Facts and Figures

Irrigated agriculture represents 20% of cultivated land and accounts for 40% of global food production

  • Rainfed agriculture covers 80% of the world’s cultivated land, and is responsible for about 60% of crop production. Today, irrigated agriculture covers 275 million hectares – about 20% of cultivated land – and accounts for 40% of global food production. 
  • With rapid population growth, water withdrawals have tripled over the last 50 years. This trend is explained largely by the rapid increase in irrigation development stimulated by food demand in the 1970s and by the continued growth of agriculture-based economies. 
  • Growth in world demand for food will mirror population growth, progressively declining from 2.2% a year in the last decades of the 20th century, to 1.6% in 2015, 1.4% in 2015-30, and 0.9% in 2030-50.
  • The latest projections available show an average increase of 0.6% a year in irrigated land from 1998 until 2030, compared with 1.5% over the 1950s-1990s. In the same period (1998-2030), because of continued increases in agricultural productivity, 36% more food will be produced with 13% more water. 

Related themes: Food and Agriculture;

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