The ravages from half a century of intensive farming must give way to a more sustainable approach if farmers are to feed the world in 2050, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Monday.
Global farm output must increase 70%, including a nearly 100% jump in developing countries, to feed the world in 2050, the FAO said.
At the same time, farmers must conserve resources and protect the environment, said the FAO, which expects the world’s population to rise to about 9,2 billion in 2050 from 6,9 billion in 2010.
Climate change and growing competition for land, water and energy with industries mean agriculture can no longer rely only on intensive crop production.
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.
“It is also clear that current food production and distribution systems are failing to feed the world,” it said pointing that the total number of undernourished people in 2010 was estimated at 925 million, higher that it was 40 year ago.
The goal of feeding the world is further complicated by the shortage of new arable land for crop expansion, the agency said.
A new approach based on sustainable intensification of crop output is necessary to allow farmers produce more from the same area of land by raising yields and at the same time conserve resources and cut the negative impact on the environment, it said.
Required steps include the use of high-yield seeds, including genetically improved ones, as well as mix of mineral fertilisers and natural sources, efficient water use and limited use of pesticides alongside crop rotation.
This should help small farmers increase their incomes by raising output and reducing costs, the report said.
Small farmers, especially in the developing world, would need financial, technical and educational support from governments and international organisations, it said.
The world needs to invest a total gross $209 billion, at constant 2009 prices, a year in agriculture in developing countries to achieve the needed increases by 2050, the FAO said, reiterating its 2009 estimates.
The figure includes primary agriculture and services, such as storage, processing and marketing.
The FAO reiterated that current investment in agriculture in developing countries is “clearly insufficient”.