Posts Tagged ‘Agroecosystems’


UNEP and IWMI Advocate Agroecosystems to Improve Food, Water Security

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By Dana Drugmand 

With the world population already at 7 billion, producing food in environmentally sustainable ways will be one of the key challenges we face this century. Investing in the connections between ecosystems, water management and food production will be an important part of the solution to reducing hunger, poverty, and ecological degradation, according to a report produced jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

Maintaining ecosystem services will be critical to ensuring long-term food security, according to the report from UNEP and IWMI. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

An Ecosystems Services Approach to Water and Food Security, which was launched during World Water Week in Stockholm back in August, addresses the question of how it is possible to boost food security without severely depleting water resources and while keeping healthy ecosystems intact. The report notes that water scarcity is one of the key factors limiting food production. At the same time, current agricultural practices are putting huge strains on water resources. Groundwater levels, for example, are declining rapidly in major food producing regions such as the North China Plains, the Indian Punjab, and the western United States.

As UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner writes in the report’s preface, “ensuring food security, managing water resources and protecting ecosystems must be considered as a single policy rather than as separate, and sometimes competing, choices.” The report recommends managing agricultural areas as agroecosystems, which provide ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, soil formation, water purification and flood control that are critical to ensuring a sustainable and stable food supply. Measures such as diversifying crop production, implementing agroforestry, and improving rainwater collection should boost crop yields and build resilience to make agriculture less vulnerable to climate change. The report also offers specific recommendations for a more holistic approach to managing drylands, wetlands, crop systems, fisheries, and livestock systems. And maintaining ecosystem services in agroecosystems will require collaboration among multiple sectors, including agriculture, water, forestry, fisheries, livestock and wildlife management.



New UN Report Illustrates the Potential of Agroecology to Feed the Hungry

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By Evelyn Drawec

Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and the author of the foreword for State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, is calling for some new thinking—and action—regarding world hunger. In his new report, Agroecology and the Right to Food, De Schutter argues that agroecology is the best strategy for tackling hunger.


De Schutter argues that agroecology is the best strategy for tackling hunger. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The twenty-one page report details agroecology’s ability to provide food for the world’s hungry, outlining policy recommendations that nations can implement in order to help shift their agriculture systems to more sustainable methods.  According to De Schutter, agroecological methods will be increasingly important as climate change takes a bigger hold on sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the developing world. “Agroecology also contributes to mitigating climate change, both by increasing carbon sinks in soil organic matter and above-ground biomass, and by avoiding carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions from farms by reducing direct and indirect energy use,” says De Schutter.

De Schutter also calls for incorporating individual small-scale farmers into the policy process as a way to disseminate their knowledge and help lift them out of poverty. As illustrated by De Schutter, “We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.”

Evelyn Drawec is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.