Rebalancing our food production systems: Sustainable Intensification through water, land and ecosystems lens


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We need a shift from our current paradigm of productivity enhancement while reducing environmental impacts, to a paradigm where sustainability constitutes the entry point for all agricultural development. Case studies include aphids for pest control in China and conservation agriculture in Colombia. Presented by Dr Andrew Noble, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems at World Water Week 2013 in Stockholm

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  • It is clear from a global perspective that growth along current trajectories using today’s technologies is bound to fail. It would exceed planetary boundaries that ensure stability in our food production systems and lead to environmental degradation that will stop growth and even threaten major reversals of living standards through pollution, deforestation, water scarcity, famines, floods, displacement, and collapsing agricultural productivity.
  • Wicked Problems are difficult to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to reconciles and whose solution requires a great number of people to change their mindsets and behavior. Most often, technical solutions have proven ineffective because the solution requires a more integrated social approach which is often political in nature and requires flexible consultative processes that develop collective understanding and responses.
  • Urbanization is changing traditional flows of food and resources: Cities are becoming vast nutrient sinks while exploiting soils in farming areas.Cities transform high-quality water into low-quality water affecting human and environmental health.These challenges can be opportunities:Wastewater, organic municipal waste, faecal sludge, urine, agro-industrial waste, food processing waste = Water, fertilizer, energy= Assets !This program takesthese challenges seriously looking at related opportunities.
  • RRR initiatives to close nutrient cycle loop;Donor investment in understanding aspects of wastewater reuse – wastewater reuse in MENA regionRecovery of nutrients from MSW, FS, etc. for use in agriculture – compost production in West AfricaRecovery of energy from agro-industrial waste (animal waste) – biogas production from slaughterhouse waste in East Africa
  • Urine to (struvite) fertilizer is an example where technical knowledge is significant but additional research to move it to commercialization needed.
  • In our approach to realize development outcomes (see section below on ‘Deliverables’), we combine Impact Research and Innovative PartnershipsTheory of Change based on:Expressed demand for innovative business approaches to address our waste challenges; Innovative business approach aiming at scalable business models that attract private capital, support PPPs and address public safety concerns.Strategic partnerships at different levels (national authorities and international institutions via guidelines, capacity building and investment plans e.g. WSP, WHO, FAO, USAID.
  • SANDEC-Eawag: Department of Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries - Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and TechnologySwiss Tropical and Public Health Institute International centre for water management services Partnerships with business schools, private and public sectors, directed at learning with and for entrepreneurs. Interlinkages with professional networks, such as the International Water Association and the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance, to steer the development and distribution of best practices and business models.
  • Rebalancing our food production systems: Sustainable Intensification through water, land and ecosystems lens

    1. 1. Rebalancing our food production systems: Sustainable Intensification through water, land and ecosystems lens. Andrew Noble, Director WLE.
    2. 2. Who feeds the world?
    3. 3. We have exceeded three of the nine Planetary boundaries – danger of greater risks and uncertainty emerging. Agriculture is the dominant contributing factor and the solution.
    4. 4. The challenges facing our global food production systems Food security . . . Exploitation of resources . . .
    5. 5. Wicked problems: Success is possible NRM Technology Cultural norms Empowerment
    6. 6. The paradigm shift that WLE seeks A shift from our current paradigm of productivity enhancement while reducing environmental impacts, to a paradigm where sustainability constitutes the entry point for all agricultural development.
    7. 7. Sustainable intensification 1.Ensure the efficient use of resources. 2.Restore the productive capacity of degraded systems. 3.Reduce risk and uncertainty within rainfed and irrigated landscapes.
    8. 8. 4. Variability management 3. Addressing degradation 1. Eastern Gangetic Plains 2. Business models
    9. 9. Case 1: Land use diversity makes economic sense in the control of aphids in cotton – north China Plains. • Aphids are a significant issue in cotton production in the north China plains. • Farmers have resorted to pesticides to control aphids that have a significant impact on costs and non-target beneficial insects. • Ladybeetles are natural predators of aphids.
    10. 10. What did the study show? • High land use diversity itself not associated with high ladybeetle density in cotton. • Higher land use share under maize rotated with wheat associated with greater ladybeetle densities in cotton due to the low use of pesticides (maize) and good habitat for ladybeetles (wheat).
    11. 11. Economic value of ladybeetles • Marginal value of 1 ladybeetle/100 plants (or 540 heads/ha) = (Reduced insecticide cost + Reduced labor cost for insecticide control + Value of yield saving) = $4.97/ha • Marginal “benefit” of one additional kg of insecticide (= Cost of insecticide - Value of yield saving + Lost value of ladybeetles) = -$11.05/ha
    12. 12. Benefit sharing mechanisms in the Andes Fuquene, Colombia S Annual net income: US$ 2,183/ha Annual net income: US$ 1,870/ha Conservation agriculture and paramo restoration supported by revolving fund Revolving fund credit: +180 farmers /year Potato cropping, grazing pressure, degradation of paramo
    13. 13. What if wastes and used water could have a second life in agriculture and the renaissance is actually safe and viable?
    14. 14. Agro-industrial waste - Energy Wastewater – Water (irrigation, aquaculture) MSW, Faecal sludge - Nutrients (ag. production) Innovative RRR initiatives – to close water and nutrient cycles
    15. 15. Reuse is not new . . . • Technical knowledge is largely available. • But hardly any project can recover costs or survives its subsidized pilot stage. • RRR brings a paradigm shift into the sanitation-agriculture interface by studying and testing Business Models for RRR with due consideration of safety aspects and cultural perceptions.
    16. 16. Solutions  Applying a business perspective to the recovery of nutrients, water and energy from domestic and agro- industrial waste streams.  Analyzing existing successes across low-income countries for their set-up, history and business models.  Testing most promising business models for replication and economic feasibility for city investment plans at largest possible scale.  Addressing health concerns through the development of Sanitation Safety Plans with WHO.
    17. 17. Partnerships • Technical expertise: • Health risk mitigation: • Business school curricula development: • National partners: NARS, Min. Of Health, Private sector, ... • Donors:
    18. 18. Concluding Remark Photo:AkicaBahri/IWMI • At the core of a new paradigm lies the ability to adopt and develop agricultural systems that integrate water, land and ecosystems in ways that build resilient, productive and sustainable wellbeing for human societies. • This will in part entail correcting the wrongs of the past associated with an unsustainable agricultural food production system.
    19. 19. Visit our website and the Agriculture & Ecosystem Blog