Food production efficiency needs to double in order to feed a growing global population using only currently available land, while protecting our living environment and conserving natural and agricultural biodiversity. Sustainable agricultural intensification provides the means to do this with limited available resources.
This ambition is highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goals; SDG 15, Life on Land, which aims to sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and review land degradation and halt biodiversity loss; and SDG2 Zero hunger which seeks to ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, help maintain ecosystems, strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality and maintain genetic diversity.
Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (SAI) is a concept that challenges global agriculture to achieve a doubling in world food production while sustaining the environment in which we live. SAI aims to increase agricultural output from the same available land area, while reducing the negative environmental impacts of agricultural technology*. The resources to achieve this increase in food production will not increase, so the efficiency with which they are used will have to be enhanced to ensure ecosystems services are maintained. Sustainability also requires ensuring social equity in the productive and environmental benefits from SAI, otherwise the poorer sections of the farming population and women farmers risk being left behind or displaced by the promotion of intensification.
NRI’s work in the SAI programme is generating knowledge on how to support SAI, increasing understanding and harnessing knowledge of ecological processes to increase food production and improve livelihoods.
* see 'Reaping the Benefits' (2009) - The Royal Society; 'Foresight. The Future of Food and Farming' (2011), Final Project Report, The Government Office for Science, London; 'Green Food Project' (2012) - Defra; The Montpellier Panel, 2013, 'Sustainable Intensification: A New Paradigm for African Agriculture', London.