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Save and Grow – Producing food sustainably

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) observed World Water Day (WWD) this Thursday, March 22 with a focus on theme for 2012: Water and Food Security.

The need to feed a growing population places constant pressure on crop production and water supply, as does coping with an increasingly degraded environment and uncertainties resulting from climate change.

Sustainable crop production intensification (SCPI) is being promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as an intervention that has a high potential for success.

SCPI optimizes crop production per unit area, taking into account sustainability aspects (potential and/or real social, political, economic and environmental impacts). Recent trends indicate that using scientific principles of ecosystem management for farming practices can increase yield. Focusing on environmental sustainability through an ecosystem approach, SCPI aims to maximize options to intensify crop production through effective management of biodiversity and ecosystems.

Florita Kentish

Indeed, under the SCPI initiative, FAO’s Sub-Regional Office, in Barbados recently commissioned a Baseline Study on Existing Sustainable Practices, Models and Technologies used by farmers in Barbados and six countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Water management featured very prominently. The report on the study is shortly to be presented to stakeholders in the region to determine interventions that could be tested in pilot projects.

Producing more food, sustainably

Recently, FAO launched a major initiative – Save and Grow – designed to intensify crop and food production in an environmentally sustainable manner.  This approach targets mainly smallholder farmers in developing countries, helping low-income farm families economize on the cost of production and building healthy agro-ecosystems, enabling them to maximize yields and invest the savings in their health and education.

FAO has produced a Save and Grow Policymaker’s Guide which covers:

The challenge To feed a growing world population, we have no option but to intensify crop production. But farmers face unprecedented constraints. In order to grow, agriculture must learn to save
Farming systems Crop production intensification will be built on farming systems that offer a range of productivity, socio-economic and environmental benefits to producers and to society at large
Soil health Agriculture must, literally, return to its roots by rediscovering the importance of healthy soil, drawing on natural sources of plant nutrition, and using mineral fertilizer wisely
Crops and varieties Farmers will need a genetically diverse portfolio of improved crop varieties that are suited to a range of agro-ecosystems and farming practices, and resilient to climate change
Water management Sustainable intensification requires smarter, precision technologies for irrigation and farming practices that use ecosystem approaches to conserve water
Plant protection Pesticides kill pests, but also pests’ natural enemies; and their overuse can harm farmers, consumers and the environment. The first line of defense is a healthy agro-ecosystem
Policies and institutions To encourage smallholders to adopt sustainable crop production intensification, fundamental changes are needed in agricultural development policies and institutions

www.fao.org/ag/save-and-grow/

In terms of water management, sustainable agriculture on irrigated (and rain-fed) land involves trade-offs in land use, water sharing, and the maintenance of supporting ecosystem services. These trade-offs are becoming more complex and have significant social, economic and political importance.

Innovative water approaches required

Plastic mulch is being used in cauliflower crops to conserve water (prevent evaporation) as well as prevent the growth of weeds

Looking ahead, water management in agriculture will need to cope with less water per hectare of land and will have to internalize the cost of pollution from agricultural land. Competing demands for water from other sectors will continue to grow.

Policymakers are encouraged to implement incentives that focus on critical environmental issues, while leveraging individual farmer’s profits. These will have a greater chance of success. For example, where agrochemical pollution of rivers and aquatic ecosystems has reached crisis point, a ban on dangerous chemicals could be accompanied by measures to raise fertilizer prices, provide farmers with objective advice on dosage rates, and remove incentives to apply fertilizer excessively. Follow-up measures might promote management at “required or recommended” levels, and seek alternative approaches to higher productivity with more modest use of external inputs. In that case, more public investment would be needed to improve the monitoring of ecosystem conditions.

Regulatory measures and effective compliance

In the future, fertigation (fertilizer application via irrigation) technology (including use of liquid fertilizers), deficit irrigation and wastewater-reuse will be better integrated within irrigation systems. While the introduction of a new technology into irrigated cropping systems has high entry costs and requires institutional support, the use of precision irrigation is now global. Farmers in developing countries are already adopting low-head drip kits for niche markets, such as horticulture.

In addition, the availability of cheap, plastic-moulded products and plastic sheeting for plasticulture is likely to expand. However, the broad-scale adoption of alternatives, including solar technologies or the avoidance of polluting technologies, will need the support of regulatory measures and effective policing to ensure compliance.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) observed World Water Day (WWD) this Thursday, March 22 with a focus on theme for 2012: Water and Food Security.

The need to feed a growing population places constant pressure on crop production and water supply, as does coping with an increasingly degraded environment and uncertainties resulting from climate change.

Sustainable crop production intensification (SCPI) is being promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as an intervention that has a high potential for success.

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SCPI optimizes crop production per unit area, taking into account sustainability aspects (potential and/or real social, political, economic and environmental impacts). Recent trends indicate that using scientific principles of ecosystem management for farming practices can increase yield. Focusing on environmental sustainability through an ecosystem approach, SCPI aims to maximize options to intensify crop production through effective management of biodiversity and ecosystems.

Florita Kentish

Indeed, under the SCPI initiative, FAO’s Sub-Regional Office, in Barbados recently commissioned a Baseline Study on Existing Sustainable Practices, Models and Technologies used by farmers in Barbados and six countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Water management featured very prominently. The report on the study is shortly to be presented to stakeholders in the region to determine interventions that could be tested in pilot projects.

Producing more food, sustainably

Recently, FAO launched a major initiative – Save and Grow – designed to intensify crop and food production in an environmentally sustainable manner.  This approach targets mainly smallholder farmers in developing countries, helping low-income farm families economize on the cost of production and building healthy agro-ecosystems, enabling them to maximize yields and invest the savings in their health and education.

FAO has produced a Save and Grow Policymaker’s Guide which covers:

The challenge To feed a growing world population, we have no option but to intensify crop production. But farmers face unprecedented constraints. In order to grow, agriculture must learn to save
Farming systems Crop production intensification will be built on farming systems that offer a range of productivity, socio-economic and environmental benefits to producers and to society at large
Soil health Agriculture must, literally, return to its roots by rediscovering the importance of healthy soil, drawing on natural sources of plant nutrition, and using mineral fertilizer wisely
Crops and varieties Farmers will need a genetically diverse portfolio of improved crop varieties that are suited to a range of agro-ecosystems and farming practices, and resilient to climate change
Water management Sustainable intensification requires smarter, precision technologies for irrigation and farming practices that use ecosystem approaches to conserve water
Plant protection Pesticides kill pests, but also pests’ natural enemies; and their overuse can harm farmers, consumers and the environment. The first line of defense is a healthy agro-ecosystem
Policies and institutions To encourage smallholders to adopt sustainable crop production intensification, fundamental changes are needed in agricultural development policies and institutions

www.fao.org/ag/save-and-grow/

In terms of water management, sustainable agriculture on irrigated (and rain-fed) land involves trade-offs in land use, water sharing, and the maintenance of supporting ecosystem services. These trade-offs are becoming more complex and have significant social, economic and political importance.

Innovative water approaches required

Plastic mulch is being used in cauliflower crops to conserve water (prevent evaporation) as well as prevent the growth of weeds

Looking ahead, water management in agriculture will need to cope with less water per hectare of land and will have to internalize the cost of pollution from agricultural land. Competing demands for water from other sectors will continue to grow.

Policymakers are encouraged to implement incentives that focus on critical environmental issues, while leveraging individual farmer’s profits. These will have a greater chance of success. For example, where agrochemical pollution of rivers and aquatic ecosystems has reached crisis point, a ban on dangerous chemicals could be accompanied by measures to raise fertilizer prices, provide farmers with objective advice on dosage rates, and remove incentives to apply fertilizer excessively. Follow-up measures might promote management at “required or recommended” levels, and seek alternative approaches to higher productivity with more modest use of external inputs. In that case, more public investment would be needed to improve the monitoring of ecosystem conditions.

Regulatory measures and effective compliance

In the future, fertigation (fertilizer application via irrigation) technology (including use of liquid fertilizers), deficit irrigation and wastewater-reuse will be better integrated within irrigation systems. While the introduction of a new technology into irrigated cropping systems has high entry costs and requires institutional support, the use of precision irrigation is now global. Farmers in developing countries are already adopting low-head drip kits for niche markets, such as horticulture.

In addition, the availability of cheap, plastic-moulded products and plastic sheeting for plasticulture is likely to expand. However, the broad-scale adoption of alternatives, including solar technologies or the avoidance of polluting technologies, will need the support of regulatory measures and effective policing to ensure compliance.