Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Solution to World Hunger

Well, not exactly. But some interesting statistics came to my attention recently which really show how badly we're doing at looking after the world.

Let me start by introducing you to the Dervaes family, who live in Pasadena, Los Angeles. In their 8,700 sq.ft. (1/5 acre) property they grow 350 varieties of fruit, veg and herbs, and, though vegetarian, they raise chickens, ducks, goats and rabbits, for eggs, milk and manure, and they keep bees and run an aquaponics system which produces tilapia while providing extra nutrients for their plants. The four of them grow 75% of their own food (99% of their produce) and have plenty of surplus to sell on their porch stand. They achieve this using all-organic and natural growing methods, companion planting and polyculture, composting and caring for their soil, eating seasonally and saving their own seeds. Take a look around their website - I've been following them for several years and they really are an inspiration.

While their efforts and results are exceptional, the Dervaes family represent something which most of us veg growers already know - with a bit of practice and dedication, with careful intercropping and proper care for the soil, it's possible to grow huge, enormous amounts of food on a surprisingly small area of land.

The world's population is currently estimated to be around 7 billion, and we've been led to believe that this is too many - that we can't provide for everyone - that the planet can't support us all.

The numbers, however, suggest something different.

If we gave everyone in the world - not every family but every individual - a quarter of an acre (that would give the Dervaes family a whole acre - five times the land they have now) then 2560 people could grow more than enough for themselves in a square mile. It would take 2,734,375 square miles to provide for 7,000,000,000 people.

2,734,375 square miles...

Australia is 2,941,299 square miles. More than enough.

So, in theory, we could put all the people of the world just in Australia with 1/4 acre each, and the whole of the rest of the world would be empty of people...

I know what you're thinking. Most of Australia is desert, and across the world there are all kinds of habitats unsuitable for growing food. Deserts, wastelands, jungles, frozen tundras. How much agricultural-quality land is there in the world?

21,852,301 square miles, that's how much (an estimated 38% of the world's total 57,506,055 square miles of land). Eight times enough.

There are caveats, of course. Africa doesn't have enough agricultural land to support its huge population. Our cultural near-dependence on meat would have to change. But it's clear we could do better.

Vast, habitat-destroying, soil-draining, chemical-hungry grain monocultures don't work. What works is diverse, local, small-scale polyculture that works with nature instead of against it. (And don't get me started on GMOs, or how developed countries buy agricultural land for cash crops in Africa...) While chemical products and genetically-modified crops are touted as the answer to farming problems in arid countries (and everywhere else), the results consistently show otherwise.

We're not overpopulated. We're just rubbish. Whether you think it's by stupidity, by greed or by design, we're doing this aaaaaall wrong. 

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...