A healthy planet equals healthy people

A Griffith University researcher is helping save the planet in a new study that maps global nutrient production from farms worldwide.

PhD candidate Eloise Stephenson is co-author on the paper, led by Dr Mario Herrero at CSIRO and published in the inaugural issue of The Lancet Planetary Health.

The studyfound small and medium farms produce more than half of the food globally, and produce the vast majority of food and nutrients in low income countries.

Ms Stephenson, who works within Griffith’s School of Environment, said planetary health — also described as one health or eco-health — is a relatively new term coined to describe how to make the world a healthier place.

PhD candidate Eloise Stephenson.

“This paper provides a breakdown of global agriculture and nutrient production by farm size and this information is critical for promoting healthy diets in the face of population growth, urbanisation and climate change,” she said.

“We need a greater focus on increasing the nutritional diversity (i.e. more variety) of food rather than the sheer quantity (mass production) of food, while considering contribution from small farms.”

The paper provides global maps that pinpoint hotspots of nutritional yield which can be used in management of food security worldwide.

Estimates suggest that by 2050 there will need to be a 70 per cent increase in food availability to meet the demands of a growing population. However, the increase in volume alone will not guarantee human wellbeing.

Researchers say food systems will need to produce food of high nutritional value and crops, livestock and fish must be diverse to ensure food security.

They estimate the relative contribution of small and large farms to the quantity and quality of food produced at a global scale.

For the first time, they map how much calcium, folate, iron, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and zinc is produced in farms of different sizes from 41 crops, 7 livestock products and 14 fish groups.

“We’ve looked at the nutrition small farms are contributing and as much as 51-77 per cent of vitamins and minerals are coming from farms less than 50 hectares globally,” Ms Stephenson said.

“This is important to know because if we have a healthy environment, we’ll have healthy people.”