Agriculture

Agriculture provides for some of our most basic human needs such as food as well as other services such as the provision of fiber, biodiversity and genetic resources, biological control mechanisms, soil microorganisms and habitats for wild crops and animals.1

In delivering these services, agriculture impacts on the very ecosystems it relies on.Crop and animal production depletes water resources, degrades soil, and releases too much methane contributing to climate change (in the case of rice and cows).At the same time, extensive clearing of forests for farming and cattle grazing is driving huge losses in biodiversity. Nowadays bee populations are in a downward spiral while more than 60 breeds of livestock are considered extinct.2

Farmers, planting

These impacts have largely been ignored until recently when questions on agricultural sustainability surfaced. The world is running out of fresh water, and suitable land for agriculture. By mid-century, global population is expected to hit the 9 billion mark – putting an even greater pressure on the world’s already scarce resources. Can agriculture feed more people with lesser available resources? The biggest challenge for agriculture today is to find a sustainable trade-off between doubling food production,while maintaining other vital ecosystem services.

Around the world, we are seeing innovative techniques in moving towards eco-efficient agriculture – such as conservation grade nature friendly farming in the UK,3 organic farming in Japan to protect bird habitats4 and projects that restore the habitats of pollinators to increase yields5 We invite you to read these success stories and share your thoughts on the sustainable future of your food and agriculture.

  1. TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers.Chapter 5.Page 83. []
  2. CBD (2010) Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Global Biodiversity Outlook 3.Montréal.http://gbo3.cbd.int/media/2721/gbo_en_web.pdf []
  3. TEEB for Business, Chapter 5, page 9, Box 5.2 “Conservation grade nature-friendly farming.” []
  4. TEEBcase by K. Hayashi and H. Nishimiya (2010) PES for habitat restoration to reintroduce Oriental White Stork, Japan, available at: TEEBweb.org., Source: Onuma, A and M. Yamamoto(2009), Economic Analysis of Reintroduction of Oriental White Stork in Toyooka, Hyogo. Mita Journal of Economics, Vol102, No.2. Toyokoka city information []
  5. TEEB for Business, page 17, Box 2.1 “Operation Pollinator: Investing in natural capital for agriculture.” Source: Peters, J. , Shaw, J., Valero-Gonzalez, J., Arino, G., Bang, J., Reinert, A., Finisdore, J., Wielgus, J., Waage, D., Isaacs, R., Bartell, S., (2010) Operation Pollinator: Investing in natural capital foragriculture, for TEEB. []

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