Stories tagged: Earthscan

Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture in Africa

The UK Foresight Food and Farming Futures report commissioned over 100 peer-reviewed evidence papers, which included 40 case studies illustrating how sustainable intensification is being practised in Africa. Now, these case studies have been made available in a special issue of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability.

Sustainable agricultural intensification means increasing agricultural production from the same area of land, while reducing environmental risks and improving the use of natural resources. These case studies are examples of how agricultural practices such as crop improvements, agroforestry and soil conservation, conservation agriculture, integrated pest management and horticulture are helping to create productive and sustainable agricultural systems in Africa.

Over the 40 case studies, the Foresight researchers found that these sustainable agriculture projects had offered benefits to 10.39 million farmers and their families, and doubled crop yields on about 12.75 million hectares of land.

The productivity outcomes from the case studies can be analysed by thematic focus, indicating where most potential lies:

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All the papers are available to access free online, but only for a couple of months. After that, the journal special issue is available to purchase from Earthscan.

The challenge now is to scale up those successful initiatives, policies and partnerships so that more people may benefit.

The synthesis report of these case studies can be found on the Foresight Project website.

Rice Biofortification: Lessons for Global Science and Development

A new study published by Earthscan analyses the current trends in rice biofortification research efforts and aims to encourage aPicture 2 more comprehensive approach that takes into account cultural, geographical and societal factors.

Biofortification is the enrichment of staple food crops with essential micronutrients and has been heralded as ‘a uniquely sustainable solution to the problem of micronutrient deficiency’ (Brooks). Nearly 2 billion people around the world are affected by micronutrient deficiency and, according to the World Health Organisation, it is the leading cause of death through disease in developing countries.

Rice provides 20% of the world’s dietary energy supply. Improving rice’s nutrient level could help boost nutrition levels for the large proportion of the global population who rely on it as their predominant staple crop.

In this report, the author Sally Brooks examines the international rice biofortification efforts taking place around the world, investigating the history of bridging the fields of agriculture, nutrition and health.

Brooks, a research officer at the STEPS centre, argues that increasing concerns over food security are pushing policymakers towards taking top-down approaches to science and research policy, which risks missing out on important factors associated with the specifics of the location.  Such ‘bottom-up’ factors involve the interactions between people and their environment.  She questions whether biofortification offers a ‘illuminating lens’ through which to question whether the future of development may follow this ‘silver bullet’ formula of ‘global science, public goods’.  In her conclusions, Brooks draws recommendations that might allow more diverse and context-responsive alternatives to emerge.

Climate Change Risks and Food Security in Bangladesh

In the last two decades, an ever-increasing frequency of floods, droughts and cyclones have caused extensive economic damage and have impaired livelihoods in Bangladesh. Agriculture, a key economic sector accounting for nearly 20 per cent of GDP and 65 per cent of the labour force, is greatly at risk. Adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change is a key sustainable development and food security issue in Bangladesh.

Projected as one of the countries to be most seriously affected by climate change, researchers have studied a range of climate risks to Bangladesh and identified adaptation measures in the agricultural sector using a comprehensive integrated framework.

The World Bank report, published by Earthscan, considers a range of climate factors, including warmer temperatures, higher carbon dioxide concentrations, changing characteristics of floods, drought and sea level rises, which are then examined according to the biophysical data specific to Bangladesh.

The research findings predict a much warmer and wetter future climate, in which sea level rises could significantly increase the area the is prone to flooding. Whilst the report examines how agriculture in Bangladesh is heavily dependent on the characteristics of the annual flood, it acknowledges that irregular floods of high magnitude can have disastrous effects.  Increased flows into the three major rivers in Bangladesh could stimulate a 10 percent increase in flooded areas by 2050.

Climate change is predicted to reduce rice production, Bangladesh’s main crop, and increase the country’s reliance on other crops and imported food grains. Crop production is potentially set to decline for at least one crop in each region. This simulated variability is projected to cost the agriculture sector US$26 billion in lost agricultural GDP during the 2005-50 period.

Overall, agricultural GDP in Bangladesh is projected to be 3.1 per cent lower each year as a result of climate change.

These risks will not only affect those in the agriculture sector, but all the way up the food chain to household consumption.

However, these production impacts ignore the economic responses that could be put into place to buffer against these physical losses.

The report concludes with adaptation options to climate change that incorporate methods to stimulate growth in the agricultural sector. As a comprehensive action plan, the recommendations cover improving crop productivity, supporting agricultural research and development, promoting education and skills development, increasing financial services, enhancing irrigation efficiency and water and land productivity, strengthening climate risk management and developing protective infrastructure.

On-farm opportunities, whereby farmers have improved access to modern rice varieties, irrigation facilities and fertilizers could help close the current gaps in actual and potential yields thereby offsetting climate change impacts.

Whilst the precise impact of climate change on developing countries remains to be seen, this report serves as a guide to other countries faced with similar challenges of securing food security.