A report from the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) highlighted the dire need to address food scarcity across the globe. “The Global Humanitarian Outlook projects 239 million people in need of life-saving humanitarian action and protection this year,” announced the WFP.
Madagascar is most vulnerable, with climate change causing severe hunger for over a million of its people. Malaysian farmers have faced similar challenges, with many having overcome food scarcity through mixed-crop farming. Malaysia’s small family farmers and their dedication to finding solutions that feed their families provide valuable lessons in food security.
Most of Madagascar’s agricultural land is dominated by small farmers whose main crop is rice. The lives of these farmers closely mirror those of Malaysian small farmers, suggesting that Malaysia’s techniques could improve conditions in Madagascar.
Malaysian smallholders have developed a sufficient system of mixed-crop farming with oil palms as their favored crop. Oil palms are perennial crops that produce year after year. This preserves the land they grow on, enabling farmers to add annual crops and other perennial fruits among the oil palms. Mixed-crop farming gives farmers the security of feeding their families while earning an income from palm oil production.
Along with solving the issue of hunger, preserving biodiversity in Madagascar is a high priority because of its “exceptional species richness, high number of unique plant and animal species; and the magnitude of threats facing these ecologically, culturally, and economically valuable resources.” Sadly, 90 percent of Madagascar’s original forests have been destroyed by harmful agricultural practices.
Malaysia is a leader in sustainable farming. The country’s stringent nationally mandated MSPO certification program “addresses the environmental, social and economic aspects of palm oil production.” Ninety percent of Malaysia’s palm plantations, including small family farms, are certified sustainable, with the goal of achieving 100 percent.
Madagascar and other poorer nations can learn from the challenges Malaysian farmers have faced and overcome. Oil palm crops along with mixed-crop farming have removed the threat of hunger for many Malaysian families and their sustainable practices are now protecting the world.
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