FAO Report: State of the World’s Land and Water Resources

A new UN report warns that current farming practices are neither sustainable nor suited to today’s farming challenges.

The study concludes that technological advances are needed to alleviate pressures resulting from climate change and to be able to provide food for a growing world population that is expected to increase by two billion by 2050.

The SOLAW 2021 (State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture) report aims to provide global, national and regional decision-makers with “solutions away from the business-as-usual approach, instilling a sense of urgency to make the necessary transformation at the base of global food systems.

The study shows that if agricultural practices do not become more sustainable, water withdrawals needed for agriculture will need to increase by 35% to meet global population growth in the coming years. Failure to adapt could create potential disasters, including food and water conflicts and environmental disasters.

The report also shows that the growth of irrigation techniques and the use of pesticides are having a negative impact on soils and water supplies, concluding that resource degradation has forced food systems to reach a “breaking point”. “.

The use of irrigation is popular because it can produce up to three times more crops than rainfed systems. However, the use of chemicals contaminates groundwater and soil. The UN estimates that irrigation is responsible for 72% of groundwater withdrawal.

The report indicates that groundwater withdrawals for irrigation increased from around 688 km3/year in 2010 to 820 km3/year in 2018, an increase of 19%.

The study states: “The use of groundwater is already limited. It is intensively exploited in most major continental aquifers and along highly productive coastal plains, where saline intrusion is a constant threat. Irrigated areas under stress are strongly correlated with intensive groundwater use and aquifer depletion.

The report adds: “Impact modeling on irrigated agricultural production indicates that groundwater depletion will continue to impose severe constraints in East Asia, the Middle East-West Asia, North America and South Asia”.

Another detail of the report explained that the polluted water supply had adverse effects on health and economic development, stating that “agriculture has become the main source of pollution in many countries. Water quality degradation is a significant threat to food safety and security.

The use of “synthetic reactive nitrogen fertilizers” increased from 81 to 110 million tonnes between 2000 and 2017, leading to soil degradation. Another area of ​​concern is pollution from pesticides and livestock pharmaceuticals, with the report saying “there is currently little regulation or oversight”.

The report offers four solutions that will help feed a growing population over the next 30 years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.

The UN strategies state that government policies regarding land and water governance must be more inclusive and integrated: “Multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary approaches are essential to achieve integrated land and water management.

The study also indicated that adoption of more creative technologies (that increase rainwater capture, for example) and sustained investment are key to tackling food and water security.

The report states: “The high costs of degradation and inaction underscore the urgency of increasing investment in the sustainable management of land, soil and water and in the restoration of degraded ecosystems.