Maximizing agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner

Climate & Natural resources,Food Security21 Dec 2010Dave Gustafson

Key findings when reflecting on the The Hague conference:

  • Increases in global crop yields from 1961-2005 resulted in avoided greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of up to 161 Gigatonnes Carbon, equaling one third of all human GHG emissions since 1850.
  • Intensification of crop production has sometimes come in a manner which threatens watersheds, biodiversity, and the economic well-being of farmers.
  • The world’s farmers are under increasing climatic and other environmental stresses to produce food, feed, fuel, and fiber, while efficiently managing Carbon, Nitrogen, and H2O cycles.
  • Farmers of the developing world require more and better information on Climate Smart practices and access to capital in order to meet increasing productivity needs.
  • Funding is required for farmers of the developing world, disproportionately women, to facilitate sustainable adoption of new Climate Smart agricultural practices and systems.

Accordingly, several actions should be taken in order to maximize agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner. If implemented, the actions listed below would simultaneously meet the objectives of improving agricultural practices, enhancing food security, adapting to climate change, and helping meet the urgent global imperative to curb future GHG emissions.

  • All national agricultural policy actions should be subjected to certified, consequential Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), accounting for all important sustainability factors, including GHG emissions, watershed protection, preservation of biodiversity, and the economic well-being of farmers and their communities.
  • Agricultural productivity should be maximized on existing lands in a sustainable manner, with significant financial penalties imposed for any national policies that:
    • expand the area under agricultural production within a nation through deforestation or other carbon-releasing land use change;
    • support agricultural practices which have been objectively demonstrated as unsustainable according to certified LCA; or
    • prohibit the adoption of higher productivity agricultural systems that have been found sustainable according to certified LCA.
  • All funds collected through the above mechanism should be used to develop and implement Climate Smart practices among farmers in the developing world.
  • All growers should be allowed to participate in Carbon markets, and explicitly credited for sustainable yield gains, which result in major avoidance of GHG emissions.