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Farmers must increase productivity to feed growing population

Ann Steensland, deputy director of Global Harvest Initiative, outlines the key findings of the 2017 GAP Report. Photo by Anna Hastert

An annual report suggests agricultural production must heighten to feed a growing global population.

The 2017 Global Agricultural Productivity Report (GAP Report) finds global agricultural productivity must increase by 1.75% annually to meet the demands of nearly 10 billion people in 2050. Margaret Zeigler, executive director of Global Harvest Initiative, says farmers can increase productivity by reaching out to Ag retailers, farm advisors or extension services.

“A lot of times, farmers don’t have the advice they need,” Zeigler said. ‘Getting best practices advice to them is an important way to improve productivity on the farm.”

The Global Health Initiative’s annual assessment of global productivity growth identifies  a current growth rate of 1.66 percent. The agricultural productivity growth rate in low-income countries is smaller, at 1.24 percent.

Both public and private partnerships offer farmers advice, and in turn, help increase agricultural productivity, according to Zeigler.

“In the GAP Report, we give examples (of partnerships). In the case of water quality and fertilizer use, the Mosaic Company is partnering with Ag retailers and farmers – to bring better practices of fertilizers and crop nutrient use to farms, so fertilizers stay on the farm and in the crops instead of going into streams,” Zeigler said.

Zeigler believes farmers can increase agricultural productivity and sustain 10 billion people.

“The United States has been strong. Our concern is more on the international side, places like sub-Saharan Africa and other low-income countries that are continuing to stagnate. We need powerful global partnerships to bring innovation, technology and know-how to small-scale farmers in those regions. If we don’t want these countries to fall into more famine and poverty, agriculture needs to be a key focus. Improving low-income farmer productivity is going to be important for global security in the future,” Zeigler said.

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