Ecosystem Approach

The Ecosystem Approach 



Crop production is not the only element to consider when looking to meet increased food demand. Sustainable intensification of crop production is of reduced value if optimising one component in a complex larger ecosystem results in inefficiencies elsewhere. Larger ecosystems, for example, could include important components, such as livestock, fish and/or forests. In seeking to intensify crop production sustainably, one important entry point using the ecosystem approach is to examine ways to reduce waste of production inputs and improve efficiency in the use of key resources in agriculture, including horticulture.


©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

Agricultural inputs such as seed, fertilizer, land, water, chemical or bio- pesticides, power and labour complement the natural processes supporting plant growth. Examples of these biological processes include: the action of soil-based organisms (that allow plants to access key nutrients; maintain a healthy soil structure which promotes water retention and the recharge of groundwater resources; and sequester carbon); pollination; natural predation for pest control, etc. Farmers that utilize better information and knowledge of the supporting biological processes can help to boost the efficiency of use of conventional inputs.


Agricultural practices and adapted production systems which manage ecosystem services to improve productivity and reduce environmental impact have developed over time. These have evolved through a large number of local decisions made by farmers (including smallholders), regarding their use of ecological knowledge and inputs and/or culturally/traditionally established practices. Gender specificities play an important role, for example with regards to the use and dissemination of such knowledge – including from cultivation to processing stages of the food chain.



©FAO/Giulio Napolitano