A report compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FOA, called The Future of Food and Agriculture points to several key trends and challenges that farmers across the world will face in coming years. This makes it easier to see the tremendous effect the lack of sustainable agriculture has on food stores across the globe. Fortunately, there are ways to improve sustainability and ease world hunger.

Population Growth and Demand

In order to truly understand the importance of sustainable agriculture and the difficulty of today’s farmer’s experience in feeding the world, it is first important to understand the anticipated rapid population growth. By 2050, the global population will top 10 billion people, and it will only continue to rise. This growth will strain the agricultural industry with a 50% increased demand. However, with factors like drought and decreased farmland availability also expected to continue, farmers struggle to figure out the best ways to meet that demand. Production has already slowed to a rate that is too low for comfort due in part to food loss and waste.

What Is Sustainable Agriculture?

Sustainable agriculture can be defined as a farming method that focuses on a solid understanding of ecosystems and of the way organisms interact with their environment. Sustainable farming seeks to reduce waste, improve yields, and reduce food loss wherever possible – all while attempting to reduce the consumption of natural resources like fresh water. Put more simply, sustainable agriculture exists to protect the planet from the potential harm that farming both crops and animals can cause, all while keeping everyone on the planet fed.

How Non-Sustainable Agriculture Affects Food Supplies

When farming practices are not sustainable, they have a drastic effect on the planet. Two primary examples include failure to rotate crops properly and the consumption of freshwater stores. Crop rotation ensures that nutrients remain in the soil to improve yields for future crops, but many of today’s farmers simply avoid it in order to grow the most valuable crops they can. Over time, avoiding rotation has a serious impact on yields, and when yield reduction occurs on a global level, not only are there fewer food stores, but there is also less nutrient-rich soil.

Freshwater consumption and lack of drought protection is another common issue. Rather than utilizing new technologies designed to greatly reduce irrigation cycles and keep moisture in the ground during times of drought, farmers often vie for the little freshwater that is available to the entire region, which happens frequently in places like California. In order for farming to become more sustainable, farmers must utilize these technologies, consume less water, and improve their yields, which will help raise their profits in turn.

Sustainable agriculture is the only way forward if farmers are to grow enough food to fight world hunger as the population grows. Though it does require a bit of forethought and planning, sustainable farming not only helps the planet and keeps people fed, it also provides peace of mind and comfort in the knowledge that farmers are doing their part.