Other Vegan Views articles
Feeding the World by Harry Mather, Vegan Views 89 (Summer 2001)

During the 20th century world population doubled more than once, but advances in agricultural technology generally kept pace with the population increase. The prairies of North America which were developed during the 19th century managed to produce huge surpluses by using large inputs of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The enormous improvements in transport mean that where famine occurs or natural disasters strike, aircraft fly-in quantities of food from other, sometimes very distant, countries.

Despite the population explosions, the world still produces enough food to provide everyone in the world with an adequate diet. Yet millions may starve every year and many more are undernourished. Wars and other armed conflicts which flare up in many countries disrupt agriculture and uproot populations. In many countries, big landowners seeking increasing profits drive out poor farmers who were producing enough for their own survival, resulting in a drift of people into abject poverty onto the streets of big cities. Many poorer countries are burdened with foreign debts and have to export food to pay off the debts (or merely the interest on the debts), because food is the only thing that they can produce in sufficient quantity.

There is no shortage of food worldwide. Therefore it is not necessary to increase the production of food. If some people are short of food, it must be because the food is not reaching them. Very often, the poor could produce their own food but no land is available to them. Land is bought in poor countries by wealthy corporations in Western nations to grow bananas, cocoa, melons, peanuts, flowers, etc and also crops that could be grown at home, to sell in the rich countries. Subsistence farmers are then forced into becoming labourers paid very low wages and unable to feed their families.

Richer countries should be producing more of their own food and if we turned vegan, production would be much more efficient, because a greater area of land is needed to produce food for meat eaters than that needed to feed vegans. Cattle are fed grain and provide only one tenth of the food that would be provided by feeding that grain direct to humans. The affluent nations import feedstuff from poor countries in order to maintain their food animals.

But there are other ways, simple ways, of making food available to the poorer peoples without having recourse to high tech solutions such as Genetic Engineering, from which large corporations are hoping to make huge profits and these simple solutions can be operated and controlled by the local people.

One example is the mucuna bean which is transforming food production in Central and South America. Not only is this 'magic bean' easy to grow without herbicides and pesticides, it even helps to regenerate poor soil. Another solution was provided by the Leaf Protein Project. There is an abundance of green leaves in plants which cannot be digested by humans because it is bound in cellulose. In the mid-20th century N.M.Pirie devised a simple way of making green leaves readily available for humans. Processing the leaves only needs simple equipment - a centrifuge (think of a domestic juice extractor) that quickly separates out the bulky material, leaving a paste which is allowed to ferment. The product is not only rich in protein but also in essential minerals such as iron and vitamins such as vit. A, the lack of which leads to blindness in many poor countries.

The leaf protein can be taken as a food supplement or incorporated into local dishes or made into cakes. In many cultures, women are in charge of food production and this work brings empowerment for them and sometimes a cash income.

This simple process has not been taken up by any large company, because the equipment is too simple and they would not make any money out of it, but a dedicated group of volunteers formed the FIND YOUR FEET organisation to spread the idea to local people in several needy countries, with the result of greatly improved nutrition where it has been used. This work is also supported by VEGFAM, a charity that works like Oxfam to relieve victims of flood, drought and other emergencies, but following vegan principles. During 2000, Vegfam supported projects in Botswana, Mozambique, India, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Tazhikistan, Ghana and Mali, providing vegetable foods, seeds, seedlings, trees, pumps, piping, water carriers, tools and training.

About Vegfam...

The Overseas Aid Charity for Vegetarians & Vegans is
(British Registered Charity No. 232208, Inland Revenue Ref XN8555)
The Fragile Environment of Developing Countries cannot support TWO populations
Humans and their Food Animals.
For over 30 years VEGFAM has provided short and long-term Relief to People who have been the victims of Drought, Flood, Cyclone or War in over 40 countries. Our Supporters control how much of their Donation goes on Administration since VEGFAM operates three separate Funds for the use of Donors/Testators the particulars of which are:

GENERAL DONATIONS paid into a/c No 65023307 00 will be apportioned (by % shown) between
PROJECTS (91%) a/c No 65023323 00
Administration Expenses (7%) a/c No 65023310 00
Office Building Fund (2%) a/c No 65023336 53

The Co-operative Bank plc, 242 High Street, EXETER, Devon, EX4 3QB, Sort Code 08-92-90. (Midland Banks a/cs retained for use by existing Donors). Postal cheques, IMO's, MO's and PO's to Lydford address, please.


USA the American Vegan Society has agreed to take U.S. dollar donations and make them available to VEGFAM in British Currency. Please make your cheque payable to AVS. Donations will go to VEGFAM's General Donations accounts unless you specify it is all for PROJECTS. The American Vegan Society, 501 Old Harding Way, PO Box H, MALAGA, N.J. 08328-0908 (Phone (609) 694 2887 Fax (609) 694 2288).

Australia VEGFAM has a PROJECTS Donations account at Westpac Banking Corporation (Sydney Office), 341 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000. BSB & a/c no. 732-000 74-8282.

Tel/Fax Lydford (01822) 820203 [if you are outside the UK: +44 1822 820 203] or (01550) 721197 for more details - Covenant Forms/Bankers Order Forms etc (& self catering visitors accommodation) or write (SAE appreciated) to: VEGFAM, The Sanctuary, Nr Lydford, Okehampton, Devon, EX20 4AL, UK. Website: www.veganvillage.co.uk/vegfam Email: vegfam@veganvillage.co.uk


Related Vegan Views articles...
Cross-reference: Third world + Famine Relief