(NEW SCIENTIST) DOOM-MONGERS have got it wrong – there is enough space in the world to produce the extra food needed to feed a growing population. And contrary to expectation, most of it can be grown in Africa, say two international reports published this week.
The first, projecting 10 years into the future from last year’s food crisis, which saw the price of food soar, says that there is plenty of unused, fertile land available to grow more crops.
“Some 1.6 billion hectares could be added to the current 1.4 billion hectares of crop land [in the world], and over half of the additionally available land is found in Africa and Latin America,” concludes the report, compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
If further evidence were needed, it comes in a second report, launched jointly by the FAO and the World Bank. It concludes that 400 million hectares, straddling 25 African countries, are suitable for farming.
Models for producing new crop land already exist in Thailand, where land originally deemed agriculturally unpromising, due to irrigation problems and infertile soil, has been transformed into a cornucopia by smallholder farmers.
As in Thailand, future success will come by using agriculture to lift Africa’s smallholder farmers out of poverty, aided by strong government measures to guarantee their rights to land, say both reports.