The way farming and natural systems interact must change radically and quickly (New Agriculturist / UNEP)

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Farming practices must change to increase production and protect the environment

Water limits are close to being ‘reached or breached’ in many breadbaskets across the world, threatening to decimate global supplies of fresh water and cripple agricultural systems, new research has claimed. Therefore, to boost food production and protect the environment, the way farming and natural systems interact must change radically and quickly. Given that agriculture already accounts for 70-90 per cent of water withdrawals in some areas, a report from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the UNs Environment Programme (UNEP) has called for a radical change in farming practices.

“Blanket prohibitions against cultivation do not always reduce ecosystem destruction and can make things worse,” explains Matthew McCarthy from IWMI. “For example, the grassy ‘dambo’ wetlands of sub-Saharan Africa often provide vital farmland to the rural poor. Banning farming in these areas, however, has exacerbated rather than reduced ecosystem destruction.” He adds, “What is needed is a balance: appropriate farming practices that support sustainable food production and protect ecosystems.”



Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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