Agriculture and Peace

The first essential component of social justice is adequate food. And yet there are nearly 1 billion people who go to bed every night hungry. Particularly disheartening are the 150 million young children who go hungry each day, with this undernourishment often leading to irreversible damage to their bodies and minds.

Among developing countries with the lowest levels of hunger, only 8% were mired in conflict. In contrast, of those countries where more than half of the population was underfed, 56% were experiencing civil conflict. Since agriculture provides employment for the majority of people in low-income developing countries, it is not surprising that when this sector is allowed to falter, armed conflict often follows (Borlaug, 2000).

It is indeed troubling to see the persistence of large military budgets around the world, including in the United States. In total, about US$900 billion are spent annually on the military. The United States accounts for 50% of this total (about US$450 billion), and spends 40 times more on the military than it does on overseas development assistance. Indeed, trends in foreign assistance funding for agricultural and rural development have been declining, not only in the United States, but also in many other donor countries and institutions. The World Bank (2002) reported its lowest level of support to agriculture in its history in 2000-2001.

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