President Donald Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un produced a thaw in relations between the two countries but the communist regime continues to face international sanctions and food shortage problems.
However, one U.S.-based non-profit organization that has been partnering for 20 years with North Korean farmers to help them increase food production is starting to see results.
“Production has been increasing over the last five years because of changes in agriculture,” said Linda Lewis, country director for DPRK at American Friends Service Committee, a Philadelphia-based Quaker organization that has worked with and in North Korea on agricultural and economic issues for several decades.
North Korea’s agriculture is centrally managed and based mostly on cooperative farms while a smaller portion are state industrial farms operated as government enterprises. The average farm in the country has nearly 3,000 people and gets its marching orders of what will be grown usually from the government.
Lewis said there have been reforms by North Korea in the past several years that have allowed farmers “more local discretion and individual control over decisions on allocated pieces of land.” The government also allows farmers to sell or barter food when there’s a surplus beyond certain production targets. At the same time, changes in the management of agriculture by the government in the last five years have produced what Lewis calls “more resilience in the face of droughts.”
Lewis said AFSC has operated a program on the ground in North Korea continuously since 1998 focused on increasing agricultural production. Specifically, the group’s goal is greater production of corn and boosting the productivity of rice farming.