Thursday, June 21, 2012

My future farm series: the problem of hunger

"In Somalia, every 6 minutes, a child dies from hunger"
The Somalian famine, 2011

As I promised a follow up on a previous blog post I wrote, in this post I would like to share my thoughts on one of the benefits that I might get from starting my own farm. I would like to (hopefully) establish food security, at least for me and my family. I feel that many of us depend too much on the market (and money) to provide for our daily needs on the dining table. Our minds are twisted to think that food security is equivalent to economic security (or the availability of money), which isn’t necessarily true.

God tells the Muslims that the devil instills fear in the heart of men through poverty. Among the consequences of poverty is hunger. We might live in places that have adequate, if not excessive amounts of food, thus we never feel hungry. While there are others who are literally dying due to hunger. The problem of hunger is real, even though it may seem oblivious to many of us.

In 2010, it is estimated that a staggering number of 925 million people in the world are suffering from chronic hunger. That’s about 13% of the total world population. Every six seconds, a child dies from undernourishment problems. The data provided by UN’s Food Association Organization (FAO) shows us that the problem of hunger is a serious one and needs to be dealt with as swiftly as possible.

There are many factors that contribute to this condition, among them including poor distribution of food, overconsumption, and the inability of localities to produce their own food, which results in extreme dependency on areas or countries which can. Ironically, in many cases, the problem of hunger often happens in areas or countries where food can be produced relatively easy. One example is in Indonesia, one of the richest countries in terms of natural biodiversity and resources, which due to outrageously poor management, political problems, etc, struggle with food insecurity in many provinces, needing to depend on the help of the UN and NGO's.

Nobody is safe from being afflicted by the problem of hunger. That's why as soon as I get back home to Indonesia, one of my first agendas is to make me and my family self sufficient and be able to provide for others in the food department (or at least lower our dependence on the market/buying what we need). And once again, starting a farm seems to be the most logical solution.

In a book that I bought last year, the author mentioned that it is possible to produce all the food we need on just a quarter acre (4000 square meters or 0.4 hectares). With this amount of land, we're not only able to fulfill our own needs, but can also provide others, while still having enough to save (as pickles, dried food, etc). I haven't thoroughly read the book yet (only skimmed through it), but at least I know that it’s not impossible to provide ourselves with limited amount of resources.

Of course the need for food may differ from person to person, depending on knowledge. Some “need” to eat excessively, some eat normally, and some only need a little amount of food. To correct our view on the amount of food we really need, we need to equip ourselves with knowledge about it. As an illustration, an average man needs around 2500 to 3000 calories per day in order to stay healthy. This amount is equivalent to around 25-30 bananas or 3-4 big macs. Of course that’s oversimplifying the matter, as we also need to supply our body with adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals (which can all be obtained from plants by the way).

The point that we should emphasize on is: it doesn't take that much food to keep us alive and going. In fact, for Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad PBUH gave strict guidance to not over-eat. He said, “No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels (pieces) that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing.” He didn’t only say it, but lived it as well. It was reported that there would be no cooking activity in the household of the Prophet for several months, and that he would live by dates and water. By the way, this was when he was the ruler of Arab, a king among kings, who could have had any meal he had wanted. But he chose to give away what he had for the poor. People having enmity against him, just don’t know him well enough... But anyway, once again, a little food is enough for us to keep us alive and healthy.

By making a well planned garden scheme, anybody can plant and grow the food that they need. Thus, this is one of the goals of my future project. The carbohydrate can be obtained from plants like corn, rice, potatoes, bananas, etc. The protein can be provided by growing plants that contain high amounts of protein such as pumpkins, asparagus, cauliflower, peanuts, spinach, broccoli, etc, and can also be obtained from eggs or milk for those who also choose to raise farm animals (I’m planning to, but let’s see how it goes). Vitamins and minerals are obviously readily available in all fruits and vegetables.

Obviously hunger is a problem that we all need to be concerned of. Especially when we look at the statistics of food security from FAO, where there doesn’t seem to be much improvement from the 1990s up to now. But we shouldn’t stop at the point of being concerned. We need to act and try to contribute positively towards this problem, and we need to contribute right now. Although it is my dream to at least be self sufficient (thus my plans to build a farm), I’m not in the position to do so.

However, there are still many things that we can do for our brothers and sisters in humanity who suffer from famine. The obvious thing that we can do is to send donation for those who need it. There are many options from where we can donate our money, one of them is through the Islamic relief of USA or other similar organizations. There are also lists at CNN and CBS that direct us to similar opportunities to donate.

If it feels too difficult to donate even a fraction of our money for orphans and people in need, there’s definitely something wrong with us. We need to fight this reluctance, and believe me, we’ll reap more benefit than what we sent out (in charity), in the addition to the nice feeling of being able to help someone, even if we only donate a small amount. We can also try to fast/do sawm to have more empathy and awareness towards the problem of hunger. And lastly, pray and keep the victims in our thoughts and wish them all the best.

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