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In addition to providing food, innovations in sustainable agriculture can provide a solution to many of the challenges that a growing population presents.
Urban agriculture for nutritious food and a cooler climate
The U.N. predicts that 65 percent of the global population will live in cities by 2050. Urban agriculture provides an increasing number of city residents with fruits and vegetables, leading to improved nutrition and food security. Urban farms are already gaining popularity around the world, from the Victory Programs' ReVision Urban Farm in Boston, to Lufa Farms in Montreal, to the slums of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya.
Farming for employment and education
Opportunities in agriculture can reduce poverty and empower a growing population. In Los Angeles county, the organization Farmscape Gardens has helped tackle a 16 percent unemployment rate by hiring workers to establish and maintain edible gardens. To teach the local community about food and agriculture, L.A.'s Fremont High School established a school garden of 1.5 acres that is open to students and the greater community. And in Uganda, project DISC (Developing Innovations in School Cultivation) partnered with Slow Food International to develop 17 school gardens that are used to educate students about growing, harvesting, and preparing nutritious local foods.
Agroecology for a healthier environment
Agroecology, which offers numerous benefits to the environment while also feeding people, includes organic agriculture, agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and evergreen agriculture. In Niger, farmers promote the re-greening of dried farmland by allowing spontaneous regeneration of woody species. The restored growth has provided farmers with wind breaks, decreased evaporation, sequestered carbon, and provided non-timber forest products. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has partnered with representatives from metropolitan Washington, D.C. to create the Chesapeake Bay Program watershed partnership. Through collaboration, the group has developed policies, laws, incentives and best practices for farmers whose production zone lies within the local watershed. These agroecological practices, including cover crops, planting riparian forest butters, and practicing conservation tillage, have helped preserve the Bay.
Innovations in food waste to make the most of what we have
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, industrialized countries waste 222 million tons of food annually, or almost as much as sub-Saharan Africa's 230 million tons of net food production per year. Decreasing food waste makes it possible to feed people across the planet without increasing agricultural production. In Washington, D.C., the D.C. Central Kitchen Project partners with area restaurants and food suppliers to pick up food that would otherwise go to waste. Volunteers prepare the food and redistribute it as meals to the city's poor. In central and eastern Africa, a partnership between Bayer Crop Science and the International Potato Center hopes to develop a sweet potato that is resistant to pests and diseases, which are responsible for 50 to 100 percent of crop losses among poor farmers in the region.
State of the World 2011 is accompanied by informational materials including briefing documents, summaries, an innovations database, videos, and podcasts, all available at www.NourishingthePlanet.org. The project's findings are being disseminated to a wide range of agricultural stakeholders, including government ministries, agricultural policymakers, and farmer and community networks, as well as the increasingly influential nongovernmental environmental and development communities.