UN: More Sustainable Farming Needed to Feed the World

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) proclaimed today that we need to switch from the intensive farming practices of the past half-century to more sustainable agricultural practices if we want to feed the world in 2050.

Tremendously more farm output is needed in the coming 40 years and that is impossible using currently popular processes that essentially rape the Earth, the FAO’s new book, Save and Grow, reports.

In total, global farm output needs to increase 70% by 2050! In developing countries, that figure is 100%. The population of the world is projected to grow from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 9.2 billion in 2050.

“Climate change and growing competition for land, water and energy with industries mean agriculture can no longer rely only on intensive crop production,” Svetlana Kovalyova of Reuters reports.

“That approach has caused land degradation, excessive water use, pest resistance and other problems in many countries, the FAO said in its Save and Grow report.”

Furthermore, even today, the current systems fail to feed huge numbers of people. The report states, “current food production and distribution systems are failing to feed the world.” 925 million people were estimated to be undernourished in 2010.

The report calls for a focus on smallholder farms in developing countries.

“Helping low-income farm families in developing countries – some 2.5 billion people – economize on cost of production and build healthy agro-ecosystems will enable them to maximize yields and invest the savings in their health and education,” the FAO announces.

$209 Billion/Year Need to be Invested in Sustainable Farming in Developing Countries

According to the report, a total of $209 billion (at constant 2009 prices) need to be invested each year in agriculture in developing countries in order for governments and organizations to adequately provide financial, technical and educational support. This is essentially the same as what the FAO recommended in 2009.

This money would be for primary agriculture and services (i.e. storage, processing, and marketing).

As it has stated previously, it called current investment levels “clearly insufficient.”

Taking a Note from Conservation Agriculture

If you didn’t catch the allusion in the name “Save and Grow,” the FAO is taking a note form conservation agriculture.

“The Save and Grow approach draws partly on conservation agriculture (CA) techniques which do away with or minimize ploughing and tilling, thus preserving soil structure and health. Plant residues provide cover over fields and cereals cultivation is rotated with soil-enriching legumes.”

For more on how the book also incorporates or takes into account precision farming, an ecosystems approach, and biodiversity, check out the FAO’s summary of this new book or the book itself (great webpage/web-based  organization of it).

Related Stories in Eat Drink Better:

  1. Can Urban Farming Save the World?
  2. New York Times, Oxfam, & Others Pick Up the Climate Change–Food Insecurity Story
  3. Organic Agriculture’s Resilience Shows Untapped Potential
  4. Organic Farming Internships and Opportunities

Photos via maistora and the UN FAO

Written by Zachary Shahan

3 Comments

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  1. We have our work cut out for us because at the same time the wise are calling for better and more earth friendly practices, disinformation is ramping up saying that only bigger factory farming can feed the growing population and healthy growing causes famine and starvation.

    We need to be prepared to debate those who are spreading the false information and focus on why we CAN grow enough for everyone. We will need less food volume when more food has higher nutrient levels. Switch to organically grown and grass finished and you will find you eat far less because you get so much more nutrition from what you eat.

    A worse challenge will be what is being done to our weather. Unless we can put a stop to that growing will be a major challenge regardless of method. Even scarier is the possibility that terminator and GMO seed will contaminate other plants resulting in major losses of heirloom and other crops. Then what will we do?

    I don’t know how but somehow we need to take power away from corporations that are intentionally creating major problems.

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