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If We Shift These Four Farming Practices, It’s Possible to Feed 7.8 Billion People—Roughly the World’s Population

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Farming

Solving world hunger is a big idea that requires thinking small to truly make an impact. Our current approach toward agriculture and food production feeds approximately 3.8 billion people. This leaves more than half of the global population out. A recent study, published by Nature Sustainability, suggests if we shift four farming practices, it’s possible to feed 7.8 billion people. This is roughly the world’s population.

While providing a solution to world hunger is important, environmental sustainability remains at the forefront.

“We should not go any further in the direction of producing food at the cost of the environment,” says Dieter Gerten at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, an author of the study.

It’s possible to go ahead and produce more food. However, it won’t solve anything if we don’t apply alternative technologies for food production. From science-based research and environmental approach, research urges we shift four out of Earth’s nine key life support systems.

A Look at Some of Earth’s Boundaries

Harmony amongst Earth’s nine key life support systems is crucial to maintaining balance for planetary inhabitants. A sustainable planet is something the global population continues to fight for. Out of the nine, researchers suggest the following regarding farming practices:

  • Limiting nitrogen use which can cause dead zones in lakes and oceans
  • Not taking excessive amounts of water from river sources
  • Restraining from cutting down forests
  • Ensuring the survival of biodiversity

The other five are just as important to maintain (ozone depletion, aerosol loading, climate change, ocean acidity levels, and nitrogen and phosphorus loading).

Shifting Farming Approach to Feed World Population

According to the study, half of the world’s farming approaches violate these boundaries and by changing the location of where food is farmed it could better respect these limits. 

“Key prerequisites are spatially redistributed cropland, improved water–nutrient management, food waste reduction, and dietary changes,” Gierten says. 

To meet these prerequisites shifts would include a restriction on fertilizer use in parts of eastern China and central Europe. It would also require an expansion of production in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the western US. To increase biodiversity it is suggested to rewild farms where more than 5 percent of species are threatened and reforesting farmland where more than 85 percent of tropical rainforest has been cut down. It’s also suggested reducing water withdrawal and decreasing nitrogen fertilization. 

Innovation lies at the forefront. For example, a team of scientists made food from electricity which posed as another solution to combatting world hunger. These seemingly big changes require small steps. Crop rotation to lessen resource exploitation, reducing food waste, and shifting from meat-based meals to plants are just a few to name.

 

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