During the first Monday of every October since 1986, the United Nations and the international community celebrate World Habitat Day. This yearly occasion is accompanied by discussions surrounding issues such as urban development, access to housing, sustainable agriculture, and climate issues. This article explores the 21st century challenges and opportunities that agriculture faces in light of an increasingly urban society.
Sustainable Agriculture and Our World Habitat
Serving as our shared household, the world is not only the place where we live, but also the source of our sustenance through indispensable goods, such as water and food. In this regard, several demographic factors create a need for comprehensive policy measures aimed at achieving a sustainable future. Firstly, the 21st century continues to yield unprecedented demographic growth at a global scale and total population is expected be surpass 9 billion people by 2050. This demographic boom is particularly stark in Africa and Asia, where China recently lifted its historic one-child policy. Similarly, over the last several decades, the world’s population has become increasingly urban. Having already crossed the 50% threshold in 2009, 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban centers by 2050.
The demographic outlook of societies in the 21st century, presents a unique challenge for urban habitats because ever-larger concentrations of people means that more food is needed to keep cities functioning properly. At the same time, the question remains as to whether advances in agricultural technologies will be able to makeup for the decrease in rural labor supply and the minimal increase in arable land surface under cultivation. One of the principles and challenges highlighted by habitat day is the right of every individual to a decent quality of life, which includes access to the food supply chain. In order for cities and urban centers to be properly integrated into the agricultural supply chain, field productivity needs to increase and productive spaces must be diversified.
In order to overcome these challenges successfully, farmers must implement precision farming techniques as well as consider utilizing responsible genetic engineering technologies. Similarly, sustainable land employment through practices such as agroforestry and regular crop rotation must become widespread. In the case of cities, these should incorporate cultivation methods such as hydroponics and hydro-culture into their urban settings in order to contribute to their own food supply. No single sector of innovation within modern agriculture will be the solution to a long-term and sustainable food supply worldwide. Rather, the aggregate production of these many technologies will allow for a food supply chain that reaches everyone, while responsibly preserving the resources of the world’s habitat.
Finally, world habitat day emphasizes every person’s right to water and electricity as a human necessity. In this regard, agriculture also represents the key to a sustainable societal model. Firstly, agriculture and biofuels are an increasingly important energy source of the 21st century. Secondly, the efficient use of water is essential to the widespread availability of this precious natural resource, which is mainly used by the worldwide agriculture industry.