How to feed the world?



In 2050, mankind will have to produce enough food for nine billion people. The availability of, the access to, and the affordability of, sufficient nutrients are the defining criteria of food security that have to be taken into consideration when choosing the farming system of tomorrow:


Availability: Contradicting the long-established belief that external inputs such as chemical fertilizers are necessary in order to substantially increase food production, an increasing number of scientists, policy panels, and experts, such as Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, are now claiming that resource-conserving, low external input techniques have a proven potential to significantly improve yields. In traditional farming systems in developing countries, and in regions where soils are degraded, yields can be increased up to 200%.


Access and affordability: The rural areas where the greatest yield increases could be achieved through eco-intensification methods, such as agro-forestry, are often the same regions where poverty and hunger are widespread. Increased yields would therefore directly tackle access to food, and nourish the farming population. As sustainable farming systems are more labor intensive, a substantial amount of jobs would be created which, in turn, would enable many more people to buy foodstuffs for their families.


Today’s prevailing agricultural paradigms need to be transformed. In the developed world, industrial agriculture achieved high productivity levels, primarily through the extensive use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, of water, and of transportation fuels. Traditional agriculture, mostly in developing countries, often results in deforestation and the excessive extraction of soil nutrients.

Sustainable modes of agricultural production represent the only solution that can provide sufficient quantities of affordable and nutritious food for our growing global population. In these times of change, as we have recently experienced in Egypt, the window is open for renewed and intensified efforts to promote sustainable solutions to the great challenges that we face.


Find the complete text in "Farming for the future" by Helmy Abouleish; Article published in the UNIDO magazine “Making It – Industry for Development”,

2nd quarter 2011


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