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Sunday, February 21, 2010

What is decline in agricultural productivity? What are causes and impacts of this decline?

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Two –third of the world’s agricultural land has been degraded. About 1.2 billion poorest people of the world inhabit those lands. They work hard. Still the agricultural productivity is very low in those areas.The declining land productivity in many cases has forced people to encroach on forests, grasslands and wetlands. These conditions cause further degradation of environment and decline in agricultural productivity.

Climatic variations and human activities are causing droughts, land degradation and desertification. As per reports of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) -2000a, about 3600 million hectare or 70% of the world’s dry land are degraded. Africa, Asia and small island states are facing serious economic losses due to land degradation caused by declining productivity of land due to climate change.


Agricultural productivity declines considerably due to floods and the climatic change. The degradation of land, Siltation of rivers, pollution of soil from acid rains and industrial wastes are some of the issues that are associated with urbanisation and industrialization that are strong causes of land degradation and decline in agricultural productivity. As per estimates of Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) - 1996, about 1.96 million hectare of land has been degraded by industry and urbanisation. Urbanisation has also caused damages to urban agricultural agriculture on public and private lands. For example about 30% of the Russian Federation’s food is produced on 3 per cent of land in sub urban areas. The United States lost 400 000 hectare of farm land and China has lost up to 5 million hectares of farm land due to urbanisation. All these conditions have put tremendous impact on agriculture and decline in economy.

Most of the biodiversity loss has occurred during 20th century. According to FAO’s reports out of traditionally cultivated 7000 species for food only 120 are being cultivated today. All these declines in agricultural productivity reflect human activities pertaining to carelessness and exploitation.

Causes of Decline in Agricultural Productivity

 Following are the causes of the decline in Agricultural Productivity –
1. With the explosion in human population the agricultural land has gradually been converted into residential and industrial areas.

2. The need of production of more and more food forced people to go for commercial and extensive agriculture. These practices caused serious depletion of nutrients causing loss in the agricultural productivity.

3. The agricultural production was to be boosted up by the application of synthetic chemical fertilizers and crops were protected from pests and diseases by the applications of pesticides and fungicides. All these synthetic chemicals caused permanent losses in the further productivity of agriculture by causing degradation of lands.

4. Vast areas of productive land are destroyed by heavy mining and quarrying.

5.Frequent floods due to Siltation of rivers caused by soil erosion often leads to damage of the top soil at certain places causing serious soil degradation leading further to serious losses of agricultural productivity.

6. Erratic rainfall induced by human activities causes frequent drought conditions that further leads to causing crop failures and damages to the agricultural productivity.

7. The current practice of planting commercial varieties of trees on agricultural land instead of growing food crops is leading to serious losses to agricultural productivity.

Effects of Decline in Agricultural Productivity

 1. The decline in Agricultural Productivity is causing hunger in major parts of the world. The World Food Summit- 1998 set the goal of reducing the number of hungry people up to half. In spite of great improvements in the food production about half million people are still starving across the world. Thus, it has become evident that the Agricultural Productivity has become a driving force for economic and social developments. According to the International Atomic Agency- ‘When agriculture fails sources of income are lost. Social ties are disrupted and as a result, societies become more mobile.’

2. The decline in the productivity of the land under poor farmers created regional disparities. The Green Revolution was launched to enhance food production but only the rich farmers could derive benefits from it. The poor could not afford heavy prices of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Thus they remained hungry and economically backward in comparison to the rich. On the other hand, application of synthetic fertilizers and poisonous pesticides degraded the productivity of soil seriously. Thus the land even under the rich farmers no longer remained productive. These conditions are causing seriously bad impacts on the agricultural production during current times leading to a setback to the national economy. 

3. The agricultural growth created a gap between the rich and the poor states in the post green revolution period after 1980 – 1981.

4. The agriculture growth slowed by 2 per cent a year in the 9th Five Year Plan and the overall income growth was only 5.5 per cent where as the target was 8 per cent.

5. The decline in agricultural productivity is causing distress among farmers.

6. Poor maintenance of irrigation system causes loss of water through wastage and seepage. The scarcity of water affects crop production adversely.

7. Uncontrolled exploitation of ground water has caused serious depletion of water table in many parts of the country. It is leading to a water crisis and the failure of crops. Even after the exploitation of all the irrigation potential, up to 60% of India’s cultivable area is assessed to depend on dry land farming.  

8. The decline in agricultural productivity has no longer left the agriculture profitable activity far general farmers. Hence, large scale migration of people from rural areas towards cities is increasing day by day. It is further causing urban congestions, expansion of slums and encroachments on government lands.

9. Declining agricultural productivity compounded with natural calamities which is aggravated by human factors is creating acute shortage of food. Many countries have to take loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to import food and to feed its people.

All the factors mentioned above, heavily contribute to hunger and poverty together with causing bad effect on local, regional and national economies. 


Key Words:Agricultural Productivity,WHO, IMF,Urbanisation, Urban Congestion,expansion of slums, encroachment on Government land.

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