Is there enough land to satisfy the demands?

18 aug 2011

Background and programme for the two coming seminars at KSLA

Seminar No. 1: “The global need for food, fibre and fuel – is there enough land to satisfy the demands?”

Tuesday 27 September 2011; 09.30-16.00

Please, register here!

Seminar No. 2: “The global need for food, fibre and fuel – how do we address constraints/opportunities to meet the demands?”

Tuesday 22 November, 2011; 09.30-16.00


In the last ten years or so, there has been a sharply increasing international focus on the need to produce more food, bio-energy and wood fibre. The reasons are many, more or less obvious, and interlinked in often complex ways – the growing global population, the increasing wealth and thereby changing consumption patterns of hundreds of millions of people in the BRIC and other similar countries, the related growth in demand for wood and fibre based products (paper, con-struction wood, furniture, hygiene products, etc.), the rapid urbanisation, the frequent crises in food production and prices hitting other hundreds of millions of people remaining poor, the climate change threats and need to reduce the use of fossil fuels and replace them with renewable bio-energy, etc.

With the globalisation of economies, industrial processing, and trade flows, these needs for increased production of food, fuel and wood, and the enormous array of issues related to them, have acquired international prominence of unprecedented nature. Virtually every UN-body, development bank, international policy and research institutes, global and local environmental and social NGOs, and others with programmes or mandates touching upon agriculture, forestry, environment and/or energy have launched programmes, held seminars and conferences, produced studies and reports, and/or got engaged in research and advocacy work.

Food, fibre and fuel

The production of the “three Fs” – food, fibre and (bio-)fuel – as they are popularly referred to (sometimes a fourth F, fodder, is added, referring to the production of animal protein), have one thing in common: they all rely upon photosynthesis, and therefore they all require land to grow on. The issue of if and where there is land, and particularly reasonably good and productive land, available for the required increases in the production of food, fibre and fuel has become one of the most hotly debated issues in recent years, as the global competition for such land increases almost exponentially. Naturally, there is awareness that the required production increases must be met through many approaches – increased productivity of land already under production and restora-tion of degraded lands, for example – but the focus is very much on identifying currently “under-utilised” land to put it under rational and often large-scale production. The “scramble for land”, as it has become known in journalistic language, is really on, and involves governments, big and small private investors, multi-national as well as national companies, entrepreneurs, farmers and communities, international bodies of different kinds, etc.

The issue of land acquisition

Not surprisingly, the issue of land acquisitions for increased production of food, fibre and fuel has also given rise to controversy. “Underutilised” land is rarely not utilised at all – there are people whose interests and rights must be protected, there are often interesting ecosystems and bio-diversity that will be negatively affected (cf. the conversion of forests to oil palm plantations in SE Asia), ownership and tenure situations are often vague, corrupt practices and/or politically and socially insensitive deals in the transfer of user rights are not uncommon in some countries, etc. “Land grabbing” is a term minted by environmental and social activists to describe the latter practices.

The increased production is needed

However, it is also an undeniable fact that the increased production is badly needed, there is a growing demand from people all over the world who are able and prepared to pay for the increased produce, and, equally obvious, there are enormous economic, social and environmental opportuni-ties for governments, people and enterprises to be gained if challenges and problems can be addressed. It is also important to accept that we are not talking about increased production of “unnecessary” luxury consumer goods for a wealthy western population, but of very basic necessi-ties (bulk food, paper, carbon-neutral fuel, etc.) at reasonable prices for the global population.

KSLA has touched upon the issue

The question of land availability for increased production of the three Fs has also engaged institutions, private enterprise, NGOs and research institutions in Sweden. KSLA has, for example touched upon the issue in several seminars and round-table discussions in recent years. Already in 2007, KSLA together with IVA, organised an international seminar on “Tilting forest industries from North to South”, which came to focus much on the land availability for forest raw material plantations. Likewise, the seminar organised with the Rights & Resources Initiative as late as in June this year, “Global trends – implications on the development and use of natural resources”, spent much on the issue of competition for land as a natural resource. In May 2011, KSLA organised an interesting round table talk about “Sustainable foreign investments in developing countries’ agriculture” which took up the case of Addax Bioenergy investments in Sierra Leone. In March 2010, there was a seminar on “Competition for our agricultural land” with a more Swedish perspective, and in August last year, the KSLA Bertebos Conference focussed on “Food security and the futures of farms – 2020 and toward 2050” where land availability and management was a recurrent theme in many presentations.

Other initiatives

The Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI) organised a seminar in November 2010 on “The 21st Century Land Rush: colonial style land-grabbing or a new development opportunity?”. SIANI is also planning a seminar in October this year on “Land investments and sustainable biofuel development: North-South Interdependencies”. Finally, in 2010, the Swedish FAO Committee came out with a publication on “Foreign Land Investments in Developing Countries – Contribution or Threat to Sustainable Development?”. Many other initiatives and plans could be mentioned.

The purpose of the two seminars

The purpose of the current two seminars is to present and discuss a comprehensive overview of the current situation and thinking regarding global production of food, fibre and bio-fuel, and to focus on the issue of land availability for such production. The seminars are a joint initiative by four of KSLA’s Committees (see above). The seminars will be international in character, but also point at the relevance of these issues to the Swedish green sector, e.g. in the fields of development cooperation, trade, business opportunities, etc.

In the first seminar, focus is on presenting facts on demand, supply, production, and trends, where and how production is currently done and projections on what will happen in the next 20 years, for food, fibre and fuel, and on availability of, and competition for, land for this production.

In the second seminar, focus is on the technical, economic, social and environmental issues that must be addressed in order to achieve the required increase in production of food, fibre and fuel from limited land areas available. There will also be a session with cases of involvement of Swedish actors in various agricultural, forestry and bio-energy investments and programmes outside Sweden. Finally, there will be views from one of the countries in Africa with perceived reserves of land which might be utilised for the required increased production of food, wood and biofuel.

Björn Lundgren, Committé for International Forestry Issues

Photo: Stora Enso

Programme to Seminar No. 1: “ – is there enough land to satisfy the demands?”

Moderator of conferences: Mr. Lennart Båge, Ambassador and ex-President IFAD

09.00 Coffee and registration

09.30 Welcome and presentation of KSLA
Mr. Åke Barklund, Secretary General and Managing Director, KSLA

Introduction to the conferences – their purpose, scope, structure and goals
Dr. Björn Lundgren, Chair KSLA Committee on International Forest Issues

09.50 Session 1: Global demand for food in the next 20 years

Presentation: No. 1: Dr. Stefan Wirsenius, associate Professor, Division of Physical Resource Theory, Chalmers University, Gothenburg

Presentation No. 2:  Dr. Dominique van der Mensbrugghe, Team Leader of FAO’s Global Perspectives Studies team Director, Agriculture Development Economics Division, FAO, Rome

Presentation No. 3: Mr. Harald Svensson, Chief Economist, Swedish Board of Agriculture, Jonkoping

11.00 Session 2: Global demand for wood and fibre in the next 20 years

Presentation: Mr. Jan Wintzell, Director, Pöyry Sweden AB, Stockholm

11.30 Session 3: Global demand for bioenergy crops in the next 20 years

Presentation No. 1: Dr. Stefan Bringezu, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment andEnergy,Germany

Presentation No. 2: Anders Dahlberg, handling officer, the Swedish Energy Agency

12.15 Lunch in Oscars Källare

13.00 Session 4: Availability of and competition for land to meet increased demands of food, fibre and fuel

Presentation: Prof. Sten Nilsson, CEO, Forest Sector Insights AB, ex-IIASA

14.00 Panel – discussion and questions

Panel made up of “international” speakers in sessions 2–5 plus one or two more:

  • Dr. Stefan Wirsenius
  • Dr. Dominique van der Mensbrugghe
  • Mr. Jan Winzell
  • Dr. Stefan Bringezau
  • Prof. Sten Nilsson
  • Mrs Annika Söder, UD

15.00 Coffee

15.15 Continued discussion and question session

15.45 Summary and round-up by moderator and KSLA organisers

16.00 Mingle in Oscars Källare

The seminars are joint undertakings by the four KSLA Committees on:

International Forestry Issues

International Agricultural Issues

Energy Issues

Sustainable Development

Please, register here!

Photo: Veracel Company, FAO (FO-5153)