Keith Bradsher is usually at least a little better than this:
"Ms. Nha, her face weathered beyond its 51 years, said her growth was stunted by a childhood of hunger and malnutrition. Just a few decades ago, crop yields here were far lower and diets much worse."
And _why_ were the crop yields here far lower and diets much worse a few decades ago? Possibly because Mrs. Nha was apparently born right in the middle of the Vietnam War? A war in which the US used Agent Orange extensively. I know we're used to thinking of it as a poison that directly harmed veterans, but it was used as an herbicide and defoliant which, well, come on, let's think about it, _killed crops_.
But _that's_ not why crop yields were low. Nor because a bunch of the adults were off fighting or fleeing instead of cultivating crops. Nope. Yields have improved because:
"Then the widespread use of inexpensive chemical fertilizer, coupled with market reforms, helped power an agricultural explosion here that had already occurred in other parts of the world. Yields of rice and corn rose, and diets grew richer."
I'm not saying the fertilizer didn't help, but if you attribute all the gains in that time frame in crop yield to fertilizer, it's at minimum kinda misleading.
ETA: yes, I know Agent Orange is supposed to kill weeds, but weeds is contextual. Unless you can convince me that it wasn't offing any of the food crops the Vietnamese were relying upon, I'm going to assume it did some damage. And _even if it didn't_, the rest of my argument still applies (disruption, refugees, no one to cultivate, etc.).
ETA again: Agent _Blue_. Doesn't get as much publicity, but was specifically aimed at rice crops.
Not precisely an unbiased site:
According to wiki,
"Destruction attributed to the Second Indochina War was considerable. Hanoi claimed that in the South, 9,000 out of 15,000 hamlets were damaged or destroyed, 10 million hectares of farmland and 5 million hectares of forest lands were devastated, and 1.5 million cattle were killed."
Somehow, I just feel that this is going to have a bigger effect on human development than whether or not there's cheap chemical fertilizer around. Given Monsanto's involvement on both sides of this, I'm extra special suspicious. After all, if you're busy trying to get people worried about the "good" part of your chemical business, you're hardly going to encourage attention being drawn to the, er, "bad" part of your chemical business.
ETA yet again: and by "born in the middle of", I realize that it's extremely fuzzy when the first Vietnam War (aka long list) ended and the second one started, if, indeed, there is a gap at all. Certainly, experienced much of her youthful growth right in the middle of is accurate, if born in the middle of is not.