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Agriculture, Population & The Fine Balance That’s Often Ignored

Agriculture, Population & The Fine Balance That’s Often Ignored

Over the years, every major breakthrough in the field of agriculture has pivoted on better productivity and allowed the population to grow. Agricultural developments like better tools, the ability to clear large masses of land efficiently, better irrigation resources and fossil fuel powered machinery have allowed individuals to grow more food in the limited resources available.

A brief history of how we got here

Anthropologists concur that Earth can carry an estimated 10 million people without any form of agriculture. Having surpassed that estimation 10,000 years ago, humans have had to constantly evolve in order to manipulate the environment in ways that no other species has ever been able to.

Thousands of years ago, people lived together in small bands of hunters and gatherers. Hunting, fishing and feasting on wild vegetables and nuts available were staple practices. This is also around the time, man discovered agriculture and developed the ability to grow their own food. The introduction to agriculture ensured food security and allowed people to settle in one place. Availability of food all year around, domesticating animals for meat consumption and the beginning of settlements in the form of towns and cities were important milestones for the population.

The next obvious landmark in the agriculture history is the Industrial Revolution, in the late 1700’s when fossil fuel powered machinery was used to mass-produce products. The Green Revolution improved crop productivity by improving the selection process, using artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides, better machinery for plowing, tilting, fertilizing, picking and transporting and lastly better access to water for irrigation. The Green Revolution allowed farmers to grow produce for about 130 people now as opposed to the 2.5 people before.

Agriculture and Population – A Correlation Which Needs Fine Balancing

Agriculture & population are two aspects of the economy which are heavily correlated. As mentioned above, any advancement in agricultural techniques have ultimately led to a boom in population. The relationship in the true sense, is paradoxical at best. An increase in population demands more grain to feed the people, this is only possible if more land is allocated towards growing this excess crop. At the same time, this land is also needed to house the excess population. While the resource of land is limited within an area, the ever growing population is putting immense strain on the agricultural practices and living conditions of the people.

On the other hand, an increase in population translates into urban development like towns and cities. Overcrowding of these areas has drastically increased emissions, pollution and other factors that have severely altered climate conditions required to grow crop. Failure of monsoon season that is imperative to irrigate the crop is one such example.

In India, for example, despite technological advancements, the population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate that the agricultural industry struggles to keep up with. Further, externalities like climate change, insect attacks, etc., are known to be responsible for failure of crop during monsoon season. This further puts a strain on the already limited resources available to feed the population. The Coronavirus pandemic highlighted this when the country was limited to resources produced domestically. The agricultural industry was one of the few pioneer areas of focus, which was solely responsible to feed the entire population during these trying times of lockdown. Challenges like locust attacks and in some areas less rainfall led to a score of crops destroyed which had heavy implications for the population. This was a threat to food security, something the country had tried to avoid in the face of a bigger catastrophe like the pandemic.

Lastly, agriculture is also a major source of employment for the population. Not only does it feed the population, it also serves to provide livelihood. Labor employed on fields, factories, mills and in transport of said produce are integral cogs in the industry wheel.

Conclusion – A need for realigning our development and food security priorities

Given limited resources like land, it is important to create a balance between agriculture intensification and land expansion for human settlement. These are two contrasted strategies that have worked well as growth trends in population continue to steadily rise while production is unexpectedly oscillating in recent years. A balance between both depending on need and priority is imperative. The rapidly growing population posses a serious threat to food security and other socio-environmental factors. This problem can be tackled through increasing productivity of land. Technological advancements and cultivation practices can help increase the productivity of major crops during season. Thus, new innovations and sustainable land practices are key opportunities to agricultural production in the contemporary world.

About The Author

Seerat Kaur

Seerat Kaur has completed her graduation and post graduation in Economics and Supply Chain and Logistics Management from the University of Warwick, UK. As a part of her degree, she has completed two dissertations which required primary data collection as well as analysis. At Envecologic, she primarily works in research and sustainability partnerships. In the duration of her work, she worked closely in launching the State of Delhi’s Air report, the biggest air pollution survey ever done in the capital.She’s a national level basketball player and loves swimming. Her interests include reading, travelling, sports and music.

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