In the second half of the twentieth century, industrial agriculture together with the integration and globalisation of the food chain successfully increased the quantity of food and reduced unit prices to the consumer in Western society. Many policy-makers now advocate expansion of this industrial model into the developing regions as the only feasible way to feed the 9.6 billion people expected by 2050. However, industrial agriculture is unsustainable, costly and damages the environment. Expansion of this food production model to Africa, Asia and Latin America will force migration to the cities of several billion people from small farms, including those who manage dryland habitats and other fragile ecosystems, thus exposing these rich areas of biodiversity to neglect or abuse. The alternative way to increase world food supply is to empower small-scale farmers and pastoralists, a policy endorsed in principle by governments in 2012 but lacking major implementation to date. Proposals are made for realistically redressing current economic policies for agriculture and food to empower these historic guardians of agro-bioresources so that they may increase food security and ensure the conservation of vast areas of dryland and other natural habitats. © 2014 © 2014 Biodiversity Conservancy International.
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