National Geographic : 2017 Sep
feeding the world 109 exceeds 20 million today and is rising inexorably, according to the United Nations. “ We are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN,” the organization’s emergency relief coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, warned in March. “Our most difficult task is changing the per- ceptions of our own people—about the crisis we confront and what we must do to address it,” Nandudu says. “ That’s my job when I go home. We cannot turn our faces away from reality.” some 4,000 miles south of Wageningen, in a family-owned bean field in Africa’s Eastern Rift Valley, a team from SoilCares, a Dutch agricul- tural technology firm, explains the functions of a small handheld device. In conjunction with a cell phone app, the device analyzes the soil’s pH, or- ganic matter, and other properties, then uploads the results to a database in the Netherlands and returns a detailed report on optimal fertilizer use and nutrient needs—all in less than 10 minutes. At a cost of a few dollars, the report provides in- put that can help reduce crop losses by enormous margins to farmers who have never had access to soil sampling of any kind. Less than 5 percent of the world’s estimated 570 million farms have access to a soil lab. That’s the kind of number the Dutch see as a challenge. “ What does our work mean for develop- ing countries? That question is always raised here,” says Martin Scholten, who directs WUR’s Animal Sciences Group. “It’s part of every conversation.” j Frank Viviano, a foreign correspondent based in Italy, has covered stories in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Luca Locatelli specializes in photographing interactions between people and technology.