A recent study by a team of scientists from the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has reviewed the status of the world’s marginal lands and their role in food security, poverty reduction, and environmental sustainability.
Published in Sustainability, a journal, the study identifies research and policy priorities for marginal lands with a focus on poverty reduction, preservation of biodiversity, and restoration of marginal lands, using strategies focused on the food-poverty-environment nexus.
In the paper, the authors also analyze, consolidate, and summarize some key priorities for research and future policy.
In particular, the study reviews the background and geography of marginal lands; challenges and limitations of historical policies for marginal areas; and the importance of these areas for future food and environmental security.
The study also presents a roadmap to better research engagement and provides an outlook and policy options to optimize the use of these lands.
To identify the extent of global and regional marginal lands, the study presents a working definition for agricultural lands that are referred to as marginal in the context of a given agricultural economy.
According to the review, understanding agricultural marginality in general and identifying agricultural areas that are considered marginal can play an essential role in guiding future research and policy methods.
The study estimates that marginal areas make up 15 percent of the current agricultural lands worldwide and 21 percent of the total global land resources. Nearly one-third of the world’s rural population live in these areas, with most of them being the poor from developing nations.
The study also stresses that agriculture in marginal areas is the primary source of food and livelihood for the majority of the world’s poor and will play an increasingly important role in feeding the future population. But issues like erosion, salinization, and waterlogging are leading to declining yields.
The authors argue that marginal lands are essential for producing sufficient food to feed growing populations and keep food prices affordable. They note that investments in these areas could be a win-win solution for boosting agricultural productivity, as well as addressing global poverty.
They suggest that conventional research and development strategies may not be applicable in marginal lands and future research should focus more on the crop traits that are pro-poor.
They conclude that policies for marginal areas should also integrate data generation and knowledge sharing and suggest that land tenure reform may be needed to ensure more secure and equitable land access and property rights for farmers living in marginal areas.