Below I will post some refreshing facts and figures (found in literature) in order to put smallholders and and sustainable agriculture into perspective. This may help to put the importance of sustainable agriculture and the preservation of natural capital into perspective:

  • 97% of the farms in the world are smallholder farms (< 2-3ha)
  • 70% of smallholder farmers in the world are women
  • 50% of food produced in the world comes from smallholder agriculture. This food is produced on only 20% of the arable land of smallholders
  • Globally we generate a 15 x too much meat than is needed while having a deficit on vegetables, fruits and seeds.
  • 70% of the energy contained in one grain of maize produced in high input agriculture comes from fossil fuels. Yes, 70%!
  • While world average yields of mayor food crops increased by a factor two in the last 50 years, the total amount of external nitrogen
    brought in through fertilizers increased seven times in the same period, the amount of phosphorus three times and the amount of water used for irrigation doubled (Foley et al., 2005).
  • The current average yield gap between organic and conventional yields is merely 20% (two independent global studies). A 20% yield gap means that on the same area of land in which you can harvest 6 t ha-1 of conventional wheat, with pesticides, fungicides and mineral fertilizers you could still harvest about almost 5 t ha-1 of wheat grown organically.
  • Producing food for the estimated 9 billion people in 2050 with conventional agriculture will exhaust our global oil reserves in about 12 years…(Tittonell, 2013). So, in that perspective conventional mono-agriculture (as it is now) is no sustainable option. How much food would mono agriculture produce without these fossil inputs? Most likely a lot less. Agroforestry systems will likely be the best sustainable option regarding food productivity.
  • There would be sufficient financial capital available to meet conservation investment needs if the main investor segments (i.e., HNW/UHNW individuals, retail and institutional investors) globally allocated 1% of their new and reinvested capital to conservation… Yes, you read it well: only 1%…! (source: Credit-Suisse)
  • Approximately 30.6 percent of the world’s total land area is covered by trees – three trillion trees, of which 93 percent are natural forests and the remaining 7 percent are planted, predominantly composed of trees established through planting and/or deliberate seeding.
  • Tropical forests store 25% of the world’s carbon, a fact recognized in the recent international climate change agreement, which explicitly mentions the critical role of forests in emissions mitigation (EPI).
  • The world has lost an average of 180,749 km2 (18.1 million hectares) of forest annually since 2000 (EPI). That is in total 2,711,235 km2 in between 2000 and 2015, an area comparable with the size of Argentina or 65 times the size of the Netherlands.
  • Around 40% of deforestation is caused by smallholder subsistence agriculture (EPI)
  • Portugal experienced the highest deforestation rate in the world, having experienced a staggering decline in tree cover of 24.6% between 2000 en 2014 (EPI, 2015). Next to Portugal, Indonesia is taking the lead for the deforestation of tropical forests, having lost 11.9% of its forest cover since the turn of the century (EPI)