Silver Spring, Maryland, United States …. [Wendi Rogers/ANN]

A new report issued by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization

(FAO) reveals that, despite abundance of food in industrialized nations, the world is getting hungrier. The report shows that world hunger declined during the first half of the 1990s by some 37 million, but during the second half of the decade the numbers rose by 18 million people in developing countries.

Kenneth Flemmer, bureau chief for programs of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, says that several reasons can be attributed to these statistics, but the two primary reasons are political instability and economic crises.

“In places like Congo and Liberia, agriculture production has basically stopped,” he says. “Why would you invest all energy into preparing a piece of land, tilling it, planting, keeping weeds and creatures out of it, just to have a band of young boys with guns come along right at harvest time and say ‘Thank you very much?'” In some areas, roads are blocked and transporting goods is too dangerous.

“Economic crises has made inputs less available, less affordable,” he adds.

Flemmer explains that every region and situation has its unique solution. ADRA performs a needs assessment based on each specific region. Instead of a shotgun approach, “you’ve got a target,” he says.

One ADRA project is based on current research that uses fewer inputs, less seed, does a better job of managing water, and rice production “doubles and triples.” Flemmer explains that it was actually developed in Madagascar, “but we transferred it to Indonesia and it’s working just as well in Indonesia. Here’s a situation where it’s costing less to produce more.”

“It cost [US]$5 to train one farmer in the new rice production technique,” says Tereza Byrne, ADRA bureau chief for marketing and development. “Then he will take that training and become self sufficient and train others. So training is invaluable.”

Another project, which Flemmer says “wouldn’t always register as a great food security project,” is something ADRA has done since the late 1980s. “We get farmers to plant wood lots–an acre or two of trees, fruit trees, hardwood trees … They’ve planted thousands of acres into trees as a farming practice … In 10 to 15 years just one tree is often worth a month’s salary,” he says.

When one looks at the amount of food being produced across the globe and calculates that with the world’s population, there is actually enough food to feed everyone in the world. “The problem is that it’s not in the right places,” Flemmer explains. “It’s just not where it needs to be, and you can name off six or seven reasons quite easily.”

Flemmer points out marketing of agriculture production as one area of concern for farm family income. “In some of our areas we’re realizing that there’s already plenty being grown. But how do you market what you’ve grown?” He says that farmers in developed nations have access to farm radio, so they know where to market their products, and newspapers have cattle and grain prices.

“We’re starting to do that in developing countries for the local farmers so farmers can make a more informed choice. We have done enough to improve production of certain types of commodities that the real bottleneck now to progress … is marketing. So we’re putting more and more emphasis into that.”

He says ADRA is very careful on the agricultural commodities it brings to a country. “If we were looking at a project [in a certain region], we would not bring in commodities that would be in competition with local production. And we do those studies to find out what it is they are already importing and then we bring that in and use it, which is saving more currency for the country.”

Access to, utilization of and availability of food are the three concepts to food security, says Flemmer, and development is a long, slow process. But, “We can’t give up, we can’t get tired and say ‘Oh, that should be fixed by now.’ It doesn’t work that way. It’s a steady process.”

With a presence in more than 120 countries, ADRA partners with many various relief organizations worldwide to respond to natural disasters, political unrest and instability.

Copyright © 2003 Adventist News Network.

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