With over two-thirds of the earth’s land surfaced being used for agricultural production, there is no human activity today which puts more pressure on natural resources.
This scidevnet article, reporting from last year’s summit of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification conference in Windhoek, Namibia establishes that it is not only ecologically responsible to promote sustainable agricultural practices, but it could also bring financial gains. Over US $1.4 trillion in agricultural production could be at stake if better practices are implemented in areas where land is currently becoming degraded and less fertile.
Today’s recognition of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought draws our attention to the importance of protecting natural resources through sustainable agricultural practices, meanwhile building resilience of smallholder farmers to unpredictable conditions.
While desertification is often viewed as a natural process, intensified agricultural practices like expanding tillage areas and vast removal of indigenous vegetation are two factors which could have exacerbated desertification.
What are these sustainable agricultural practices which could provide viable solutions? It is easier said than done to balance the need to support a population of 9 billion people by 2050 – requiring an estimated 70% increase in food production with the foresight to protect natural resources like arable land and climate stabilizing vegetation.
One answer available today is Integrated Crop Management (ICM), increasingly required as a standard for agricultural production. This scientific approach to sustainable agriculture considers the situation across the whole agricultural system. It enables economically viable farming that integrates the needs of the environment and suits the local soil, landscape and climate. Ensuring food safety, and the safety of the community, ICM considers the ecological and socio-economic factors behind decision-making. By integrating local knowledge and applying new research and technology, this approach delivers sustainable agricultural production which can also safeguard the planet’s natural resources for the future.
CABI is one organization working on projects around the world to embed practical, sustainable agricultural practices into the daily lives of smallholder farmers, in addition to promoting policies which outline these practices for governments. Training from Plantwise to national partners and plant doctors in over 30 countries worldwide uses Integrated Crop Management as its cornerstone to provide advice to farmers to sustainably increase yields, increase profits and reduce poverty.
Sharing the benefits of ICM with tomorrow’s agricultural development leaders is the responsibility of CABI and other organizations with decades of expertise in the field. A new Master’s in Advanced Studies programme in ICM offered by CABI and the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland will also provide agricultural professionals specific training in sustainable agriculture so they may both research and find practical solutions to problems like land degradation back home.