World Irrigated Area Per Thousand People, 1950-2007. FAO / UNPop via Grist

By Lester Brown
12 Feb 2010 4:51 AM

…World food production continues to increase, yet the rate at which it is increasing has slowed. From 1970 to 1990, world grain production grew by 64 percent. From 1990 to 2009, it increased by only 24 percent. Past growth in agricultural production was fueled in part by expanding irrigation: world irrigated area tripled from 1950 to 2000. However, expansion of irrigated area has since slowed significantly as land and water availability has declined, showing almost no growth in the past decade.

When growing global population is taken into account, this trend becomes even more concerning. The world irrigated area per thousand people has declined from a high of over 47 hectares (116 acres) in the late 1970s to only 43 hectares (106 acres) per thousand people in 2007.

Growing populations and pressures on agricultural production have meant increasing food insecurity around the globe. The number of hungry people in the world declined from 878 million in 1970 to 825 million in the mid-1990s, but it has been rising ever since. In 2009, for the first time, the world’s hungry numbered more than 1 billion. …

Data highlights on the global food supply

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