How to create resilient agriculture
Economic growth with resilience to environmental threats will be central to the agenda of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June this year, which aims to map out a pathway of sustainable development for the planet.
The 'zero draft', the document that will form the basis of conference negotiations, states a resolve to fight hunger, eradicate poverty and work towards just and economically stable societies.
Food security is critical to this mission. The threats are numerous: repeated food price spikes; shortages of good-quality land and water; rising energy and fertiliser prices; and the consequences of climate change.
Already, somewhere between 900 million and a billion people are chronically hungry, and by 2050 agriculture will have to cope with these threats while feeding a growing population with changing dietary demands. This will require doubling food production, especially if we are to build up reserves for climatic extremes.
To do this requires sustainable intensification — getting more from less — on a durable basis.
Combining traditional and technological
Farmers around the world will need to produce more food and other agricultural products on less land, with fewer pesticides and fertilisers, less water and lower outputs of greenhouse gases.
This must be done on a large scale, more cheaply than current farming methods allow. And it will have to be sustainable — that is, it must last. For this to happen, the intensification will have to be resilient.
African Farm image via Shutterstock