Freshwater is essential for life, yet makes up only a tiny fraction of all water on earth. In many areas, especially arid and dry regions, underground aquifers are the only source. Even in less arid regions, groundwater provides an essential resource: in fact, some 2.6 billion people worldwide rely on groundwater resources. Farming is one major reason: over 60% of irrigated agriculture in the US uses groundwater, and in Spain more than 70% of irrigation comes from below ground reserves.    

©Guiziou Franck/HEMIS.FR

Joacquim is a subsistence farmer from Etatara in Mozambique. At 46 years old, he is his family’s sole breadwinner, responsible for supporting his wife and three orphaned grandchildren. He lives in a traditional house, which he is unable to use as collateral, and grows maize, sorghum, cassava and beans. They consume a lot of the produce themselves, and what is not consumed is sold. Joacquim earns US$300-500 per month depending on the season and his produce.

Click to enlarge

Some 18% of the total OECD arable and permanent cropland area was sown with transgenic crops in the period including 2008 to 2010.

While green growth has been paid a great deal of lip service by policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders, few concrete strategies have been put in place. Perhaps surprisingly, even in agriculture, most OECD countries still do not have solid plans in place for pursuing green growth in this sector. 

A world leader in phosphates and its derivatives, OCP is strongly committed to contribute to a sustainable development of agriculture in Africa and to a real green revolution on the continent.

Fertilizers are a key to improve productivity in Africa Fertilizers are vital components for the development of agriculture.

Insecurity and conflict hinder human, and economic development. The Saharo-Sahelian region today presents some of the most daunting global security threats, which seriously undermine the stability and development of the region. The 2012-2013 crisis in northern Mali, though centred in one nation, epitomises the wider, cross-border dimension of these challenges. Here we point to some of the available policy responses towards their resolution.

A local non-government organisation is supporting rural development in Orientale Province in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Called ACIAR (Help for Intercultural Communication and Rural Self-help*), its plan is to revive the coffee sector in the Ituri region as an inclusive response aimed at repairing the social and economic damage caused by a conflict that lasted from 1998 to 2004.

Failing to close the stable door

The recent scandal over the use of horsemeat in readymade meals that has shaken the entire European continent has revealed not only the complexity and opacity of our food supply chain, but also–and above all–the shortcomings of European food law.


Solving the food crisis

Eliminating hunger and malnutrition, and achieving wider global food security are among the most intractable problems humanity faces. While many once-poor countries are now developing rapidly, the world as a whole is unlikely to meet the first Millennium Development Goal target of halving, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the world’s population who suffer from hunger. 


There is growth potential in agriculture, and not just in the countryside. In fact, encouraging large-scale urban agriculture would plant the seeds of new growth and improve people’s lives as well.

Click to enlarge. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer.

GM crops are a threat to food security rather than a solution to the food crisis. Genetic engineering does not increase yields and GM crops have failed under extreme fluctuations in temperature.

Agriculture not only contributes to climate change and is affected by it, it also forms part of the solution. Coherent and effective policies are needed.

World agriculture faces an enormous challenge over the next 40 years: to produce almost 50% more food up to 2030 and double production by 2050. With pressure from increasing urbanisation, industrialisation and climate change also rising, proper water management will be vital.

In the years ahead, the global food and agriculture system will have to provide sustainably for billions more people and meet greater demands on quality, affordability and availability. Farming will be competing with other sectors for land, water and investment, while climate change adds new pressures.

Ministers and stakeholders from OECD member countries and key emerging economies gather in Paris on 25-26 February to discuss how best to respond to the challenges. We asked ministers from five of them–Austria and New Zealand as co-chairs, Canada, Germany and Chile–and leading representatives from Concern Worldwide, the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, John Deere, and the World Trade Organization:

“What actions are you prioritising to prepare the food and agriculture system for the needs of a rapidly changing world?”

Agri-food production relies on biodiversity. Yet farming can weaken it. Increasing food production will mean finding ways of expanding agriculture without upsetting our planet’s biological interdependence. 

Agriculture is in the spotlight. Almost every day there are reports in the press concerning food-related health and environment scares. Outbreaks of foot and mouth disease are the latest crisis in Europe, quickly following “mad cow” disease and protests over the alleged impact of genetically modified crops on food safety and the environment.

Despite the global economic slowdown, consumption of meat is projected to grow over the next decade, keeping pace with increases in population and purchasing power in most parts of the world. By 2018, human beings will be eating more than 320 million tonnes of meat a year, up some 20% compared with 2006-08. In developing countries, per capita meat consumption will jump more than 16%, outpacing population growth and rising from 24 kg per person per year today to a projected 27 kg in 2018.

Economic data


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