North Korean agriculture works under quite difficult conditions. Most
of North Korea's territory is occupied by mountains and is thus not
arable. The little land that is left faces many problems.
In 1995, 2007 and 2011, floods of unsuspected size washed away rice and corn fields, destroying a good part of the crops. These floods brought the population to famine, a problem which is still lingering within the unwealthy North Koreans. For the past twenty years, North Korea has been relying on international aid such as that of the United Nation, Japan or South Korea to feed its people, and the number of people who died from illness related to hunger or malnutrition is estimated to about two million.
Moreover, was it not for the floods, North Korea still has difficulty producing enough to match its population's nutritional needs.
Most agriculture in North Korea relies on manual work. The government tries to compensate the lack of mechanization by implementing programs that call for the farm workers to get up earlier and be at work in the fields “at the break of dawn”, but the lack of productivity itself is not compensated. The still deep-rooted principle of Juche prohibits buying soil fertilizer from abroad, but the country could not afford a lot in any case due to its lack of foreign currency. In the search for exploitable land, people burn off patches of forest on the mountains. The soil being no longer held by tree roots, it in turn brings floods. Another problem is industrial pollution, which seems to come from coal-burning industries, and some cases of acid rains.
One solution seems to be favored by countryside inhabitants ; they make their own garden and sell the products on local markets or on the street, or raise their own animals, such as goats. Goats produce dairy, not a traditional North Korean food, but to which people are gradually getting used.
© Eric Lafforgue