A Famine-proof World Requires Investment in Farm Research
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Once again the Horn of Africa is suffering a hunger crisis of dizzying magnitude. Nearly 12 million people are in the need of humanitarian assistance, despite more than $1.5 billion in emergency aid efforts to date.
It is easy to get lost in these mind-boggling statistics. However, we must urgently act in support these efforts. Relief agencies, community organizations and governments are providing much needed support to save more lives from being lost.
But with the America’s economic troubles dominating the news cycle, and families feeling the recession’s pinch, it is easy to question the merit of pouring large amounts of money, often too late, in an attempt to alleviate recurring famine in distant lands.
America’s commitment to humanitarian aid is still needed to avert untold numbers of deaths – we are not a nation to stand by watching children die for lack of food. The U.S. has responded with some of the largest donations of emergency assistance to the region. To do otherwise would be catastrophic and unconscionable.
This crisis is painful evidence, however, of donor and recipient countries’ failure to act on a message that is so obvious to those of us who have worked in Africa: short-term aid, while essential in crises, only bandages over the larger underlying causes of hunger. Especially in an uncertain economic climate, when every dollar invested in aid needs to be judged on its effectiveness, we must tackle the real causes of poverty that underlie the hunger crises in vulnerable countries.
Iowa’s legacy for making a difference resounds with echoes of voices and actions of the past – George Washington Carver, Henry Wallace, Roswell Garst, Norman Borlaug, Herbert Hoover – who have taken those small steps that have changed the lives of millions.
The U.S. can lead the fight to give people the means to sustain themselves and thus promote stability and security around the world. We’ve done it before.
In the 1960s, confronted by dire predictions of famine in South Asia and Latin America, the U.S. led the way. It pumped funding into research and development for crops that yield more food, seeds that perform better, farm techniques that encouraged bigger harvests. And the U.S. transferred this knowledge to those countries to stunning effect.
The “Green Revolution” is credited with helping avert famine for more than one billion poor people and providing the social and economic foundation for the tremendous economic stability and growth witnessed in Asia and Latin America today.