New report on African agriculture outlines development of sustainable intensification

New report on African agriculture outlines development of sustainable intensification

LONDON/MONTPELLIER. A new report by the Montpellier Panel released this week is expected to shed a new light on how innovative thinking and examples into the way in which the techniques of ‘sustainable intensification’ are being used by small scale farmers, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said.

‘Sustainable intensification’ consists of producing more outputs with more efficient use of all inputs on a durable basis, while reducing environmental damage and building resilience, natural capital and the flow of environmental services, experts say.

But the Montpellier Panel said sustainable intensification has, over the years, taken on a heavily politicised, and therefore became synonymous with big and industrial agriculture.

The panel report outlines the following four principles essential in delivering the ambitious objectives of sustainable intensification:

•                Prudent, in the use of inputs, particularly those which are scarce, are expensive and, or encourage natural resource degradation and environmental problems

•                Efficient, in seeking returns and in reducing waste and unnecessary use of scarce inorganic and natural inputs

•                Resilient, to future shocks and stresses that may threaten the natural and farming systems

•                Equitable, in that the inputs and outputs of intensification are accessible and affordable amongst beneficiaries at the household, village, regional or national level to ensure the potential to sustainably intensify is an opportunity for all.

“It is clear that we need to boost the harvest of food and fibre from any given area of land,” said Dr Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and one of the Montpellier Panel’s members.

But rather than doing this in conventional unsustainable ways, which mean more pollution, less biodiversity and more climate change, we can choose to intensify farming in a sustainable way with fewer adverse impacts, she said.

“This means scientists and local farmers working together, building on tradition, and applying solutions at a local scale. Many of these solutions exist but involve better use of soils, water and ecological systems, as well as diverse crop mixes, such as grains, legumes and livestock,” Dr Toulmin explained.

“They also need secure land rights, and support from policymakers and the development community to help them to spread.”

The Montpellier Panel is a board of international experts led by Professor Sir Gordon Conway of Agriculture for Impact in Africa, whose fundamental mission is to address the continent’s food and nutrition crisis.

Download the report here:

Photo by Uganda Visit and Travel Small scale farmers at work in Uganda.

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