WASHINGTON, Nov. 28- Three challenges face the land and water resources upon which agriculture relies – to increase food production by almost 70 percent by 2050; to reduce hunger and improve livelihoods for the poorest; and to minimize or mitigate degradation of land and water and of the broader ecosystems, according to a new book published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

The FAO released the first edition of its new flagship report, “The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources (SOLAW)” today.  This first issue of SOLAW complements other "State of the World" reports published regularly by FAO.

“The SOLAW report highlights that the collective impact of these pressures and resulting agricultural transformations have put some production systems at risk of breakdown of their environmental integrity and productive capacity,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. “These systems at risk may simply not be able to contribute as expected in meeting human demands by 2050. The consequences in terms of hunger and poverty are unacceptable. Remedial action needs to be taken now.”

As an 'advocacy' report, to be published every 3 to 5 years, it is targeted at senior level decision makers in agriculture as well as in other sectors. SOLAW updates the status of land resources at global and regional levels and communicates FAO's viewpoint on policy recommendations. SOLAW focuses on these key dimensions of analysis: (1) quantity, quality of land and water resources (2) the rate of use and sustainable management of these resources in the context of relevant socio-economic driving factors and concerns, including food security and poverty, and climate change.

The report:

•   Analyzes the current status of land and water resources and looks at future trends, giving projections for natural resource needs and use by the year 2050.

•   Reviews institutional arrangements for managing land and water around the world.

•   Assesses the socio-economic and environmental impacts of current land and water management practices.

•   Looks at current and future threats to land and water and their implications for food security.

•   Examines what is needed to improve today’s situation.

The report also contains a series of global maps illustrating aspects of the relationship between the world’s natural resource base and agricultural production. Agricultural systems at risk, as well as a breakdown of world land degradation and the distribution of world water scarcity graphics are included. 

Improving the efficiency of water use by agriculture will be essential, according to the report, especially since most irrigation systems across the world perform below their capacity. Innovative farming practices, including conservation agriculture, agro-forestry, integrated crop-livestock systems and integrated irrigation-aquaculture systems hold the promise of expanding production efficiently to address food security and poverty while limiting impacts on ecosystems. The report also noted the importance of increasing investment in agricultural development, which is reliant on national policies and institutions. Gross investment requirements between 2007 and 2050 for irrigation water management in developing countries are estimated at almost $1 trillion. Land protection and development, soil conservation and flood control will require around $160 billion worth of investment in the same period, SOLAW reports. 

“Increasingly, governments, the civil society and the private sector are looking for technologies and approaches that can raise productivity whilst protecting the natural resource base and associated ecosystems,” according to the report. “Packages for more sustainable farming are being adopted, and measures to overcome the technical and socio-economic constraints have been devised.”


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