INTEGRATION OF AGRICULTURE INTO COASTAL AREA MANAGEMENT
Agriculture in coastal areas often plays an important role and, as elsewhere, it occupies the major share of available land. Coastal areas often provide excellent soil and climatic conditions for agriculture. Apart from its evident function in providing food to coastal populations, agriculture also often provides raw materials to industry, which may be established in the area to make the most of port facilities. Agricultural products may find markets in the tourism sector, although this is not always as strong a link as is sometimes assumed. Agriculture also provides livelihoods for coastal populations, including those of coastal cities.
Coastal agriculture often benefits from favourable environmental conditions, from generally good land and sea communications, and from the development of industry and tourism in coastal areas. However, it also faces constraints related to the proximity to the sea, including: the risk of saline air and water; poor water quality and insecure supplies caused by upstream activities; and severe competition for available coastal land.
The agriculture sector influences, and is influenced by, other sectors. These interactions may be positive, but are often negative, and revolve around competition for land, water, capital and labour. The negative influences of agriculture on other sectors include pollution of fisheries by agrochemicals and silting of coral reefs and ports resulting from land erosion. In turn, agriculture itself may by negatively influenced by pollution originating from outside the coastal area, or it may induce its own negative impacts, for instance by inappropriate irrigation practices which can lead to the intrusion of salt water from the sea.
In order to integrate agricultural planning into overall coastal planning, the first stage is to gather relevant and useful information. This should cover the biophysical and socio-economic environments, interactions with other sectors, governance, and the constraints, opportunities and possible alternatives for the sector.
The next stage is planning, taking account of the special characteristics of coastal agriculture while ensuring that the plan conforms to overall national objectives for agriculture. During this phase, means to reduce or avoid the negative impacts of agriculture on other sectors should be introduced; these may entail revising subsidies, taxation and regulations, while introducing specific support services and reviewing the institutional set-up. The outcome might be changes in cropping patterns and cultivation methods.
Throughout the process, all interested parties and stakeholders should be consulted and involved and close liaison should be maintained with relevant ministries and services dealing with the other sectors.
Coastal area agricultural development plans will address the specific characteristics of agriculture in the area, interactions with other sectors and the importance of sustainable practices.