Overall, agricultural production systems around the world have been improving in efficiency such that the vast majority of increased production over the past two decades is attributed to enhancing “total factor productivity” (TFP) rather than expanding the land area or increasing the inputs needed to feed the world (See for example, Fuglie and Rada 2013; http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2013-november/growth-in-global-agricultural-productivity-an-update.aspx#.VIm0GDHF-E4 ).
Further, as urbanization accelerates, many households bring agriculture and small animal husbandry with them into urban and periurban areas. Similarly, urban areas often expand into agricultural zones without totally displacing production. Thus, it seems clear that an important and growing share of food consumption is coming from these periurban/urban landscapes and this may be one of many reasons for observed improvements in TFP in recent years. However, more research is needed to quantify the scale and impacts. In the USA, rural producers living near urban centers are increasingly participating in urban “farmers markets.” Given that the most urgent and growing food problems in the world relate to malnutrition and health effects associated not with lack of food, but with too much of the wrong foods (WHO 2014), trends that facilitate healthy diets should be encouraged. As the US Department of Agriculture reports, “The growing number of farmers markets could reflect increased demand for local and regional food products based on consumer perceptions of their freshness and quality, support for the local economy, environmental benefits, or other perceived attributes relative to food from traditional marketing channels. This chart updates one found in the ERS report, Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues, ERR-97, May 2010.” Given population dynamics, periurban and urban food production and systems will need to be designed to conserve and recycle energy and nutrients to efficiently meet future food security requirements.
Keith L. Kline
Senior Research Staff, Environmental Sciences
Climate Change Science Institute http://climatechangescience.ornl.gov/
Center for BioEnergy Sustainability http://www.ornl.gov/sci/ees/cbes/
Oak Ridge National Laboratory