We need to create sustainable livelihoods, while feeding a global population and safeguarding the natural environment. Farmers are key to meeting each of these challenges.
Around the World, agriculture accounts for 37% of employment, 34% of land use, 70% of water use and up to 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.
The majority of farmers live in the developing World. Growth from agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty than growth from any other sector, and it has one of the highest potentials to mitigate carbon emissions.
We need 70% more food to feed a population of 9 billion by 2050. We must increase productivity and reduce waste.
We must help farmers share knowledge, and access the training and inputs they need, to sustainably increase the quantity, quality and diversity of their crops.
We also need to help them adapt to changing weather patterns, keep soil fertile and to tackle pests.
Sometime around 12,000 years ago, our hunter-gatherer ancestors began trying farming. Hunter-gatherers in search of food, began to harvest (gather) wild grains they found growing. They scattered spare grains on the ground to grow more food.
9000 BC wheat in the Fertile Crescent; 8000 BC potatoes in South America; 7500 BC goats and sheep in the Middle East; 7000 BC rye in Europe; 6000 BC chickens in South Asia, 3500 BC horses in West Asia; 3000 BC cotton in South America; 2700 BC corn in North America.
A farmer must constantly juggle a set of variables, the weather, his soil’s moisture levels and nutrient content, competition to his crops from weeds, threats to their health from pests and diseases, and the costs of taking action to deal with these things.
But most farmers are no longer working on the land. That is not to demean farming. It is the monumental productivity growth in the industry, achieved almost entirely by the application of technology in the form of farm machinery, fertilisers and other agrochemicals, along with scientifically improved crops and livestock.
The large holdings will come more and more to resemble manufacturing operations, wringing every last ounce of efficiency out of land and machinery.