Published on June 23rd, 2016
Could hobby farms be the answer to solving world hunger?
World hunger is often seen as one of those problems that will be around for at least the foreseeable future. Any number of different charities fight for the cause of feeding the hungry, ensuring clean drinking water and educating people about food safety and storage in third-world countries – but so far, there is still what could only be described as an epidemic of empty bellies.
And it seems like the problem is only going to get worse. The United Nations predicts that by 2050, there will be almost 10 billion people on the planet, all of them requiring food, water and shelter. Considering the fact that Dr Robyn Alders of the University of Sydney described delivering enough food to feed such a multitude of mouths is "one of the world's greatest challenges", it's clear that a solution much be reached.
The question is, could hobby farms be part of that solution?
The breadbasket of a nation
"Small lot holders pose a risk to other farms."
First, a few quick facts about Australian agriculture. In 2012, there were over 134,000 farm businesses in Australia, with each farmer capable of feeding 600 people – three-quarters of which were overseas, according to the National Farmers' Federation. The vast majority of our food (93 per cent) is produced right here in Oz, even though most of it is shipped overseas. Agribusiness is a vast powerhouse of the Australian nation, and it would not be inaccurate to describe our lands as one of the breadbaskets of the world.
But can Australia keep up with the needs of an ever-growing population? According to Dr Alders, it would be a strain at best, particularly in light of the increased threat of disease in our farms.
"The unprecedented loss of biodiversity, climate change, globalisation and urbanisation can, to some extent, be attributed to human activity and they've all had a direct impact on the emergence of new infectious diseases that are threatening our food systems," he explained at a Australian Veterinary Association conference.
The power of the hobby farm
You might think that this would be an issue squarely in the realm of commercial farmers, but Dr Patrick Kluver of the Livestock Biosecurity Network would disagree.
"Small lot holders pose a risk to other farms and this is played out all the time, whether it be failure to control weeds or prevent sheep with lice from straying," he explains in a June 13 Queensland Country Life article.
"Some small lot holders also partake in practices which are high risk, such as sharing bulls or rams or informally trading livestock online."
Hobby farms are increasingly becoming more and more popular among those heading to rural Australia in order to seek affordability, but without the right mindset, this could end up being a boon to the buyer but a hindrance to the country. Ensure you educate yourself and engage in safe business practices on your hobby farm – you can do your part to secure the world's resilience against hunger.