Contributions for Harnessing the benefits of ecosystem services for effective ecological intensification in agriculture
In my opinion, we are trying to manage and develop ecosystem services at different levels, with different approaches, methods under sustainable development goals (environment, food security and culture) because at different development, cultural and social levels, we will have various overviews, approaches to ecosystem services. Then, we should deliver some questions:
1. How many ecosystem types are there (natural, artificial, semi artificial, etc.)?
2. Backgrounds of stakeholders and linkages of stakeholders in developing ecosystem services
3. How will benefits of ecosystem services be shared with stakeholders?
4. Whether do ecosystem services provide enough livelihood and food for participant farmers?
For instance, in the case of longstanding and traditional ecosystems, their services will focus on indigenous knowledge, community culture and diversity of biology, geography, landscape, etc. But how can farmers join these activities to get money for themselves? I think that stakeholders should take farmers direct participation in this activities. Throughout, these farmers will get more livelihood from their agricultural sectors.
Mr. NGUYEN VAN KIEN
Plant Genebank Management Division
Plant Resources Center (PRC)
An Khanh, Hoai Duc, Hanoi, Vietnam
I have read with interest background paper and contributions and Liberation is certainly most welcome. But I believe we are yet again missing the link with sustainable diets and livelihoods. What is being grown and who is the consumer is central to the way natural resources are managed. And local populations are key in maintaining and enhancing ecosystem services.
Many contributions refer to the problems generated by the industrial agriculture model. This has been coming up in many arenas in the last decade: in health with the emergence of noncommunicable diseases, in the poverty debates, in the International year of family agriculture, etc. People from different wakes of life agree that we need sustainable food systems and ecological intensification is part of it. There is therefore a window of opportunity for increased synergy.
But the way institutions function does not allow this to happen. Complexity is a challenge and an opportunity. But the official speech is still about value chains, research institutions have a hard time moving away from their comfort zones, scientific expectations and methodologies, and of course the root cause are economic interests and funding.
Natural Resources Management, Health and Food Security need to engage in and be held accountable to systematic dialogue and joint action within a rights-based approach. This would be particularly timely in the wake of the Sustainable Development Summit and CoP21. The gap between environment and food security needs to be dealt with: it is presented as a tradeoff but it can be a win-win. The technical debate is of course essential, but we cannot detach it from the institutional and political context.
The correlation is very high.
I am sure that my technique is important, simple and solves the issues of sustainable management in general areas: forest, arable land, water resources, reserves and others.
Thesis to gain a doctoral degree of economic sciences, speciality 08.00.06 – Environmental Economics and Environmental Protection. - Sumy State University, Sumy, 2012.
This thesis developed a theoretical and methodological framework for environmental certification which consists in the formation of concepts, the improvement of the main directions of development of environmental standards and certification, the scientific system of environmental certification.
The thesis developed the scientific and methodological approach to the formation of environmental certification of natural and economic objects, which includes conducting environmental audits, design and making management decisions on criteria developed in accordance with ecological and economic mechanism for its implementation. The thesis also developed organizational and economic mechanisms, scientific and methodological provisions to stimulate the development of environmental certification and methodological approaches to determining the value of environmental certification in the field of natural resources. The thesis identified the economic benefits of environmental certification for the state by the example of growing organic agricultural products.
Keywords: environmental certification, environmental management, economic mechanism, economic efficiency, ecological audit.
Attached you will find a paper on the challenges for plant breeders from the view of a sustainable animal production.
Personally, I think that the plant breeding should be considered as a (the) starting point for an effective (sustainable) ecological intensification in agriculture (see attachment).
Institute of Animal Nutrition
Federal Reasearch Institute of Animal Health
Carbon in soils is important for crop yields and climate, but what evidence is there?
Within a project at Mistra Eviem in Sweden we have just published a systematic map of metadata on evidence on farming practices and soil carbon. See web site for links of reports http://www.eviem.se/en/projects/Soil-organic-carbon-stocks/ and direct link to the open acces publication http://environmentalevidencejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s...
Balancing Agricultural Productivity and Ecosystem Management
In March 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, Global Harvest Initiative and the Farm Foundation hosted a symposium of global experts to discuss agricultural productivity and the environment, specifically how to measure and track field-level impacts in a way that is meaningful for policymakers and markets. Several of the presentation addressed the question posed in this discussion – two are discussed here. Presentations and abstracts from the conference are available here, on the Farm Foundation website.
Tim Benton, the UK Champion for Global Food Security & Professor of Ecology at the University of Leeds said that they key to sustainable agriculture was “spatial planning” which matches agricultural production techniques with the right natural resource management practices for a given landscape – not just the individual farm. Landscapes extend beyond the boundaries of a single farm. GHI’s 2015 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (pages 23-24) discusses how USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) employs this landscape approach, establishing conservation “districts” in which farmers could collaborate with one another and the NRCS to tailor their farming practices to their specific ecosystem.
Stephen Polasky, Regents Professor of Applied Economics and the University of Minnesota discussed the difference between how agricultural practices and ecosystem management practices are valued. He said that markets provide value for crop production, but not for carbon sequestration or water quality. To correct this imbalance, he recommends making a range of ecosystem management services available and educating farmers and producers on their options. It is critical to establish a market value for these goods and services with the help of public and private sector incentives.
For policymakers around the world, Total Factor Productivity (TFP) is a helpful tool for tracking their progress on managing the balance between the need for agricultural productivity and eco-system sustainability. TFP is the ratio of agricultural outputs (gross crop and livestock output) to inputs (land, labor, fertilizer, feed, machinery, and livestock) (see Figure 1, 2015 GAP Report®). TFP measures changes in the efficiency with which all inputs are transformed into outputs: as farmers use inputs more precisely and efficiently, use advanced genetics in crop and livestock, and adopt improved cultivation and livestock rearing practices, their output grows while using the same or even a reduced amount of inputs, helping to protect already stressed ecosystems.
As former coordinator of the FAO-based project on incentives for environmental services, I would like to point at the contributions made to our multistakeholder dialogue on Payments for Environmental Services (PES) (http://www.fao.org/nr/aboutnr/incentives-for-ecosystem-services/case-stu...) as well as our previously organized FSN forum discussion on PES (http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/forum/discussions/pes).
The insights gained from these events and discussions as well as from the field research we conducted in Kenya indicates that environmental improvements achieved in agriculture through PES projects often lack financial sustainability and are therefore exposed to the risk of reversibility. In other words, once the funds from the third party agency that initiated the project stops, farmers often abandon the labor-intensive practices designed to improve environmental services. One reason is that the compensation from presumed buyers of environmental services is often insufficient in view of the opportunity costs.
But the big problem lies in the theory behind PES. PES theory tends to ignore the important role of local entrepreneurship and innovation, the two factors that prove why certain PES projects indeed worked because the local people made something different out of it. The resulting hybrid PES projects contributed to more sustainable landscape management because they generated local business opportunities. For example, some farmers have made a business with tree nurseries in response to the increasing demand for agroforestry. Others have become formal suppliers of premium food products to local businesses in return for the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices.
The creative minds of the local farmers can thus generate welfare effects for the local community and the local environment, but these welfare effects are not captured in PES theory. Why? Because the theory implicitly assumes that the lack of provision of environmental services (understood as a public good) represents market failure. In fact, in many cases it is probably governance failure because private sector investments in the improvement of environmental services are hardly encouraged. The shift from PES to landscape management and ecological intensification is an important step in the right direction, because the interest of local people in business opportunities is usually taken into account. In my book 'The sustainable provision of environmental services: from regulation to innovation' (Springer, 2015) I illustrate how the landscape approach could even be further developed by giving more recognition to the importance of public-private partnerships. Such public-private partnerships have the potential to induce a shift from regulation to innovation in policies designed to improve environmental services in agriculture. The case studies presented in the above-mentioned multistakeholder dialogue illustrate this well.
1. In your experience, how can the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of field and landscape interventions be maximized?
This is the great challenge to develop efficiency without sacrificing ecological or human health.
This is why intensification - if it can be done sustainability - could be so important. The key is whether intensification such as through greenhouses and more intensive crop farming such as Grow Bio-Intensive or No Till can be developed into comprehensive approaches that can rapidly replace obselete and ecologically destructive industrial models.
The basic elements of high efficiency sustainable farming models is that reduce costs, inputs and steps to farming.
- No till is one example. If you reduce the time to clear the fields then your reducing both energy and labor inputs.
- Greenhouses are another possible example. With sophisicated climate control greenhouses using recycled biomass nutrients and renewables we can see major gains in sustainable agricultures intensity and competitive if the costs of production can be brought down through improved processes and technology.
- With animal husbandry again by using byproducts from farming and agribusiness operations as well as dated food from distributors we can empower smallholder farmers by reducing conventional feed costs
A major movement towards a sustainable farming model that has rates of production similar to conventional ones would involve better sharing of information and best practices globally such as through information technology social networks and databases.
In addition to needing to better evaluate the best available technologies and practices, we also must consider better methods for research financing their refinement as well as effective deployment and dissemination in the field.
With many promising programs and innovations, funding and execution is an issue that often slows their development. We have to make sure no world changing technologies fall through the cracks. This often is a problem with a lot of major NGO foundations like Rockerfeller and Gates, supporting many mainline programs that discourage significant deviations from the conventional industrial agriculturel model.
2. How can policy measures – at all levels - be designed in order to capture links between field and landscape management and the promotion of ecosystem services? Based on your experience, do you have any example of such policies?
The problem is that even in places like Europe there is great pressure to push out the smallholders to make their economies more globally competitive to the multinationals who dominate the global agribusiness sector.
So policymakers may have sympathy to smaller farmers, in many cases their policies are seen as stifling the "free market" especially to conventional classical economists. So we see a counter-movement in which many compelling programs that could help the small farmer become more price competitive and efficient with large production ag schemes, being under-funded and discouraged.
A major reform that can counteract these trends of globalization and neoliberalism is the use of more full accounting measure to calculate the real cost of food as is now being discussed by NGOs like Foodtank.
The question would be how would such a regime be put in place to phase a real cost accounting of the actual value of those ecosystem services on the one hand and how a intensive agricultural operation might be producing food while preserving or even adding to those ecosystem services as compared to mainstream farming operations which usually degrade those services.
Its clear we have the technologies and modelling systems to begin to target regions that have the highest level of sustainable farming investments and to start the research there. Thus I do hope the outcome of this work would be to seek a comprehensive program to both aggregriate compelling best practices of sustainable intensive farming practices globally, while also targeting prime regions for the holistic dissemination of those technologies.
3. From your knowledge and experience, how aware are European farmers of the relevance of ecosystem services for agricultural production? Do you have any examples of and/or suggestions for best practices for outreach activities to raise awareness on ecosystem services and ecological intensification
My knowledge of Europe is limited. I do know they have stricter standards than the US in the use of agricultural chemicals and GMOs. The Nederlands is known for its innovative use of greenhouses. Germany has done valuable work in waste to energy focusing on biogas production. European countries particularly the northern ones do have a record of environmental protection and promotion of sustainable technologies that is leading the world right now.
In terms of outreach as mentioned in my response to first question, possibly more work can done integrating the leadership and innovation in the various regions of Europe as well as the world. The role of information technologies is vital not only for managing the content and modeling trends based on this, but also for measuring the indicators of ecosystem and farm soil health in real time.
I will talk about the subject - Ecosystem services – but with focus on livestock production as it is my main area of study. Apart from that, Agriculture and Livestock should be always integrated if we want to talk about sustainability (Herrero et al 2010).
Question 1 – firstly we need to change the way that livestock/agriculture have been seen by researchers and policy makers. From my view, instead to focus only on the crop or livestock at farm level the look should be broad, at landscape level. Policies and technological approaches should cover the landscape and later arrive at farm level. It could be the correct approach to maximize the efficiency. As an example, when you improve biodiversity including trees, shrubs, grasses and animal not only the animal production would be increased but also the carbon sequestration, water production, welfare, wood production, fertilizer cycling etc. However in some areas of the landscape just trees will be planted (high slopes) and no pasture. So in these areas carbon will be increased, rain impact minimized, low erosion effect which will benefit farmers and other users of the environment. Both are approach the cover large areas (landscape) but also small areas (field/farm) which would promote benefits for both.
Question 2 – I believe that policies which are defined from the bottom (farm) to the top (government) level could conciliate the needs from field and landscape. So if farmers that are able to produce milk without fertilize (less NO2 emission) using faeces as source of nutrients, more trees per hectare, no ivermectim, streams protections and more biodiversity (flora and fauna) they should deserve payment for environment services. Therefore, farmers that are playing in different way (high intensive system) could produce more milk/ha but with negative impact on the environment should not be allowed to receive environment services by the municipality management which are taking care of the landscape. The work developed by CATIE (Costa Rica), CIPAV (Colombia) and Nicaragua are good examples that could be followed. In Brazil farmers that are protecting wellspring are able to receive payment from the government. In US there are good example of water spring protection which gives benefits for users in NY (landscape level). The farmers are not able to increase milk production but they are compensated by the way that they are protecting the rivers or producing water.
Questions 3 – I will leave for Europeans colleagues to answer