The concept of Sustainable Agricultural Intensification is fast gaining ground, mostly in developed countries of Europe as well as North and South America, but rarely in developing countries of Africa and Asia. In simple terms, SAI – for short – refers to increasing agricultural productivity through the integration of technologies and farming systems while conserving biodiversities without interfering with ecological processes or laying bane on the environment.
This can be achieved through the practice of climate-smart agriculture, sustainable soil management practices, soilless agriculture, reducing crop losses, recycling of agricultural wastes, conducting research on best adaptable and sustainable farming systems as well as promoting policies that encourage its implementation. Sustainable agricultural intensification simply entails resource use efficiency that is, using less to achieve more.
Sustainable Agricultural Intensification in recent times has gone beyond environmental sustainability to encompass intensified agricultural production that is cognitive of the environment as well as poverty reduction and sustainable rural development by promoting social enterprises for inclusive economies and building self-sufficient cities.
The world’s population is growing at a rapid rate, but not its natural resources; arable lands across the globe are not increasing in land area, soils are neither increasing in nutrients nor the world’s farming population, due to increased urbanization. The crux stands that, the Green Revolution in the 1950’s which birthed an agricultural industrialization came with practices that supersede traditional farming methods, but have now failed to match the world’s growing population.
An implication of this would be that while global food demand is on the rise, efforts to intensify supply lag behind.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2017 reported that the world’s population is expected to increase from about 7billion to 10billion people by 2030 and that although agricultural production has tripled between 1960 and 2015 – at the expense of our natural environment – hunger and malnutrition still threatens many parts of the world especially developing countries of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
How then can the world’s population be sustainably fed in the bid to achieve food security through resilient agricultural practices devoid of environmental degradation?
Source: UN – The Economist
These are the economic and social aspects of Sustainable Agricultural Intensification which are summarily a combination of the targets of SDG’s 1, 2 and 15 (the achievement of No poverty, Zero Hunger and Life on Land respectively).
How Broad is the Concept of Sustainable Agricultural Intensification?
This concept is broad and quite interesting but like my Geography teacher in Secondary School would always say, “somebody may be tempted to ask a question”, and that question in this context would be whether or not the practise of SAI is in itself sustainable over time considering how imperative scaling up maybe, requiring an enabling environment from research funding to significant implementation.
Also in the realm of possibilities worth considering; just like the industrialization of agriculture brought about increased food production with negative effects on the environment, what would some of the SAI practices propound? Would the genetic modification of organisms for increased yield threaten existing biodiversities or result in the production of harmful foods like many often argue? Would farmers be willing to adopt improved farming systems deviant of their traditional farming methods? Or would governments be willing to develop and implement policies supportive of the ideology?
Streamlining the concept’s implementation within Nigeria’s current situation; continuous commitment to changing the perception of agriculture, provision of adequate finance to fund researches and dissemination of research findings to rural small-holder farmers, expansion of farms to untapped arable lands across the country, developing strategies that would link up farmers with available markets, avoidance of political interference as well as farmer-friendly and adaptable farming systems amongst others are factors to be considered in creating awareness on strategies for the sustainable intensification/upscale of agriculture overtime.