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What Rio Conference Means to Farmers

Leaders and officials from governments and nongovernmental groups recently met in Brazil for the Rio+20 Conference. The full name was the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. It marked the twentieth anniversary of the Earth Summit, the UN Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro. It also came ten years after the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

The Rio+20 website described it as a chance to "shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want." The UN Food and Agriculture Organization prepared a report for the conference called "Towards the Future We Want." It says hunger reduction and sustainable development are highly connected. It calls for better governance of agriculture and food systems. Food systems use thirty percent of the world's energy. Crops and farm animals use seventy percent of the water. Yet food losses and waste are high. The FAO says they add up to more than one billion tons each year, or almost one-third of all the food produced in the world.

The FAO says nearly one out of every seven people in the world is a victim of undernourishment. Seventy-five percent of all poor people live in rural areas. Most support themselves through agriculture and relative activities. The agency has estimated that food production needs to increase at least sixty percent by twenty-fifty to feed an expected population of nine billion.The new report calls for doing "more with less" -- improving diets while reducing the effects of agriculture on the environment.

Farmers operate five hundred million small farms in developing countries. The report says they need clear rights to resources like land and water. FAO nutritionist Florence Egal says production growth helps not only farmers but also others in related industries. She says people who have no access to land or labor can generate income and add to local economic development through food processing and other activities. She says it would make sense in terms of job creation and in terms of job protection.

For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. You can learn English with more news about agriculture and development at You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 12Jun2012)