Embracing more sustainable farming methods is the only way for the world’s farmers to grow enough food to meet the demands of a growing population and respond to climate change, the top crop expert with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
“The world has no alternative to pursuing sustainable crop production intensification to meet the growing food and feed demand, to alleviate poverty and to protect its natural resources,” Shivaji Pandey, Director of FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division, said in a keynote speech at the Fourth World Congress on Conservation Agriculture in New Delhi, India. “Conservation agriculture is an essential element of that intensification.”
Conventional intensive agricultural methods have often resulted in environmental damage, leading to lower agricultural productivity rates over the long term, said Pandey.
Tea plantation in Uganda
According to current trends, agricultural productivity rates are expected to fall to 1.5 per cent between now and 2030 and further to 0.9 per cent between 2030 and 2050, compared with 2.3 per cent per year since 1961. At the same time the world needs to double its food production to feed nine billion people by 2050.
“In the name of intensification in many places around the world, farmers over-ploughed, over-fertilized, over-irrigated, over-applied pesticides,” he said. “But in so doing we also affected all aspects of the soil, water, land, biodiversity and the services provided by an intact ecosystem. That began to bring yield growth rates down.”
Pandey said that sustainable agriculturee will both boost yields and help the environment by “restoring soil health, saving water and energy use and reducing the footprint of a sector which currently accounts for some 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.”
This article is based on materials from the U.N. and F.A.O.