Hunger Still Stalks Asia

Despite the ability of smallholder Asian farmers to triple cereal production since 1961, the battle to ensure food security for millions of miserably poor people is far from won. Huge stocks of grain have accumulated in India, while tens of millions need more food but do not have the purchasing power to buy it. China has been more successful in achieving broad-based economic growth and poverty reduction than India. Nobel Economics Laureate, Amartya Sen (2000), attributes China's achievement to the greater priority its government has given to investments in rural education and healthcare services, compared to India. Hopefully, the Indian government will make the necessary investments in the rural sector to bring food security to the millions of hungry poor that still populate this great country.

Unfortunately, smallholder farmers in higher-risk tropical and subtropical production environments — those characterized by nutrient-depleted soils, unreliable water supply, steeper slopes, and remote locations — have benefited little from Green Revolution technologies to date. In many cases, improved varieties have been available, but other factors have constrained their effectiveness. These include climatic stresses, low and declining soil fertility, and low levels of adoption of fertilizers or other soil nutrient-restoring technologies, ecosystem degradation associated with intensified crop production, poor access to markets and inputs, and lack of political will, to name a few. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, has such higher-risk production environments, where a new paradigm is developing, focused more on the interplay between agricultural technologies and the need to improve natural resource management.

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