EDITORIAL: To feed the multitude

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It will be the need of the hour! We’re talking about the quest for food! Here, there and everywhere, mankind will be faced with food shortages, with demand far outstripping supply! That is according to the dire predictions in the Bible. Apart from “wars and rumours of wars” which are usually great disrupters of the food supply, the Bible also mentions “famines” and “pestilences,” and we submit that these will be the result of climate change. With increasingly violent storms, due to the over-heating of the earth’s oceans – the result of our oversized carbon footprint, crops everywhere will be threatened, not only by the changing environmental conditions, but by the vicious storms that they produce. Cases in point: the havoc wreaked on Barbuda’s and Dominica’s agricultural sectors by the unusually powerful hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Meanwhile, a few days ago, Ireland also experienced one of its most destructive storms on record, and low-lying areas like Bangladesh can still barely recover from the annual, and increasingly devastating, monsoon rains that interrupt the food supply in one of the world’s most poverty-stricken countries. In Africa, changes in weather patterns, coupled with poor planning, primitive methods, government corruption and tribal and religious conflict, have made malnutrition, starvation and famine the norm rather than the exception. Oh, and not forgetting the terrible and historic rainfall in Sierra Leone that produced mudslides that, so far, have claimed 1,000 lives and severely damaged the country’s agricultural sector.  It is not a pretty picture, that of this earth in crisis. A food crisis!
And we have only ourselves to blame! For years, climatologists and those folks who know about these things warned us about our wilful and wanton stewardship of Mother Earth and the havoc that our negligent behaviour could do to our planet and the food supply. The warnings fell on deaf ears, and much like Nero, we fiddled while the earth burned. Then when we finally began to pay heed – the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the Paris Agreement of 2016, the world’s biggest polluters pointedly refused to do their share.
First, it was India and China who declared that they were not about to shackle their fossil-fueled industrial sector at a time when their economies were booming. Then it was the United States that petulantly withdrew from the Paris Accord, never mind that 197 other countries have promised to do their share to mitigate and reverse the damage done to the environment. Indeed, in a particularly baffling bit of obtuse reasoning, the current president of the United States, an obvious ‘science-denier’, has attributed the notion of climate change to the Chinese and promised the coal-mining areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, and oil-drilling states like Louisiana and Texas, that he will “Dig, baby dig!” and “Drill, baby drill!”  Mother Nature in distress! Indeed!
Of course, we are of the opinion that Mother Nature can feed us all, but our worst instincts seem always to get in the way of us doing that which is best for the earth and for each other. Look at what the conflict in the Middle East did to the Yazidis in 2014? Almost 4,000 dead, and the death toll could have been considerably higher had not Obama airlifted and dropped food to the starving people in the Yazidi mountains. Hmmm!
Then there is the question of greed.  As we said before, the world has enough food to feed itself, but selfishness, overconsumption and an unequal distribution of the world’s food supply have resulted in gluttony in some areas and destitution and starvation in other areas. We submit that there ought to be a rethinking of the allocation of our food supply to prevent feast in some areas and famine in others.  It is unconscionable and immoral! How immoral? Consider this. Half of the world’s wealth is in the hands of 1 percent of the world’s population.
Which brings us to this year’s observances for WORLD FOOD DAY. It was music to our ears to hear the nicely-articulated address by the Minister of Agriculture, and parliamentary representative for Barbuda, Arthur Nibbs, this past October 16. Apart from the usual stuff that ministers of agriculture usually say on these occasions, Nibbs said that inasmuch as we are now seeking to make our houses more resistant to hurricanes and the effects of climate change, so too, we ought to make our crops more climate resistant. The technology is available, let us avail ourselves of it. It will take visionary leadership! But it can be done!
The need for food will test us to the limit! But we are equal to that test. In 1977, the Ministry Of Agriculture sponsored a grand expo called the Agriculture and Industry Exhibition at the Botanical Gardens under the theme, “IF IT’S LOCAL, IT’S GOT TO BE GOOD!”  It was a resounding success with our local small farmers gaining even more access to the supermarket shelves and the hotels. The following year, the exhibition was held at the T. N. Kirnon School (formerly Boy’s School), under the theme, “DEVELOP AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY FOR ANTIGUA’S PROSPERITY!”
Again, Antiguans and Barbudans hearkened to the call to rally around our farmers, who were utilising the latest in irrigation and increased-productivity techniques. We did it back then with much success, and today, some forty years later, seems we will have to do it once again
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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