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Land: Food. Feed. Fibre

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Desertification and Drought Day, running under the slogan “Food. Feed. Fibre.” seeks to provoke  changes in diet and behaviours – such as cutting food waste, buying from local markets and swapping clothes instead of always buying new – can free up land for other uses and lower carbon emissions . Changing consumer and corporate behaviour, having more efficient planning and sustainable practices, could secure enough land to meet the demand for food and supplies.

Plants and animals provide most of our food, clothing and footwear. This means that food, feed (animal) and fibre (for clothing) all compete for arable land. And demand is growing due to population growth and increasing global middle classes.

2020 Desertification and Drought Day will focus on links between production,consumption and land, and the library curated some data and information to help and educate individuals on how to reduce their personal impact.   


 🍛 Food
  • About 931 million tons of food — or 17 per cent of all food available to consumers in 2019 and roughly equal to 23 million fully loaded 40-ton trucks bumper-to-bumper, enough to circle the Earth seven times — were trashed by households, retailers, restaurants and other food services, a Food Waste Index Report 2021 says.
  • An extra 593 million hectares of agricultural land, an area nearly twice the size of India, will be required by 2050 over 2010 levels. Over the same period, the world will need to produce an extra 74,000 trillion calories, equivalent to an increase in crop calories of 56%  (Source)
  • One-third of all food produced each year is lost or wasted, while 821 million people are undernourished. This is equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes of food with a footprint of 1.4 billion hectares, close to 30% of the world’s agricultural land area. This represents a surface larger than Canada and India together. (Source)
  • It has been estimated that, to end hunger by 2030, additional investments in agriculture amounting to US$265 billion a year between 2016 and 2030 will be required at the global level, US$41 billion of which should be committed to social protection to reach the poorest in rural areas; and US$198 billion for pro-poor investment in productive and inclusive livelihood schemes, including regarding water  (Source)
  • Smallholder farming is the most prevalent form of agriculture in the world, supports many of the planet's most vulnerable populations, and coexists with some of its most diverse and threatened landscapes. Did you know that 918 subnational units in 83 countries in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and East Asia average less than five hectares of agricultural land per farming household. These smallholder-dominated systems are home to more than 380 million farming households, make up roughly 30% of the agricultural land and produce more than 70% of the food calories produced in these regions, and are responsible for more than half of the food calories produced globally, as well as more than half of global production of several major food crops. (Source)
  • The demand for water in food production could reach 10-13 trillion cubic metres annually by mid-century – up to 3.5 times greater than the total human use of fresh water today. (Source)
  • Around 36% of the world’s population is currently living in water-scarce regions (Source)
  • It can take up to 200 tons of fresh water to dye and finish just one ton of fabric  (Source)
  • Over 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress. Recent estimates show that 31 countries experience water stress between 25% (which is defined as the minimum threshold of water stress) and 70%. Another 22 countries are above 70% and are therefore under serious water stress  (Source)
  • Agriculture (including irrigation, livestock and aquaculture) is by far the largest water consumer, accounting for 69% of annual water withdrawals globally. Industry (including power generation) accounts for 19% and households for 12% (Source)
  • Approximately 80% of the global cropland is rainfed, and 60% of the world’s food is produced on rainfed land. Research from different parts of the world shows that supplemental irrigation in rainfed agricultural systems double or even triple rainfed yields per hectare for crops such as wheat, sorghum and maize  (Source)
  • Droughts accounted for 5% of natural disasters, affecting 1.1 billion people, killing 22,000 more, and causing US$100 billion in damage over the same 20-year period  (Source)
  • Worldwide, only 2.9 billion people (or 39% of the global population) used safely managed sanitation services in 2015.Two out of five of these people (1.2 billion) lived in rural areas  (Source)
  • According to the World Health Organization, approximately 50 litres of water per person per day are needed to ensure that most basic needs are met while keeping public health risks at a low level. Almost half of people drinking water from unprotected sources live in Sub-Saharan Africa  (Source)
  • In the entirety of the Arab region, some 51 million people (or 9% of the total population) lacked a basic drinking water service in 2015, 73% of whom lived in rural areas   The production of one kilogram of beef requires 15,414 litres of water on average. (Source)
  • The water footprint of meat from sheep and goat (8,763 litres) is larger than that of pork (5,988 litres) or chicken (4,325 litres) The production of one kilogram of vegetables, on the contrary, requires 322 litres of water  (Source)
  • Agriculture contributes 65 per cent of Africa’s employment and 75 per cent of its domestic trade. However, the rich potential of agriculture as a tool to promote food security and fight poverty is at risk from the effects of COVID-19.(Source)
  • We are facing a time of immense challenges: one in eight people in the world live in extreme poverty; 815 million people are undernourished; 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year; six million children die before their fifth birthday each year; 202 million people are unemployed; three billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating; our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests are being rapidly degraded, biodiversity eroded; and climate change is putting even more pressure on resources we depend on, disrupting national economies and blighting many people’s lives SOFI p.159 (Source; Source; Source)
  • Did you know 1km2 of desert locusts can eat the same food as 35,000 people? (Source)
  • Stop the waste of food. On 29 September 2020, we celebrate the first observance of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. It also comes during the global COVID-19 pandemic, that has brought about a wake-up call on the need to transform and rebalance the way our food is produced and consumed. Wasting less, eating better and adopting a sustainable lifestyle are key to building a world free of hunger. Little changes to our daily habits can make a huge global impact. Take action. Stop food loss and waste. For the people and for the planet. (Source)
  • Globally, around 14 percent of food produced is lost between harvest and retail. Significant quantities are also wasted in retail and at the consumption level. When food is loss or wasted, all the resources that were used to produce this food including water, land, energy, labour and capital – go to waste. In addition, the disposal of food loss and waste in landfills, leads to greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change. 15 quick tips for reducing food waste and becoming a Food hero
  • Three smart ways innovation is helping reduce food loss and waste. One thing is clear: in this time of crisis, there is no room for food loss and waste! (Source)
  • Food loss is the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by food suppliers in the chain, excluding retailers, food service providers and consumers (SOFA, 2019)
  • Food waste refers to the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers (SOFA, 2019)
  • MORE on Sustainable Land Management; Land Degradation Neutrality; food security; water footprint; drought , genderurbanization and land;  food loss and food waste; land footprint; consumption
🌾 Feed
  • Twenty-six percent of the Planet’s ice-free land is used for livestock grazing and 33 percent of croplands are used for livestock feed production. (Source)
  • Land used for grazing and grain production to feed animals accounts for 80% of agricultural land globally  (Source)
  • One billion poor people, mostly pastoralists in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, depend on livestock for food and livelihoods. Globally, livestock provides 25 percent of protein intake and 15 percent of dietary energy.(Source)
  • With rising incomes in the developing world, demand for animal products will continue to surge; 74 percent for meat, 58 percent for dairy products and 500 percent for eggs. Meeting increasing demand is a major sustainability challenge. (Source)
  • The livestock sector is one of the key drivers of land-use change. Each year, 13 billion hectares of forest area are lost due to land conversion for agricultural uses as pastures or cropland, for both food and livestock feed crop production. This has detrimental effects on regional water availability, soil fertility, biodiversity and climate change. Furthermore, 20 percent of the world grasslands are degraded; this trend is increasing, mainly due to intensified animal density per area  (Source)
  • Pasture – 26 percent of the earth’s terrestrial surface is used for livestock grazing  (Source)
  • Feed – 33 percent of global arable land is used to grow feed grain.  (Source)
  • 85% of the world’s fur trade originates from farmed animals, meaning that they also require land to produce feed (Source)
  • Irrigated agriculture represents 20% of cultivated land and accounts for 40% of global food production (Source)
  • According to calculations of the United Nations Environment Programme, the calories that are lost by feeding cereals to animals, instead of using them directly as human food, could theoretically feed an extra 3.5 billion people (Source)
  • Feed conversion rates from plant-based calories into animal-based calories vary; in the ideal case it takes two kilograms of grain to produce one kilo of chicken, four kilos for one kilogram of pork and seven kilos for one kilogram of beef ( Source)
  • Livestock is the world’s largest user of land resources, with pasture and arable land dedicated to the production of feed representing almost 80% of the total agricultural land. One-third of global arable land is used to grow feed, while 26% of the Earth’s ice-free terrestrial surface is used for grazing ( Source )
  • Nearly 60% of the world’s agricultural land is used for beef production, yet beef accounts for less than 2% of the calories that are consumed throughout the world. Beef makes up 24% of the world's meat consumption, yet requires 30 million square kilometres of land to produce. In contrast, poultry accounts for 34% of global meat consumption and pork accounts for 40%. Poultry and pork production each use less than two million square kilometres of land ( Source)
  • About 600 million of the world's poorests households keep livestock as an essential source of income.  (Source) with nearly 170 million in sub-Saharan Africa, are entirely or partially dependent on livestock production to feed themselves or obtain financial remuneration.(Source)
  • Around two-thirds of the world’s 5 billion hectares classified as “agricultural land” are unsuitable for crop production and can only be used for grazing livestock/pp.19-20 (Source)
  • More on small-scale farming and small holder farmers; pastoralism conflicts, practices, livelihoods; sustainable agriculture;
👔 Fibre
  • By 2030, it is predicted that the fashion industry will use 35% more land for cotton, forest for cellulosic fibers, and grassland for livestock—altogether over 115 million hectares that could be used to grow crops for an increasing and more demanding population or to preserve forest.Fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water — enough to meet the consumption needs of 5 million people. (Source)
  • The amount of clothes bought in the EU per person has increased by 40% in just a few decades (Source)
  • Cotton area accounts for only about 2.5% of the world’s arable land. (Source)
  • Wool has a high land impact – estimated by DEFRA to be as much as 278 hectares per tonne of fibres (compared with just over 1 hectare per tonne for cotton). (Source)
  • Cotton cultivation globally consumes about 16.5% of all pesticides while it is grown on only 2.4% of the world’s arable land   (Source)
  • A t-shirt used once and then discarded to landfill has 100 times greater production burden environmental impact than a t-shirt used 100 times before being discarded   (Source)
  • Sub-Saharan African cotton production reached 1.6 million tons in 2017/18, representing 6% of the world total, and production is forecast at 1.6 million tons again in 2018/19  (Source)
  • Sub-Saharan cotton area was 5.4 million hectares in 2017/18 (16% of the world total), and the yield was about 290 kilograms per hectare (representing less than 40% of the world average yield)  (Source)
  • Of the 1.6 million tons of cotton production in 2017/18, 1.1 million tons were grown in the CFA Zone, and the balance of 450,000 tons came from other Sub-Saharan countries  (Source)
  • 20,000 liters of water -The amount of water needed to produce one kilogram of cotton; equivalent to a single t-shirt and a pair of jeans.(Source)
  • 2,700 liters of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt. This is enough water for one person to drink for 2 1/2 years. The amount of water used each year for fabric dyeing alone is 5.9 trillion liters. (Source)  
  • Water use and pollution also take place during clothing production. About 20 percent of industrial water pollution is due to garment manufacturing, while the world uses 5 trillion liters (1.3 trillion gallons) of water each year for fabric dyeing alone, enough to fill 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.(Source)
  • MORE on fashion ; recycling; fibres;
🌻 Biodiversity
  • Over human history, out of about 30 000 edible plant species, 6 000 – 7 000 species have been cultivated for food.  (Source)
  • Today we only grow approximately 170 crops on a commercially significant scale. Even more surprising, we depend highly on only about 30 of them to provide us with calories and nutrients that we need every day. (Source)
  • More than 40 percent of our daily calories come from three staple crops: rice, wheat and maize!  (Source)
  • Bees are a key link in our food chain, visiting and pollinating more than 90% of global food crops and providing us with 2 out of every 3 mouthfuls of food we eat. (Source)
  • Pollination is, however, a fundamental process for the survival of our ecosystems. Nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land. Not only do pollinators contribute directly to food security, but they are key to conserving biodiversity. (Source
  • Plants make up 80% of the food we eat and produce 98% of the oxygen we breathe (Source)
  • Threats to biodiversity are considerably higher in developing countries than in developed countries: on average, crops are responsible for 44 percent of species threats in developed countries, compared with 72 percent in developing countries. (Source)
  • Did you know that forests cover nearly 1/3 of land globally? That’s 4.06 billion hectares. In other words, there is around 0.52 ha of forest for every person on the planet. More than half (54 percent) of the world’s forests are in only five countries –the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China.(Source)
  • There is an estimated 726 million ha of forest in protected areas worldwide.The area of forest in protected areas globally has increased by 191 million ha since 1990. South America has the highest share of forests in protected areas, at 31 percent. (Source)
  • About ten percent of the world’s forests is allocated for biodiversity conservation.Globally, 424 million ha of forest is designated primarily for biodiversity conservation. An area of 186 million ha of forest worldwide is allocated for social services such as recreation, tourism, education research and the conservation of cultural and spiritual sites.(Source)
  • 72% of emerging infectious diseases transmitted from animals to humans come from wildlife as opposed to domesticated animals. Deforested areas increase contact between wildlife and humans and affect pathogen transmission. (Source)
  • Tropical forests provide a vast array of medicinal plants used in healing and healthcare, worth an estimated $108 billion a year.  (Source)
  • More than a quarter of modern medicines originate from tropical forest plants. (Source)
  • Forests curb infectious diseases. Undisturbed tropical forests can have a moderating effect on insect- and animal-borne disease. (Source)
  • Forests cover 31% of global land area. Forests and tree cover combat land degradation and desertification by stabilizing soils, reducing water and wind erosion and maintaining nutrient cycling in soils. 1.6 billion people around the world depend on forests for their livelihoods and daily subsistence needs. (Source)
  • Over 40 percent of the world's oxygen is produced from the rainforests.(Source)
  • Did you know that in the past 50 years, the population size of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles & amphibians has declined by 68%? We have significantly altered 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land - only 25% can still be considered wilderness. (Source)
  • Biodiversity is declining at different rates in different places. The global Living Planet Index (LPI)does not give us the entire picture – there are differences in abundance trends between regions, with the largest declines in tropical areas. (Source)
  • More than 85% of the area of wetlands has been lost. This destruction of ecosystems has led to 1 million species (500,000 animals and plants and 500,000 insects) being threatened with extinction over the coming decades to centuries, although many of these extinctions are preventable if we conserve and restore nature (Source)
  • The latest human footprint map clearly shows the spatial extent of humanity’s environmental footprint, with 58% of the land’s surface under intense human pressure (Figure 19). Since 2000, 1.9 million km2, an area the size of Mexico of ecologically intact land – that is, ecosystems that remain free from significant direct human pressure – has been lost, with most losses occurring within the world’s tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannah and shrubland ecosystems, and the rainforests of Southeast Asia. It also illustrates that only 25% of terrestrial Earth can be considered ‘wilderness’ (i.e. areas having no human footprint score), and that most of this is contained in just a small number of nations – Russia, Canada, Brazil and Australia.(Source)
  • The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 reports that the rate of deforestation has fallen globally by about 1/3 one-third compared to the previous decade (Source)
  • Deforestation and land degradation have had a negative impact on freshwater quality and quantity. Approximately half of the global population is expected to be living in water scarce areas by 2050, especially in Asia. Loss of native vegetation has also been linked to increase in flood-related disasters and soil erosion (Source GBO5)
  • MORE on forests, biodiversity, zoonotic diseases ,health and environment
📚 Information research by UNCCD Library