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Practical solutions to food insecurity

Sustainable intensification aims to reconcile food production and environmental protection (© Neil Palmer (CIAT))
Sustainable intensification aims to reconcile food production and environmental protection
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)

In May 2013, the Montpellier Panel (a panel of international experts from the fields of agriculture, sustainable development, trade, policy and global development), launched a new report highlighting the importance of sustainable intensification as a means to transform smallholder agriculture in Africa. The report, Sustainable Intensification: A New Paradigm for African Agriculture, seeks to revisit the concept of sustainable intensification, a term that has proved contentious with academics and practitioners alike, and is often seen as a byword for big, industrial agriculture.

The report defines sustainable intensification as "the goal of producing more food with less impact on the environment, and intensifying food production while ensuring the natural resource base on which agriculture depends is sustained, and indeed improved, for future generations." It goes on to outline examples of sustainable intensification in a number of contexts, ecological, genetic and socio-economic.

Intercropping and use of fertiliser trees are cited as examples of ecological intensification. Genetic intensification is the concentration of beneficial genes within crop varieties and livestock breeds. The report cites Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) as one example. Socio-economic intensification involves developing innovative and sustainable institutions centred on farmers, such as village level grain banks. The Panel, which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, believes such approaches offer a practical way for smallholder African farmers to tackle food insecurity.

Date published: June 2013

 

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