Note: This is the 1997 edition of UNEP's Global Environment Outlook. If you are interested in more recent information, please see the 2000 and 2002 editions.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Global  Environment Outlook-1 - The Web version

Chapter 4: Looking to the Future

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Use of Land

Regional Summary

Due to the projected increases in population and per capita food intake, total food demand in Africa is projected to grow 120 per cent by 2015 and more than 300 per cent by 2050. The combination of this strong increase in agricultural demands, an assumed additional supply from food imports, and a moderate development in agricultural technology translates into an increase of 55 per cent in the total agricultural area by 2015 and almost a doubling by 2050. Again, this assumes no major changes in the way Governments and people handle their land. From 2020 onwards, the area of suitable land is projected to become scarce, and the food supply will come under more and more pressure, mainly because of the expected low average yields. To overcome these threats, a strong agricultural development is needed in Africa that would lead to a faster increase in regional productivity and greater security regarding food supply. In addition, if there is to be money available to pay for food imports, much more revenue needs to be generated from non-agricultural activities.

The projected increase of the population of North America and the static or even slightly decreasing average daily food intake there means only 15 per cent more food production is needed by 2050. The slight increase in total production in North America that is foreseen is mainly caused by demand for exports to developing regions. Because of the assumed continuity in technological development in agriculture, it is expected that the increase in regional demand, including for export, will not lead to a substantial call for new agricultural land.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, with both population and per capita food intake expected to increase, the total food demand will grow by 50 per cent by 2015 and will more than double by 2050. The combination of an increase in agricultural demands and a successful implementation of agricultural technology is expected to lead to a 10-per-cent increase in the total agricultural area by 2015 and about a 20-per-cent increase by 2050.

The same picture emerges for Asia and the Pacific: an expected increase in food demand of about 50 per cent by 2015 and about 100 per cent by 2050. Combined with an assumed additional supply from food/feed imports and a continuation in implementation of agricultural technology, total agricultural area is due to increase almost 28 per cent by 2015, and then drop to 24 per cent by 2050. Large parts of Asia have areas with dense populations that are projected to run out of suitable agricultural land from 2000 onwards. To overcome growing shortages in land area, likely solutions for Asia are further implementation and development of agricultural technologies and an increase in imports (to be paid for from non-agricultural revenues).

Given the small projected increase of the population of Europe and the former USSR and an unchanged daily food intake per capita, only 13 per cent more food production would be needed in this region by 2050. The projected increase in total production is mainly caused by demand for exports to developing regions. Notwithstanding an assumed continuity in technological development in agriculture, it is expected that the increase in regional demand, including for exports, will lead to some extra demand for agricultural land 4 per cent more by 2015 and about 18 per cent by 2050.

Due to the projected increase of population in many countries of West Asia (including Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan) and a small increase in per capita food intake, total food demand in the region is to increase 110 per cent by 2015 and almost 300 per cent by 2050. This strong increase in demand, combined with presumably high additional supplies from imports and a moderately fast implementation of agricultural technology, leads to a 57-per-cent increase of the total agricultural area by 2015 and almost a doubling by 2050. The results show that from 2020 on, the area of available suitable land is completely used and the food supply comes under increasing pressure.

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