Ready for the challenge? FAO Director-General calls for more food from existing land

November 28, 2011 No Comments by Molly

Today the global COP17 talks on climate change in Durban, South Africa began.  To open these discussions, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its report, 'The State of the World's Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture', the first 'State of the World…' on this topic by the FAO (called 'SOLAW' for short…).  

It is quite exciting to see a report that focuses on climate change's impact on agriculture and food – and even states what needs to change.  (These comments are based on the information available here: http://www.fao.org/nr/solaw/solaw-home/en/ and here: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/95153/icode/)

The head of the FAO, Jacques Diouf, underlined at a press conference launching the report that expanding cropland is not the solution; increases in agricultural output need to come from producing more on existing agricultural land.  Moreover, as the report underlines, fully 25% of the world's land is "highly degraded", making land one of the most scare resources, alongside strained water resources in the most vulnerable areas of the world.

As the SOLAW web site states

  • "The largest contribution to increases in agricultural output will most likely come from intensification of production on existing agricultural land. This will require widespread adoption of sustainable land management practices, and more efficient use of irrigation water through enhanced flexibility, reliability and timing of irrigation water delivery."
The report also underscores, again, the importance of producing more food as the world's population grows beyond its current 7 billion residents: at least 70 percent more food will be needed globally, but up to 100 percent more will be needed in developing countries:
  • "Toward 2050, rising population and incomes are expected to call for 70 percent more food production globally, and up to 100 percent more in developing countries, relative to 2009 levels."

Regarding developing countries, particularly those in Africa, in a recent op-ed, the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pascal Lamy, recently argued that farmers Africa should be offered incentives to "use new technologies and methods to increase yields," pointing to the example of Brazil and how it has turned its economy into a powerhouse in recent years.  

Finding solutions to these challenges surely is no easy task… but some world leaders seem ready to take it on… now, let's get started!

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