Economist Intelligence Unit

We must consider trade offs: IWMI/WLE in Economist's Fixing Food 2018 report

Changes to farming systems require managing trade-offs—many of which have not yet been considered, according to IWMI/WLE senior researcher Soumya Balasubramanya in the new Economist report Fixing food 2018: best practices towards the sustainable development goals.

Interviewed for her insights into environmental and development economics, Balasubramanya points out the example of solar power. It can transform livelihoods for smallholder farmers by providing free electricity, which enables them to tap into groundwater for irrigation. “There’s been a huge expansion in solar irrigation, especially in India. But there’s a trade-off. In the longer term, you’re going to have a problem of groundwater depletion.”

Finding the right solutions, according to Balasubramanya, means taking an integrated approach that looks beyond, for example, how to irrigate a field to the overall management of water in agriculture. Trade-offs and systems must be considered.

This report investigates best practices in food sustainability across the world. It uses the three pillars—sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges, and food loss and waste—of the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) as a framework. Now in its third iteration, the FSI has been extended to 67 countries in 2018.

Download the full paper here (PDF).