Agricultural Model may be the way forward

Two recent articles bring to attention what could be the greatest peril the world will face in the not-too-distant future. In the article “Urbanization ‘threatens food security’ “, a senior Chinese official said China has approved more than 1,500 national- and provincial-level industrial development zones, the area of which account for nearly 1 million hectares, which directly led to China’s arable land declining by 8.3 million hectares in the past 12 years partly as a result of the country’s urbanization.

Another article states that global warming is likely to be already taking a toll on world wheat and corn production in period since 1980 according to a study by Stanford University researchers. Total worldwide relative losses of these two staple crops equal the annual production of corn in Mexico and wheat in France. With overwhelming evidence by the IPPC that climate change will cause global average temperature to increase, this problem shows no signs of slowing down.

Amidst all these, the world population continues to grow at a rate which crop production struggles to catch up. All of these points to the need for the world to rethink the general model of development and the solution may well be a move from an industrial model back to an agricultural model.

We live in an age where power reigns supreme and success is largely defined by positional authority and wealth status which feeds the herd mentality of migration to “urban” cities that supposedly offer more opportunities. The first thing world leaders have to do is to place increased food production as one of its main agenda. The industrial model that now dominates in much of the world should give way to the creation of an ecosystem that is non-linear with everyone playing a specific role and elements interplaying to achieve their respective goals; a new system of mutual, co-operative and partnership alternatives. Market mechanisms should be made to operate more smoothly to widen the financing streams by encouraging mutually beneficial partnerships with farming communities.

Such an ecosystem requires a rethink of the way success is defined and an alleviation of the status of farmers. There should be genuine efforts by the governments to take the lead by promoting a spirit of enterprise in the farming sector, training and empowering farmers and incentivizing private sectors to invest more into agricultural science.

All these are not enough and needs to be supplemented by measures such as granting access of the local peasantry to land, water and seeds and applying technological improvements to improve yields. As public infrastructure and access to external information improves, the right of local communities to define their own agricultural and food policies ought to increase in tandem so that the farmers have more autonomy. Simply not wasting food helps too; roughly one third of world food production for humans is lost or wasted with industrialized countries being the worst culprit.

The solution is there but it is fading away fast as the world procrastinates.

By Si Yuan

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