THE BEAUTY OF FOOD FORESTS
Our food production system is currently under tremendous pressure due to the ecological crises that it has caused and that now threatens to bite us in the butt so to speak. Farmers, industry and consumers alike need to start moving towards a system that also sustains biodiversity and the soil. At this point, it is useful to look back and ask how we got here in the first place.
In recent history, when the world population grew from 1.6 billion people in 1900 to 8 billion people today, about 45% of all the forests in the world were cut. The main reason for this rapid deforestation was the creation of land for large scale industrial farming, mainly producing dairy products and meat. The world currently has about 5 billion hectares of agricultural land. This land is moderately degraded, mostly due to industrial farming techniques. How can this historic perspective inform our decisions now? Actually, when combined with the results of two decades of research and experimenting in the field of agriculture we can see the contours of a new system of food production.
Scientists have found that food-forest farming requires 4 times less land compared with industrial farming. Food-forest farming regenerates the soils and increases forest cover. If the world population were to adopt plant-based food as the main way of taking in calories and proteins only 1-1.5 billion hectares agricultural land would be needed. Such a system will also free up land for (community based) food-forest farming. The land that becomes available, about 3 billion hectares, as a result of the switch to food-forest farming can be regenerated and its biodiversity restored. This will facilitate the restoration of the hydrological cycle to its full potential and climate change to be addressed in the best possible way.