Prosperity for humanity is the single most important desired outcome in finding solutions for a growing population during the next forty years. And prosperity is not something that will be achieved through subsistence agricultural programs, but through commercialization and the use of technology.
This is the conviction of Marty Matlock, professor in Ecological Engineering at the University of Arkansas, Program Director in the Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability, and himself a descendent of the Cherokee Indians in the US. He was a speaker at the second session of the fourth Global Feed and Food Congress at Sun City, South Africa.
The world population is expected to grow from the current 7 billion people to 10 billion by 2050. Feeding the world population will require huge increases in productivity and efficiency. Technology will have to play a central role, he said.
The Cherokee Indians, the same as most other indiginous communities in the world, advanced by leaving their stone age tools and embracing new technologies”. He emphasised that, when technology and culture collides, culture always changes. This is what drives progress.
“When my forefathers, for example, saw the iron knife for the first time, they immediately exchanged their stone knifes for the iron option. Why? Because they saw the potential. This fundamental decision to embrace this new technology caused them to take the first steps away from a stone age culture towards a modern, technology-based culture,” Matlock said.
In the same context, he stressed, it is imperative that subsistence farming be replaced by commercial agriculture in the developing world.
If a farmer wants to explore specific options regarding increasing profitability, he should have total freedom to do so, without being dictated to on the basis of ideology. It is private enterprise that is driving sustainability. This is true across the spectrum of economic activity – from the smallest of farmer to the largest of corporation.
“Increasing efficiency and attaining good impacts is simply good business. When looking at solutions for challenges such as being able to feed the world population by 2050, the outcome is what is important. How exactly that outcome is achieved depends totally on local circumstances. As long as the practices are ethical and humane, every tool in our collective toolbox should be used to achieve this common goal,” Matlock said.
Prosperity drives all socio-economic aspects of humanity because it provides choices, he said. Aspects such as population growth, education, malnutrition and health are all influenced by choices people can make based on growing prosperity.
“Although we are, on the whole, starting to achieve levels of success, it is taking a very long time, and we are approaching the boundaries of our natural resources. This is the core of my message: embracing every available technology to achieve the collective aim as quickly and effectively as possible.”