Saturday August 11 2018

Farming, science and population

Civil servant finds happiness in farming

A farmer practices diversified farming on over 100 acres of land. This includes fruit farming, animal husbandry and growing a variety of food crops and cash crops such as sugarcane. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER KIRUNDA 

By Michael J. Ssali

Among the biggest public debates today is producing sufficient food for a global population of 10 billion by 2050. By that time, according to some estimates, Uganda’s population will be 50 million.
One is reminded of the situation when Jesus’ disciples noticed that their master had a big hungry gathering to feed and yet there were only five loaves of bread and two fish (John 6, 1-14).
Luckily Jesus multiplied those into a huge meal that fed the multitude of five thousand people.
We cannot sit by anymore and trust the future of our food to God’s miracles (Exodus 16 1-36).
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommends that annual food production should increase by 70 per cent yet the land area cannot be increased, water sources are declining, the climate is hostile, and we have the onset of new crop pests and diseases that are difficult to fight.
Science has been used in the last one or two centuries to increase food production.
Machines such as tractors and water pumps have been invented and their usage in the industrialised countries has turned agriculture around.
Science has also been used to manufacture fertilisers which have increased food production.
And, more recently biotechnology has increased food production and transformed the economies of many countries across the world.
We will need to depend more on science innovations in the struggle for increased food production to come up with crops that are tolerant to global warming, nutritionally enhanced, and disease resistant.
Since the biggest population increase is expected to take place in sub-Saharan Africa, it is high time for the region to pay more attention to family planning.
Science will contribute to increased food production but we cannot expect it to play Jesus, multiplying bread and fish any more.
In the industrialised countries that use tractors and computerised combine harvesters a man marries one wife and they produce two children.
They have a lot of food and vibrant agricultural industries. Yet in many hungry and poor African countries that use hand hoes a man marries two or three wives and he boasts of 18 or more children.