Renewable energy resources and new technology have to keep the earth’s food basket full in the future

2013-10-08
Dr Pieter Mulder

“The use of renewable energy such as wind and solar energy will have to play a larger role in the agricultural production system in future,” Dr. Pieter Mulder, the deputy minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries says.

To say that the world as we know it today will not be able to produce enough food by the year 2050 for a fast growing population and shrinking natural resources sounds unrealistic. This is however the reality and that is why it has become imperative to find alternative methods to ensure food security for the planet’s inhabitants in the future, according to Mulder.

“The destructive effect of global warming as a result of energy generation plays a huge role in the process and presents its own unique challenges for the future. Projections indicate that the earth’s temperatures could increase by 5,8 degrees Celsius in the next years.

“In this area also, it is thus essential to find answers to ensure the survival of people on earth,” Dr. Mulder says.

“The fact is that most of the arable land of the planet is already under cultivation and is being used for agriculture – this while 10 million hectares of fertile and arable land is lost annually due to urbanisation and permanent droughts.

“The world’s population demands will also become bigger as millions of people succeed in shaking off poverty and becoming part of the world’s growing middle class. A middle class with specific food requirements.

“To meet the increasing food needs, the world’s farmers will have to produce 2% more food every year until 2030– up to 50% more in 2030. This production will have to be doubled by 2050.

Thus, in just twenty years’ time a half more of everything which is currently being produced, will have to be produced. And one is nearly too cautious to ask what will happen in the 50 years thereafter,” Dr. Mulder said.

According to Dr. Mulder, there is approximately 1,5 billion hectares of agricultural land under production in the world today. If production is to continue in the way it is currently being undertaken, it would mean that a further 1,5 billion hectares  of land will have to be found for agricultural use by 2050. This is an area equal in size to India.

The only way in which this can be done, would be to chop down the world’s rain forests and that is obviously not a solution, Dr. Mulder says.

“This appears to be an impossible problem and dilemma. From the figures above it is clear that agriculture, as we know it today, will on the way to 2050 not be able to cope with the restrictions of our planet and the pressure for food security.

“Is there an answer? Yes, to date in the past century, we have with technology, research and training remained ahead with the provision of food.

“With technology and research and the sharing of knowledge through training, the current ceilings which exist on the production of food, can be broken. Through this more and more food can be produced with the same and even less input.

“With technology the full potential of the planet can be unlocked further to grow more with less; to double our food supply and to create alternative resources of energy without exhausting our scarce water resources and to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide which we release into the atmosphere.

“But then we have to pay attention to it and spend more money on research, training and information days, such as this, about renewable energy,” Dr. Mulder says.

 

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