Edited by Guy M. Robinson and Doris A. Carson
Chapter 5: Meeting the food security challenge through sustainable intensification
One emerging challenge facing global agriculture is to provide a secure supply of food to increasing numbers of affluent people. Yet the response remains constrained by limited arable land and a technology that supports unsustainable agricultural practices. In this context the notion of sustainable agricultural intensification has been suggested as a strategy for increasing crop yields and sustainably delivering a secure supply of food. The chapter reviews the concept of sustainable intensification by considering both alternative views of sustainability and alternative measures of intensification. Two distinct strategies are possible: a strategy based on increasing yields using novel varieties and production processes, and a strategy based on increasing yields by increasing non-biological inputs accompanied by conservation investments that compensate for ensuing ecological damage. This latter is illustrated using a stylised model of farmer decisions in which increasing input use and ecological services jointly contribute to food production, and ecological degradation is balanced by induced conservation. In this setting we suggest that sustainable intensification can be promoted through voluntary implementation motivated by ecosystem service benefits for agriculture. We also consider policies that directly encourage ecosystem conservation, and how government interventions can avoid ‘crowding out’ voluntary implementation.
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