People no longer doubt, as they did 40 years ago, that the world is capable of producing enough food for all of humanity, even if our numbers grow to nine billion. We know it can, and we know how to make it happen. Farms in Africa and the Indian subcontinent – where the land is fertile and the growing season long – should be producing much more food than their European counterparts. Instead, India produces half as much per hectare, and Africa hardly anything. They could easily feed the world.
This isn’t hard to solve, and farmers know what’s needed: better transport and market infrastructure, new seeds engineered for their climates and needs, an end to subsidies and trade barriers, a shift from survival-based to commercial farming practices. And these things are being done (in part because farming is suddenly profitable), albeit too slowly. This decade may well be remembered as the unfortunate gap between the first Green Revolution (which ended mass famines and widespread Asian starvation in the 1970s) and the second (which is poised to make even bigger changes in Africa and Asia). Until supply catches up to demand, we have a crisis.
What stands in the way, this time as last time, is misunderstanding. Aid organizations in the West and governments in the developing world, motivated by myths of village tranquillity, pay people to stay rural rather than to consolidate their holdings and modernize their farming.