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Africa: Sustainable Agricultural Intensification - Tackling Food Insecurity in a Resource-Scarce World
19 April 2013


Today, the world is searching for solutions to a series of global challenges unprecedented in their scale and complexity. Food insecurity, malnutrition, climate change, rural poverty and environmental degradation are all among them.

A recent meeting hosted by the Irish government and the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice (MRFCJ) in Dublin convened experts and practitioners from around the globe to discuss how the next iteration of development goals following the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) can respond to this set of challenges, as part of the so-called "post-2015" development agenda.

Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to these threats as both supply-side and demand-side challenges are putting additional pressure on an already fragile food production system.

Indeed, current systems of production will only be able to meet 13 percent of the continent's food needs by 2050, while three out of four people added to the planet between now and 2100 will be born in the region.

Improving agricultural yields efficiently and sustainably must be central in addressing Africa's food insecurity challenges. This calls for "sustainable intensification".

Sustainable intensification offers a framework for producing more food with less impact on the environment, intensifying food production while ensuring the natural resource base on which agriculture depends is sustained, and indeed improved, for future generations.

Unfortunately, in recent years, the term has taken on a highly politicised meaning, with some arguing it is synonymous with industrial agriculture reliant on a high use of fertilisers and pesticides. But this does not have to be the case.

The term's original scientific intent was for it to be relevant to all types of agricultural systems, including smallholder farmers in Africa. It is now time that the term is re-embraced to help meet the challenges we face as a global population of 9 billion people by the year 2050.

REPORT POINTS THE WAY

A new report from the Montpellier Panel, an eminent panel of international experts led by Sir Gordon Conway of Agriculture for Impact, provides innovative thinking and examples of how sustainable intensification can be used by smallholder African farmers to address the continent's food and nutrition crisis.


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