change. After weeks of research and questioning to piece together this essay, it seems to me that we do not do enough questioning. We leave humanities problems to others, when in reality these issues need to be addressed by everyone. As John Lennon famously quoted, we are a Brotherhood of Man. I believe it is our duty to look after one another, no matter the distances or differences which separate us. I also believe that it is possible to eradicate world hunger within our lifetime. But I also know it is only possible if enough of us who care come together and make it a priority. We, at the Youth Agriculture can ensure that the present is not the enemy of the future. We must think out of the square with simplistic ideas, simplistic solutions aimed at people with little or no education. A most difficult task for well fed, well educated people sitting in air conditioned rooms, snug in the thought that without going to these places of misery, we can solve the problem. We must take action now.