The state of land and water resources and the equation of food challenge
The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture (SOLAW) has established a progress report, the first of its kind, based on global data.
The initial finding starts with the observation that even though the last 50 years have witnessed a significant increase in food production (between 1961 and 2009, the planet’s cropland increased by 12%), this leap forward was accompanied by management practices that degrade land and water development systems, the very foundation of food production.
Thus, a quarter of the planet’s soil is very poor, 8% moderately degraded, 36% stable or slightly degraded, and only 10% are being improved.
This global phenomenon is unequal with the Asian and African continents being the most affected.
Yet, the challenge of food security is a fact; this has led FAO experts to assert that the increase in agricultural production must result from improved productivity on land currently used. In other words, we must turn to “sustainable” agriculture, to practices that are respectful of ecosystems and biodiversity.
The report, which formulates recommendations for policy makers, also emphasizes the trap that poverty represents: “Worldwide, the poorest have the least access to land and water and are locked in a poverty trap of small farms with poor quality soils and high vulnerability to land degradation and climatic uncertainty.”
Based on such observations, among the conditions needed for the efficient increase in production to meet the goals of food security and poverty reduction, while limiting the impact on other ecosystem values, it is critical that we improve land tenure systems and access to resources.