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The Role of Farmland in Global Food Security
A short dive.
Farmland has been the main source of food for the world ever since nomadic tribes shifted to a sedentary lifestyle some 15 000 years ago.
In the developed world, food security became a given since the end of WWII. The continent has not known of any food crisis since then.
But a growing population, conflicts, climate change, and economic shocks are putting strains on the global food system.
1. Growing Population
As the population continues to grow and the demand for food increases, the importance of farmland becomes more and more apparent.
The 2022 FAO report on global food security begins by stating that in terms of food security, the world is going “backwards”.
More land is converted to other uses (buildings, roads, homes) which decreases the amount of available farmland.
This is particularly concerning as the world’s population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations.
One of the key challenges in ensuring global food security is the need to produce more food on less land.
This will require a combination of technological innovations and more sustainable farming practices, like permaculture.
Conflict and food security are a two-way street.
First, lack of food creates conflicts.
Populations end up fighting over resources or over the means of production (land, water, etc) when food lacks.
The chance for such a conflict is particularly high in countries where social and economic inequalities are already wide.
As a result, food security isn’t only a food management issue, but a social-economic issue too.
An important factor in helping developing nations with food security is supporting small-scale local farmers.
These farmers often operate on small plots of land and face challenges such as limited access to credit and markets.
Second, conflicts create a lack of food.
As the conflict in Ukraine has shown, belligerents will use the lack of food as leverage over populations to get to their ends, which can create devastating consequences for food security.
3. Climate change
Climate change, growing population, and agriculture don’t go well together.
On one hand, climate change is caused by human activity like modern agriculture. Our World In Data estimates that agriculture causes 20% of all CO2 emissions worldwide.
On the other hand, as the population increases, agriculture’s need for land to grow food will increase, which will increase even more CO2 emissions.
Climate change is already having a major impact on food security.
In some parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe, which is making it harder for farmers to grow the food they need to feed their families and communities.
These villages stop being self-sufficient and the inhabitants must move to cities to survive, thereby putting more strains on the food system.
Another way that climate change is affecting food security is by increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, and floods.
These events can damage crops and infrastructure, making it more difficult to transport food from farms to markets.
In some cases, these events can also contaminate food and water supplies, leading to foodborne illnesses.
Climate change is also contributing to rising sea levels, which is leading to the loss of fertile land in coastal areas.
In order to address this issue, it is crucial that we take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the pace of climate change.
It is therefore crucial to transform modern agriculture into sustainable and regenerative agriculture so that agriculture can become carbon-negative — or at least carbon-neutral — and play a better role in climate change.
4. Economic Shock
Economic shocks can cause major changes in the global economy, which can lead to changes in the prices of food and other commodities.
For example, if there is a sudden drop in the value of a country’s currency, it can make imports more expensive, which can lead to higher food prices.
Economic crises also lead many people to lose their job which decrease their income and make it harder for them to feed themselves, especially low-income people.
In order to address this issue, it is important to focus on improving food security by developing local food production capabilities, decreasing the impact that the economy has on the food system and prices, and helping low-income families to earn more money.
In conclusion, global food security is facing a number of challenges, including growing population, conflict, climate change, and economic shocks.
As the world’s population continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly important to find ways to produce more food on less land, using sustainable and regenerative farming practices.
Conflict and economic shocks can disrupt markets and reduce income, making it difficult for people to access the food they need.
Climate change is also having a major impact on food security, by causing droughts, extreme weather events, and the loss of fertile land.
In order to address these challenges, it is crucial that we take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support small-scale local farmers.