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Food Security and Agriculture

Food Security and Agriculture

The majority of the world’s poor, especially those in developing countries, live in rural areas. Most of them own very small plots of land—typically 1 hectare or smaller—and rely on agriculture as their primary means of income. Their agricultural produce is also the primary source of food for their households.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average yield of staple grains like maize is one-quarter that in North America. This is caused by the lack of farming inputs like irrigation, fertilizer, and mechanisms to control weeds and pests. In addition, limited access to markets, and the absence of local processing capacity means that farmers have to store their entire year’s produce. Without adequate storage facilities, this leads to substantial post-harvest losses. Many of the same hurdles also impede volume and quality of cash crops such as cocoa and coffee.

In South Asia, the Green Revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s, has led to tremendous improvement in food production in specific regions such as India’s Upper Gangetic Plain. But, the intensified agricultural practices in these parts—combined with the large population in the region—are leading to significant environmental damage, particularly groundwater depletion, and the use of synthetic fertilizers, which pollute local waterways. Also, large portions of South Asia have not benefited from the Green Revolution, and face many of the same challenges as Sub-Saharan Africa.

Development of smallholder agriculture involves increasing yields, improving the quality of produce, decreasing post-harvest losses, increasing market access, improving technical training available to farmers, and ensuring environmental sustainability. The solutions will lie in a broad range of new technologies.

Food Security and Agriculture

The majority of the world’s poor, especially those in developing countries, live in rural areas. Most of them own very small plots of land—typically 1 hectare or smaller—and rely on agriculture as their primary means of income. Their agricultural produce is also the primary source of food for their households.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average yield of staple grains like maize is one-quarter that in North America. This is caused by the lack of farming inputs like irrigation, fertilizer, and mechanisms to control weeds and pests. In addition, limited access to markets, and the absence of local processing capacity means that farmers have to store their entire year’s produce. Without adequate storage facilities, this leads to substantial post-harvest losses. Many of the same hurdles also impede volume and quality of cash crops such as cocoa and coffee.

In South Asia, the Green Revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s, has led to tremendous improvement in food production in specific regions such as India’s Upper Gangetic Plain. But, the intensified agricultural practices in these parts—combined with the large population in the region—are leading to significant environmental damage, particularly groundwater depletion, and the use of synthetic fertilizers, which pollute local waterways. Also, large portions of South Asia have not benefited from the Green Revolution, and face many of the same challenges as Sub-Saharan Africa.

Development of smallholder agriculture involves increasing yields, improving the quality of produce, decreasing post-harvest losses, increasing market access, improving technical training available to farmers, and ensuring environmental sustainability. The solutions will lie in a broad range of new technologies.

agricultura--systems-it-500t

Precision agricultural systems: A new way to grow nutritious vegetables

Agriculture—as it is currently practiced—is fundamentally unsustainable. Collectively, agricultural production systems across developing and industrialized countries are causing depletion of non-renewable groundwater, fertilizer runoffs leading to dead zones in waterways, soil erosion, deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, environmental toxicity from the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, and a range of other problems. While industrialized countries are responsible for the bulk of the damage, the experience of the Green Revolution in Asia demonstrates that even low-income countries can cause significant harm to both local and global ecosystems. All of these challenges are exacerbated by population growth and increased consumption levels, as incomes around the world rise. More

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