Minimum Per-Capita Cropland Requirement

On a global scale, it is estimated that the minimum per-capita area of cropland required to produce an adequate quantity of food is around 0.1 ha.12,51 This rough estimate is dependent on many different location-specific factors and circumstances, such as soil, terrain, climate, farming system, and land-use technology. However, it permits a suitable comparison at the overall global scale. Estimates predict

Country

Per-Capita Cropland (ha)

Crop

Average Yield (kg/ha)

1961

1980

1990

2000

2015“

1961

1980

1990

2000b

Syria

1.40

0.62

0.46

0.34

0.17

Wheat

575

1,536

1,544

1,882

Barley

461

1,312

310

381

Kenya

0.21

0.15

0.10

0.08

0.04

Wheat

1,090

2,156

1,864

1.400

Maize

1,253

1,200

1,580

1,321

Pakistan

0.34

0.25

0.17

0.13

0.07

Wheat

822

1,568

1,825

2,492

Rice

1.391

2.423

2,315

2.866

Bangladesh

0.17

0.10

0.09

0.07

0.05

Wheat

573

1,899

1,504

2.258

Rice

1,700

2.019

2,566

2.851

Nepal

0.19

0.17

0.14

0.11

0.07

Wheat

1.227

1.199

1,415

1.820

Rice

1.937

1.932

2,407

2.600

Zambia

1.52

0.92

0.65

0.57

0.28

Wheat

1.600

4.068

4,399

5.454

Maize

882

1,688

1,432

1,431

Cote d’Ivoire

0.69

0.44

0.31

0.24

0.10

Rice

757

1.166

1,155

1.548

Sorghum

667

583

575

352

Sudan

0.97

0.62

0.52

0.43

0.22

Rice

1.409

634

1,250

563

Sorghum

970

712

428

634

Peru

0.20

0.20

0.17

0.14

0.10

Wheat

1.001

939

1,085

1.289

Potato

5.287

7.196

7,881

10.818

aUN Projection, medium level. b FAO Estimates.

Source: Adapted from Engelman & LeRoy,121 and FAO.121

that a large number of countries will have reached the 0.1 ha limit of per-capita cropland by the year 2025.11'2,71 In the absence of more land for cultivation, future food needs of the people in these countries will have to depend on increased soil productivity through intensified land use. Resource-poor farmers with no option to expand their cultivated area usually cannot invest in necessary soil-conservation and soil-fertility maintenance measures. Over time, this leads to nutrient depletion and other forms of soil degradation that affect soil productivity.14,9,101

Although some developing countries have indeed increased their yields on a per-unit area basis significantly, these increases cannot compensate for the increased demands by growing populations. Table 26.2 illustrates past and future trends in per-capita available cropland in selected countries with high population growth and gives examples of yield-level trends. The table shows that, to a large extent, the gains in yields are offset by the decrease in available cropland to grow the required total quantities of crops to feed the population. In these countries, food insecurity can be directly related to the pressure on the land, or land scarcity.

The growing pressure on the land is not only a reflection of population growth and the direct needs for food, but also of changed diets and increasing cash needs (by the land users) that have to be met from land cultivation, putting additional stress on the soil resources.

 
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