Category Archives: arable land

The Earth’s Land Use (Cover) Breakdown from the FAO

The FAO has released a new database that summarizes land cover on our lovely planet, drawing from satellite and other types of data resources. Combining the sources of information available to us today in this way has never been done before and will help aid in assessing the future of food production and its sustainability. The database is called “Global Land Cover SHARE database”.

Next, is the general category breakdown from the report. It looks like we’ve paved over .6 percent of the Earth’s land surface. That is quite an Anthropocene feat.

The FAO’s new database includes eleven global land cover layers, and here are the percentages allocated to each one:

artificial surfaces (which cover 0.6 percent of the Earth’s surface)
bare soils (15.2 percent)
croplands (12.6 percent)
grasslands (13.0 percent)
herbaceous vegetation (1.3 percent)
inland water bodies (2.6 percent)
mangroves (0.1 percent)
shrub-covered areas (9.5 percent)
snow and glaciers (9.7 percent)
sparse vegetation (7.7 percent)
tree-covered areas (27.7 percent)

(source)

Arable Land Per Person in Various Regions of the World

This chart is from the recent Iowa State AGMRC publication, “Can We Meet the World’s Growing Demand for Food?” by Don Hofstrand. The writing includes many issues related to global food security. Note that South America’s arable land per person value is equal to Sub-Saharan Africa’s. (Also note correction: Middle East and North America should read Middle East and North Africa)

I look forward to Hofstrand’s future writing about how biofuels will and do affect global food security, which he says is coming soon.

SOURCE: http://www.agmrc.org/file.cfm/media/newsletters/AgMRC_012014_2B47713124B3F.pdf

Geography Lesson: Just How Big is Africa?

This map of Africa was created by Kal Krause, who calls it a small contribution in the fight against rampant immappancy, a word meaning insufficient geographical knowledge.

For comparison, the U.S. including Alaska, has a land size that is only 32 percent of the size of Africa.

Next, let’s look at a map showing renewable water per capita in Africa. As you can see, water security in Africa varies greatly by country, but on average is scarce.

With a rapidly growing population, Africa faces water challenges in many of its countries, in both quantity and quality, and is expected to face more water difficulties with a changing climate. In addition, much of its soils are acidic, nutrient depleted, and desertified. Most African farmers are poor, lacking fertilizers, machinery, and infrastructure.

Yet, the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, known as a great food-insecure region, has seen a decline in its undernourished population in the past two decades, falling from 33 percent to 25 percent, according the the FAO. Agricultural author, Paul McMahon, believes that Sub-Saharan Africa has enormous potential to increase production, with more than 750 million hectares of suitable land that could be brought into production, and the potential to triple yields.

This large continent will be ground zero for agricultural development in coming decades.

Thank you to valued reader, Dave, who alerted me to this map of Africa.