Soil, and what it means for human survival, hasn’t gotten this much attention since the 1970s and 1980s. But as soils return to the high tables of policymaker, who will be the winners? Fertiliser companies or smallholders? Land grabbers or the hungry?
If sustainable intensification is possible, one thing is clear: it requires investment. That investment may be in the form of new infrastructure, technologies, inputs, time, labor, or knowledge, but whatever the form there is a cost. The question is, who will bear it?
Sustainable intensification involves increasing yields, decreasing negative environmental impacts and increasing the provision of environmental services. Although this definition seems harmless, the term has become controversial in recent years.
Foreign direct investment in African agriculture could bring great benefits, but there are risks too. Nowhere is this more true than in sub-Saharan Africa where, for many, land ownership is still seen as the key to a secure income.
As with many the concepts, sustainable intensification suggests a simple shift in global mindset and behavior. But in actuality it is a contentious political process that requires many players across sectors to work together.
The term sustainable intensification can sound rather nebulous. Understanding what it means and whether it is practical or even achievable are difficult questions. I offer a few points for consideration to start off this debate with a focus on global agriculture.
The strain on agricultural resources will continue to rise in conjunction with food demand and population growth. Will sustainable intensification be the right answer we're looking for? Is it even feasible? Join the discussion.
What are we to make of the proliferation of water funds around the world? Now there’s a question. Would they still be growing in number if they weren’t delivering tangible impacts? Many interventions lack fundamental scientific principles to support them, so the answer in some cases may well be yes. Which is why it is vital that they get the science right.