By Hilary White

ROME, October 13, 2009 ( – The head of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) told a gathering of African bishops in Rome on Monday that the theories of Thomas Malthus, equating increased population with food shortages, are incorrect. In response to a question from the floor at the African Synod, Dr. Jacques Diouf said that “food security” is possible in Africa now without the reduction of population, if there is the political will to achieve it.

The solution to Africa's “yoke of hunger and malnutrition” is the reform of her political systems, said Diouf. “Transparency… the application of law by an independent justice” and peace will create an environment where food production and distribution can be increased, he said.

Diouf says he disputes the gloomy Malthusian economic model that predicts that worldwide famines will necessarily follow unregulated growth of the human population. Malthus, he said, “had no consideration for science and technology.”

Infrastructural development, improved living conditions for farmers, irrigation, the increased use of fertilisers, building and maintenance of rural roads, availability of high-yield seed and seed quality control and certification, will bring Africa into the “Green Revolution” that has taken place in Mexico since the 1950s and Asia and India since the 1970s, said Diouf.

The UN food chief pointed out that despite the fact that 57 per cent of Africa's employment is in agriculture, in some areas only 10 per cent of government resources are allotted to food production.

Contrary to the predictions of population control advocates like Paul R. Ehrlich, the author of the book “The Population Bomb,” the worldwide famines that were supposed to have occurred with the increased global population have failed to materialise. In his book Ehrlich wrote that India “couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980.” However, the introduction of high-yield grains and improved techniques resulted in India becoming self-sustaining in cereal production by 1974, six years after the publication of the book.

Dr. Diouf said that although the “political will” is not there now, if it were, “definitely” the problems of hunger and “food security” in Africa could be solved. “The land is there” he said.

Diouf's address painted a picture of hope for Africa, based on her increasing population. Citing demographic trends in his prepared address, he said that in the next 50 years, Africa will have a population of 2 billion “and will represent the largest market in the world.” Africa, he pointed out, has 80 per cent of the world's deposits of platinum and manganese, 57 per cent of the world's diamonds, 34 per cent of gold, 23 of bauxite and 18 per cent of uranium. This wealth of natural resources and human resources means that “Africa cannot be ignored in the economic development of the planet,” he said.

“On the earth, there is a sufficient number of financial means, effective technologies, natural and human resources to eliminate hunger in the world once and for all.”

The African Synod, continuing until October 24, also heard this morning of the dangers of ideologically driven models of human rights.

At this morning's session, Archbishop John Baptist Odama, head of the archdiocese of Gulu in Uganda, warned of the dangers of “certain protocols” that purport to protect the rights of women but include among these the provision of abortion. The archbishop was referring to the Maputo Protocol, or, “The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa,” a human rights declaration approved in 2003 by a group of African health ministers, that equates “reproductive health,” including abortion, with the promotion of women.

Described at a press briefing as a “passionate ambassador” for peace in northern Uganda, Archbishop Odama told the bishops “we have to fight” to protect the rights of women, including access to education, but not to the point where protecting their rights infringes the rights of “other people, especially unborn children.”

The point was reiterated by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, the President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, who said that the underlying principle in the work of the Catholic Church in Africa in all areas, including health and education, is that “life should be respected from conception to its natural end.”

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