Invasive pests, land degradation, erosion, drought and climate change have already caused agricultural yields to fall in some cases by up to 50 per cent, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Business as usual, with Africa's population set to rise from 770 million to 1.75 billion by 2050, is likely to dwarf the recent food crisis which plunged over 100 million into poverty and hunger in just two years.
The report, 'The Environmental Food Crisis', was launched at the 17th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in New York today. It provides some new and sobering costs on how environmental degradation might impact food production, while highlighting new and promising paths.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: 'The economic models and management regimes of the 20th century are unlikely to serve humanity well on a planet of 6 billion, rising to over 9 billion by 2050. This is particularly true with respect to agriculture and especially valid in Africa.'
'Reversing environmental degradation and investing in our ecological infrastructure such as forests, soils and water bodies is one part of the Green Economy solution - these are the nature-based inputs and infrastructure for agriculture in the first place. The other key is managing them and the food chain in far more efficient ways', he said.
'A third element, not touched on in this report but also relevant, is the enormous opportunity to diversify livelihoods and incomes via the emerging carbon markets - this includes sectors such as renewable energy, but also the growing prospect of farmers earning an income by conserving forests, soil and vegetation cover to sequester carbon', said Mr. Steiner.