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Agriculture & Development

6. How can agriculture make better use of natural resources?

    The Executive Summary of the IAASTD Synthesis Report states:

    Natural resources need to be used sustainably

    Natural resources need to be used sustainably
    © Millennium Assessment

    Natural resource management

    6.1 Natural resources, especially those of soil, water, plant and animal diversity, vegetation cover, renewable energy sources, climate, and ecosystem services are fundamental for the structure and function of agricultural systems and for social and environmental sustainability, in support of life on earth. Historically the path of global agricultural development has been narrowly focused on increased productivity rather than on a more holistic integration of NRM [Natural Resource Management] with food and nutritional security. A holistic, or systems-oriented approach, is preferable because it can address the difficult issues associated with the complexity of food and other production systems in different ecologies, locations and cultures.

    AKST [Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology] to resolve NRM exploitation issues, such as the mitigation of soil fertility through synthetic inputs and natural processes, is often available and well understood. Nevertheless, the resolution of natural resource challenges will demand new and creative approaches by stakeholders with diverse backgrounds, skills and priorities. Capabilities for working together at multiple scales and across different social and physical environments are not well developed. For example, there have been few opportunities for two-way learning between farmers and researchers or policy makers. Consequently farmers and civil society members have seldom been involved in shaping natural resource management policy. Community-based partnerships with the private sector, now in their early stages of development, represent a new and promising way forward.

    The following high priority NRM options for action are proposed:

    • 6.2 Use existing AKST to identify and address some of the underlying causes of declining productivity embedded in natural resource mismanagement, and develop new AKST based on multidisciplinary approaches for a better understanding of the complexity in NRM. Part of this process will involve the cost-effective monitoring of trends in the utilization of natural resource capital.
    • 6.3 Strengthen human resources in the support of natural capital through increased investment (research, training and education, partnerships, policy) in promoting the awareness of the societal costs of degradation and value of ecosystems services.
    • 6.4 Promote research “centers of AKST-NRM excellence” to facilitate less exploitative NRM and better strategies for resource resilience, protection and renewal through innovative two-way learning processes in research and development, monitoring and policy formulation.
    • 6.5 Create an enabling environment for building NRM capacity and increasing understanding of NRM among stakeholders and their organizations in order to shape NRM policy in partnership with public and private sectors.
    • 6.6 Develop networks of AKST practitioners (farmer organizations, NGOs, government, private sector) to facilitate long-term natural resource management to enhance benefits from natural resources for the collective good.
    • 6.7 Connect globalization and localization pathways that link locally generated NRM knowledge and innovations to public and private AKST.

    6.8 When AKST is developed and used creatively with active participation among various stakeholders across multiple scales, the misuse of natural capital can be reversed and the judicious use and renewal of water bodies, soils, biodiversity, ecosystems services, fossil fuels and atmospheric quality ensured for future generations.

    Footnote: Capture fisheries and forestry have not been as well covered as other aspects of NRM

    Source & ©: IAASTD  Executive Summary of the Synthesis Report (April 2008), p. 17-19


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