Food price volatility, the theme of the first conference in Wilton Park’s series ‘Agriculture, food and land use: the international policy challenges’, is one of a number of factors that have brought land use back onto the centre stage of global policy concern. Land and its effective management is essential to food production and is vitally important to a range of other services too. Land is a finite resource and the way that it is managed can enhance or radically reduce its productivity and sustainability with very long term consequences.
The aim of this meeting was to examine the state of the land across the world reflecting on the evidence base on issues such as soil degradation, considering the role of food production alongside other competing uses and demands on land, and exploring the international and national policy responses necessary to encourage sustainable and multi-functional land use.
Beginning with an examination of the evidence on land availability and suitability for food production this meeting highlighted the likely pressures on global food production. This was followed by sessions addressing: the impact of biofuels on land availability and food production; ecosystem services and multifunctional agricultural land use; agriculture land tenure, property rights and land markets; land use policies; and international policy options to promote sustainable land management.
Participants addressed key questions about global land:
- Is there enough land given projected demands for food and other services derived from the land?
- Are global agricultural lands fit for purpose in terms of soil quality and other factors influencing productivity?
- Are we devoting too much land to biofuels and, if so, what could be done about this?
- What are the prospects for an ecosystems service approach providing policy and management tools for optimising land use?
- Are patterns of land occupancy appropriate to social and economic development and sustainable food production? Should land purchase be better regulated? If so, in what ways?
- What international policies and regulatory frameworks are appropriate?