Amir Kassam, visiting professor, University of Reading, UK and moderator, FAO community of practice on Conservation Agriculture, discusses sustainable intensification in the context of the growth and adoption of conservation agriculture across several regions and the new challenges for science and policy in the 21st century. Oluwatoyin Dare Kolawole, University of Botswana, addresses sustainable intensification from the perspectives of the diversity of African soils, indigenous knowledge, formal science and the implications for smallholder farming systems. Kolawole argues for more data on the extent to which farmers’ knowledge is incorporated in developing strategies for addressing sustainable intensification.
There is no doubt, that the science and policy communities face a mammoth challenge in determining the future priorities and options for intensifying production systems under divergent and changing ecological systems, varying social and political contexts and unequal capacities. We acknowledge the complexities and the need for multi-pronged, inter and pluri-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approaches. However, the perceived high investments and transaction costs in terms of resources and time and with the possibility of failure, sometimes lead to inaction or resistance to change. Yet, we do not have a choice. We must continue the relentless pursuit of new knowledge in a more coherent manner to address today’s challenges and avoid paying lip service to the process.
The articles featured in the e-newsletter should cause the science and academic communities to reflect on what research is being done to provide guidance to governments, farmers and the wider agricultural and food stakeholder community on what should be the future priorities for science, research, education, entrepreneurship and policy. In Sonka’s article on “Innovations in Measurement..”, it is noted that cost/benefit ratio has not justified widespread collection of data on postharvest losses, and capitalizing on the use of new technologies especially ICTs e.g. mobile phones, is recommended. The research findings by the International Institute for Applied Systems analysis, confirm that small size technologies with high turnover rates have the highest diffusion rates. Darbas of CSIRO, argues for being more critical and having more realistic approaches to the potential contribution of value chain approaches and innovation platforms in the agricultural development discourse. Perhaps, we should consider adopting the approach of PROVIA, the global initiative of UNEP, UNESCO and WMO which has developed research priorities that reflect a balance between research “supply” from experts and research “demand” from policy/decision makers. The needs of the wider society, including farmers, for ST&I for addressing societal challenges including food security and climate change, should also be considered.
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