Ending Africa’s Hunger

Books foodfirstorg of agriculture contain the makings

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Unformatted text preview: oks, foodfirst.org). of agriculture contain the makings of a new revolution. It is not a violent Red Revolution like that of the Soviets, nor is it a White Revolution like that of the shah of Iran. I call it the Green Revolution.” Steeped in the cold war, the first Green Revolution was designed to prevent any other revolutions from happening. The Green Revolution appeared successful because the global quantity of food produced increased dramatically. From 1970 to 1990 the amount of food available per person rose by 11 percent, and more than 150 million people were lifted from the ranks of the world’s hungry. But most of that rise was driven by transformations inside China. Subtract China from the picture and the heyday of the Green Revolution saw global hunger increase by 11 percent. In South America, hunger grew by nearly 20 percent despite impressive gains in output driven, in part, by improved crop varieties. Those varieties required large landholdings in order to be economically efficient, which meant that the peasants working that land had to be kicked off. Those displaced peasants migrated to the hillsides and tropical forests, doubling the area of cultivated land—in other words, the increase in food came not only through technology but also simply by having food growing on a greater area. Beyond the massive displacement of peasants, the Green Revolution wrought other social damage—urban slums sprawled around cities to house displaced workers, pesticide use went up, groundwater levels fell and industrial agricultural practices began racking up significant environmental debt. Today, because of the Green Revolution’s catastrophic economic and 18 The Nation. ecological consequences, even its strong advocates in India have recommended that up to 70 percent of farmers farm organically. The architects of Africa’s new Green Revolution at the Gates Foundation are sensitive to these flaws. In an interview, Roy Steiner, deputy director of agricultural development, was well versed in the history, emphasizing that the Gates Foundation’s agricultural priorities are directed at small farmers (known as “smallholders”) and women. The past offered some salutary lessons, he said, because “if you look at the depletion of water tables and the overuse of fertilizer, a lot of that has to do with very poor policy choices. It pushed a certain mode of agriculture that we know now was an overuse.” Nonetheless, the Green Revolution being prepared for Africa bears more than a passing resemblance to its predecessor. For starters, in the 1960s the push for a Green Revolution was accompanied by fears about national security and stability; the recent global spate of food rebellions, in dozens of countries from Egypt to Haiti to India, has made food a security concern once again. Furthermore, the first Green Revolution providing an infrastructure to source food aid locally. These are valuable efforts, but one might pause to ask why the need for such phi...
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This note was uploaded on 11/26/2012 for the course MATH 2313 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at Texas El Paso.

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