The global population of 6.7 billion people (2009), includes nearly two billion people who are considered food-deficient, and over 800 million people living on the brink of starvation (United Nations’ data). Present population growth rates indicate that our global population increases by a net total of 134 million, yearly (Census data). Added to this problem, deforestation, desertification, water shortages, soil erosion, more climatic extremes, global pollution problems, loss of plant and animal diversity, and other problems, have acted to reduce overall food production (per annual yield reports).
Critical food shortages and/or lack of sustainable means to produce sufficient amounts of healthful foods, in some areas, have acted to increase levels of frustration, anger, and conflict. There is an apparent/ obvious need to grow more food, while making that food more available to all. Most specialists in historical trends are predicting future high levels of conflict related to shortages of water, productive land, fertilizer, and energy as needed to grow crops. Witness the recent conflict in Darfur (in the Sudan), known to have been initiated due to water shortages and the resulting drop in food production means.
In general, development planners think in terms of land reform (making productive lands available to farmers), improved water management, increased soil fertility, greater access to modern farm tools and machinery, productive seeds, credit on reasonable terms, and basic sustainable inputs to give farmers the means to produce more food --- and earn a good living while doing so. When and where these conditions were found on a long-term basis, more youth are attracted to farming, and numbers of farmers will grow. Moreover, with these conditions in place many more people will be attracted to farming as a career.
It has been the policies created by nations that have acted to reduce the number of farms and farmers at a time when we need to increase food production. The U.S. has elected to pay large subsidies to wealthy “factory farms,” while creating policies harmful to small farmers. In the recent Pigford case, the courts awarded nearly $1 billion in damages to black American farmers who were the victims of such discrimination. Under U.S. export policies large quantities of surplus foods have been “dumped” on foreign markets thereby providing food for less than it can be produced locally, so local farmers cannot compete on an economic basis. Many small farmers, in developing nations have thus been forced to cease farming and seek other employment.
Predatory lending, by bankers and other lenders, has been the cause of many small farmers being forced to cease farming operations. In the U.S., the foundation for such predatory lending was created in 1999 when several bankers/lenders paid U.S. Senator Phil Gramm more than a million dollar bribe to sponsor and promote the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that removed nearly all the regulatory and reporting requirements for banks and other lenders. Since 1999, bankers/ lenders have expended from $100 million to $400 million annually for the “political payola” (vote buying) used to sustain legislation favoring predatory lending.
In the U.S. Ozark area, as one example, Regions Bank and other bankers used such predatory lending laws to create a racketeering scheme whereby farm loans were the means of planned foreclosures. The banks greatly inflated estimated farm income, to help farmers obtain loans guaranteed by USDA/ FSA (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture/ Farm Service Agency). By so doing, the bankers/ lenders knew, in advance, that farmers would not have sufficient income to provide debt service, and that banks could soon foreclose to collect on the loan guarantees. Adjustable interest rates were generally used to rapidly increase interest rates from 04 percent to 12 percent to accelerate the dates of farm foreclosures. U.S. President Barack Obama is requesting new regulations to deter such predatory lending. However, many Congressmen believe that “vote buying” by the bankers will prevent such changes in U.S. law(s). Similar acts of predatory lending are putting farmers out-of-business, on a global scale. (In January 2009, Regions Bank was fined more than $1 million, for the above referenced racketeering ---see Case Numbers 062178 & 072017 for the W. District Court for Arkansas.)
Monsanto’s efforts to promote GM (genetically modified seeds, and thereby “capture” the global seed market, has acted to damage overall food production. Researchers at CRIIGEN and the French universities of Caen and Rouen, have determined that GM seeds (and resulting crops) contain novel pesticide residues that may pose grave health risks to those consuming them. There is no scientific evidence that Monsanto’s GM seeds produce more under conditions of drought or flood. Monsanto’s GM seeds were actually designed to be resistant to Monsanto’s very toxic (and increasingly expensive) herbicide known as RoundUp. Climate activists recently gave Monsanto the “Angry Mermaid Award” for being the leading corporate climate criminal.
Bill and Melinda Gates have accepted Monsanto’s yet unproven claims that GM seeds will help increase global food production --and the Gates Foundation is acting to promote use of these seeds. President Obama has appointed a strong GM/ biotech supporter, Rajiv Shah, to lead the U.S. Agency for Intl. Development (USAID). In this position, Shah is expected to use U.S. taxpayer dollars to promote GM seeds and other biotech solutions as a means to increase food production. (Shah previously worked for Gates Foundation as Agriculture Programs Director.) In an additional act to support biotech, President Obama
also appointed a Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddiqui, to be the Chief Agriculture Negotiator for the U.S. Trade Office. (Siddiqui was Vice President of CropLife, a very notorious lobbying group representing Monsanto and other biotech companies.) Even if GM seeds, or other biotech options, are eventually proven to increase crop yields, the fear is that fewer and fewer farmers can afford to use these production options.
Census data indicates that 1.5 billion traditional and organic small farmers produce 75 percent of the world’s food, feed, and fiber using most of the 12 billion acres of available, productive farm, pasture, and rangeland. A majority of agriculture experts, at UNFAO
(United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization) believe that adequate support for sustainable, organic farming practices is the only way to produce sufficient food for the growing global population ---while also conserving resources and protecting our fragile environment. Factory farming, or so-called chemical farming, is generally based on optimization of profits at the expense of producing less healthful foods. Moreover, use of factory farming methods tend to waste energy and other resources along with damaging our environment. Chemical fertilizers destroy soil microbial activity and natural fertility. Antibiotics fed to animals are acting to create super-bacteria not easily controlled by existing antibiotics for humans. In brief, factory farming is not sustainable. (UNFAO, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Organic Consumers Assoc. reports.)
In areas of high conflict, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, & Somali, farms and farmers are being lost faster than they can be replaced. Many farmers in Afghanistan are forced to produce illegal opium poppy to help provide the Taliban with funds for their insurgency effort. Similar situations exist elsewhere. Small farmers in the U.S. Are being lost due to adverse legislation created by the “indentured” politicians bought or rented by the chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotech companies who support factory farming for the purpose of increasing profits. For many developing nations, elite interests or oligarchies act to prevent the kind of land reform needed to make productive lands available to a majority of farmers. It is difficult to increase the number of farmers, worldwide, when they are under “attack” from so many different directions.
An estimated 2.9 billion rural and tribal peoples live in geographic, social, economic, and political isolation in developing nations with leaders who often don't care if these people live or die. The U.S. Agency for Intl. Development (USAID) has long had responsibility for assisting these populations. However, the billions of dollars intended to help these populations help themselves have mostly gone to corrupt leaders who diverted a majority of these funds to their private Swiss bank accounts. In the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, USAID failed to provide effective agricultural advise or assistance, an important part of the U.S. Counterinsurgency efforts. After eight years of failed efforts, USAID passed their responsibilities, in these two nations, to USDA/FAS (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture/ Foreign Agriculture Service). FAS lacks the qualified personnel and experience to really be effective where USAID has failed.
To grow the food needed to prevent starvation and starvation-related conflict, solutions need to be found to all the problems identified above. Otherwise, we cannot actually “grow” enough new farmers to prevent greater food shortages than we already experience. In addition, we need to provide the finance, storage, transportation, and distribution/ relief systems needed to make food available to all those in greatest need.
For my part, I have used my farming experience, BS degree in Agriculture, and advanced agricultural training, to help “grow” new farmers in 42 developing nations, and the U.S., for the last five decades. From my own personal observations, I can affirm most of the problems I have heretofore discussed. In 1959-61, I helped to resettle over 120,000 Catholic refugee farmers in South Vietnam (they were relocated from North Vietnam as part of a political settlement). These refugees were resettled in a remote jungle area with good water and fertile soils. New farms and homes were created from the jungle, with minimal outside support other than seeds, tools, credit, transportation, and marketing. By the end of the first year, the food, feed, and fiber production cooperatives (coops) were all very profitable. As an example, one fiber coop sold over U.S.$3 million in Ramey and Kenaf fiber. The reason for such success was in providing the right help, at the right time.
In addition, there must be dedicated efforts to circumvent the problems identified above.
After Vietnam, I had similar projects in Africa, other parts of Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, along with work on some overseas counterinsurgency projects. To help sustain prior agriculture efforts I started a charity, Needful Provision, Inc. (NPI), in 1995. NPI has focused on developing the innovative self-help technologies that will assist small and disadvantaged farmers soon become financially successful while improving their well-being. These efforts may be seen on NPI's website ( HYPERLINK "http://www.needfulprovision.org/"www.needfulprovision.org). NPI's efforts to improve small-scale, sustainable farming include such things as biochar kilns to make biochar to improve soil fertility and crop yields, by natural means. In addition, supporting systems have been developed (by NPI) to improve the living conditions of small farmers; e.g. potable water units, odorless composting toilets, green (alternative) energy systems, zero net energy home construction techniques, and so on.
To assist farmers in remote areas, worldwide, NPI is starting an innovative barter trade program that will help farmers better market their food products, as well as cottage industry items produced during non-growing seasons. In the U.S., NPI is helping tribal Montagnard political refugees, from Vietnam, start an urban farming cooperative (coop) in Greensboro, North Carolina. These refugees were farmers before, and they want to farm but have only been able to obtain hourly non-farm work (for minimum wage) in and around Greensboro. By leasing vacant lots, flat roof-tops, and unused park lands ---and by renting vacant structures (for indoor grow-light aided production)--- these refugees can again become successful farmers, using minimal resources. Similar efforts are taking place in several urban areas to include Kansas City, location of the new Urban Farming Center. The lesson learned is that there are many innovative ways to “grow” new farmers.
Several of my early techniques for “growing” farmers may be found in my 1964 “Remote Areas Development Manual” written for the Peace Corps. This 584 page manual was published under a 1964 copyright by CDCS, a community development company I helped to create in that year. The U.S. Army and marines used this manual in Vietnam to help support civic action projects in rural areas. My manual may now be seen on the ERIC website ( HYPERLINK "http://www.eric.ed/gov/"http://www.eric.ed/gov/) ---Eric Tab ED 242881 # R-36. In most cases, I do not like to use personal references as part of an article. In the case of this article, it was, however, essential that I establish my own credentials when it comes to “growing” new farmers, and better supporting the small farmers we already have.
If we fail to “grow” more farmers, the U.S. will surely have to expend more “blood” and treasure in dealing with all the conflict originating from food shortages and starvation.
My life's work has been to prevent this from happening. Please help prevent me from
failing. In the coming months, my charity, NPI, will be starting one or two new projects to assist in “growing” farmers.