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Way to help farmers in developing world must be to make manual work redundant

Anne Johnstone rightly highlights the impact of the crushing poverty caused by small-scale subsistence farming in the developing world, noting that resources are required to help "small farmers to improve their productivity" ("Do we have the appetite to tackle world hunger?", The Herald, January 24).

However, in seeking to support small-scale farmers, we should remember the goal of economic development must be to make them, or at least their children, entirely redundant.

Escaping from the Malthusian poverty of an economy dependent on labour intensive agriculture will require the same transition which the developed nations enjoyed after the industrial revolution, when hydrocarbon-fuelled machines replaced carbohydrate-fuelled human labour. Through the historically unprecedented prosperity which we now enjoy in the developed nations, nurses are free to nurse and teachers teach only because their calorie needs are met through efficient, large-scale mechanised agriculture. Innovation and the efficient use of energy-dense fuels freed us from the land to engage in more progressive pursuits. Similarly, the end of labour intensive agriculture in the developed nations led to urbanisation, accelerated innovation and ultimately the delivery of valued public services. This is the same transition evident in China and other once impoverished economies which now enjoy growing GDP per capita and life expectancy.

Finally, we should note some proponents of small-scale farming advocate a prohibition of GM technologies in developing nations and actively promote labour-intensive organic farming, which is the very cause of poverty itself. This is the same misplaced thinking that promoted land-hungry biofuels, which are now seen as one of the contributors to poverty and hunger in developing world.

Colin R McInnes,

23 Williamwood Park West,

Glasgow.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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