IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


14th December, 2021 Agriculture


  • Land, water resources are at breaking point: The State of the world’s land and water resources for food and agriculture (SOLAW 2021 Report



Climate change

  • Climate change has increased pressure on rain-fed and irrigation production over and above the environmental consequences of decades of unsustainable use


Human Pressure

  • Human pressure on land, soils and freshwater have intensified, pushing these resources to their production limits.
  • Population increases have meant agricultural land available per capita for crops and animal husbandry declined by 20 per cent between 2000 and 2017 to 0.19 ha /capita in 2017.
  • Human-induced land degradation primarily affects cropland.


Sources of fodder

  • Grassland and shrub-covered areas used to graze animals or as sources of fodder have declined by 191 million hectares over two decades, to 3,196 million ha in 2019, and converted to cropland.


Degraded Cropland area

  • Cropland increased 4 per cent (63 million hectares) between 2000 and 2019.
  • Growth in arable land, mainly for irrigated crops, doubled, while that for rain-fed cropping increased by only 2.6 per cent over the same time period.
  • Although cropland covers only 13 per cent of the global land cover classes (11,477 million ha), degraded cropland accounts for 29 per cent of all degraded areas.
  • Almost a third of rain-fed cropland and nearly a half of irrigated land are subject to human-induced land degradation.
  • Over 60 per cent of irrigated areas are degraded in northern Africa, south Asia and the middle east-western Asia.
  • The largest degraded areas are in the northern hemisphere, except for southeast Asia. Globally, only 38 per cent of irrigated land is stable.


Soil salinity

  • Soil salinity is estimated to take up 1.5 million ha of cropland out of production each year.


Urban areas

  • Urban areas occupied less than 0.5 per cent of the Earth’s land surface in 2000. The rapid growth of cities had a significant impact on land and water resources; in 2018, 55 per cent of the world’s population were urban dwellers. This meant encroachment on good agricultural land.There is little room for expanding the area of productive land, yet 98 per cent of food is grown on land.


Impact of Chemical

  • There has been an increase in use of chemical (non-organic) inputs; uptake of farm mechanisation; and overall impact of higher mono-cropping and grazing intensities are concentrated on a diminishing stock of agricultural land.



  • These all in turn, produce a set of externalities that spill over into other sectors, degrading land and polluting surface water and groundwater resources.


Way ahead

  • By 2050, agriculture will need to produce almost 50 per cent more food, livestock fodder and biofuel than in 2012 to satisfy global demand and keep on track to achieve “zero hunger” by 2030.
  • Remedial land management is possible but only under-much reformed land and water governance that can take remediation to scale and distribute benefits to those who depend on stable, long-term access to productive land and freshwater.
  • Rapid improvements in information technology offer the prospect of digital democracy.
  • However, to apply solutions at scale, land and water governance will need adjustment to make advances inclusive and to provide support to farmers for innovation.