Stephen Carr was the World Bank's principal agriculturalist covering sub-Saharan Africa until his retirement in 1989. He continues to serve smallholder farmers in Zomba, Malawi.
Posts By This Author
My Life as an Agricultural Missionary
MY WIFE AND I left London for Africa in 1952 to serve as “agricultural missionaries” through the Anglican Church Missionary Society. For 65 years we have been living and working with farming families who live off less than five acres of land. In fact, 85 percent of the world’s farms are less than five acres.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development estimates that there are some 500 million small farms worldwide, and more than 2 billion people depending largely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Smallholder farmers produce 80 percent of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Climate History 101
In “Mourning for the Earth” (August 2013), Katharine Preston states that “we are the first generation of people who now know that our children’s grandchildren will indeed not walk the same Earth.” Surely this takes a limited view of human history. Our forebears faced far more dramatic changes in climate than even the most extreme of current predictions. A few generations later, our ancestors faced further disruptions as the ice caps melted and the oceans rose far greater than any predictions for the next few hundred years.
Getting the Short Straw
Your excellent article on the good work being done by ECHO (“Ending the Hunger Season,” by Fred Bahnson, August 2011) was marred by its stringent [implied] criticism of the millions of small family farmers who feed the world, of whom I am one. Norman Borlaug, whom you cite, reduced the height of wheat from over five feet to two feet and thereby brought about a trebling of yields. Rice breeders followed his example, and with these far more efficient plants the world’s farmers have been able to keep the world’s exploding, meat-eating, urban dwelling population alive for the past 50 years.