Where Will Food Come From?
I live in Bangladesh. We currently import food and get some aid from the UN (in particular during disasters.) The situation here has improved dramatically. We used to have disasters killing millions of people but are getting to the point where we can take care of ourselves. That doesn’t save us during an emergency, or where there is a fuel crisis,. but at least we have moved in the right direction. Another good point for Bangladesh is that people are used to a tough life here and are satisfied with little. Hard selection has produced a people physically superior in terms of dealing with a tough life. I wouldn’t know anything about this since all my ancestors are from Ireland!
Now to my point in relation to this thread. Bangladesh is an incredible place for growing crops. You can easily get four yields during a year. A lot of the country has areas heavily intersected with rivers and streams which is going to make irrigation more easy. Land is parcelled up in small free holds which aren’t very efficient. There is a HUGE population (160 million and growing) which is going to help with manual farming (which is really all we have now.) The country has a huge unexploited potential.
Next door to Bangladesh is Burma (Myanmar) which is an underpopulated country that used to be the source for rice all over the region (and the world.) People from Chittagong, where I live, used to walk into Burma to harvest crops. There has been talk of contract farming with Bangladeshi people taking over land and farming in return for cash/food given to the Burmese government.
I’ve jokingly suggested that Bangladesh should invade Burma. If international organisations break down (no UN) it might happen. The Burmese junta won’t have a chance against the huge Bangladeshi army which has at least deployment experience (with the UN). The question would be whether the Chinese would become involved.
Then I will come live with you. These are my needs.
1) High Speed Internet connectivity
2) Breakfast served by 7am sharp
3) Quiet time or nap time at around 2 pm
4) Bedtime Cocoa and a sweet story from you at around 9pm
That’s it, just basic stuff.
Someone will sneak up behind you and that will be that?
Sneak up behind me and what?
Well, considering we will be on a witch hunt with the government for awhile, it will take us some time to get to the farms. Along the way we will collect can foods and raid some beer or alcohol storage companies. I think they will willing give us food when they see we have Paulson tied to the front of our lead car, like the squirming little mess of a man he is. We can also raise food support by letting farmers kids spit on him for like an ear of corn or something. Still working on the master attack plan, but I will keep you informed.
Thanks for the good thread. I need to get more focussed on long-term sustainable liviing, and so I appreciate threads like this that delve more into these issues.
I know some on this site don’t believe that the "stages of acceptance" relating to the oncoming crash are real, but I do. I know that I went through such real fear on realizing what the future may hold for us, that I boomeranged back to "denial" because it was so damned scary. Well, maybe not total denial, but I put enough distance between me and acceptance to not feel the fear as badly as I had. But I don’t think reality is going to wait for me to reach my comfort level and achieve acceptance. And so I really appreciate threads like this that help reel me back to reality, face our possible future, and get on with the long-term , time-critical preparations I need to make.
We have made some shorter-term emergency preparations, for up to a few months (assuming the armed raiders with the lead car with Paulson on the front don’t cause us any trouble). Here are a couple of links that may be of help to others who still need to do short term planning. The Ready Store at http://www.thereadystore.com sells emergency food supplies, like freeze dried food with a shelf life of 20-30 years (as well as other emergency supplies). They have a 20-30% sale on through December 9th.
There is a water purifier, the lifesaver bottle, that supposedly can even filter viruses out of water. It can be found at http://www.lifesaversystems.com/ and can also be purchased through Amazon.com.
I also want to add that I like the suggestion, made above, that this type of "how to prepare" topic would make a good separate, permanent forum topic.
Going hungry in the 21st century
December 6, 2008
As world leaders grapple with the global financial crisis, another
equally threatening international disaster is unfolding – and
begging for a co-ordinated international solution. The most acute
food shortage in more than 40 years has, according to the World
Bank, already left 800 million people "food insecure". Australia and
other major food exporters are being called on to boost production.
Unlike recent food shortages, it is not confined to sub-Saharan
Africa and is not temporary. Food supplies are declining in Africa,
south Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Food riots
brought down the Haiti Government this year. Over the past 12 months
China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt and others have
temporarily banned rice exports to preserve local supply.
The World Bank’s 2008 Agriculture For Development report predicts
global cereal production must increase by 50 per cent and meat
production by 85 per cent between 2000 and 2030 to meet demand.
Others estimate food production must double in the next 40 years.
In October the director-general of the United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf, announced at a World Food
Day ceremony in Rome that only 10 per cent of $22 billion pledged
this year to promote global food security had been received. And
Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak,
called for a world food rescue effort equivalent to the
international response to the global financial crisis.
Last month agricultural leaders including Australia’s Tony Burke
attended FAO’s 35th session in Rome, at which food security was top
of the agenda. However, the financial crisis occupies global
attention, and solutions were not forthcoming.
What has caused the catastrophe? Among the main reasons are
population growth, rising affluence coupled with urbanisation and
industrialisation in China and India, climate change, a lack of new
genetic and technological food production breakthroughs, declining
pasture and crop seed banks, international trade barriers, rising
energy costs, an increasing diversion of crops to produce biofuels,
a shortage of food production specialists in key disciplines, and
hefty cuts to developed countries’ agricultural aid budgets.
The extent to which wealthy countries are prepared to tackle the
food crisis is the $64 question. World leaders must address how food
production and distribution can be organised and co-ordinated to
feed an extra 70 million mouths a year – 2 billion more people – by
2040. "We’re back to an equivalent situation to the green revolution
in the 1960s," says an Australian food expert, Dr Beth Woods, the
executive director of innovation and bio-security investment at the
Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.
"Major technological gains meant that for the past 25 years the
world was on a path of increased food supply. But technology has now
run out, and shortages have re-appeared. It doesn’t mean the green
revolution failed. In fact, it’s still working. But it just hasn’t
gone to the next phase."
Woods is a member of the Australian-based Crawford Fund World Food
Crisis Task Force that last month published a report calling for an
increase in funding for agriculture and rural development, increased
Australian food exports and a greater percentage of Australia’s aid
budget to be provided to agriculture in poor and developing
"For the next five years we may be able to just keep our head above
water but [after that] is a real worry," Woods says. "I can’t see
where supplies are going to come from. Making matters worse is that
countries with the capacity to increase food production over the
long term have become captive to short-term – three- or four-year –
As a significant global grain exporter, Australia is feeling the
strain. Drought-induced poor wheat harvests for several years have
contributed to the global shortage. And this year will be the third
successive near-zero rice crop, after million tonne annual harvests
until 2003. The country’s sole rice exporter, SunRice, maintained
its $700 million export market only by buying a majority share in a
Californian rice mill.
Meanwhile, the Crawford Fund task force leader, James Ingram, a
former Australian ambassador to the Philippines and Canada and a
former chief executive of the World Food Program, warned that
Australia must carefully manage its response to the food crisis.
"Because we stand to benefit economically from the likely long-term
rise in agricultural export prices, much will be expected of us," he
said when the task force report was published. "Even more than now,
in a more crowded world, Australia will be seen as privileged,
enjoying advantages not shared by more densely populated countries
in Asia and Africa. The long-term hunger challenge is not just a
challenge to our altruism. Dealing with it successfully is in our
national interest. Failure to significantly reduce poverty could
eventually destabilise world peace and security, to say nothing of
the impact of global famine on the movement of people."
So, what can be done?
Population growth may be temporarily slowing and the rise in
affluence in India and China may be stifled by the financial
meltdown. But between them the two economic tigers have a middle
class of 500 million, almost all of whom "graduated" from rice and
carbohydrates to protein-rich foods. China already consumes about 80
million tonnes a year of red meat, twice that of the US.
Across the globe millions of agricultural hectares a year are being
urbanised, not only depleting capacity for food production but
placing extra demands on it. Then there is the killer punch of
climate change. The World Bank says: "More frequent droughts and
increasing water scarcity may devastate large parts of the tropics
and undermine irrigation and drinking water in entire communities."
This already is reality in many parts of Asia.
In Australia poor grain harvests have prompted fresh assessment of
the production potential of the wet tropics. Although sparsely
populated and remote – and despite environmental concerns – there is
a groundswell of support for diverting some agricultural production
from southern Australia to the north.
The Burdekin River region of North Queensland is one area where
production is rapidly expanding. Woods says Queensland is keen to
increase agricultural production there, and elsewhere in the tropics.
"Coastal North Queensland already has $1 billion-plus horticulture
and sugar cane industries and there is considerable growth
potential," she says. "Although it is a difficult argument to
convince the public that new agricultural areas need to be
developed, most people will eventually come to a position that we
have to help feed the world."
For the past two years a Liberal senator and Junee farmer, Bill
Heffernan, has advocated financial incentives to encourage farmers
to "move where the water is". He argues that Australia must adopt
a "more technological" farming regime and heed warnings of big
reductions in water run-off in the Murray and Darling river basins.
"To keep abreast of the world, and to punch above our weight as an
agricultural provider, we are going to have to develop one of the
last regions in the world that I would call an undeveloped
agricultural frontier," he told ABC TV this year.
Genetic engineering has boosted some crops, but agriculture has had
too few technological breakthroughs in the past two decades. Biotech
crops are grown on just 115 million hectares in 23 countries, and
further development is constrained by the lack of environmentally
responsible regulatory systems.
The Crawford Fund says unnecessarily stringent standards are denying
developing countries access to biotech products such as golden rice,
which is more nutritious and higher yielding than traditional
Barack Obama’s victory and the Democrats’ entrenchment in the US
Congress threaten to seize up the already stalled Doha round of
world free trade negotiations. And the Democrats’ traditional
propensity to farm trade protection is likely to harden with the
present financial crisis.
In an open letter to Obama, published in October in the New York
Times Magazine, the influential US commentator Michael Pollan
wrote: "Expect to hear the phrases ‘food security’ and ‘food
sovereignty’ on the lips of every foreign leader you meet. It is one
of the larger paradoxes of our time that the very same food policies
[heavily subsidised US farm production] that have contributed to
over-nutrition in the first world are now contributing to under-
nutrition in the third."
The end of cheap energy poses other threats. It reduces the
profitability of grain production and renews emphasis on biofuels,
shifting food from mouths to fuel tanks.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says 38
per cent of the US maize crop and 50 per cent of Brazilian sugar
production is diverted for ethanol, while almost all Europe’s
oilseed harvest will be needed to meet the community’s 2008 target
The US Department of Agriculture estimates 65 million tonnes of
American corn will be needed annually for ethanol by 2010. Most of
the additional corn production will be diverted from livestock feed
Australia’s ability to increase agricultural production is
exacerbated by a critical shortage – also felt in other countries –
of graduate agricultural researchers, extension officers and
agribusiness managers. The Crawford Fund identified a shortfall of
more than 1200 agricultural graduates a year in Australia.
"If current trends continue, Australia will be unable to sustain its
intellectual and human resources contribution to international
agricultural research," it warned. The report recommended a more
general science degree in universities to attract urban dwellers to
The final straw may be the decline in foreign aid, likely to be
further inhibited by recessions in rich countries. The Crawford Fund
says official foreign aid to agriculture fell from 18 per cent of
total aid 30 years ago to 3.5 per cent in 2004.
Beth Woods has no doubt Australia should increase agricultural
investment, build water efficiency, improve distribution and supply
logistics, push for free world agricultural trade and develop
alternative fuel sources so food is used for eating. "If it gets to
the point where we produce less food there will be a very serious
impact," she says.
This is becoming a real possibility. Falling food prices and higher
production this year offer some hope, but plantings and harvests may
decline from next year.
The FAO director-general, Jacques Diouf, says: "Last year it was the
pan; next year could be the fire."