A third of the Earth’s land is severely degraded and 24 billion tons of fertile soil are disappearing each year, according to a new United Nations-backed study that puts the majority of the blame on intensive agriculture. “The Global Land Outlook is billed as the most comprehensive study of its type, mapping the interlinked impacts of urbanisation, climate change, erosion and forest loss," reports The Guardian. "But the biggest factor is the expansion of industrial farming.”
Women make up two-fifths of the agricultural work force in developing countries yet are often at a disadvantage in gaining access to land, credit, training and "inputs" such as seed and fertilizer, says the Farming First coalition. A research paper underlines that point by looking at differences in fertilizer use by women and men farmers.
Corn, sorghum and other cereal grains are selling at record prices in East Africa, where drought has shriveled crops, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. High food prices "are severely constraining food access for large numbers of households with alarming consequences for food insecurity," said an FAO official.
As the India government overhauls the nation’s currency, the country’s 119 million farmers are struggling to find the cash they need to pay workers and cover costs, says NPR. The country is essentially cash-based, and farmers especially rely on having money in hand, rather than in the bank or on credit.
Hunger experts at an FAO meeting in Rome said that if women farmers had the same access as men to land, tools, and credit, crop yields would rise by at least a third and there would be 150 million fewer hungry people in the world, Reuters reports.
A refrain among U.S. farmers and processors is that bountiful America helps feed a hungry world with a population forecast to increase by one-third, to 9.7 billion people, by mid-century. The actuality is that U.S. farm exports "go to countries that can afford to pay for them," and less than 1 percent go to the world's hungriest nations, says the Environmental Working Group.
President Obama signed the bipartisan Global Food Security Act of 2016 yesterday, steering $7 billion toward agricultural development and hunger-relief efforts around the world, and ensuring that both public and private operations would continue to work together to fund these efforts in Africa and other food-insecure regions.
Agricultural production in the developing world could get a boost from precision agriculture and Big Data techniques, said agribusiness executives at the World Food Prize conference in Des Moines according to DTN. Information gleaned from Big Data's detailed collection of crop production across a field can tailor seed, fertilizer and pesticide application rates to maximize yields while controlling production costs.
Nearly one-fourth of the damage from natural disasters in the developing world is inflicted on agriculture, says a study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.