Ancient farming techniques can help feed world hunger – UN
- Almost 700 million people go hungry every day.
- But could traditional farming methods show the way to end world hunger?
- From argan trees in Morocco to rice fields in the Philippines, the UN says we could learn a lot from sustainable heritage agriculture.
Eliminating hunger is one of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, but with 690 million people are still hungry, our agricultural heritage has much to teach us about how to feed our growing population without destroying the planet.
This is the principle of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Global Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) which highlights the modes of agriculture that have proven to be resilient in the face of political and climate change to ensure food security.
Since 2005, 62 sites in 22 countries have been designated and 15 more are under evaluation. FAO wishes to harness generations of knowledge and experience to help global agriculture become more sustainable.
“The wealth and breadth of knowledge and experience accumulated in the management and use of resources is a treasure of global importance which must be promoted and preserved and, at the same time, allowed to evolve,” says FAO.
Designated areas range from Maasai pastoral traditions in Kenya and Italy traditional vineyards of Soave at the floating gardens in Bangladesh, a Chinese tea farm and rice terraces in the Philippines.
A relatively recent addition to the list is the Chtouka Aït Baha region in Morocco which was designated in 2018. The region is home to an incredibly biodiverse agricultural approach based on growing argan nuts, the oil of which is used in cooking and in cosmetics for the hair and skin.
Trees are drought and heat resistant – they can withstand heat up to 50 ° C – and are the basis of a unique agricultural system that combines crops, trees and animals.
Humans are not the only fans of the argan tree. Local goats often climb trees to eat nuts and leaves.
Over the past 100 years, more than 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared from farmers’ fields, and the world’s 17 major fishing grounds are now exploited at or above their sustainable limits.
These trends have reduced the diversity of our diet, which is directly linked to diseases or health risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity and malnutrition.
One initiative that brings renewed attention to biological diversity is the Tropical Forest Alliance.
This global public-private partnership works to eliminate deforestation from four global commodity supply chains – palm oil, beef, soybeans, and pulp and paper.
The Alliance includes businesses, governments, civil society, indigenous peoples and communities, and international organizations.
Find out how to become a Forum member or partner and help stop supply chain deforestation.
According to the FAO, the area is “a biodiversity hotspot”, supporting 50 species of plants grown in 102 local varieties that are endemic to the region. He says trees are the pillars of an ecosystem that, in addition to oil, provides grain, firewood, meat and wool to local people.
The argan tree is the most expensive edible oil in the world, nothing surprising when it takes 50 kg of nuts to produce only half a liter.
Half a world in the Andean mountains of Peru, farmers use a farming system that is at least 5,000 years old and perfectly suited to the terrain and climate. Earthworks allow them to grow different crops on the mountainside, each adapted to the altitude at which it is cultivated.
Between 2800 and 3300 meters above sea level, farmers grow corn, higher between 3300 and 3800 meters, they plant potatoes and above 3800 meters, they raise livestock and cultivate high altitude crops such as quinoa.
Over the millennia, farmers have perfected the art of making the most of scarce water resources, including creating canals that trap water and allow it to warm up during the day and “qochas” – basins. natural rainwater that allows intensive agriculture at high altitudes.
Two billion people around the world are currently suffering from malnutrition and by some estimates we need 60% more food to feed the world’s population by 2050. Yet the agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand: 700 million of its workers currently live in poverty, and it is already responsible for 70% of global water consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
New technologies could help our food systems become more sustainable and efficient, but unfortunately the agricultural sector has lagged behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption.
Launched in 2018, the Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose platform is a large-scale partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food.
With research, increased investment in new agricultural technologies and the integration of local and regional initiatives aimed at improving food security, the platform works with more than 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to leverage emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, inclusive and efficient.
Learn more about innovation with a goal and contact us to see how you can get involved.
The World Economic Forum’s report, Incentivizing Food Systems Transformation, called for fundamental changes in the way food is produced globally, warning that historic productivity gains “have had alarming environmental and health costs.”
The report said changes were needed at all levels of agriculture, from agro-industrial operations to the 500 million smallholder farmers around the world, combining traditional skills and knowledge with new technologies like remote sensing to reduce CO2 emissions in the agricultural sector.