LAST NOVEMBER the World Food Summit in Rome tried to figure out how to feed the world's 840 million chronically hungry people. The meeting's secretary general, Dr. Kay Killingsworth, said that the problem was not insufficient food production but inequitable distribution. "The result is that food does not reach the needy."
Here are some typical suggestions for solving world hunger:
1. Push industrialism. As profits rise, the benefits will trickle down to the poorest, and everyone will be able to afford enough food. Problem: Full employment drives up wages, destroying profit. To keep wages low, industry needs at least six percent of the population unemployed.
2. Accept some unemployment, but use taxes and charity to feed people who can't work. Problem: Unemployment always contributes to social instability. Food aid programs tend to grow and become more costly. Donors and taxpayers resist the burden. Governments under economic strain slash food aid.
3. Give more food grain to starving countries. Problem: Political thieves intercept grain and sell it at prices the poor can't afford, or cheap grain from abroad puts local farmers out of business.
4. Boost yields with techniques from the Green Revolution. Problem: The techniques are costly, and the benefits usually flow to the wealthiest landowners. Others are often forced to sell their land and migrate to the city, where they add to the hunger. Most of the food goes for high-profit export, not local nourishment.
5. Increase world food production by modernizing agriculture. Part 1 of Problem: "Modernized" agriculture means agriculture dependent on petroleum petrol for the tractor, petrol for the irrigation pump, petrol to move the food by train, ship, plane, and semi-truck; petrol products to pave the roads; petroleum derivatives for pesticides, herbicides, and hundreds of miles of plastic mulch.
Part 2 of Problem: Petroleum is limited. Experts predict that a rising demand from developing countries will spark a fuel crisis. Modern farms will struggle just to survive.
The Real Problem
Srila Prabhupada gives us a clue to solving the hunger problem: "The whole world situation is degrading because people are not producing their own food. This is the problem, the real problem." When the hungry grow their own food, there will be no problem of tax funding or militant middlemen, no shipping or administrative problem, and, thanks to ox power, no fuel or fertilizer problem. Farm families grow their own food.
By depending on commercial farming, food aid programs try to make it do something it's not designed to do: feed the poor and hungry. The main purpose of commercial farming is to make money. That's what "commercial" means. Commercial farmers carry thousands or millions of dollars of debt to keep up their operations. They can't afford to give food to the hungry; they must sell it for a good profit.
The first problem of hunger is that most of the world's hungry people are landless. The Vedic solution to world hunger has two steps: First, the government gives a portion of land to each family. Second, each family uses the land to produce its food.
Srila Prabhupada explains:
Everything is God's property. You enjoy for your livelihood what is given to you. That is the perfect philosophy. That was the system in Vedic civilization. God is the proprietor. The king is the representative of God. He gives you some land: "Take this land and produce your livelihood. Whatever you produce, give one fourth to me." (Morning walk in Sanand, India, December 26, 1975)
Vedic civilization is arranged so that you keep some land and you keep some cows. Then your whole economic question is solved. … If you have got excess, then you can trade, you can send to some place where there is scarcity. But every man should produce his own food. That is Vedic culture. You get a piece of land and produce your family's foodstuff. … As soon as one has land sufficient to produce, he is safe. His food problem that is the real problem is solved. (Lecture in Geneva, June 6, 1974)
In the Vedic system one last step is required. All the food a family produces they should offer with love and devotion to the Supreme Lord before eating. This final step ensures that all the work performed will lead to spiritual progress and happiness.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi, an ISKCON devotee since 1978, is co-editor of the newsletter Hare Krsna Rural Life.