Putting nature back into agriculture
Save and Grow farming model launched by FAO
13 June 2011, Rome - FAO today announced the launch of a major new initiative intended to produce more food for a growing world population in an environmentally sustainable way.
FAO's call for sustainable crop production intensification, more than half a century after the Green Revolution of the 1960s, is contained in a new book, Save and Grow published by FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division.
Green Revolution technology saved an estimated one billion people from famine and produced more than enough food for a world population that doubled from three to six billion between 1960 and 2000.
The Save and Grow approach draws partly on conservation agriculture (CA) techniques which do away with or minimize ploughing and tilling, thus preserving soil structure and health. Plant residues provide cover over fields and cereals cultivation is rotated with soil-enriching legumes.
Integrated pest management, whose techniques discourage the development of pest populations and minimizes the need for pesticides, is yet another key element.
Such methods help adapt crops to climate change and not only help grow more food but also contribute to reducing crops' water needs by 30 percent and energy costs by up to 60 percent. In some cases crop yields can be increased six-fold, as shown by trials with maize held recently in southern Africa. Average yields from farms practicing the techniques in 57 low-income countries increased almost 80 percent, according to one review.
The approach builds on lessons learned from the Green Revolution of the 1960s which focused on raising crop production without much attention to the environment.
To feed a world population projected at 9.2 billion in 2050, which involves meeting double the demand for food in developing countries, there is no option but to further intensify crop production. To eradicate hunger and meet demand by 2050, food production needs to increase by 70% in the world and 100% in developing countries.
The key to meeting the challenge lies in sustainable crop production intensification, or Save and Grow. But this will involve a shift from a homogeneous model of crop production to farming systems that are knowledge-intensive and adapted to specific locations.
Policymakers must provide incentives for adoption of the new model such as rewarding good management of ecosystems. The key is boosting agricultural investment. Developed countries should increase the share of agriculture in official development assistance to the developing world. Developing countries themselves should allocate a larger part of their national budgets to the agriculture sector. And domestic and foreign private investments need to be increased.
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