who will be the future farmers?

posted January 20, 2014



19.12.2013 | World food system
Author: Prof. Jaboury Ghazoul, ETH Zürich

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that food production needs to increase by 70 percent within 40 years to meet the needs of an ever growing population. Scientists are working feverishly to develop improved crops and production systems to meet this challenge, while also seeking to minimize impact on the environment. Science has plenty of new tools to play with. Using new technologies farmers are able to match crops to optimal site conditions from scales spanning centimetres to landscapes. Improved crop varieties have better resistance to pests and pathogens, are more efficient in their use of nutrients and water, and convert more of the light’s energy to wholesome grain. These new emerging technologies offer plenty of optimism for future farmers.

But we are forgetting something. Who are the future farmers? I recently had the privilege to meet a Colombian coffee farmer whose view of the future challenge to food production was simply put: “There will be no farmers”. He explained that his children have no intention to farm coffee, or anything else for that matter. He is proud to have been able to send them to school and university, but reticent that in consequence they now have good jobs in Bogota. What will happen to his farm?
“I’ll probably have to sell it to a neighbour,” he tells me. Except, all the neighbouring farmers are in much the same position.

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