Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The New Green Revolution: How Twenty-First-Century Science Can Feed the World

The combined effects of climate change, energy scarcity, and water paucity require that we radically rethink our agricultural systems. Countries can and must reorient their agricultural systems toward modes of production that are not only highly productive, but also highly sustainable. Following the 2008 global food price crisis, many developing countries have adopted new food security policies and have made significant investments in their agricultural systems. Global hunger is also back on top of the international agenda. However, the question is not only how much is done, but also how it is done—and what kinds of food systems are now being rebuilt.

Agroecology, the application of ecological science to the study, design, and management of sustainable agriculture, offers a model of agricultural development to meet this challenge. Recent research demonstrates that it holds great promise for the roughly 500 million food-insecure households around the world. By scaling up its practice, we can sustainably improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, and thus contribute to feeding a hungry planet. 

  • There are roughly 925 million hungry people on the planet. Many of them are smallholder farmers or farm laborers.
  • With many governments poised for a large-scale reinvestment in agriculture, the question is not only how much, but how.
  • Agroecology—the effort to mimic ecological processes in agriculture—could provide a framework for this reinvestment. Already, agroecological practices are being used around the world, increasing productivity and improving efficiency in the use of water, soil, and sunlight.
  • But before agroecological practices can be scaled up globally, we must assess the market and political obstacles that stand in their way. Here, we present six principles that could help us overcome these obstacles.
  • Our “farmers-in-chief”—heads of states—can make the new paradigm on agriculture, food, and hunger a reality.