Population Growth and Food Grains Production

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Is there really a scarcity of grains in the world today?1400 years ago, when agriculture was in very primitive state and the peasants depended on rainfalls for crops to grow, Islam instilled hope in Allah’s mercy and taught its adherents to have full faith in His promise of providing sustenance.

Is there really a scarcity of grains in the world today?

British clergyman Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) postulated the theory of population growth in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798). He opined that the population grows at a geometric rate and the food supply at an arithmetic rate. As a result of this discrepancy in the growth rates of population and food grains, imbalances occur which lead to destruction of population in the form of famine, disease, a high mortality rate, or wars which restore the balance.

He wrote: “Must it not then be acknowledged by an attentive examiner of the histories of mankind, that in every age and in every State in which man has existed – or does now exist – that the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence…that population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase, and that the superior power of population is repressed, and the actual population kept equal to the means of subsistence, by misery and vice.” The solution for this problem suggested by him included two checks: positive or direct checks include malnutrition, war, famine, and high infant mortality, while preventive checks include late marriage and celibacy. (Development Economics)

It’s surprising to see that though Malthus was a clergyman, he had such a disappointed view. His postulation about population and food grains growth as well as his solutions like wars, famines or celibacy, were all utterly wrong and morally degenerative. I still remember my days in university while doing an MA in Economics. It was in 1998 when two hundred years of Malthus theory were completed, and one of our agriculture professors mocked Malthus that, as per Malthus, we would not have been existing at that time!

Let us briefly look at what the Holy Qur’an says about sustenance and population growth, and how Malthus’ views have been proved completely wrong.

In the Qur’an (11:6) it is declared that Allah is the Creator of all creatures and that He provides sustenance for them:

“And there is no animal in the earth but on Allah is the sustenance of it, and He knows its resting place and its depository; all (things) are in a manifest book.”

Allah, the Master and Creator of all that is created, also arranges food for His creatures. He demands submission from us and prohibits disappointment. Disappointment in His mercy is heresy. He is the Creator and He is also the Sustainer:

“Say: Come I will recite what your Lord has forbidden to you – (remember) that you do not associate anything with Him and show kindness to your parents, and do not slay your children for (fear of) poverty – We provide for you and for them – and do not draw nigh to indecencies, those of them which are apparent and those which are concealed, and do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden except for the requirements of justice; this He has enjoined you with that you may understand.” (6:151)

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty; We give them sustenance and yourselves (too); surely to kill them is a great wrong. ” (17:31)

The above verses caution us that killing children for fear of poverty is a grave sin, as Allah Who has created all of us also provides us with sustenance. The fear of poverty is a whispering of the Accursed Satan:

“Shaitan threatens you with poverty and enjoins you to be niggardly, and Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself and abundance; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing.” (2:268)

Imam Zaynul Abideen (peace be upon him) teaches us in supplication 29 of Sahifa Sajjadiyya that the promise of Allah about sustenance is ever-true, and we should never entertain any doubts on this issue:

“Let Thy clear promise in Thy Revelation
which Thou hast followed in Thy Book with Thy oath
cut off our worry
about the provision for which
Thou hast made Thyself responsible
and sever our occupation
with everything
whose sufficiency Thou hast guaranteed!

For Thou hast said
– and Thy word is the most truthful truth –
and Thou hast sworn
– and Thy oath is the most kept and fulfilled –
In the heaven are your provision and everything you are promised!

And then Thou hast said,
So by the Lord of heaven and earth,
it is as surely true as that you have speech!”

In sermon 90 of Nahjul Balagha, the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (peace be upon him) extols Allah for the guarantees of sustenance:

“The whole creation is His dependent (in sustenance). He has guaranteed their livelihood and ordained their sustenance. He has prepared the way for those who turn to Him and those who seek what is with Him.”

Therefore, it is apparent that some 1400 years back, when agriculture was in very primitive state and the peasants depended on rain falls for crops to grow, Islam instilled hope in Allah’s mercy and taught its adherents to have full faith in His promise of providing sustenance.

Now we’ll briefly have a look at the developments in agriculture through applying modern methods which have brought about a revolution known as Green Revolution. Allah is the Creator and Sustainer Who is aware of the needs of every age and Who knows the requirements of His servants in every age:

“And there is not a thing but with Us are the treasures of it, and We do not send it down but in a known measure.” (15:21)

“Surely We have created everything according to a measure.” (54:49)

Accordingly, He has set the path of progress for mankind. This is all progress in genetic engineering, and revolutions in food grain productions are because of His promise to provide sustenance. This is like a hidden treasure on the long way of humanity, and as we move ahead and our requirements increase we find more and more treasures hidden by our Merciful Lord in our way. Today the treasures are developments of HYV: high yielding varieties of seeds, nano technology, and the like.

Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between 1943 and the late 1970s, that increased industrialized agriculture production. The initiatives involved the development of high yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, and distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers. The beginnings of the Green Revolution are often attributed to Norman Borlaug, an American scientist interested in agriculture. In the 1940s, he began conducting research in Mexico and developed new disease resistant high-yield varieties of wheat. By combining Borlaug’s wheat varieties with new mechanized agricultural technologies, Mexico was able to produce more wheat than was needed by its own citizens, leading to its becoming an exporter of wheat by the 1960s. Prior to the use of these varieties, the country was importing almost half of its wheat supply.

Due to the success of the Green Revolution in Mexico, its technologies spread worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s. The United States for instance, imported about half of its wheat in the 1940s but after using Green Revolution technologies, it became self-sufficient in the 1950s and became an exporter by the 1960s.

In India the effect of Green Revolution has been tremendous. Some salient features include :

  1. The Green Revolution resulted in a record grain output of 131 million tons in 1978-79. This established India as one of the world’s biggest agricultural producers. India also became an exporter of food grains around that time.
  2. Yield per unit of farmland improved by more than 30 per cent between 1947 (when India gained political independence) and 1979 when the Green Revolution was considered to have delivered its goods.
  3. The crop area under HYV varieties grew from seven per cent to 22 per cent of the total cultivated area during the 10 years of the Green Revolution. More than 70 per cent of the wheat crop area, 35 per cent of the rice crop area and 20 per cent of the millet and corn crop area, used the HYV seeds.

There has also been criticism of the Green Revolution, especially with respect to negative effects on the environment and health. But these issues can be addressed by careful application of the technology and further research in the area.

The problem of starvation is actually the problem of distribution. In India alone, thousands of tons of food grains perished in FCI godowns while millions are starving. The apex court of India very recently asked the government to consider free distribution of food-grains to the poor instead of allowing it to rot in the Food Corporation of India godowns.

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Asad Raza

A stimulated mind. An avid reader. An IT professional. A beleiver in Deen e Hanifa : "Then set your face upright for religion in the right state-- the nature made by Allah in which He has made men; there is no altering of Allah's creation; that is the right religion, but most people do not know--"(30:30)

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