Food: Agriculture and Fisheries

The Earth provides everything we need to feed the world ... for now.

© Benjamin Drummond

Why is our food important?

Food we eat

Everything we eat comes from nature. The global population, already over 7 billion, is growing by roughly 83 million people every year. And by 2030, about 1.4 billion people are expected to enter the global middle class. Feeding the planet while conserving the environment that underpins food production is one of the greatest challenges of our day.

Jobs and prosperity

Agriculture and fisheries are big business. An estimated one in three of all global workers are employed in agricultural jobs, many of them small-scale farmers and fishermen who are vital to feeding the world. In Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, small farms produce up to 80% of the total food supply.

What are the issues?

80% forest loss due to agriculture


Agriculture is the leading cause of global deforestation, responsible for 80 percent of forest loss each year. Large-scale commercial agriculture — including cattle ranching, soybean farming and planting oil palm — is the leading cause of deforestation in important regions like Amazonia and Southeast Asia.

70% fresh water used for agriculture

Water use

Less than 3 percent of the Earth’s water is fresh, and only a fraction of that is available for human use. Of that small amount, nearly 70 percent is used for agriculture. That puts humanity in a dangerous predicament. Any disruption to our freshwater supply also threatens our global food supply.

30% fisheries overexploited or depleted


Fish and chips, hold the fish? Some 1 billion people get essential nutrition from seafood. But the overfishing of some species, such as cod, has resulted in declines so dramatic that these fish are no longer readily available to consumers. About 30 percent of the world's fisheries are already overexploited or depleted.

13% global emissions from agriculture

Climate change

From trucks and trains that transport food to cows that graze on grass, nearly every aspect of agriculture belches gases like carbon dioxide and methane into our atmosphere. Agriculture is directly responsible for 13 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Our solutions

Conservation International scientists are working to find solutions to the global food crisis. We’re gaining a better understanding of how degraded fisheries can recover and how farmers can sustainably increase production. Around the world, we work to end unsustainable agricultural practices and overfishing — and promote more responsible activities. We work with our corporate partners to better understand the challenges of complex supply chains, answering questions like, “Where do all of a company’s ingredients and products come from, and how were they produced?”

What can you do?

Every meal you’ve ever eaten comes from nature in some way. You can help us ensure that nature continues to provide food, and so much more, for generations to come.

Drink sustainable coffee

For example, shade-grown coffee, grown under the canopy of healthy forests, helps protect the planet.

© Art Wolfe/

‘I’m turning to dust.’

Without healthy soils to grow our food, humans could not exist. Now, the soil has a voice.

© Sara Sanger
© Benjamin Drummond

Issues Facing Local Fishermen

Pupuke Robati, President Anote Tong, and President Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr. talk about issues facing local fisherman in the Pacific.

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