GENEVA – Small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods, a new UN report shows. Based on an extensive review of the recent scientific literature, the study calls for a fundamental shift towards agro ecology as a way to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest.
“To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available,” says Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. “Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agro ecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live -- especially in unfavorable environments.”
Agro ecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural systems that can help put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty challenges. It enhances soils productivity and protects the crops against pests by relying on the natural environment such as beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects.
“To date, agro ecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80 per cent in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116 per cent for all African projects,” Mr. De Schutter says. “Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3-10 years.”
“Conventional farming relies on expensive inputs, fuels climate change and is not resilient to climatic shocks. It simply is not the best choice anymore today,” Mr. De Schutter stresses. “A large segment of the scientific community now acknowledges the positive impacts of agro ecology on food production, poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation -- and this is what is needed in a world of limited resources. Malawi, a country that launched a massive chemical fertilizer subsidy program a few years ago, is now implementing agro ecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton/ha to 2-3 tons/ha.”