Feeding to huge world population in the first half of this century while attending the needs of 925 million undernourished people and addressing climate change demands managed transitions in both conventional and traditional farming systems. Both farming systems are depleting natural capital and producing significant quantities of global greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other pollutants which are disproportionately affecting the poor. The continued demand for land-use is often responsible for deforestation and as a result loss of biodiversity. The economic cost of agricultural externalities amounts to billions of US dollars per year and is still on increasing trend. A package of investments and policy reforms aimed at “greening” agriculture will offer opportunities to diversify economies, reduce poverty through increased yields and creation of new green jobs especially in rural areas, ensure food security on sustainable basis and significantly reduce the environmental and economic costs of agriculture.
Green agriculture is capable of nourishing a growing and more demanding world population at higher nutritional levels. An increase from today’s 2,800 Kcal energy availability per person per day to around 3,200 Kcal by 2050 is possible with the use of green agricultural practices and technologies. It is possible to gain significant nutritional improvements from increased quantity and diversity of food (especially non-cereal) products. During the transition to green agriculture, food production in high-input industrial farming may experience a modest decline while triggering positive responses in the more traditional systems which account nearly 70 per cent of global agricultural production. Public, private and civil initiatives for food security and social equity will be needed for an efficient transition at farm level and to assure food availability for all.
Green agriculture will reduce poverty. Environmental degradation and poverty can be simultaneously addressed by applying green agricultural methods in practice. Increasing farm yields and return on labour in one hand and improving ecosystem services on the other hand on which the poor depend most directly for food and livelihoods will be the key to achieve these goals. Researchers show that every 10 per cent increase in farm yields reduce poverty by 7 per cent in Africa and more than 5 per cent in Asia. Same is the case with the application of green farming practices that increase yields especially on small farms between 54 and 179 per cent.
Reducing waste and inefficiency in handling agriculture produce is an important part of the “green agriculture” paradigm. Crop yield losses to pests, hazards, storage, distribution and marketing together account nearly 50 per cent of the human edible produced calories. Currently total world production is around 4,600 Kcal/person/day but what is available for human consumption is around 2,000 Kcal/person/day. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) suggests that a 50 percent reduction of losses and wastage in the production and consumption chain of food items is necessary and achievable goal.
Greening agriculture requires investment, research and capacity building in soil fertility management, more efficient and sustainable water use, crop and livestock diversification, biological plant and animal health management, an appropriate level of mechanization and building upstream and downstream supply chains for businesses and trade. Capacity building efforts include expanding green agricultural extension services.
Additional investments are needed to green agriculture which will deliver exceptional economic and social returns especially to future generations. The aggregate global cost of investments and policy interventions required for the transition towards green agriculture is estimated to be US$198 billion per year from 2011 to 2050. Studies suggest that “Return on investments in agricultural knowledge, science and technology across commodities, countries and regions are as high as 40-50 per cent and have not declined.
A transition to green agriculture has significant environmental benefits. Green agriculture has the potential to rebuild natural capital by restoring and maintaining soil fertility, reducing soil erosion and inorganic agro-chemical pollution, increasing water use efficiency, decreasing deforestation, biodiversity loss and other land use impacts and significantly reducing agricultural GHG emissions.
Most importantly greening agriculture could transform agriculture from being a major emitter of greenhouse gasses to one that is net neutral and possibly even be a GHG sink while reducing deforestation and freshwater use by 55 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.
Green agriculture will also require national and international policy reforms and innovations. Such policy measures are needed that reward farmers for using environment friendly agricultural inputs and farming practices to create positive externalities such as improved ecosystem services.
Changes in trade policies that increase access of “green” agricultural exports originating in developing countries to markets in high income countries are also required along with reforms of trade distorting production and export subsidies. These will facilitate greater participation by smallholder farmers, cooperatives and local food processing enterprises in food production value chains.
Access to food and green environment is basic human right that must be respected at any cost because benefits and level of prosperity by restoring green and sustainable agriculture and environment cannot be measured as it is intangible. Current and past generations enjoyed most of world`s resources and now they must think about generations to come and percentage of resources they are leaving for them. Today`s world must not leave billions of dollars but green, clean, neat and pleasant environment for coming generations.