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446. Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture-Key Facts

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A few days ago, we introduced the key messages of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's report entitled The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture - Systems at breaking point (SOLAW 2021). Here are some of the key facts about land and water from the report.

  • 95% of our food comes from the land.
  • Of the total 2,250 cubic km of contaminated water resources, 660 cubic km is from industry, 330 cubic km is domestic/urban, and 1,260 cubic km is from agriculture.
  • 60% of the food produced in the world depends on rainfed farming, which occupies 80 percent of the cultivated land, and irrigated farming produces 40 percent on 20 percent of the land.
  • In 2000, urban areas occupied less than 0.5% of the land surface, but rapid urbanization (54% of the world's population were urban dwellers as of 2014) is encroaching on suitable agricultural land and having a significant impact on land and water resources. A land-suitability assessment is needed for urbanization.
  • 33% of the world's soils are degraded to varying degrees.
  • Soil salinity renders the equivalent of 1.5 million ha of agricultural land unproductive each year and reduces the productivity of 46 million ha of agricultural land.
  • Soil erosion results in the loss of 20-37 billion tons of topsoil each year, reducing crop yields and the ability of soils to retain carbon, nutrients and water. The loss of cereal production due to erosion is estimated to be equivalent to 7.6 million tons annually.
  • Globally, agriculture accounts for 72% of surface and groundwater use, mainly for irrigation purposes.
  • Of the world's 342 million ha of irrigated land, 62% is degraded or deteriorated.
  • Inland fisheries will reach 11.9 million tons in 2019, representing 13% of the total global capture fisheries’ production. Just 17 countries account for 80% of the total global fish catch, with Asia accounting for 66% of the total global fish catch.
  • As the world's population grows, water resources per capita per year are decreasing rapidly from 6,995 cubic meters in 2000 to 5,630 cubic meters in 2018.



FAO. 2021. The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture – Systems at breaking point. Synthesis report 2021. Rome. https://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/cb7654en 

This article is available under the CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Director, Information Program)