Study prepared by FAO Regional Office for Africa, October 2012
Note from the United Nations System High Level Task Force on Global Food Security
Large-scale international investments in developing country agriculture, especially acquisitions of agricultural land, continue to raise international concern. Certainly, complex and controversial issues – economic, political, institutional, legal and ethical – are raised in relation to food security, poverty reduction, rural development, technology and access to land and water resources. Yet at the same time, some developing countries are making strenuous efforts to attract foreign investment into their agricultural sectors. They see an important role for such investments in filling the gap left by dwindling official development assistance and the limitations of their own domestic budgetary resources, creating employment and incomes and promoting technology transfer. More investment is certainly needed – more than US$80 billion per year according to FAO analysis. But can foreign direct investment be compatible with the needs of local stakeholders as well as those of the international investor? And can these investments yield more general development benefits?
One of the key challenges of the 21st century is developing ways of producing sufficient amounts of food while protecting both environmental quality and the economic well-being of rural communities. Over the last half century, conventional approaches to crop production have relied heavily on manufactured fertilizers and pesticides to increase yields, but they have also degraded water quality and posed threats to human health and wildlife. Consequently, attention is now being directed toward the development of crop production systems with improved resource use efficiencies and more benign effects on the environment. Less attention has been paid to developing better methods of pest management, especially for weeds. Here we explore the potential benefits of diversifying cropping systems as a means of controlling weed population dynamics while simultaneously enhancing other desirable agroecosystem processes. We focus on crop rotation, an approach to cropping system diversification whereby different species are placed in the same field at different times.