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How do we feed the world sustainably?

According to FAO, by 2050 the world’s population will reach 9.1 billion 34% higher than today thus. Nearly all this population will occur in developing countries. Therefore, there is a need to find solutions on how much more food can be grown sustainably to carter for the rising population. Researchers are trying to find solutions that can best address ways to ensure healthy diets for a burgeoning world population while improving the planet.  For this to be achieved it requires changes to farming and how we produce our food. However, suggestions made brings with its greater challenges than any of our thoughts- it requires greater sacrifices.

Agriculture already uses almost half of the world forestry. Consumes up to 90 per cent of the water used by humanity and it generates one-quarter of the annual global emissions that lead to global warming. Yet 820 million out of the 7 billion habitants living today are undernourished simply because they cannot afford or do not have access to an adequate diet. Therefore, there is a need to produce more food in a more sustainable way (avoiding deforestation and cut carbon emission for food production among other issues).

Many scientists have calculated that the world population cannot exceed 2 billion for it to be sustainable. But with an alarming rate of increasing world population requires us to manage our resources and food production more wisely as the population increase farming becomes more intensified to carter for the growing population. In this era, however, many considered organic farming as a sustainable way of farming, but it is used only 1 per cent of the world population. Organic farming focuses on sustainability and betterment of the environment. It is proposed as an alternative for conventional agriculture to encounter all the environmental problems that we are facing now. 

In organic farming, there is no need to use fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, and any other additives. It requires farmers to use natural ways of farming, this may reduce yields levels, but the farmers can sell the final product on a better price since the consumer believes the product is of good quality instead of that produced from the use of fertilisers. Organic farming cannot only produce quality food but improves the soil structure as the farmer minimize the chemical contents added into the soil. However, it difficult for the farmer to control the mineral content but in the soil, crop rotation can be used to reduce the building up of diseases into the soil and to strengthen the soil composition. For instance, crops such as peas help in nitrogen fixation making the soil more fertile as a result farmers rotate different crops on the same piece of land. Growing multiple crops is efficient and produce more yields than single crop, this system is used in organic farming methods. This system is about environmentally friendly it is chemical free but labour intensive.

Organic farming is not a perfect solution to a sustainable environment it has it on disadvantages it can lead to deforestation because it requires more land to stain the growing population. According to reported research to produce organic milk it requires 80% of land more than conventional farming which the world cannot afford. Some farms require more water than conventional farming which can lead to water scarcity, but overall organic farming is better than conventional farming, but we need to balance both the environment and the requirements of food production.

Picture credit: The Organic & Non-GMO Report, April 2016