We've been hearing a lot lately about the state of the planet. The seven billionth child was born in October placing a further strain on the Earth's resources. The percent of green house gases hit a record high in 2010, contributing to warming and other strange weather events. The news hasn't exactly been good.
Yesterday, the United Nations put out their first ever "State of the World's Land and Water Resources" report. The news in it isn't much better either. The report indicates that 25 percent of the planet's land is "highly degraded" while 36 percent is stable or "slightly degraded". The Food and Agriculture Organization warned that farmers must produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed the world's ever-growing population.
In an Associated Press story from Monday, the FAO director-general Jacques Diouf said farming practices that degrade the soil, competition over land for growing biofuels and climate change are to blame. "The consequences in terms of hunger and poverty are unacceptable. Remedial actions need to be taken now. We simply cannot continue on a course of business as usual," he said.
Areas at risk include the highlands of the Himalayas, the Andes, the Ethiopian plateau, southern Africa and southeast Asia. Soil erosion and decreasing cultural value in the land are a few of the reasons.
But for those of us at Heifer, there is room to hope, too. Heifer works in almost all of those areas. Llamas and alpacas are helping improve the soil high in the Andes with their droppings. We're bringing in irrigation systems in areas of Africa affected by drought, too.
But everywhere, we are aiming to reach an increased number of smallholder farmers in each project, and we will continue to teach them to use the best seeds, plants, fertilizers and animal husbandry practices that can triple or quadruple yields. Increased yields means more people fed.