Agriculture and livestock cover over one-third of the world’s land surface, dwarfing all other land uses. Intensification, driven by a lucrative but largely inefficient food system, has boosted production. However, it has also disturbed cultural landscapes, sustained over thousands of years, and accelerated land and soil degradation, water shortages, and pollution. In spite of production increases, we are now experiencing widespread food insecurity in what should be a world of plenty.
Chapter 7: Food Security and Agriculture
Agriculture is the single biggest land use covering more than one-third of the world’s land surface, not including Greenland and Antarctica. The amount and quality of land available for food production is under pressure from the decisions and demands made by consumers, producers, and governments. The most significant pressures on land resources used for food production include:
- Poor management practices
- Food demand and waste
- Changes in diet
- Competing land uses
- Land grabbing and virtual natural resource trading
- Climate change.
Transforming our food system
The chapter also presents ten steps for land management and human security based on rights, rewards, and responsibilities. These ten steps would move us closer towards a multifunctional approach to food production which emphasizes human health, ecosystem services, resource efficiency, and above all sustainability for future generations.
- Close the gap between actual and potential yield in all environments
- Use land, water, nutrients, and pesticides more efficiently
- Reduce offsite impacts of food and non-food production
- Stop expanding the agricultural frontier
- Shift to more plant-based and whole food diets
- Raise awareness about health, sustainability, and responsibility
- Reward sustainable land management practices
- Reduce food waste and post-harvest losses
- Improve land tenure security, access to nutritional food, and gender equity
- Implement integrated landscape management approaches.