Current Problem
815 million malnourished, often hungry, people; periodic famine and starvation.

Preferred State/What the World Wants
Eliminate starvation and malnutrition; abundant, sustainable supplies of nutritious food for 100% of humanity.

“In the 1960s we began to conquer hunger in the United States. We are in a similar moment for world hunger.”
 —Gordon Conway and Susan Seckler, Rockefeller Foundation[1]
When I wrote my first book about the global food situation in 1979, the accepted wisdom was that close to 70 million people were threatened by starvation.[2] Later, through the 1980s, the literature regularly reported that between 13 and 18 million people were victims of starvation each year.[3] As the quality of our information increased, our estimates became a bit less general and bit more accurate. Our assessment became more focused as our data collection instruments and lens became more powerful. With the increased clarity, widespread malnutrition became more quantifiable and something that we could “see” and deal with. (In a sense, this is an example of our “increasing humanity”— as technology made us more aware, or reliably aware, our area of concern broadened.)

Hunger, and its debilitating impacts on health, education, economic productivity, and wealth creation come into sharp relief when we begin to get more detailed data. The need to eliminate it from the world as not just a do-gooder moral imperative but as the pre-condition for universal well-being and as an engine for poverty reduction and wealth generation for everyone in the world becomes increasingly clear the more globalization interlinks the world.
Ending Hunger in a Decade, Not a Century
Contemporary statistics don’t talk as much about starvation as they do malnutrition. In 1970, there were 917 million people malnourished. Thirty years later, in 2000, the figure was down 100 million, or 11 percent, to 815 million. The news is actually a “little better” (“startling better” is more accurate) than this when we consider that 2.3 billion people were added to the world’s population in this same 30-year period. The percentage of the total world population malnourished in 1970 was about 24 percent. In 2000, this was down to 13.5 percent. This reduction, and the continuing yearly removal of 5 to 8 million additional people from the rolls of the malnourished, [4] is one of humanity’s greater accomplishments.

The spectra of famine and starvation have been beaten back (but not beaten) through increased food production, global monitoring and media attention, and food relief—all carried out by extraordinary groups of dedicated and heroic individuals. Nevertheless, hunger, malnutrition, and politically engendered famine are still with us— and at the rate we are “improving” it will take 100 to 163 years to eradicate hunger from the world.

The world wants to eat. Not only that, the world wants everyone to eat—and now, not in 163 years. No one is knowingly for starvation or malnutrition. Yet approximately 815 million people in the world are chronically hungry.[5] Why? What forces are aligned to produce this horrific situation? What incentives or disincentives are at work? How can we change this situation?

Getting everyone in the world the food they need has not been a technological or resource problem for decades. Getting everyone in the world the food they need to be properly nourished is today an economic, political, and ethical question and challenge.

There are a number of ways of meeting this challenge. The following set of actions is one way that the world could eliminate hunger, starvation, and malnutrition and get for all its people, on a sustainable basis, the nutritious and culturally appropriate food they want. It would also result, as will become clear later in this chapter, in an unprecedented windfall for the global economy

Food for All Strategy 1: Create a Global Hunger Relief Agency
At this very moment, the Global Information and Early Warning System of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN is monitoring every country in the world for food shortages that could lead to hunger and famine. The system involves a worldwide network that includes 115 governments and 61 non-governmental organizations.[6] This excellent monitoring system has been in place since the early 1970s and provides global humanity with the information we need about where famine, hunger and malnutrition are occurring or will soon occur.

Countries Facing Food Emergency, 2005 (UN FAo, 2005)
This information about the locations of hunger and famine are used by the UN’s World Food Programme—the world’s largest humanitarian agency—and other hunger relief groups to bring food supplies into areas that need assistance.[7]

Unfortunately, neither the good information about where food shortages exist, nor the excellent work of relief groups is enough to get what the world wants when it comes to food. Despite the best intentions and impressive logistical capabilities, people are still suffering the ravages of hunger. Among the culprits for this are “political constraints,” (a polite euphemism for entrenched, usually corrupt, members of the status quo focused on personal short term gain); “just enough” funding (just enough to keep the system from collapsing into chaos, not the amount needed to build capacity or solve the problem); late funding (funds are allocated only after the problem gets critical); not enough staff, (and who are usually under trained), and too little authority and real power to go with awesome responsibility. The result is a lame, but not totally worthless, effort that has us lurching towards a future where hunger and food shortages are a historical relic, not a current outrage. Something else is needed.

To eliminate the ineffective aspects of the current global food relief efforts —one of our first strategies would be to develop a global hunger relief agency. Combining the Global Information and Early Warning System and the World Food Programme into one seamless unit, this agency would be empowered by the UN and its member states to take a more proactive and aggressively humane approach to eliminating global hunger.

First of all, the Global Hunger Relief Agency would have as its clients the hungry individuals of the world, not the nations in which those individuals reside. The agency would be empowered by treaty and universal agreement to enter any country at any time to relieve severe hunger. If this required a heavily armed escort to protect food supplies, relief workers, and food recipients, then the UN would supply such a force.[8] (For more information on the makeup of such a force, see Building Democracy, Part 1: A World Safe from Genocidal Weapons.) Criteria for entering a region or country would include: imminent threat of famine, 10 percent or more of a country’s population undergoing severe malnutrition, or an invitation by the country’s legitimate government or a consortium of ten or more non-governmental organizations working there. Stopping the feeding of people in a region or the use of food as a weapon would be considered a war crime, and violators would be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.

To preclude the periodic appeals for food donations that often accompany large-scale food relief efforts, the Global Hunger Relief Agency would amass and manage a large grain reserve (not unlike in function to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the United States). This food reserve would be used for emergency aid in times when global weather patterns, political conflicts, or other disruptions in food supply cause hunger and famine to flare up in any part of the world.

The Global Hunger Relief Agency would be charged with the responsibility and empowered to deal with famine and hunger in both curative and anticipatory modes. A budget increase of $5 billion per year would vastly expand the current functions of the Global Information and Early Warning System and the World Food Programme. The additional funds would cover the purchase of grain and other food reserves and the shipment, delivery, and distribution of food relief.

The amount of food accumulated in reserve would be a function of the severity and extent of hunger in the world at any given time. In years of plenty, reserves would be built up; in years of shortfall and famine, more of the budget would be spent on distribution of food stocks. Both activities—the purchase of grain in times of plenty and the distribution in shortfall years—would also act to stabilize world grain prices.
Food for All Strategy 2: Increase Availability of Fertilizer
In much of the developing world where hunger and malnutrition are most prevalent, soil nutrients (crop fertilizers) are a luxury, used most often to grow cash crops that are exported to the developed world. Because petrochemical-based fertilizers are so costly, few farmers in the developing world can afford to use them on staple crops sold in the village market. Luckily, there are alternatives that are far less costly economically and environmentally.

Research has shown that depending upon the crop, yields can be increased between 40 and 100 percent over current levels on farmlands not now receiving fertilizer.[9] Africa, which has about 12 percent of the world’s population, consumes only about 1 percent of the world’s fertilizer.[10] Yields per hectare for cereal crops, the basic food of all countries, are 3.5 times higher in Europe than they are in Africa.[11] The primary reason for this disparity is fertilizer application rates. Europe uses seven times the amount of fertilizer per hectare as Africa.[12] Fertilizer use in Africa is the lowest in the world—10 percent of what it is in Asia.[13] Crop yields reflect this: in Africa, yields average 1,500 pounds of cereals per acre; in India yields are 2,300 pounds, and in China they are 4,900 pounds.[14] One reason for this disparate use is that African farmers pay the highest price for fertilizer in the world.[15] In Kenya, prices are $400/ton. In Europe, they are $90/ton.

If Africa produced just half the amount of grain Europe produces per hectare, it would produce nearly 85 million metric tons of additional grain for its people per year[16]—more than enough to feed the continent’s nearly 200 million chronically undernourished people.[17] Given that Africa needed “only” 3.23 million tons of imported food aid to prevent starvation in 2002,[18] the 85 million additional tons of cereal production would have a huge impact on the nutritional condition of Africans. (85 million tons of grain would actually be enough to feed close to 420 million people.)[19]

Throughout developing nations, increasing the use of fertilizer from relatively inexpensive local, organic, and regenerative sources could increase the production of foods for domestic consumption.[20] The fertilizer response curve (i.e., applying fertilizer to crops that have had little or no fertilizer increases yields at a much higher rate than applying more fertilizer to crops on which it has already been used[21]) makes it clear that using just half the amount of fertilizer applied in the developed world would result in food production increases of close to 25 percent on average in the developing world. In instances where the need is most severe, such as in Africa, increases as high as 100 percent are possible.[22] Coupling increased fertilizer use with small-scale irrigation (see below), higher yield seeds, and a well-trained corps of farmer/teachers (see below), food production could be tripled in ten years.[23]

All the hunger-afflicted areas of the world are, at most, between 10 and 33 percent short in their production of the amount of food needed to make them self-sufficient in basic food production. Increased local production does not guarantee that everyone will receive the food needed to eliminate hunger and malnourishment, but it is a necessary condition for eliminating poverty and insuring long-term abundance. Producing 25 to 50 percent more food in food-deficient areas will have a tremendous effect on the availability of food in such countries.

The cost of a worldwide program to dramatically increase the availability of fertilizer and the establishment of a global agency, the Global Fertilizer Agency, to do this work, would be $5 billion per year for ten years.
Food for All Strategy 3: Increase Availability of Irrigation
Irrigation increases yields of most crops by 100 to 400 percent. [24] There is little doubt that the world could be feeding itself today without the benefits of irrigation. For example, the world’s two most populous countries, China and India, produce 70 and over 50 percent, respectively of all their food from irrigated lands. Pakistan, with its nearly 160 million people, gets 80 percent of its food from its irrigated lands.[25] The irrigation technology used in these regions, although effective in the short run, has long-term consequences. Inefficient and wasteful, most water used in these systems contributes to the build up of salt in croplands (salination) and the depletion of water supplies.

Sub-Saharan Africa could triple or quadruple the amount of its irrigated lands and still have plenty of water left over. Currently only 4 percent of cropland is irrigated in this region of the world, and only 1.6 percent of its available water is extracted.[26] Raising the amount of irrigated land to 20 percent, using water-efficient, human-powered treadle pumps as well as solar-powered motorized pumps, would have a huge impact on the amount of food produced in the entire Sub-Saharan region

With proper techniques and water-efficient irrigation technology, Africa could easily double or triple yields on most of its crops,[27] becoming an agricultural powerhouse—if subsidies to the world’s richest farmers were removed. (For more on how this works, see Strategy 7: Eradicate Agricultural Subsidies.) A Global Irrigation Agency, analogous to the Global Fertilizer Agency, would be charged with the responsibility of getting the most water efficient irrigation techniques and technology to the most in need areas of the world. Irrigation technology would be locally sourced, thereby providing increased employment. Demonstration farms, low cost micro loans to finance the purchase of the equipment, and education through agriculture extension services (see Strategy 5 below) would all be used to increase the appropriate use of irrigation. The agency would also work with the farmers in areas already heavily committed to non-sustainable irrigation. Working with these farmers, the agency would reduce their water use by orders of magnitude through the use of the most efficient irrigation equipment. (See, Water for All for more details.)

The cost of such a program to increase the availability and efficiency of irrigation worldwide is $3 billion per year for ten years. Of this total, $2 billion would come from the proposed budget to increase water efficiency as described in the Water for All section .
Food for All Strategy 4: School Lunch Programs
 As agriculture production increases due to the steps outlined above, school lunch programs will be instituted in every school in food short regions of the world. This action will provide an important stimulus to the expansion of local commercial food markets by providing local farmers with an assured market for some of their surplus crops,[28] as well as improving the nutritional well-being of students. Markets for surplus crops are essential for providing incentives for local farmers to increase production. The added income from these markets will help reduce the level of poverty in rural regions and increase the capacity for further wealth generation. In addition to a school lunch program, hospitals, restaurants, and government offices could purchase additional surplus crops produced by local farmers. Such programs should have incentives so that small farmers have a competitive advantage in this budding market. This program will be funded at $500 million per year for ten years.

Food for All Strategy 5: Promote and Support Regenerative Food Systems
Regenerative agricultural methods include nutrient cycling, diverse production regimes, zero or minimum tillage (farming with little or no plowing), companion planting, diversified farms that raise both crops and livestock, composts, mulches, biological pest control, and soil and nutrient conservation, as well as water-conserving, small-scale drip irrigation and post-harvest loss reduction. All these add together in ways that increase the health and productivity of agricultural lands and communities, and build economic wealth for the local area and world.

Widespread institution of these methods coupled with the increased availability of fertilizer would help guarantee both local abundance and future productivity.[29] In addition to increasing local food production and self-reliance, such as approach would decrease soil erosion and dependence on foreign imports of food and petrochemical products. Furthermore, using locally available organic fertilizers and regenerative agriculture techniques would enhance crop resistance to drought and pests.[30]

The basic farm tools required to tap into local nitrogen fertilizer sources, expand irrigation, bring crops to market, and reduce the loss of crops due to insects and rodents can be manufactured domestically by any developing country, adding to its industrial production and providing employment.[31] In addition, the incomes of farmers would rise with their higher productivity, even as their newly enriched croplands become more resistant to soil erosion and salinization.

To implement this two-pronged effort in all the food-short areas of the world would involve a very aggressive program for teaching and demonstrating regenerative farming methods to traditional small-scale farmers, coupled with financial incentives and economic safety nets that strongly encourage the switch. A global extension service for regenerative agricultural systems would be instituted to make the transition as smooth, risk-free, and fast as possible. Modeled after the highly successful U.S. Agriculture Extension Service, it would assume responsibility for teaching regenerative farming techniques to food-short areas of the world— demonstrating fertilizer, irrigation, animal and cropping systems that build up the ecological underpinnings of our food supplies.

Key functions of this service would include providing on-farm extension workers on an order of magnitude more than the world presently has, along with demonstration farms, education materials, transportation vehicles, communication equipment, tools and support facilities, and the financial incentives to encourage farmers to learn the new agriculture methods.

Given the costs of agriculture extension programs in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, the annual cost of a global program to promote regenerative farming and the extension service to deliver it would be $7.5 billion per year for the first ten years.
Food for All Strategy 6: Conduct Research on Local Food Systems
To insure the long-term sustainability and regeneration of food-producing systems throughout the world, an aggressive and far-reaching research agenda must be pursued. The emphasis in this strategy will be on the small-scale subsistence farmer and the urban gardener in the poorer regions of the world, where food needs are greatest. There are about 1.5 billion people who support themselves on 437 million small-scale farms[32] and an estimated 800 million people who are engaged in urban food production around the world.[33] These urban farmers produce 15% of the world’s food.[34]

Current agricultural research, led by the world’s 16 major research centers[35] (whose combined budget are less than $350 million per year[36]), would be augmented by a series of new centers located in the geographical heart of the poorest regions. Their research would focus on farming systems, not single crops, and emphasize close collaboration with local farmers. Together these new and established research centers will have a budget of $1 billion per year.

Urban food production and subsistence crops such as cassava would be a major focus of research, rather than an after thought. Reducing the 20 to 40 percent loss of food after harvest that plagues many developing countries, and the use of agricultural production to meet energy needs would also be prime targets of research by these new centers.
Food for All Strategy 7: Eradicate Agricultural Subsidies
Hunger in today’s world is caused more by bad government than bad weather.[37] Bad government policy is practiced by developing countries that do not allow or make it very difficult for farmers to own land, or to obtain legal title to it (more than 500 million people in developing countries lack ownership rights to the land they farm[38]). But it is found in wealthy countries as well, where bad policy creates huge subsidies, tariffs, import quotas, and other barriers that keep out agricultural products from poor countries. These policies not only hurt the poor in the developing world, but they also force consumers in rich countries to pay more for their food—those consumers paid $137 billion more for their food in 2000 as a result of subsidies[39].

Agricultural subsidies encourage overproduction in wealthy countries and drive down the prices received by poor farmers in the developing world, thereby insuring that poverty continues and exacerbating other problems. In Mexico, for example, some farmers switch to growing opium and marijuana because their food crops can’t compete with subsidized imported crops.

Compounding the harm of these perverse subsidies, wealthy countries engage in the unconscionable practice of dumping their surplus agriculture products on the developing world’s markets, thereby undercutting the ability of farmers in those regions to support themselves.[40]

Yet another consequence of farm subsidies, one much closer to home, is the rise in obesity in wealthy countries. Called “the most serious public-health problem facing the country,”[41] the obesity epidemic in the U.S. costs $118 billion per year in added health and social expenditures.[42] More than 4 million Americans are now categorized as “extremely obese”—that is, more than 100 pounds overweight—four times as many as in the 1980s.[43] Another nearly 55 million fall into the category of merely “obese”[44] and over 100 million are overweight Americans.[45] (Globally, there are almost 1 billion overweight adults, 300 million of whom are obese.[46]) One analysis links this trend directly to America’s huge agriculture subsidies, which are designed to increase production. This leads to low-cost food, specifically grain and more specifically corn-based sweeteners. The food industry transforms this corn surplus into the corn sweeteners used in countless higher-profit snack foods and other high-calorie processed foods, and grain-fattened cattle whose fat-laden meat also contributes to obesity. These “welfare for the rich” subsidies to the farmers in North America, Europe and Japan amount to $235 to $350 billion per year.[47],[48] It’s estimated that ending them would add $30 to $50 billion to the annual GNP of poor countries[49]— as well as save consumers billions in lower food prices, and make a significant contribution to reducing budget deficits. Government subsidies, whether in the form of price regulation, import barriers, or outright cash payments are a tax for those dependent on the crop as a food or fiber source. Each household in the U.S. had what amounted to a tax of $366 in 2002, given the farm subsidies of $40 billion. In Europe the tax on each household was $646, and in Japan, it was nearly $1,000.[50]

Agricultural subsidies in the rich world amount to more than five times the global aid given to poor countries,[51] and more than the combined GDP of all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa.[52] And most of this $300-plus billion per year goes to the richest farmers in the richest countries—the largest 25% in the EU get 90% and the largest 10% in the U.S. get 66% of farm payments[53].

Still other subsidies raise the total. Irrigation water, fuel, and chemicals are also subsidized in wealthy countries, widening rich country’s agriculture’s unfair competitive advantage in a world that pays lip service to open markets for all, but in reality practices rigged markets for the few.

One example of the injustice and hypocrisy of this situation is cotton subsidies. Subsidies by rich countries to their cotton farmers amounted to almost $5.8 billion in 2002. Each hectare of cotton in the U.S. is subsidized at over $500—more than the average cotton farmer in Africa makes in a year.[54] The total cotton subsidy was also about the amount of cotton purchased in the global market. The 25,000 U.S. cotton farmers received $3 billion—more than the entire economic output of the African country of Burkina Faso—whose 2 million people depend on cotton. Of those 25,000 U.S. cotton farmers, just 10 percent received the bulk of that $3 billion.[55]

This one subsidy to 2,500 comparatively well off U.S. farmers (average net worth of the 25,000 cotton farmers is $800,000) [56] impoverishes 10 million rural poor people in West and Central Africa.[57] To add insult (to the wealthy consumer) to this injury (to the poor world’s cotton farmers), African cotton, which is a superior product, costs about 50 percent as much to produce as what American cotton costs, thereby making the consumer pay more for a lesser quality product.

The European Union does the same thing with sugar. A 140 percent tariff is placed on sugar imports from Africa while its sugar growers are subsidized at $1.6 billion per year. When surpluses come, as they always do in a market this distorted by subsidies, the EU dumps the surpluses in other markets.[58]

One last example: each dairy cow in the European Union is subsidized at $913. The per capita GDP in sub-Saharan Africa is $490, about half this amount.[59]
Rich-world agricultural subsidies could be phased out over a ten year period, which would give affected farmers time to make the transition. During this time, remaining subsidies would be used chiefly for environmental remediation and preservation of farmlands, and to create new income streams for farmers that would emphasize the harnessing of sustainable energy on their farms. Growing crops that can be used for energy production, installing wind-powered electricity generators (each hectare of farmland in many parts of the U.S. Midwest could produce $30,000 worth of electricity per year[60]), or developing other renewable energy sources would transform a significant segment of rich world farming from food production to energy production—thereby reducing the need for imported oil (and exported dollars) as well as, in most cases, greenhouse gas emissions. As an alternative to embracing sustainable energy production, farmers could make use of remaining subsidies for help with college tuition and job training.

Eradicating subsidies would be one of the least costly strategies to combat hunger and poverty worldwide. A massive public education program would be mounted to accelerate the eradication of food subsidies from the wealthy world. This educational program will be funded at $1 billion per year until all subsidies that harm people in the developing world are removed. The cost of this program will be “paid back” from the savings on the eradicated subsidies.

As an added incentive for the rapid removal of unfair subsidies to rich farmers in the developed world, the least developed countries will be granted financial compensation for lost export revenues due to the subsidies. Funding for this anti-subsidy program will come from the subsidizing country and gradually kick in in year two of the program. By year ten the subsidies will be at two times the value of the lost sales of the crops, as determined by their prices in the offending country. Once the general public knows about the added costs they are forced to pay for their food as a result of agricultural subsidies, the other uses these multi-billion dollar funds could be used for, and the harm they do to the poor in developing countries, there should be little opposition to this strategy— other than from a small, but wealthy and well connected minority of corporate farmers.
Costs and Benefits—Food for All
Together, the seven strategies of the Food for All campaign to end hunger and malnutrition are estimated to cost a total of $20 billion per year (see the following breakdown)—17 percent of what the U.S. spent in 2002 on the costs of obesity in our society.[61] Of course, it will take more than one year to eliminate hunger and malnutrition from the world and to build strong food systems that can handle future challenges such as global warming, local droughts and floods, or other breakdowns. To accomplish all this we will need to invest $20 billion annually for ten years.

Costs of Eliminating Starvation and Hunger

Creating and funding the Global Hunger Relief Agency would cost $5 billion per year, or 14 percent of what the U.S. spends on dieting each year.[62]

Making regenerative fertilizers much more widely available and affordable to the farmers who most need it would cost $5 billion per year and could be funded with just 3.7 percent of what the world spends on so called “beauty” products.[63]

Providing greatly increased irrigation capacity and access where needed will cost $3 billion, $2 billion of which comes from the Water for All initiatives, for a net annual investment of $1 billion by this food systems effort.

Programs to promote regenerative farming would cost $7.5 billion— about half of the $14 billion spent on ocean cruises each year,[64] and less than 2 percent of annual U.S. military expenditures.
Instituting school lunch programs in every food short region would be funded at $500 million per year.

Organizing and conducting worldwide research efforts that target local, small-scale farm production would cost $1 billion—about what it cost the U.S. government each week in 2007 to maintain its occupational forces in Iraq.[65]

The push to eradicate agricultural subsidies in wealthy countries would be a net revenue producer, but would be funded at $1 billion per year with funds that are repaid from eradicated subsidies.
In fact, the total annual budget of $20 billion could be financed by just 8.5 percent of the rich world’s annual subsidies to their richest farmers[66]— or half of what the U.S spends on dieting each year, or 17% of what the U.S. spent in 2002 on the costs of obesity in its society.[67]

The remaining 90 percent of those subsidies could go toward reducing national debts and easing the transition for subsidy-addicted farmers to a subsidy-free world.

Using current wealthy-country subsidies to fund programs for feeding all of humanity is a classic win/win strategy. Wealthy countries win with lower food costs and governmental expenditures, surplus funds that can be allocated to other needs or returned to taxpayers, and a stronger food system free of artificial props. Hunger-plagued countries win by becoming self-sufficient in food production, gaining markets for their surplus products, reducing poverty, and building stronger economies.

The United States instituted farm subsidies during the Depression era as a way to increase national food security at a time when a shortage in food production in one region could pose a real threat to the availability of food nationwide. But that was a world very unlike ours today, where satellites monitor every cropland on Earth, communication is instantaneous, and transportation systems can move food quickly over long distances. In today’s world this threat is no longer real. And given the harm that subsidies have done to global and local markets alike, it is appropriate that subsidies pay for undoing some of the damage they have done.

Even if the costs of eliminating starvation, hunger and malnutrition were much higher than these modest estimates, they would be far outweighed by the benefits. Ignoring moral imperatives for such an action entirely, it can be pointed out that well-nourished people are healthier (thereby reducing healthcare costs), are more productive (thereby increasing personal and family income and GDP), live longer (thereby being productive for a longer period of time), are likely to have healthier babies (thereby reducing infant mortality), do better in school, stay in school longer, and are, in general, more productive members of society.[68]
A society free of famine, hunger and malnourishment is economically more vibrant and politically more stable and secure. Increased food productivity leads to higher economic growth, incomes, land values, and wages; to lower food prices, improved nutrition, and a more varied diet.[69] Feeding everyone adequately can also have an impact in other areas, such as women’s power. For example, with increased food productivity, women often gain time they can use to start market gardens. This improves income along with the family’s diet, and can reduce debt, increase school attendance, and limit the need for seasonal migration to find work.[70]

Let’s look at the benefits of feeding humanity in terms of a financial investment. In the Introduction we introduced the “value of a human life” scenarios that governments use in their cost-benefit analysis, as a way of re-visioning the wealth that human beings contribute to the world. Now we can take this a little further. If we set the monetary value of a life at the U.S. government’s current level ($6 million), and assume that the number of lives saved worldwide each year would be equal to the number now attributed to deaths from hunger-related causes (12 million), the global economy would benefit by the added value of $72 trillion—almost twice the current gross world product. This outlandish theoretical construct is a limit condition—the largest monetary value that one could imagine or try to validate.[71] It is so large as to be laughable. Or is it? (Anyone wondering how the author can justify using such a cost-benefit calculation might also wonder how the U.S. government can use the same approach to determine how much risk its citizens can be exposed to without regulation. Taking the opposite approach—that is, trying to figure out what the least monetary value would be to the global economy of eliminating hunger and malnutrition—brings up at least one ethically challenging notion: that a human life might be worth less in other parts of the world than it is in the United States. Why should someone living in the U.S. have a higher value than someone living in Africa or India?

On the ethical plane, the value of a human being is the same everywhere. Taking a strictly economic worldview, however, it is statistically true that the average person in Africa earns less than the average North American. Pursuing this logic, we can make the case that the value of the life of someone earning $1.00 per day is about $15,000—the approximate amount that person will earn over a 40-year span of productive work.[72] (This ignores all the work this person does outside of the formal dollar economy.) Using this as our low-end benchmark and the same multiplier of 12 million lives saved from hunger-related deaths per year, we discover that the return on the investment is $180 billion per year (12 million X $15,000 = $180 billion). The net gain to the global economy is over $160 billion ($180 billion – the $20 billion cost of the Food for All program = $160 billion) and the payback on the investment needed to eradicate hunger is 41 days ($180 billion divided by 365 days = $493 million per day added to the world; $20 billion total cost of the Food for All program divided by $493 million per day = 40.56 days). Even using this minimal value for a human life, it’s not a bad investment, to say the least.

Assuming a middle-ground valuation of a human life of $1 million[73] (one-sixth the value used by the U.S. government to value its citizens and one-ninth that used by Japan), and assuming that our investment prevented just half of the deaths now attributed to hunger-related causes, this would generate $6 trillion in value to the global economy per year[74]. The cost of such an investment ($20 billion) is less than one-third of one percent of what it would return to the global economy[75]. And in this scenario payback time would be just 29 hours.[76] Adding the reduced health-care costs and increased productivity from a better-fed and healthier population would significantly increase this already astronomical figure.

In addition to government (taxpayer) funded farm subsidies that could be used to fund the Food for All strategies, monies could be found in the world’s grotesquely inflated military budgets. A mere 5 percent of just the U.S. military budget would fund the entire Food for All campaign.[77] 2.2 percent of the world’s total annual military expenditures would do the same.[78] And 5 percent of the world’s annual expenditures on illegal drugs would likewise be enough to fund the entire effort.[79]

These are just some of the possibilities for where the investment can come from. In the What We Can Do section of this book, there are citations of other players that can make significant contributions to implementing this and the other strategies described in this book. Getting the food the world wants and needs is just the first step toward a world of regenerative success for all.

"It is inconsistent to preach the benefits of free trade and then maintain the highest subsidies and barriers for precisely those goods in which poor countries have a comparative advantage.”
—James Wolfensohn, director, The World Bank
“In poor countries today there are 170 million underweight children, over three million of whom will die this year as a result. … there are more than one billion adults worldwide who are overweight and at least 300 million who are clinically obese [this is up from 200 million in 1995[80]] . Among these, about half a million people in North America and Western Europe combined will have died this year from obesity-related diseases.”
            —Gro Harlem Brundtland, World Health Organization

[1] “Helping Africa Feed Itself,” (Science, September 8, 2000).
[2] M. Gabel, Ho-Ping: Food for Everyone. (New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1979).
[3] The World Bank, World Development Report 1990 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).
[4] “Stop blaming the weather,” (The Economist, June 10, 2002, p.13); Hunger strikes,” (The Economist, October 21, 2001, p. 76); “Food shortages,” (The Economist, October 28, 2000, p. 102)
[5] The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2002 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 2002)
[6] Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture: June 2, 2003.
[7] United Nations World Food Programme: June 2, 2003
[8] See Chapter 15, Genocidal Weapons: Making the World Safe for further information
[9] W. C. Liebhardt, A low fertilizer use approach to increasing tropical food production. Background papers for innovative biological technologies for lesser-developed countries, No. 6 (Washington: Office of Technology, 1981), pp. 285-87.
[10] International Fertilizer Industry Association: June 2, 2003
[11] World Resources Institute: June 2, 2003; FAOSTAT; European yields are 4,274 kilograms per hectare, African 1,224.
[12] FAOSTAT. Europe consumes 89 kilograms per hectare, Africa 12.
[13] Norman E. Borlaug, “The Next Green Revolution” (New York, New York Times, July 11, 2003).
[14] P. Sanchez, “The Next Green Revolution,” (New York Times, October 6, 2004).
[15] G. Conway, G. Toenniessen, “Science for African Food Security,” (Science, February 21, 2003. p. 1187).
[16] Half of Europe’s yield is 2,137 kg/ha. This would yield 172.64 million metric tons from Africa’s 80,787,000 ha in cereal production in 2001.
[17] G. Conway, G. Toenniessen, “Science for African Food Security,” (Science, February 21, 2003. p. 1187).
[18] Ibid.
[19] 15 million tons of grain are needed to feed 74 million people. Lester Brown, “World Food Security Deteriorating,” Earth Policy News,                                                 [date40.hym
[20] See for example, M. Gabel, “The Regeneration of Africa: Resources, Needs and Capacities” (Philadelphia: World Game Institute, 1985). and M. Gabel and A. Heiland, “National Implications of Resource-efficient Farming Methods for Tanzania”, (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press Inc., 1985).
[21] See Gabel, Ho-Ping, pp. 114, 117-118.
[22] With yields in Africa at 28% of European yields, an increase of fertilizer applications to even 25% of what they are in the U.S. would double yields according to normal fertilizer response rates. African use of fertilizer is 9% the application rates in Europe.
[23] P. Sanchez, “The Next Green Revolution,” (New York Times, October 6, 2004).
[24] FAO, Water and Food Security (Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 2002)
[25] ibid
[26] ibid.
[27] Norman E. Borlaug, “The Next Green Revolution” (New York, New York Times, July 11, 2003).
[28] Ibid.
[29] Various nomenclatures are used in different parts of the world and academia to describe the core practices here referred to as regenerative farming. These include alternative, sustainable, low-input, organic, agro-ecological, ecological, and information intensive agriculture. Each name comes with its own emphasis and nuances, but all are distinct from “modern” resource intensive, mechanized and large-scale agriculture.
See for example, M. Gabel, “The Regeneration of Africa: Resources, Needs and Capacities” (Philadelphia: World Game Institute, 1985). and M. Gabel and A. Heiland, “National Implications of Resource-efficient Farming Methods for Tanzania”, (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press Inc., 1985).
[31] See, for example, M. Gabel and A. Heiland, “National Implications of Resource-efficient Farming Methods for Tanzania”, pp. 3-4. (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press Inc., 1985)
[32] John Madeley, Food for All: The Need for a New Agriculture, (London, Zed Books, 2002).
[33] Brian Halweil, Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market, (Worldwatch Institute, 2002).
[34] Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism, (New York, Little, Brown 1999, p. 200).
[35] These centers are: CIAT (Center for Tropical Agriculture); CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research); CIP (International Potato Center); ICARDA (International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas); ICLARM (International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management); ICRAF (International Center for Research in Agroforestry); ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics); IFREI (International Food Policy Research Institute); IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture); ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute); IPGRI (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute); ISNAR (International Service for National Agriculture Management); IWMI (International Water Management Institute); WARDA (West African Rice Development Association); CIMMYT (International Center for Wheat and Maize Improvement); IRRI (International Rice Research Institute). All these research centers operate under the auspices of CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research).
[36] R. E. Evenson, D. Gollin, “Assessing the Impact of the Green Revolution 1960-2000” (Science, May 2, 2003. p. 758).
[37] “Stop blaming the weather” (The Economist, June 15, 2002, p. 13) estimates $30 billion. UNDP estimates farm subsidy programs cost poor countries about $50 billion (in “Farm Subsidies That Kill”, Nicholas D. Kristoff, New York Times, July 5, 2002.
[38] Unleashing Entrepreneurship: Making Business Work for the Poor, Report to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Commission on the Private Sector and Development, 2004
[39] OECD, Agricultural Policies in OECD, Monitoring and Evaluation 2002 (OECD, Paris, 2002, p.158).
[40] The huge subsidies wealthy nations give their farmers allow their crops to be sold for 20-30% less than their costs of production; in Vital Signs 2003 (Worldwatch Institute, 2003, p. 18).
[41] Michael Pollan, “The (Agri) Cultural Contradictions of Obesity,” (The New York Times Magazine, October 12, 2003, p. 41).
[42] Obesity costs the U.S. $118 billion in medical expenses and lost wages per year; in Gary Gardner, Brian Halwel. “Hunger, Escaping Excess, (Worldwatch Institute, World Watch July/August 2001, p. 25).
[43] Roland Sturm, (Archives of International Medicine, October 13, 2003).
[44] Lindsey Tanner, “100 pounds overweight: Once few, now many” (Philadelphia Inquirer, October 14, 2003, p. 1).
[45] Philip Abelson, Donald Kennedy, “The Obesity Epidemic,” (Science Magazine, June 4, 2004, p. 1413).
[46] Ibid.
[47] “Agricultural Subsidies” (The Economist, June 21, 2003, p. 92); “Farm Subsidies That Kill”, Nicholas D. Kristoff, New York Times, July 5, 2002 claims that farms subsidies are $350 billion/year.
[48] Rick Lazio, “Some Trade Barriers Won’t Fall,” (New York, New York Times, August 9, 2003) says that in 2002, the 30 countries in the OECD spent $311 billion in domestic agricultural subsidies.
[49] Ibid.
[50] “An anti-poverty hero” (The Economist, June 5, 2004, p. 10).
[51] Total aid in 2001 was $51.4 billion; UNDP, Human Development Report 2003.
[52] Rick Lazio, “Some Trade Barriers Won’t Fall,” (New York, New York Times, August 9, 2003)
[53] “High Farm Subsidies Persist,” (Vital Signs 2003, Worldwatch Institute, 2003, p. 96).
[54] “Stitched up,” (The Economist, July 26, 2003, p. 71).
[55] Amadou Tourmane Toure, Blaise Compaore, “Your Farm Subsidies Are Strangling Us” (New York, New York Times, July 11, 2003) Mr. Toure and Mr. Compaore are the presidents of Mali and Burkina Faso.
[56] “Farm Subsidies That Kill”, Nicholas D. Kristoff, (New York, New York Times, July 5, 2002).
[57] Amadou Tourmane Toure, Blaise Compaore, “Your Farm Subsidies Are Strangling Us” (New York, New York Times, July 11, 2003).
[58] “A few green shoots” (The Economist, August 31, 2002, p. 60).
[59] Rick Lazio, “Some Trade Barriers Won’t Fall,” (New York, New York Times, August 9, 2003).
[60] . It is estimated that $30,000 worth of electricity can be produced on each hectare (2.47 acres) devoted to wind farming. (Brown, et al., State of theWorld 1988, p. 177).
[61] Obesity costs the U.S. $118 billion in medical expenses and lost wages per year; in Gary Gardner, Brian Halwel. “Hunger, Escaping Excess, (Worldwatch Institute, World Watch July/August 2001, p. 25).
[62] U.S. spent $29 billion on weight loss in 1989; by 1995 this figure had risen to $34 billion; by 2000 it reached $40 billion. U.S. Weight Loss and Diet Control Market, (Marketdata Enterprises, 7th Edition, October 2002). Also: “Big Business,” (The Economist, September 27, 2003, p. 67).
[63] $160 billion per year global beauty expenditures: “Pots of promise,” (The Economist, May 24, 2003. p. 69).
[64] State of the World 2004, (Washington, D.C., Worldwatch Institute, 2004, p. 10).
[65] Thom Shaker, “Rumsfeld doubles estimated cost of troops in Iraq,” (New York, New York Times, July 10, 2003). Monthly costs are $3.9 billion.
[66] $225 billion; see footnote #36 above.
[67] Obesity costs the U.S. $118 billion in medical expenses and lost wages per year; in Gary Gardner, Brian Halwel. “Hunger, Escaping Excess, (Worldwatch Institute, World Watch July/August 2001, p. 25).
[68] “Economic Focus: Feeding the Hungry,” (The Economist, May 8, 2004, p.74) and Jere R. Behrman, Harold Alderman and John Hoddinott, “Hunger And Malnutrition”
Copenhagen Consensus Challenge Paper, February 19 , 2004
[69] FAO, Water and Food Security (Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 2002)
[70] ibid.
[71] Unless you choose to value each person at the level the Japanese government does, at nearly $10 million. This would result in $112 trillion in added value.
[72] $365 per year times 40 years or working = $14,600.
[73] For a more through discussion of this topic, see Chapter 2.
[74] $1 million per person X 6 million people = $6 trillion
[75] $20 billion cost of the Food for All Program divided by $6 trillion benefit = .0033
[76] $6 trillion benefit divided by 8760 hours in a year = $684.9 per hour; $20 billion cost of the Food for All Program divided by $684.9 million per hour gain to global economy = 29.2 days
[77] U.S. military expenditures are $399 billion in 2003, with additional expenditures likely. (Washington DC, Defense Information Institute, 2003,
[78] 2003 global military expenditures were $904 billion. (Washington DC, Defense Information Institute, 2003,
[79] World expenditures on illegal drugs is estimated to be $300 to $500 billion in Vital Signs 2003 (Washington DC Worldwatch Institute 2003, p. 98) and $400 billion to $1 trillion in “For the Record”, (Washington DC, Washington Post, 8-2-95, p. 35).
[80] “Big Business,” (The Economist, September 27, 2003, p. 64).


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