Soon there will be nine billion of us on the planet. Our societies must grow to meet our needs, so we can put enough food on the table for everyone.
Already, almost a billion of us go to bed hungry every night. Not because there isn’t enough. But because of the deep injustice in the way the system works. And because too many of the ways we grow today are using up and destroying the natural resources on which we all rely.
We can grow in a better way – one that contributes much more to human wellbeing, and ensures that everyone on the planet will always have enough to eat.
A broken system
Food and oil prices. Flat-lining yields. Climate change. Unfair trade. Failing markets. Inequality between men and women. Land grabs. All of these issues are connected. And all of them are contributing to a global food system that is dominated by a few powerful governments and companies. A system that is failing the rest of us.
We need a new way of thinking, and ideas that hold a promise of a better future for the many, not just the few.
It’s time to GROW
We can grow more food more fairly and more sustainably. We can press governments to take urgent action to reform bad policies, to preserve scarce resources and share them fairly.
We’ve got a lot of plans, but we’re also all ears. Because GROW has space for all of us to share ideas and views about better ways to grow, share and live together.
Welcome to GROW. It starts here. Be a part of it.
Climate change is already hitting farmers hard. And left unchecked, it will devastate our ability to grow.
Rising temperatures will cause crop yields to fall – possibly to half of their current levels in some African countries. And changes in seasons will make it even harder for farmers to know when to sow, cultivate and harvest – and ultimately to grow enough to eat and earn a living.
As temperatures rise, heat waves, droughts and floods will also get worse and happen more often – potentially wiping out harvests and destroying people’s lives for years afterwards.
And farming isn’t only affected by climate change – it causes it too. Agriculture is responsible for around almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s time to grow out of climate change.
The way to grow
Governments have dragged their feet for too long.
We need a fair global agreement that will keep global warming below 2 degrees and avoid catastrophic climate change. Nothing else is good enough.
It’s time to help poor communities adapt to the changes that are already happening, by agreeing exactly where the money promised at the 2009 Copenhagen UN climate summit will come from.
And it’s time to invest in small-scale farming in developing countries and in green, clean energy.
For our world to grow together, it’s time to get climate change under control.
It’s not necessarily a problem when wealthy companies invest in agricultural land in poor countries for commercial use. But when families are kicked off the land or less food is grown as a result, that’s a very big problem indeed.
And since the food price spikes of 2008, that’s been happening more and more.
Demand for land has soared as investors look for places to grow food for export, or to grow biofuels, or simply to gain in value.
But in many cases, land sold as ‘unused’ or ‘undeveloped’ is actually being used by poor families to grow food. These families are often forcibly kicked off the land. Promises of compensation are broken. And then, to add insult to injury, the land is left idle, despite promises to the contrary.
It’s estimated that up to 80% of the land that’s been secured in recent years hasn’t been developed.
It’s time to grow out of land grabs.
The way to grow
Getting to grips with land grabs is possible. But for it to happen, effective global action is necessary.
Governments need to provide secure access to land for smallholder farmers, and especially for women – who often do most of the work on the land, but face the biggest battle to call it their own.
Biofuels strategies need to be given serious thought, because any plan that takes crops off people’s plates and puts them into people’s car tanks obviously isn’t working.
And investments need to be made with marginalised communities (as opposed to only profit margins) in mind.
For our world to grow together, we need to get land grabs under control.
Food price spikes
After decades of progress, the number of people without enough to eat is actually increasing. It could soon top one billion. That’s more than one in seven people waking up hungry and going to bed hungry. Today. In the 21st century.
Food price spikes are a big part of the problem. Because, when you spend up to 80% of your income on food (as many poor families are forced to do) even small increases can have a particularly devastating effect.
What causes food price spikes?
Failed crops (often caused by our changing climate) hit food prices hard. So does the rising cost of oil – used to grow, fertilise and transport food.
Short-sighted biofuels strategies play a part too – taking food off of people’s plates and putting it into car tanks. And dysfunctional commodities markets mean that food prices go up faster and higher than they should.
But despite all these complex causes, the effects on poor people are painfully simple. Parents choose between feeding their children and feeding themselves. Whole communities face an uncertain future, because all anyone can think about is where their next meal will come from.
It’s time to grow out of food price spikes.
The way to grow
Food price spikes happen because of things like climate change and rising oil prices – so a major part of the solution involves getting those root causes under control.
But what’s also needed is more effective global handling of food price crises when they do happen. That way, the poorest families have somewhere to turn even when things do get desperate – and when they suddenly can’t afford even the meagre amount they could afford a week earlier.
For our world to grow together, we need to get food price spikes under control.
Support for small-scale farming
Following a century of increases, crop yields are flat-lining – because intensive farming can only go so far. So it’s time to focus on the huge untapped potential of small-scale farmers in developing countries and especially women, who often do most of the work, for little reward.
As things stand, yield growth is falling, because soils can only produce a certain amount of crops – no matter how much fertiliser you spray on them. And all that fertiliser also has a massive carbon footprint because of the energy needed to create it and because of all the nitrates it pumps out.
But at the same time, 500 million small-scale farms around the world are helping to put food on the plates of two billion people (or one in three people on earth) while causing far less pain to our planet.
With effective, ambitious government support, and the right investment from companies, productivity can soar.
It’s time to grow through small-scale farming.
The way to grow
By supporting small-scale farmers with sustainable techniques (like using organic fertilisers and drip irrigation techniques) we can help produce enough to feed a growing population, without pushing our climate further out of control.
Change is already happening. In Vietnam, for instance, the number of hungry people has halved in 12 years, kick-started by government support for farmers. And in Brazil, millions of people no longer wake up every day to hunger pangs, thanks to ambitious government backing.
But for change on a bigger scale, investment in developing country agriculture needs to grow. (In 1984, agriculture made up 20% of all foreign aid spending. In 2006 it had dropped to 3.7%)
For our world to grow together, we need to change the way the world thinks about farming.
For more information, you can read Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett’s introduction to the campaign, or check out the Grow Report for full details.