Every October since 1982, World Food Day is celebrated, partly, to commemorate the creation of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Similarly, this yearly occasion highlights relevant issues relating to agriculture worldwide, such as ‘Achieving Food Security in Times of Hunger’ (2009) and ‘Climate is Changing: Food and Agriculture must too‘ (2016).
International Food and Agriculture Day
Some of the mandates of the FAO, which are highlighted through World Food Day, include achieving agricultural sustainability for the planet and food security for all of its inhabitants in order to end world hunger. In order to achieve these goals, the agriculture industry and the related cooperation agencies, such as the FAO, the USDA, and others, are constantly addressing new challenges that emerge within this dynamic industry. Particularly in the 21st century, we are faced with land shortages, limited water supplies, an aging farmer population, increased urbanization, and divergence in international legislation on agriculture, amongst other factors.
In this regard, policy measures have been taken by the FAO to drive the agriculture industry towards responsible business models that produce healthy foods and combat rural poverty. Two such examples are the UN Food & Agriculture Business Principles and the push for agroforestry practices worldwide. These types of initiatives are key for two main reasons. Firstly, they seek to attend the issue of food as it relates to the urgent and unprecedented demographic growth that the world is witnessing, which projects more than 9.5 billion individuals living on our planet by 2050. At the same time, these policies expect to keep arable land, fisheries, and natural resources from being irresponsibly exploited so that they can continue being productive for centuries to come. Therefore, this year’s theme and commemoration of World Food Day also serves as a preamble to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 22) to be held in November in Marrakech, Morocco.
The issues of agriculture and climate are intrinsically tied. Needless to mention, agriculture relies on fertile land and predictable weather patterns. Furthermore, in many regions of the world, agriculture is the number one industry in terms of water consumption. Likewise, some food-producing sectors, such as cattle, are major emitters of CO2 gases. Other issues include deforestation, land degradation, and drought, which can be driven by the agriculture industry. Because of this world reality, the FAO and the agriculture industry are looking into technology as a way of achieving higher and more efficient food yields with the same amount of resources.
Technologies such as drip irrigation, precision farming, and even aquaculture represent real advances in the employment of water, land, and modern machinery. For example, in the tropics region fishing yields are expected to decrease as much as 40% by 2050 due to the depletion of natural and water temperature variations. Therefore, alongside governments, the FAO has developed an international code of fishing conduct as well as industry principles that seek to extend the life of fisheries and ensure best practices. Similarly, new technologies such as offshore aquaculture and fish farming represent a suitable alternative that decreases some of the stress put on natural fisheries by large-scale fishing operations.