The rate of growth of agricultural production has been slowing down in many areas and is only half of what it was during the days of Green Revolution, notes the report.

For the world food production sector that strives to keep pace with the growth in population, it's tougher times ahead what with widespread degradation of land and deepening scarcity of water resources over the years seriously eroding the production capacity across the globe.

The population is projected to reach nine billion by 2050, but food production systems, on the other hand, have progressively been put to strain by unsustainable agricultural practices and excessive demographic pressure. And no region in the world is immune from the phenomenon, according to a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report.

The report; ‘State of the World's Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture', says that food production during the last 50 years witnessed notable increase, even as the achievements in many places were associated with management practices that degraded land and water systems.

To add to the woes, climate change is expected to alter the patterns of temperature, precipitation and river flows.

PAST GROWTH

It is pointed out that between 1961 and 2009, the world's agricultural land grew by 12 per cent, while the production went up by as much as 150 per cent due to a significant increase in the yields of major crops. But the rate of growth of agricultural production has been slowing down in many areas and is only half of what it was during the days of Green Revolution, notes the report.

On the status of the global land resources, the report estimates that 25 per cent of the land is highly degraded, eight per cent moderately degraded and 36 per cent stable or slightly degraded.

At the same time, 10 per cent of the land has been categorised as ‘improving'. The remaining land surfaces are either bare (around 18 per cent) or covered by inland water bodies (two per cent).

Against this background, the FAO report assesses that by 2050, the rising population and incomes will require 70 per cent increase in global food production and up to 100 per cent more in developing countries as compared with 2009 levels.

The largest contribution to increase agricultural output will most likely come from intensification of production from existing farm lands. This will call for widespread adoption of sustainable land management practices and more efficient use of irrigation water through enhanced flexibility, reliability and timing of irrigation water delivery, says the report.

There is also need for increasing investment in agricultural development. The gross investment between 2007 and 2050 for irrigation management in developing countries is estimated at nearly $1 trillion. This apart, land protection and development, soil conservation and flood control will require investment of another $160 billion during the period.

vinoottan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 30, 2011)
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