Challenge 2: Agricultural productivity and ecosystem functions
An increased agricultural productivity to meet a growing food demand and for improving income for smallholders is desired in the agricultural sector. This has to happen while securing the well-needed functions and services from ecosystems. Navigating between these two requirements is the essence of this challenge, that targets practitioners and policy stakeholder by supporting dialog with scientists.
This AgriFoSe2030 challenge has its starting point in the dependence on well-functioning ecosystem services as a basis for sustainably increasing agricultural productivity. Relevant ecosystem services include water regulation, reliable climate systems, soil productivity, and a diversity of species. Farming in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), South and South-East Asia is still low yielding in many places, particularly in SSA.
Farming often suffers from inadequate management and poor practices leading to land degradation and reduction in ecosystem capacity, which in turn lowers the ability to generate sustainable yields and adapt to climate change. Hence, the challenge is to increase agricultural productivity sustainably to meet demands from a rapidly growing population, while simultaneously maintaining natural ecosystems and adapting farming systems to declining arable land and aggravated climate change. Regardless of temporal or geographical scales or of formal or informal manners of practices, any type of governance over these systems demands certain trade-offs.
Furthermore, at the farm level a smallholder farmers’ need for higher yields and safe water is challenged by changing climatic patterns and decreased soil fertility. This AgriFoSe2030 challenge is focusing on the hurdles, potentials and options for smallholders to improve their incomes and increase their farm productivity and to do so sustainably without degrading the natural capital. Some of these options may include adjusting production for more diversified diets, improved agronomic techniques, empowered individuals and communities, incentives for ecosystem management, secured land ownership and improved access to ecosystem services, markets and value chains.