A new paper published today in Science warns that billions of dollars promised to fund programs to boost small-scale agriculture in developing countries are unlikely to succeed in feeding the world’s increasing populations. This is due not only to increasing populations and changing environments, but also to little “intellectual commitment” to the ubiquitous small-scale “mixed” farmers who raise both crops and animals and are the source of much of today’s food supply and economic development.
The authors, who include scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the World Bank, urge wealthy countries, which pledged US$20 billion for developing-country agriculture at the G8 summit in Italy last year, to look beyond “business as usual” investments.
“In most regions of the world, farming systems are under intense pressure. But the problems are not the same everywhere,” said Mario Herrero, ILRI senior scientist and the paper’s lead author. “In the past, farmers have developed the ability to adapt to small changes, in terms of weather patterns and access to fertile land and water. But the rapid rates of change seen in many developing countries today outstrip the capacity of many to adapt.”
“Feeding the growing populations of the developing world is a daunting challenge that also presents us with an opportunity to realize the untapped potential of small-holder mixed crop-and-livestock systems,” said Carlos Seré, Director General of ILRI. “Smallholder farmers have always shown amazing ability to adapt to changing conditions,” he added. “With the right kinds of support, these traditional mixed farming systems can be modified to become pathways out of economic and environmental poverty.”
Read more…. (EurekAlert)