Sustainable Intensification in Agriculture

A report based on a two day workshop held in January 2012, part funded by the UK Government’s Foresight Programme, was recently published by the Food Climate Research Network and the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food. The workshop brought together key thinkers to discuss sustainable intensification and more specifically its definition as well as the challenges facing it and the role of sustainable intensification in relation to environmental sustainability, animal welfare and human wellbeing.

The report concludes with a summary of the key insights from the workshop, summarised here:

  • Both words in the phrase sustainable intensification need to carry equal weight.
  • Sustainable intensification is one component within a whole strategy for the food system.
  • Sustainable food security requires actions on multiple fronts, both on the demand and supply sides.
  • Sustainable intensification is about optimising productivity and a range of environmental and possible other outcomes and should, therefore, be decoupled from specific production targets.
  • Sustainability needs to be viewed and measured over space and time in order to include the indirect effects and consequences of different policies that may impact on other regions and future generations.
  • Societies need to negotiate what outputs and outcomes from the system they want to intensify production of and to develop metrics that enable us to measure progress against targets.
  • Much can be done with existing knowledge but there is also a need for more research that takes a more systemic approach to food production.
  • More work is needed to translate this thinking into the development of metrics that are relevant to different stakeholders in different contexts, to assist them in implementing appropriate strategies.
  • It is necessary to decide whether sustainable intensification is most helpfully defined only in environmental terms, or whether it should specifically incorporate a broader range of social and ethical concerns.
  • There are major opportunities for improving environmental and productivity outputs simultaneously in agricultural systems with current low levels of production. However, trade-offs between yields and environmental outputs are more prevalent in high external input production systems.
  • More work is needed to ascertain what mix of policies is needed to transform thinking about sustainable intensification into practice.
  • While there is a need for more scientific knowledge, it must be recognised that values shape stakeholders’ different attitudes to the food system and their views on what the way forward should be.
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Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Dr. B. A. Usman's Blog and commented:
    “The workshop brought together key thinkers to discuss sustainable intensification and more specifically its definition as well as the challenges facing it and the role of sustainable intensification in relation to environmental sustainability, animal welfare and human wellbeing.” – Canwefeedtheworld

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