Hunger and agriculture paper

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"The Use of Fertilizers"

In today's society where hunger is thriving among many nations, the use of fertilizers provide some type of relieve to this aggravated situation. The goal of fertilizer is to make plants grow faster by "supplying the elements that the plants need in readily available forms" (www.howstuffwork.com). Fertilizers are becoming necessary as the population in many countries population continue to soar. The need for fertilizer is mostly motivated "by a confluence of events, including population growth, shrinking world grain stocks and the appetite for corn and palm oil to make biofuel" (www.nytimes.com). "According to experts the biggest factor has been the growing demand for food, especially meat, in the developing world" (www.krwa.net)..

In the late 20th century when India's food crisis was getting worst, in order to alleviate the hunger crisis the government implemented a agricultural program in December 1965. "The new policy allows foreign firm to build and operate their own fertilizer plants-and set their own prices" (www.time.com). In effect the government hoped that "Indian nitrogenous-fertilizer production will rise from 243,884 tons in 1965 to 2,500,000 tons in five years and that along with it grain production would increase" (www.time.com).

In Africa where hunger is constantly on the rise, the use of fertilizers presents a sense of hope. The farmers in Africa experience several barriers "including low productivity, limited access to new agricultural technologies and weak markets" (www.maep.gov.mg). "Without adequate inputs, farmers often cannot meet the food needs of their own families, much less those of a rapidly growing population" (www.adb.org). On June 13, 2006 at a summit, The African Heads of State and Government adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme, which calls for a "6% annual growth in agricultural production, as a framework for the restoration of agricultural growth, food security and rural development in Africa"(africafertilizersummit.org). The African Heads of State and Government adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme visions that "farmers will need to shift from low yielding, extensive land practices to more intensive, higher-yielding practices, with increased use of improved seeds, fertilizers and irrigation". (africafertilizersummit.org).

The main problem to achieving this goal is due to the fact that many African farmers don't have access to fertilizers, nor can they afford it. Therefore Africa is trapped in a fertilizer crisis. "Today, African leaders have convened to show their strong and unanimous commitment to achieving the African Green Revolution by taking immediate actions to solve Africa's fertilizer crisis" (www.maep.gov.mg). They believe that Africa need to increase the availability of fertilizers so that they can "achieve an African Green Revolution in the face of rapidly rising population and declining soil fertility" (africanfertilizersummit.org).

There are two different kind of fertilizers, inorganic and organic fertilizer. The ingredients in both fertilizers are the same, what makes the difference is their source. "Organic fertilizers are the result of the natural decomposition of plant and animal waste and inorganic fertilizers are mined or manufactured" (www.naturalhills.com). Unlike inorganic fertilizers, organic fertilizers are not in a form that plants can use right away. "Organics require time for the fertilizer to break down in the soil and convert to a fertilizer the plant can use" (www.naturalhills.com). In addition, what differs inorganic from organic is that "inorganic materials last a lot longer in the soil and would leach or wash over a much longer period of time verses inorganic materials" (www.naturalhills.com).

Internationally the Institute of Hydroponics (ISH) recommends two basic forms of hydroponic nutrient (fertilizers), inorganic and organic. The practice of organoponics, "is a subset of simplified hydroponics", which uses only organic fertilizers (www.carbon.org). "In Cuba 40% of the nations food supply is grown organically, 60% of the food is still produced with inorganic fertilizers" (www.carbon.org). The organic production is dependent upon materials such as "sugar cane waste and animal fertilizers that come from that inorganic production" (www.carbon.org). The ISH believes that "garden owners in extremely marginal conditions start with inorganic fertilizers to end hunger and then all learn to recycle agricultural wastes through a warm farm to also produce organically"(www.carbon.org).

Currently there has been many debates over organic versus inorganic fertilizers. There are advantages and disadvantages to both type of fertilizers. Advantages of organic fertilizer are that there "is less danger of over-fertilization", "it provides a slow release of nutrients as micro-organisms in the soil break the organic material down into an inorganic" and "improves the water-holding capacities of sandy soils" (www.gardenline.usask.ca). Advantages of inorganic fertilizer are "that nutrients are immediately available to the plants" (www.gardenline.usask.ca). Disadvantages of organic fertilizer are "not immediately available to the plants"," information on the amount of nutrients and the exact elements in an organic fertilizer such as manure is not readily available to the home gardener "the possibility of nitrogen depletion in the soil and plants", "and although the "slow- release feature can be an advantage, if there is an immediate need for nutrients, organic fertilizer cannot supply them in a hurry" (www.gardenline.usask.ca). Disadvantages of inorganic fertilizers are that they are "easily washed below the level of the plant's root system through the leaching of rain or irrigation", an application which is too heavy or too close to the roots of the plants may cause "burning" and "overly heavy applications of commercial fertilizers can build up toxic concentrations of salts in the soil, thus creating chemical imbalances' (www.gardenline.usask.ca).

Overall chemical fertilization is the answer to solving the hunger problem. According to Dr. Diouf "six billion people today and nine billion in 2050 without judicious use of chemical fertilizers."(www.fao.org). "However many believe that organic agriculture could produce enough food for the current world population" (www.fao.org). But as of right now most farmers use inorganic (chemical) fertilizers because organic fertilizers are very expensive and hard to transport.

Today farmers have come to a point where they are dependent on fertilizers. "The widespread use of inexpensive chemical fertilizer, coupled with market reforms, helped power an agricultural explosion" (www.nytimes.com). Now these gains which were achieved through chemical fertilizer are threatened in countries around the world by "shortages and soaring prices for fertilizer, the most essential ingredient of modern agriculture" (www.nytimes.com). Many fertilizers have tripled in price since last year which prevented farmers from being able to buy a sufficient amount of fertilizer.

According to the United Nations World Food Program this is "one of the factors contributing to the rising cost of food which is pushing millions of poor people into malnutrition" (www.wfp.org). "Initially much of the increased production of fertilizer went to grains like wheat and rice that served as the foundation of a basic diet" (www.nytimes.com). However lately "with world economic growth at a brisk five percent a year, hundreds of millions of people began earning money to buy more meat from animals fattened with grains" (www.nytimes.com). Dynamics such as this ultimately led to an increase for the demand of fertilizer.

With population increase and hunger among poor people increasing, fertilizer holds the answer to this problem. It's a great piece that highlights the important role fertilization (especially chemical fertilization) which can play in helping to increase crop yields and, hence, food security among people who often face hunger.

Work Cited Page
  • "What is fertilizer and Why do plants use it?". Retrieved June 20,2008 from http://science.howstuffworks.com/question181.htm
  • Bradshier, Keith and Martin, Andrew. "Shortages Threaten Farmers Key Tool:Fertilizer". (April 30, 2008). Retrieved January 14, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/30/business/worldbusiness/30fertilizer.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
  • "Timor Leste District Level Emergency Food Security Assessment". Retrieved January 14, 2010 from http://documents.wfp.org/stellent/groups/public/documents/ena/wfp175175.pdf
  • "Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution". Retrieved January 14,2010 from http://www.africafertilizersummit.org/Abuja%20Fertilizer%20Declaration%20in%20English.pdf
  • "Fertilizer to Fight Hunger". (May 27, 1966). Retrieved January 14, 2010 from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,835682,00.html
  • "Institute for Simplified Hydrophonics- Sri Lanka". (January 1, 2005). Retrieved January 14, 2010 from http://www.carbon.org/srilankaish/srilankaish2.htm
  • "What is the difference between organic and inorganic fertilizer? (February 12, 2008). Retrieved January 14, 2010 from http://naturehills.com/gardening/blogs/common_questions_answered/archive/2008/02/12/what-is-the-difference-between-organic-and-inorganic-fertilizer.aspx
  • Williams, Sarah. "Fertilizer: Application (Organic vs Inorganic). Retrieved January 14 2010 from http://gardenline.usask.ca/misc/fertili2.html
  • "Orgainic Agriculture Can Contribute to Fighting Hunger". Retrieved January 14, 2010 from http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2007/1000726/index.html
  • "Shortages threaten farmers Key Tool: Fertilizer". Retrieved Jan 14, 2010 from http://www.krwa.net/newsDB/MainAnnounce2.asp?key=407
  • "Africa Fertilizer Summit African Union Special Summit of the Heads of State and Government". Retrieved Jan 14, 2010 from http://www.maep.gov.mg/eg/africafertilizer.htm
  • "Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution". Retrieves Jan 14, 2010 from http://www.afdb.org/en/topics-sectors/initiatives-partnerships/african-fertilizer-financing-mechanism/abuja-declaration/

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