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Growing mega-cities will displace vast tracts of farmland by 2030, study says

New Delhi, India. Between 1991 and 2016 the population of India’s capital and its suburbs ballooned from 9.4 million to 25 million. The United Nations Report on World Urbanisation projects that Delhi will have 37 million residents by 2030. Photograph: OLI/Landsat 8/USGS/NASA

Our results show that urban expansion will result in a 1.8–2.4% loss of global croplands by 2030, with substantial regional disparities. About 80% of global cropland loss from urban expansion will take place in Asia and Africa.

Globally, the croplands that are likely to be lost were responsible for 3–4% of worldwide crop production in 2000. Urban expansion is expected to take place on cropland that is 1.77 times more productive than the global average.

Governance of urban area expansion thus emerges as a key area for securing livelihoods in the agrarian economies of the Global South.

By Emma Bryce
The Guardian
Dec 27, 2016
(Must see. Mike)

Our future crops will face threats not only from climate change, but also from the massive expansion of cities, a new study warns. By 2030, it’s estimated that urban areas will triple in size, expanding into cropland and undermining the productivity of agricultural systems that are already stressed by rising populations and climate change.

Roughly 60% of the world’s cropland lies on the outskirts of cities—and that’s particularly worrying, the report authors say, because this peripheral habitat is, on average, also twice as productive as land elsewhere on the globe.

“We would expect peri-urban land to be more fertile than average land, as mankind tends to settle where crops can be produced,” says Felix Creutzig from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin, and principal author on the paper. “However, we were ignorant about the magnitude of this effect.” The agricultural losses they calculated in the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, translates to a 3 to 4% dip in global agricultural production.

This may not appear to be a huge figure at first glance, but on the regional scale the picture changes. Across countries and different crops, the effects of this loss vary and become more intense. In Africa and Asia especially—which together bear 80% of the projected loss due to rising urbanisation in these regions—urban expansion will consign farmers to an even tougher agricultural reality.

Read the complete article here.