If one aspect of agriculture captures my attention more than any other, it’s the prospect of the sector feeding an ever growing population.
When I see predictions of the world population hitting nine billion by 2050 I tend to shudder.
There are countless people going to bed hungry now, so what happens as the population climbs ever higher it is hard not to see the situation worsening.
There are of course reasons for the hungry today, and it is not truly a situation of food shortage.
Certainly there are localized shortages, especially in extreme weather conditions in countries where it is still subsistence farming techniques, but on a world scale farmers have stayed ahead of the food demand curve.
There is a corresponding issue of wealth distribution which leads to hunger.
Within communities even in Canada there are those who fall through the cracks of rather broad social programming and find themselves living on the street, or in a home, struggling to put food on the table.
On a country-by-country basis the problem worsens.
There are countries where many starve because there is not the money to import food.
And then there are other issues at play too.
Corrupt governments, local officials and others looking for self-gain over the welfare of the populace, gouge systems in many countries, meaning even when food exists it never makes it to mouths needing it most.
And there is the issue of infrastructure.
Modern combines moving across Canadian fields, putting grain into modern trucks, where it is safely stored in steel bins before being exported via elevator, train and ship. It’s system which means most bushels produced are harvested, sold and find their way to world markets.
In many countries the system is far less advanced. Grain is bagged. It may face insect infestations, rats and other vermin. It may be lost in transit from ship to some small village taken there in an ox-drawn cart.
While there are many impediments to feeding the world today, the issues also hold out hope for the future.
Yes we have to see farmers produce more. That will mean varietal improvements, expanding acreages and better cropping techniques.
But greater strides could be made by improving grain handling around the world. That would seem simple enough. Better systems exist and simply need to be implemented.
There is a cost though, and the world has not even thought about wealth distribution which will allow developing countries to make such infrastructure strides.
How countries deal with the corruption, while being potentially important to avoiding future starvation, is also a problem with a less than clear answer.
And there is potential to at least discuss how to put the brakes on population growth, although that debate is again something few seem willing to even start.
There are ways the world can help farmers feed the masses, but at present there seems little will to make changes, leaving the onus on the shoulders of producers.
Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.