Among the most problematic issues considered as part of IFPRI’s 2020 Vision initiative, which seeks to develop an international consensus on how to meet future food needs while reducing poverty and protecting the environment, are the environmental questions. And the issues addressed in this discussion paper is particularly difficult. How is land degradation affecting the ability of farmers to produce adequate food supplies today, and what is the prognosis for the year 2020? As populations grow, farmers are forced to cultivate smaller and smaller plots, where the soil eventually becomes depleted, or they expand onto marginal lands-fragile hillsides, semi-arid areas, cleared forestland. Once these lands become damage, can they be repaired? These questions are hard to answer because little has been done to quantify and categorize the degraded lands. We need to know where degradation is occurring, what forced have caused it, and what steps must be taken to rehabilitate degraded land. More than anything we need to know what policies work to promote good land husbandry in developing countries, where farmers mostly degrade the land out of necessity, not greed. The workshop that led the land to thus paper is only a first step in a concerted effort to identify the regional “hot spot” where degradation is now rampant and the “bright spots” here remediation is already underway. The most important contribution of the participants of this workshop, however, is the list of 10 policy recommendations they devised to encourage better management of agricultural lands. If the 2020 Vision is to become a reality, we must begin to put their recommendation into practice.


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