According to the authors of new research released at the World Water Week in Stockholm, a radical transformation in the way farming and natural systems interact could simultaneously boost food production and protect the environment—two goals that often have been at odds. The authors warn, however, that the world must act quickly if the goal is to save the Earth’s main breadbasket areas—where resources are so depleted the situation threatens to decimate global supplies of fresh water and cripple agricultural systems worldwide.
The two reports seek a new path toward achieving both food security and environmental health. They focus on radically reorienting practices and policies so that farming occurs in ‘agroecosystems’ that exist as part of the broader landscape, where they help maintain and supplement clean water, clean air and biodiversity.
“We are seeing a growing trend of alliances between traditionally conservationist groups and those concerned with agriculture,” said David Molden, Deputy Director General for Research at IWMI. UNEP is the voice of the environment of the United Nations, and IWMI is part of the world’s largest consortium of agricultural researchers, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
“For instance,” Molden continued, “UNEP has adopted food security as a new strategic concern. And IWMI and its partners in the CGIAR are developing a multi-million dollar research program that will look at water as an integral part of ecosystems to help solve issues of water scarcity, land and environmental degradation. IWMI has also recently become a key partner with the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands on the topic of the relationship between wetlands and agriculture.”
“The various political, research and community alliances now emerging are challenging the notion that we have to choose between food security and ecosystem health by making it clear that you can’t have one without the other,” he added.