The agricultural population of India grew by a whopping 50 per cent between 1980 and 2011, the highest for any country during this period, followed by China with 33 per cent, while that of the US dropped by 37 per cent as a result of large-scale mechanisation, a latest report has said.

“Between 1980 and 2011, the economically active agricultural populations of China and India grew by 33 and 50 per cent respectively due to overall population growth,” the Worldwatch Institute said in a report.

“The economically active agricultural population of the US, on the other hand, declined by 37 per cent as a result of large-scale mechanisation, improved crop varieties, fertilisers, pesticides, and federal subsidies —all of which contributed to economies of scale and consolidation in US agriculture,” it said.

The global agricultural population — defined as individuals dependent on agriculture, hunting, fishing, and forestry for their livelihood — accounted for over 37 per cent of the world’s population in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available.

This is a decrease of 12 per cent from 1980, when the world’s agricultural and non-agricultural populations were roughly the same size.

Although the agricultural population shrank as a share of the total population between 1980 and 2011, it grew numerically from 2.2 billion to 2.6 billion people during this period, writes Worldwatch Senior Fellow Sophie Wenzlau in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online trend.

According to the report, between 1980 and 2011, Africa’s agricultural population grew by 63 per cent, and its non-agricultural population grew by 221 per cent.

Oceania’s agricultural population grew by 49 per cent, and its non-agricultural population grew by 65 per cent.

Asia’s agricultural population grew by 20 per cent, and its non-agricultural population grew by 134 per cent, it said.

The combination of movement to cities and agricultural consolidation caused agricultural populations to decline in Europe and the Americas between 1980 and 2011: by 66 per cent in Europe, 45 per cent in North America, 35 per cent in South America, 13 per cent in Central America, and 7 per cent in the Caribbean, the report added.

(This article was published on February 27, 2014)
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