A farmer harvests rice near Siem Reap, Cambodia.
So many minds, so many wheels turning in thought. That’s the beauty of campus life: the vast access to lectures, readings, forums, panels, discussions.
This week, I had the privilege of hearing Miguel Altieri, an agroecology professor visiting from Berkeley. He said something I don’t often hear in academic and scientific circles: world hunger has nothing to do with global food production.
He said it, and I did a little dance inside—because that is precisely what I have seen, for years, in developing societies. The biggest problem I had last year studying food security was that so many experts talked numbers and technology—but few talked distribution. Farmers can grow more food, but that doesn’t mean the poorest, hungriest people will get to eat it.
I’ve just written about Altieri’s talk over at The Faster Times. And here, I offer a few looks at what Jerry and I have seen and learned in the Asian countryside.
A farmer gazes across his land on the Mekong. Like his neighbors, he struggles to survive as a subsistence farmer. Many in his village have sold portions of their farmlands to wealthy buyers from Phnom Penh. It’s a quick way to make money, but villagers soon find that money gone. So they pay rent to the landowners in order to farm the acres they once owned.
A Cambodian offers fresh coconut from his land on an island slated for hotel and casino development.
A farmer’s shirt and lunch hang from a branch on the roadside in Phnom Penh. The farmer went to the capital to protest against land grabbing, which has forced many villagers from their farms.
Cambodian farmers sleep on a Phnom Penh sidewalk. They went to the city to protest the loss of their land.
Farmers, dispossessed of their land, eat lunch on a Phnom Penh sidewalk.
Farmers in the Kelabit Highlands of Malaysian Borneo are among the world’s most “food secure” and “food soveriegn” people in that they grow, hunt or forage almost everything they eat. But their lands and lifestyles are threatened by logging companies pushing roads into the jungle, and palm plantations that have replaced former old-growth forests.
Pineapples grow in the Kelabit Highlands. Local legend says they are among the tastiest in the world—but they lose their flavor if taken out of the Highlands.
A Kelabit man searches for grubs in a rotting palm. These and other jungle foods will disappear with the forest when it is logged.
Jungle ferns are sold in a city market in Borneo.