6. Promote sustainable intensification of agriculture.
Increasing agriculture yields without increasing agriculture’s environmental footprint will be a priority risk mitigation opportunity for leaders globally in the next 50 years. Africa’s governments in particular will need to better manage for sustainable natural resource use and protection. Long-term food security will require action on the specific priorities of sustainable agricultural intensification and climate change preparedness, through enlightened decision-making and leadership at the country level.
Reduce the yield gap through improvements in smallholder performance.
While global agriculture yields will need to increase significantly to ensure food security, merely creating more food will not be adequate or desirable. Given the predicted population growth and increased aging and consumption,
global agricultural producers will need to produce more using fewer inputs and less land. Based on appreciation of the need to double efficiency of production over the coming decades to enhance nutrition and scale production with population growth, we specifically will need to ensure that Sub-Saharan Africa sustainably intensifies its use of arable land.
To do this, the worst agricultural performers must be helped to close the continuing yield gaps. By “moving the bottom,” the biggest reduction in environmental impacts will be achieved. Sustainable agriculture methods can be promoted through public and private sector commitments to transfer best practices from top producers to bottom producers. To increase food supplies through sustainable intensification, while limiting the amount of new land brought into agricultural use, strong emissions policies for agriculture will also need to be established. This will ensure that habitats and overall biodiversity are protected even as food security is achieved.
Photo credit: flickr@Mish Sukharev
Restore degraded agricultural land.
As governments plan for long-term food security, two key indicators at the nexus of climate change and food production must be assessed and managed: soil carbon and water resources. Data on both of these resources must be available in order to make decisions around agriculture practices like irrigation and cover crops.
These resources will also be needed to restore lands degraded by agriculture, a strategy required to expand agriculture production without destroying wild lands. Intentional policies for natural resource conservation must be developed at the local and regional levels to ensure continued economic growth and food security, specifically focused on developing sustainable water use practices (for both rain-fed and irrigation agriculture) and soil conservation.
New tools are in development that will empower leaders to better monitor, prevent, and mitigate the effects of such natural resource impacts. According to the World Resources Institute, improving 25% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s land and water management on its 300 million hectares of prime cropland could result in an additional 22 million tons of food.
Photo credit: flickr@Jonathan Parrish
Reduce food loss and waste.
There is broad consensus across food security agencies and NGOs that addressing food waste on the global level must be a part of long-term food security planning. Each year, 32% of the food produced by the world is lost or wasted, equivalent to 28% of the world’s agriculture land. 65% of that wasted food is lost at the pre-consumer level.
To make tangible progress on this issue, specific approaches to addressing food loss should be promoted, rather than a broad concept of reducing food loss. The following strategies should be implemented by leaders at the country level to increase farmer income and food availability:
Disseminating knowledge to farmers around improved harvest and storage facilities for crops;
Reusing food no longer fit for human consumption as livestock feed;
Increasing the use of pasteurization and other food preservation techniques; and
Making public investments in improved infrastructure, particularly roads that connect smallholder farmers to high-demand markets, and other infrastructure needed to store and distribute food.
Photo credit: flickr@Stephen Rees