photo by Ray Witlin/World Bank via flickr
Several African countries have recently begun a program to halt desertification in the Sahel, but even in places where the desert isn’t advancing, agricultural lands face challenges from chemically intensive agricultural methods degrading the soil, overgrazing from cattle, erosion from wind and rain, as well as other sources.
Worldwatch Institute is relaying the gist of a new UN Food and Agriculture Organization report which paints a not so good picture just how degraded the world’s agricultural lands have become.Nearly One Quarter of World’s Farmlands Degraded
Prior data indicated that of the world’s 1.5 billion hectares of farmland, between 10-20% suffered from degradation. Now, after studying satellite imagery from 1981-2003, it is estimated that 24% of agricultural lands are degraded in some way.
The report points out that while tropical areas and developing nations have traditionally been connected with land degradation—nearly the entire nation of Swaziland has degraded soil—in the past 23 years, agricultural land degradation has spread in farther afield, with China, South Africa and Argentina experiencing increasing problems.
Sustainable Agriculture Needed to Combat Reduced Land Productivity
To combat this trend, the FAO recommends a "paradigm shift" owards sustainable agricultural practices, including government support for small-scale irrigation methods and greenwater technologies to combat land degradation.