In this essay, the author discusses the right approach to combating the problem of hunger – an attribute shared by closed to 900 million people worldwide. He takes issue with the arugula-eating liberal elites, like Food First, a California-based organization that opposes the technological advancements of the Green Revolution. Modern improvements in agricultural technology and sciences create higher crop yields. When land ownership is limited to a few hectares, it is critical to maximize the output on these small plots, which is what industrial improvements in agriculture enable. It is true that there are downsides to the Green Revolution, including further marginalization of subsistence farmers and, in some regions, a widening of the income gap in the agricultural community. But what cannot be said about this approach is that the food it produces is either inferior to organically-grown crops or that the process is any less sustainable. Industrial technologies, chemical fertilizers, and improved seeds generate more food, feeding more mouths, reducing malnutrition and generating income.
Poverty — caused by the low income productivity of farmers’ labor — is the primary source of hunger in Africa, and the problem is only getting worse. The number of “food insecure” people in Africa (those consuming less than 2,100 calories a day) will increase 30 percent over the next decade without significant reforms, to 645 million, the U.S. Agriculture Department projects.
What’s so tragic about this is that we know from experience how to fix the problem. Wherever the rural poor have gained access to improved roads, modern seeds, less expensive fertilizer, electrical power, and better schools and clinics, their productivity and their income have increased. But recent efforts to deliver such essentials have been undercut by deeply misguided (if sometimes well-meaning) advocacy against agricultural modernization and foreign aid. Continue reading