Roles of Small Farms and Sustainable Intensification in Attaining Food Security

Friday, February 12, 2016: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Marshall Ballroom North (Marriott Wardman Park)
Seth Cook, International Institute for Environment and Development, London, United Kingdom
There are some 500 million small farms worldwide supporting more than 2 billion people. About 80 per cent of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa is produced on small farms. Small farms and smallholders are incredibly diverse in terms of their size, farming systems and productivity. For this reason, it is often difficult to generalize about them beyond a specific regional context. Small farms and smallholders have a vital role to play now and into the future in terms of ensuring global food security, livelihoods and public goods such as sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Sustainable intensification is receiving growing attention as a means to address the challenge of feeding an increasingly populous and resource-constrained world. While originally conceived as a framework to increase the productivity and sustainability of smallholder production in developing countries, more recently its implications are being considered for agriculture at different scales all around the world. This talk will focus on its relevance to small farms in developing countries.

Sustainable intensification can serve as a useful guiding framework for raising agricultural productivity on existing arable land in a sustainable manner. At the same time, sustainable intensification is not an adequate framework for achieving food security overall, because it can only address one component of the food system. Action is also needed to ensure access to food for vulnerable groups, bolster property rights for farmers, curb food waste and over-consumption (particularly of meat and dairy products), preserve agricultural land and stem population growth. Achieving food security requires nothing less than a food system perspective situated within the wider context of a green economy.