Land & Water

Key messages

SOLAW 2021 offers several key messages on the state, the challenges and the responses and actions related to the world’s land and water resources for food and agriculture:

The state

The interconnected systems of land, soil and water are stretched to the limit.

  • Convergence of evidence points to agricultural systems breaking down, with impacts felt across the global food system.

Current patterns of agricultural intensification are not proving sustainable.

  • Pressures on land and water resources have built to the point where productivity of key agricultural systems is compromised and livelihoods are threatened.

Farming systems are becoming polarized.

  • Large commercial holdings now dominate agricultural land use, while fragmentation of smallholder concentrates subsistence farming on lands susceptible to degradation and water scarcity.

The challenges

Future agricultural production will depend upon managing the risks to land and water.

  • Land, soil and water management needs to find better synergy to keep systems in play. This is essential to maintain the required rates of agricultural growth without further compromising the generation of environmental services.

Land and water resources will need safeguarding.

  • There is now only a narrow margin for reversing trends in resource deterioration and depletion, but the complexity and scale of the task should not be underestimated.

Responses and actions

Land and water governance has to be more inclusive and adaptive.

  • Inclusive governance is essential for allocating and managing natural resources. Technical solutions to mitigate land degradation and water scarcity are unlikely to succeed without it.

Integrated solutions need to be planned at all levels if they are to be taken to scale.

  • Planning can define critical thresholds in natural resource systems, leading to the reversal of land degradation when wrapped up as packages or programmes of technical, institutional, governance and financial support.

Technical and managerial innovation can be targeted to address priorities and accelerate transformation.

  • Caring for neglected soils, addressing drought and coping with water scarcity can be addressed through the adoption of new technologies and management approaches.

Agricultural support and investment can be redirected towards social and environmental gains derived from land and water management.

  • There is now scope for progressive multiphased financing of agricultural projects that can be linked with redirected subsidies to keep land and water systems in play.