Monday, 26 March 2012

One Quarter of World’s Agricultural Land ‘Highly Degraded’

Planetsave reports on a recently published UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report which has concluded that 25% of all land is “highly degraded” making it unsuitable for agriculture. The report, ‘State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture’ calls for “sustainable intensification” of agricultural productivity on existing farmland.

The report compares current food production rates to those following the ‘Green Revolution’ (which introduced new technologies, fertilizers, pesticides and high-yield crops) during the fifty year period from 1961 through 2009. During this time, though agricultural land increased just 12%, the total agricultural food output increased a remarkable 150%. But that is not the case today where the rate of productivity in many areas is slowing, with some producing only half as much as was produced during the Green Revolution.

High risks regions include Western Europe (due to intensive agriculture-linked pollution of soil and aquifers and a loss of biodiversity), the highlands of the Himalayas, the Andes, the Ethiopian plateau and southern Africa (mostly due to soil erosion coupled with increased intensity of floods), and in southeast and eastern Asia’s rice-based food systems (where land has been abandoned partly due to “a loss of the cultural value”).

Additionally, fresh water resources are becoming more scare and more salinated and groundwater is increasingly contaminated by toxins and agricultural run-off.  To meet world water and food needs by 2050, the report recommends more efficient irrigation systems (most are currently below capacity), new farming practices (e.g., “integrated irrigation” and increased fish-farming [aquaculture] to meet protein demands), and more investment in agricultural development.

The estimated cost of investment through 2050 is 1 trillion USD, with an additional 160 billion USD for soil conservation and flood control.

Read the full article here. More information is available on the FAO website.