Blogs >> Real Farming … a people’s take-over of the world’s food supply with Colin Tudge

Real Farming … a people’s take-over of the world’s food supply with Colin Tudge

Global population has hit 7 billion this year and is expanding rapidly. Do you think that it will be possible to ‘feed the world’ without drastic ecological crisis?

Technically it ought to be easy to feed 9.5 billion, the population the UN tells us we’ll have by 2050. The world already produces enough calories and protein to feed 14 billion, according to Hans Herren, the President of the Millenium Institute who is hugely influential in world agriculture and ought to be believed. We are currently producing 4800 calories per head – twice what people need on average. Since there are 7 billion in the world, it follows that we’re already producing enough to 14 billion.

However, the powers that be, and by this I mean Governments and Corporations, are telling us that we need to increase food production by 50%. Why is this? It is simply because the amount of food produced currently isn’t geared towards human need. It is geared towards the maximisation of wealth. To maximise wealth, the aim is not to produce enough for people to eat, but to produce as much as possible. The model is to encourage consumption and then to produce more food to match it.

So how is it that we are already producing enough for 14 billion and yet according to the UN 1 billion are still chronically hungry?

This is largely because a huge amount of food is wasted. In developing countries at least a third is wasted between harvest and arriving at people’s houses. This is not due to a lack of high technology, it’s down to not having simple infrastructure such as silos. A huge amount is also wasted in the field of course. In the developed world, food that could be used for human consumption, is fed to livestock. It’s easy to feed sheep and cows on grass, but to reduce raising time and boost dairy yields, they are fed on grain and soya. There’s also the huge amount of food wastage once it reaches people’s homes, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates one third of everything that arrives in the kitchen.

So what do you feel is the way forward Colin?

There was a Government Foresight report earlier this year which recommends that industrial farming is the way forward – bigger and bigger farms with more and more inputs of fertilisers, pesticides, GMOs – a huge exercise in industrial chemistry. The whole point of these farms is to decrease cost by decreasing labour. All this is nonsense in my view, particularly when you don’t need to increase yields.

Common sense says, and there’s plenty of evidence out there to back it up, that to be maximally productive, sustainable and above all resilient to things like a rapidly changing climate, you want farms that are very mixed. You also want to be as organic as possible to maintain the natural fertility of the soil. Maintaining this type of farm is going to be complex and therefore labour intensive. If you have systems that are labour intensive you don’t want to scale up, you want lots and lots of quasi-organic mixed farms.

The powers that be will say that these farms can’t produce enough. But most farms in the world are currently run like this – although most are seriously under-endowed. Most farms in developing countries could double their output with logistical aid. Everything is against them at the moment, but even so they still produce food for 70% of the people in the world. Small mixed farms are doing their job! Industrial farms that attract all the funding and research grants only feed 30% of global population at present. They are, however, making lots of money for a few people.

What do you suggest is done about it?

“We cannot afford to leave our children’s lives in the hands of the big decision-makers. They have already blown it and have no intention of changing their direction.”


Colin Tudge

Well my question is: can we introduce small mixed farms all over the world? If we leave it to governments and corporations it certainly won’t happen because this won’t generate the money they are interested in. So we have to do it ourselves. We have to campaign for Real Farming with the idea of it being ‘a people’s takeover of the world food supply’. Nothing else will do. It isn’t going to be a revolution, which to me implies a fight, but it is a renaissance where we simply decide to do things differently despite the powers that be.

It’s happening now in the Grow Your Own movement and other campaigns that are getting people back to the land – there’s lots of movement out there. Click here for an essay on Eight Steps Back to the Land. The question is whether we can undertake this renaissance in time. I think it’s a long-shot, but it’s also the only chance we’ve got. We cannot afford to leave our children’s lives in the hands of the big decision-makers. They have already blown it and have no intention of changing their direction.

How do you think the Schumacher College MSc Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production can contribute?

We need more and more people to become interested in these problems. At the moment we are not being given a proper analysis because people are subjected to government propaganda and corporate brochures that say things like GMOs are the only way forward. But getting back to the land is a sensible and practical proposition, which many people are wanting to do but don’t know where to start. Horticulture is a great way back to the land and into farming – you start with plants and then diversify. The Masters programme not only looks at the nature of the problems we face and the strategies to solve them, but it also shows people who need jobs how they can get seriously and practically involved.

Click here for more information on the MSc Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production >>

Visit for more information on Colin’s work.

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