Stories tagged: UK

Land Use Futures: Making the Most of Land in the 21st Century

Picture 2The UK Government’s Foresight Programme has released an in-depth analysis of the future of land use in the UK, examining the challenges faced over the next fifty years. The study, which was carried out over two years, examines the interaction of human use of land with natural processes, highlighting agriculture as ‘probably the single most dominant influence on the landscape’.

Agriculture occupies almost 74% of the UK land surface. Foresight’s report, ‘Land Use Futures‘ notes three main drivers of agricultural land use in the UK: agricultural policy, the conditions in international markets, and the technologies that markets and regulation introduce to the sector all play primary roles in determining what farmers produce on their land and how they produce it.

The report states that a rise in global population, strains on natural resources, climate change and changes in diets will put additional pressure on the land used in agriculture. The study highlights the importance for action to be taken to improve on agricultural productivity whilst reducing its impact on the environment.

The report offers the following recommendations for ensuring that the way agricultural land is used today can meet future needs:

Greater investment in science and technology, requiring collaborations among many public and private stakeholders, will help to accelerate sustainable practices of land use in agriculture whilst helping to improve the productivity of agriculture.

Maintaining high-quality farmland and supporting infrastructures such as land drainage systems will become of greater necessity in the advent of climate change and increased global demand for food and energy.

The multiple roles of agriculture that benefit society, other than food production, must be recognised, for example:   

  • Agriculture can generate positive environmental value, for example natural resource protection.  Reward systems for land managers through environmental stewardship programmes should be redesigned to help reduce agriculture’s negative impact on the environment, and help promote the wider ecosystem services it provides.            
  • Agriculture can provide vital climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration, flood risk management and protection of biodiversity. New governance systems are needed to create incentives for low-carbon agricultural practices.

New £75m UK Food Production Research Project Announced

Picture 8Over the next five years up to £75m will be invested in the UK to support development and adoption of new technologies to increase sustainable food productivity, while decreasing environmental impact.

The project is a joint initiative by the Technology Strategy Board, Defra and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), according to Farmer’s Guardian.  The aim is to “bring Government, business and researchers together in a major initiative” addressing a reliable food supply in the future.

A key element of the initiative is to prioritise research initiatives by focusing on the newest technological advances and learning how to make them work to better farming:

The first project will see up to £13m invested in new research and development to help crop growers to respond to the challenges of increasing productivity while reducing the environmental impact of crop production.

National Farmers Union president Peter Kendall echoed the call for research and understanding of how farmers can use technology to their advantage:

We need science and technology to deliver solutions and I am sure that forward-looking, innovative farm businesses across the UK will be fully supportive of this important new programme.

The subjects that the fund will address are crop productivity, sustainable livestock production, waste reduction and management and greenhouse gas reduction.

BBC Programme Looks at Global Food Security

The ‘Future of Food‘ is 3-part BBC television programme looking at how food production is going to have to evolve to adapt to increased global demand and less reliable access to key resources such as water and oil.

The programme host visits farmers in India, Cuba, the UK to look at how key issues such as water availability, climate change, and price volatility impacts their livelihoods and their ability to grow their crops.

The programme raises many of the questions and concerns which the Farming First plan aims to address.  It also suggests that the issue of food security is one that is increasingly capturing the attention of more mainstream audiences in the west.

For those interested, the second part of the series airs on BBC Two on Monday, 24 August at 9pm.

UK Public Poll Predicts Increased Importance for Farming

A recent poll conducted by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) ad published by Farmers Weekly magazine shows that 84% of people across England and Wales think that farming will become more important in the coming years.

Seven out of 10 people also look favourably on farmers, and 96% said that it was more important for UK farmers to grow crops than to maintain food paths.

Perhaps, this survey is an indication that food security issues are being prioritised by the UK public and that farmers and farming play important roles in supporting the greater economy.

UK Environment Secretary Declares, “We Face a Crisis of Sustainability”

35601Hilary Benn, the UK Environment Secretary, visited the US for meetings with Ban Ki-Moon and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. According to a DEFRA statement, They discussed the topics of climate change adaptation, food security, and the green economy.

He said:

These threats are real, they are immediate, and they will affect us all. Environmental degradation is putting an increasing strain on our natural resources, and it is both a cause and an effect of climate change.

To solve these global challenges, Benn highlighted the need for a more sustainable and productive model for agriculture, as well as more sustianable building practices, transport, and energy production.

The goal of reinvigorating the agricultural sector, he continued, would have to be accomplished through increased  collaboration and commitment from around the world:

We need the world to come together to deal with water scarcity, the damaging loss of biodiversity, and the challenge of producing enough food. The World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and others, need to respond to crises and support the investment that will secure supplies in the long-term.

Guardian Newspaper’s ‘Katine Project’ Highlights Importance of Agriculture in Africa

For the past 18 months, the UK’s Guardian newspaper has been tracking the development work going on in one Ugandan village called Katine in what it plans to be a three-year project.

The Katine project focuses on five key areas (education, health, water, governance, and livelihoods), all of which influence and are influenced quite directly by agriculture.

The role that agriculture plays in shaping development outcomes for the Katine villagers has already been highlighted in a number of articles, for instance:

– Video: Growing New Strains of Cassava to Improve Livelihoods

In recent years, [cassava] crops have been devastated by viruses leading to two years of severely reduced harvests…’The old cassava used to be affected by diseases.  It used to rot quickly from disease and also it used to take a long time to fully mature.

– Article: Are Big Farms the key to African Development?

as the demand for food and jobs expands exponentially, the question is less whether big farms are necessary to making a country’s food secure than how to get there as equitably as possible.

These two eamples highlight the need to build local access, protect harvests, enable access to markets, and prioritise research imperatives.  This project also aims to help the villagers in Katine get their voices heard by those who might otherwise have little access to their perspectives.  Sharing knowledge and experiences like this is also a key aspect of the Farming First plan.