Rome/San Francisco — FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf today called for a second Green Revolution to feed the world's growing population while preserving natural resources and the environment.
Addressing a meeting of the World Affairs Council of Northern California in San Francisco, Dr Diouf said:
"In the next few decades, a major international effort is needed to feed the world when the population soars from six to nine billion. We might call it a second Green Revolution."
The San Francisco-based World Affairs Council of Northern California, which has 10 000 members, is one of the United States' leading non-governmental fora for discussion and debate of international affairs.
The original Green Revolution of the Fifties and Sixties doubled world food production by bringing the power of science to agriculture, but "relied on the lavish use of inputs such as water, fertilizer and pesticides," Dr Diouf said.
"The task ahead may well prove harder," he continued. "We not only need to grow an extra one billion tonnes of cereals a year by 2050 - within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren - but do so from a diminishing resource base of land and water in many of the world's regions, and in an environment increasingly threatened by global warming and climate change."
FAO, as the United Nations specialized agency for food and agriculture, looked set to have a fundamental role in helping bring about such a revolution, Dr Diouf said. The place to start was at village level and in developing countries themselves, he added.
"Investing in agriculture is usually low in the order of priorities of politicians, typically more interested in short-term returns," Dr Diouf said. "But we can no longer afford such neglect - our future depends on it."
"However... there are concrete signs towards this direction at both national and international levels. For example, African leaders have decided to raise the share of their national budgets allocated to food and agriculture to 10%. The World Bank's declining trend in lending for agriculture and rural development is now reversing," Dr Diouf observed.
Dr Diouf noted that 100 million people faced forced migration as a consequence of advancing desertification and soil degradation while water reserves had started to run low in key grain production areas such as India and China.
"The new Green Revolution will be less about introducing new, high-performance varieties of wheat or rice, important as they are, and much more about making wiser and more efficient use of the natural resources available to us," Dr Diouf said.
For example, tests organized by FAO in a number of developing countries since 2000 had shown that yield increases of up to 30 percent could be achieved through Integrated Crop Management (ICM), or improved crop management techniques.
"It may sound incredible but we actually can save water and grow more food at the same time," the Director-General added.
The key to increasing production while safeguarding natural resources lay in environmentally sustainable agricultural development, he said, adding:
"We must face the fact that the destinies of developing and developed countries are intertwined in a globalized world. Crucial challenges clearly lie ahead, and FAO will continue to spare no effort in helping to meet them."