World Food conference looks at subsistence farming

About 1 billion small farmers worldwide, many of them women, face drought, the effects of climate change and a lack of technology as they struggle to feed families on what they can raise on an acre or two of land.

Last Updated: Oct 13, 2010, 18:30 PM IST

Des Moines: About 1 billion small
farmers worldwide, many of them women, face drought, the
effects of climate change and a lack of technology as they
struggle to feed families on what they can raise on an acre or
two of land.

Their problems will be the focus of this week`s World
Food Prize symposium, as agriculture officials from around the
world gather to talk about what can be done to fight hunger.
As many as 60 farmers are expected to join agriculture
officials from the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Liberia, said
Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation,
which hosts the annual conference in Des Moines.

Former US Secretary General Kofi Annan is scheduled to
give the keynote address tomorrow, when the foundation will
give its World Food Prize to the presidents of Heifer
International and the Christian advocacy group Bread for the
World in recognition of their efforts to fight hunger.

Heifer International provides families with food-and
income-producing animals, such as sheep, while Bread for the
World presses US lawmakers to support anti-hunger policies.

The goal for the conference is to find ways to provide
smallholder farmers with technology "so they can get the most
out of their land, not to just feed themselves but to become
producers who are growing food for others in their country and
their society," Quinn said.

"It has become clear that smallholder farmers play a
critical role in the global food supply," he added.

But Howard Buffett, whose foundation runs research
farms in Illinois and South Africa, said technology isn`t
always the answer. Western-style farming, which relies heavily
on expensive fertilisers and equipment, may not work in poor
countries, he said.

He said smallholder farmers need what he called "basic
types of intervention," such as cover crops,
conservation-based tillage systems and very basic farm
equipment.

Jeff Raikes, chief executive officer of the Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundation, said a combination of high-tech and
low-tech solutions are needed to help smallholder farmers.

PTI