Rural Development: Land misuse

In this post I would like to tackle the issue of land misuse or as some may call it mismanagement and to show how is it related to food waste and respectively food security. People are used to think of problems in a very superficial way. We are not willing to understand the whole production process. For instance when we think about wind energy we think of a carbon free electricity source, but we don’t think about its production that emits quite a lot. The same thing happens with food. If I would ask an average person where does the food come from, the answer would be probably: “from the supermarket”. An average person may

Total arable land by country.

not be conscious of the whole chain that the “tomato” has to overcome to be eaten. At the beginning of this chain there is choosing a right place to grow, cultivate or breed future nutrition.

The main problem that I wanted to highlight is the relation of land misuse and food waste. It is quite logical. In developed countries we are running out of land. In most of those countries around 40% of land is used for agriculture. If around 1/3 of the food produced is being wasted, it means that 13.3% of the land is used for nothing. Not mentioning the fact that somebody’s work is being not respected. But this is another problem.

The next issue related to this is the fact that a lot of food wasted in rich countries has, what Tristram Stuart called, a low resources to calories ratio. These are tomatoes, dairy products and meat that need a big amount of resources as land, water or fuel. On the graph showed on the left side, we can see land use in the USA. 41% of land is used for grazing, while forests cover only 22%! “For example, it takes an average of around 31 million kcal of primary energy input to grow a tonne of tomatoes with a calorific content of just 170,000 kcal. By contrast, it takes just 600,000 kcal of primary energy to grow a tonne of bread-wheat, which contains 3-3.5 million kcal, an energy input/output ratio 918 times higher”. (Stuart, T., 2009) This example shows us what have to be considered, if we are thinking of a sustainable development. Each country should plan their food supply in advance taking into account all the resources needed. What is also crucial is to influence people diet habits, behaviors and general awareness. We as consumers have to know, how food that we are eating was made and how we are influencing the whole food system.

Another crucial problem are centralized big farms, from which corporations own a significant part. Regardless its big contribution to world food production there is still around billion people living in hunger, so quick solutions are needed. A recent analysis of adaptation work in Uganda has shown that small-scale agriculture is beneficial. First of all it can be easily and almost immediately implemented. As it is small-scale agricultures are working for them and know that if they won’t work well their harvest will be respectively low. Problems are solved on a local level, so their contribution to the environment is higher. For this project the main issue was soil and water conservation, which has reduced the planting costs by 75%. Moreover, the environment has also

One of big crop farms

benefited from farmers actions. Using fewer chemical fertilizers and pesticides soil and water conditions have improved significantly. In addition to that, local farmers have become self-sufficient, what has highly encouraged other people to follow that model.

Maybe it is naïve to think that such actions could be implemented everywhere, but it is good to know that it is possible. Of course it will be extremely difficult or even impossible to break the current food system that is defended by world superpowers. However, people are becoming more and more aware of what is happening around them and I believe that we are slowly moving to a more sustainable food system. Nonetheless there is a lot to be done and following the example of researches such as the above may be crucial for our further development.


1. Stuart, T., 2009, “Waste – Uncovering the Global Food Scandal”

2. Munang, R. and Nkem, J.N., 2011, “Using Small-Scale Adaptation Actions to Address the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa: Going beyond Food Aid and Cash Transfers.”

3. “Land in America” retrieved from

4. Grywacheski, A., 2011, “Arable Land” retrieved from




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