The majority of the micronutrient supply (53 ‑ 81 %) is world-wide produced by the diverse cultivation of crops on small and medium-sized agricultural land. Small and medium-sized farms are therefore crucial to maintain the quality of global food supplies. This is the result of a study published in the Journal The Lancet Planetary Health (1).
Australian scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization calculated how much calcium, folic acid, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and zinc, as well as the amount of protein is produced in farms of different sizes. They estimated the production levels of 41 major crops, seven livestock, and 14 aquaculture and fish products as well as the relative contribution of farms of different sizes to the production of different agricultural commodities and associated nutrients.
- Around 51 ‑ 77 % of the main food groups, including cereals, livestock, fruits, legumes, roots, tubers and vegetables, come from farms of less than 50 hectares. Exceptions are sugar and oil crops, which are mostly produced on large farms.
- In Europe, West Asia and North Africa as well as in Central America, medium-sized agricultural holdings between 20 and 50 hectares contribute to the production of most food products.
- Small farms with less than 20 hectares produce more than 75 % of most food products in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia and China, and are in 71 % of the world’s vitamin A production involved.
- Very small farms with less than two hectares are particularly important in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and South Asia, where they generate around 30 % of most food products and are the basis for millions of farmers.
Experiences from large farms over 50 hectares, which dominate 75 ‑ 100 % of the production of cereals, livestock and fruit in North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, show that with the intensification of agriculture the biodiversity and thus also the number of cultivated species for particularly nutritious food product groups decreases.
The scientists are committed to reversing the growing trend towards large-scale agriculture and advocate the protection of small and medium-sized farms – argumenting, that with an adequate supply of essential nutrients human health can ultimately be maintained.
Read and see more:
M Herrero et al. Farming and the geography of nutrient production for human use: a transdisciplinary analysis. Lancet Planet Health. 2017 Apr;1(1):e33-e42. doi: 10.1016/S2542-5196(17)30007-4. Available via: http://www.db.zs-intern.de/uploads/1492505170-Herrero.compressed.pdf
Further Information: Small Farms: Stewards of Global Nutrition? Available via: http://www.environmentreports.com/small-farms-stewards-global-nutrition/