Women tend to a crop field in Kilosa, Tanzania. Add to the mix the growing threat of trade war, and the future looks even hazier. But what, specifically, would changing trade agreements mean for global food security? Trade agreements do nothing for building agricultural capacity in developing countries According to Pardey, the largest challenges for agriculture and food security in regions such as East and sub-Saharan Africa are around research and logistics.
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Global Food Projections to 2020: Emerging Trends and Alternative Futures
About the author. Lisa formerly worked with News Corp Australia as a data journalist for the national network and was published throughout Australia in major metropolitan and regional newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph in Melbourne, Herald Sun in Melbourne, Courier-Mail in Brisbane, and online through news. Lisa additionally consults with Australian government providing data analytics, reporting and visualization services. Related Jobs Programme Policy Officer. Consultant: Preparation of Continental Nutrition Report.
Most Read 1. Opinion: A medical school for the future that Africa needs. Other issues and the big picture. I refer to ownership by the private sector of biotechnologies which may be important in meeting this challenge, and to uncertainties about their availability to developing countries and especially to poor farmers.
The Future World Food Situation and the Role of Plant Diseases
Also threatening progress is uninformed negative comment on the potential benefits of genetically-engineered cultivars to developing country agriculture. Again on the theme of intellectual property, we have growing uncertainties about the ownership of both unimproved and improved plant genetic resources: this could stifle the very beneficial and ready global exchange of germplasm which has characterized the last four decades of rapid breeding advances.
Other issues include the clear decline in public sector agricultural research investment, which the IFPRI model predicts will have a notable depressing effect on productivity growth. Then, further out there are concerns about global climate change, and global energy supplies. Space however doesn't permit discussion of all these important issues. Suffice to say that, like Evans, I am a cautious optimist, believing that mankind will find a way to beat these challenges, that agricultural research will be a necessary, but not by itself a sufficient, part of this struggle, and that arable agriculture will remain a dominant part of many, but not all, rural landscapes.
It is towards the shape of future agricultural or rural landscapes that I would like to direct my final comments, for my cautious optimism about feeding the world suggests we should also start to think beyond that challenge.
Rural landscapes can have components of social and cultural, as well as economic values. There are also dwellings, villages and even towns with industry, and infrastructure such as transport, communications and power supply systems. The goods which this landscape can produce, in addition to the strictly agricultural ones, are clean water, a sink for CO2 and perhaps urban waste, and space and an environment for non-agricultural production, for living, and for recreation. A recent visit to regions of favourable soils in northern Europe in the height of a bounteous summer brought this home to me.
Trade agreements do nothing for building agricultural capacity in developing countries
Personally this was a most agreeable scene and, given the environmental regulations now in place, one which I suspect is quite sustainable biophysically. A recent analysis of the favoured cropping areas of South-Eastern Scotland presents a similar picture. How has this come about? There is no doubt that one factor was the large amounts of support injected into European agriculture by the old Common Agricultural Policy CAP. But this support is changing, and the Agenda of the EU is giving much less direct support to production although the presence of sugar beet fields reminds one that the distortions have not gone yet , and much more to environmental services, and is backing this by fostering environmental regulation.
Partly this has come about because of the low price of grain on the world market, for this makes production support too expensive. There is also the uniquely European reaction against modern high-input agriculture, spawned in a sense by the abuses of the CAP. But I believe that modern grain production can continue in the favoured areas, for with increase in the size of operating units not necessarily farms , the very high potential yields, and new technologies, they can be globally competitive and environmentally sustainable in all senses.
This is a vision of European agriculture that I can recall was advocated strongly by C. The elevated sensitivity of the Europeans towards food quality contamination with agricultural chemicals, GMOs, nutritional value however remains an issue. Since this sensitivity is not very scientifically based, it would seem to contradict their enlightened approach to rural landscapes.
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Grain fields of the New World. Are there implications for the rest of the world in the rural landscape developments in Western Europe? Let us start with the grain growing regions of relatively low population density in the New World to which one day we will probably add the steppes of central Asia, Russia and the Ukraine. I refer to the vast plains of North America, the new crop lands of central-southern Brazil and of Argentina, and the wheat lands of Australia. These largely rainfed regions have for over years been driving down the real cost of producing grain not rice , and pressuring the European producers.
It has come about through relatively cheap land, efficiency gains from the consolidation of operating size, technologies derived from agricultural research, and outstanding rural infrastructure and agricultural institutions. We are all aware of the protracted process of consolidation, or substitution of capital for labour, in the Australian agricultural landscape. Currently the average Australian grain farm is 1, hectares with hectares of grain crop harvested annually. These farms remain essentially family farms, but since at least, size seems to be growing at around 1.
This reduction in farm population density is surely a major cause of our rural decline. It has also happened in North America, and although there has been massive Government support in USA lately, ostensibly to prevent agricultural income decline, in none of these places has there been the level of recognition of the importance of "maintaining" the rural landscape as is found in Europe.
Perhaps it is a consequence of the distances involved in these relatively people-sparse landscapes. Perhaps it is part of the New World culture. The New World grain regions are facing the severest competition pressures, whereby the most efficient tending to be the largest do well enough, but the least efficient disappear, and whereby marginal lands have been and will continue to be simply abandoned if real prices continue to fall.
Wheat farming has disappeared from the marginal hill lands of eastern USA. In Australia it has gone from some of the semiarid lands of southern Australia, although new tillage techniques have permitted recent expansions of the dry margin in the east, and have actually put the driest cropping parts of the Great Plains of North America on a sounder basis. Parts of Australia's croplands may well be marginalized by rising salinity and abandoned over the next century.
It is not at all clear to me when the process of consolidation will stop, or whether the still predominant family farm will be overtaken by the corporate grain farm. For example, in North America in particular consolidation has proceeded to the stage where a few huge agribusinesses control many of the resources, if not the land, involved in certain commodities, especially animal products. But if we consider the unwillingness of the nations involved to intervene in a targeted fashion, it seems we are destined to develop a landscape of vast fields, managed by remote sensors and robotic tractors, and producing the world's least expensive grain.
But these regions will be producing the grain which, in tomorrow's global free market, will meet the import demands of the developing world, at very attractive prices to the consumer, and I would add, utilize modern cropping techniques which pose little threat to the agricultural resource base. There may be islands of population, with irrigated horticulture and intensive animal industries, and scattered national parks, but for the most part it will not be a rich or diverse scene to the common observer.
Indeed it may be a monotonous and bleak rural landscape for many, with abandoned farmsteads and struggling small towns. Food bowls of the developing world.
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Finally we turn to the prospects for rural landscapes in the developing world. I will concentrate on the important densely populated food-producing regions of the developing world, often irrigated, usually having cropping intensities well over per cent, and in Asia, inevitably growing rice. These include the great river valleys, tropical highlands, and wet islands: IndoGangetic plains, the lower Yangste, Yellow River and Nile valleys, the central African and American highlands, Java, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, etc.
Densities in developing countries are likely to increase per cent by , whereas European numbers are fairly stable. Can Bangladesh, which has 58 per cent of its population in agriculture, ever look like The Netherlands, with only 3. One and a half centuries of economic growth, driven by technological innovation, are behind the transition in Europe The Netherlands had 60 per cent of its population in agriculture around Nevertheless this growth, which amounts to a doubling of per capita income, must impact on the shape of agriculture.
There will be higher real wages, and a rapidly growing demand for more diverse and higher value foods, especially fruit, vegetables, animal products, vegetable oil and even sugar.
With globalization keeping staple grain prices steady rice may be an exception , this will mean that farmers move towards the higher value crops, especially those which are more labour intensive. Where grain cropping persists, mechanization will grow steadily and the size of operating units will increase. These processes are already happening in South Asia and China.
Mechanization is evident in the growing numbers of threshers, pumps, then tractors and finally harvesters, while the consolidation of operating units is coming about more through land renting as through land purchase. Curiously renting is also something evident in Europe: in both situations land prices far exceed that justified by its agricultural productivity. There will also be continued rapid urbanization, such that by IFPRI predicts that 52 per cent of the developing worlds population will be urban, up from 38 per cent in ; rural populations will have almost stabilized. But given the huge pressure on arable land, some coming directly from the urbanization and economic growth itself, it is hard to see that there will be any land left over for natural vegetation or wild life.
The only recreational lands will be city parks, sports grounds including golf courses , and the odd peri-urban green belts. The only hope for forests, woodlands and rangelands will lie in the less densely populated lands: the remaining humid forests, the uplands and the dry marginal areas.
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This can happen and must be encouraged in the favoured densely-populated lands of the developing world. But whether developing countries have the means to keep population pressure down in the remaining less-densely populated lands, and to convert farmers in less favoured lands to perennial cropping and land stewardship is doubtful.