Устойчивое производство продовольствия и ведение сельского хозяйства


Balancing productivity and sustainability in agriculture

29 May 2020

As countries strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agriculture is to play a key role in ensuring a future that is fairer for people and the planet. To do so, global agriculture must meet the challenge of producing more, more sustainably.

It is thus of paramount importance to devise an approach that is capable of balancing the needs of production, on the one hand, with the imperative of protecting the natural resource base, on the other. In other words, countries and other stakeholders must be equipped with the tools they need to assess the interconnectivity of specific actions, in order to make an informed decision as to which approach better suits their development needs.

SFA and the 20 interconnected actions guidelines

Sustainable food and agriculture encompasses a set of tools and approaches designed to ensure social, environmental and economic sustainability in agriculture and food production. FAO promotes SFA to help countries worldwide achieve Zero Hunger and accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

In order to support policy- and decision-makers in the area of SFA planning and implementation, the publication: “Transforming Food and Agriculture to Achieve the SDGs”[1] details 20 integrated, result-oriented actions and initiatives designed to accelerate sustainability transitions in agriculture.

The Organisation has now developed a preliminary analytical framework that assesses the synergies and trade-offs of the 20 actions, which can provide further support to countries in the areas of policy development and implementation on the ground.

[1] FAO. 2018. Transforming Food and Agriculture to Achieve the SDGs: 20 interconnected actions to guide decision-makers. Rome 

Synergies and trade-offs: examples

Sustainability in agriculture is a complex, multifaceted issue, in which actions that contribute positively to one area can have negative knock-on effects in others. Conversely, initiatives can also have positive effects across a variety of dimensions.

Trade-offs exist, for example, between the goal of facilitating smallholder access to productive resources, finance and services (action 1 of the 20 actions framework), and that of enhancing soil health and restoring land (action 5): increased production, due perhaps to improved farming instruments purchased through financing could, for example, put excessive stress on land, threatening soil health, unless SFA approaches are in place.

Synergies, on the other hand, can enhance the outcomes of distinct actions, compounding their positive effects. Building producer’s knowledge and developing their capacities (action 4) through, for example, resilience-enhancing approaches such as Climate-Smart Agriculture or Agroecology can, in turn, lead to fewer losses, greater reuse and recycling, and sustainable consumption (action 8).

The framework

As detailed in the upcoming publications: "An Analytical Framework to Assess Synergies and Trade-Offs Among the Twenty Interconnected Sustainable Food and Agriculture (SFA) Actions”, and its Summary paper, the framework can be used by countries and sub-national entities during the various stages of the planning and implementation process of their transition to SFA. It is aimed at maximising synergies and minimizing trade-offs between agricultural productivity and sustainability, as well as among related support policies and measures.

It comprises six main steps that will require development of objectives, analysis of context specificities and the development of deliverables:

Step one: selecting indicators

A set of relevant indicators is selected, for example SDG indicator 2.4.1 (“Proportion of agricultural area under productive and sustainable agriculture”).

Step two: analysing the situation

An assessment of the status quo, based on the indicators selected under the previous step. The main barriers to sustainability are identified and analysed.

Step three: defining agricultural productivity and sustainability pathways

Multistakeholder dialogues are held to establish the desired trajectory of the country in terms of agricultural productivity and sustainability.

Step four: collecting data and monitoring progress

To track progress along the trajectory identified in the previous step, data is collected and assessed against the indicators selected in step one.

Step five: evaluating synergies and trade-offs

Synergies and trade-offs between agricultural productivity and sustainability can be identified and evaluated at various spatial and temporal scales. Stakeholders can then participate in the interpretation of the results.

Step six: maximising synergies and minimising trade-offs

The results of the previous step inform the revision of existing policies, actions and measures – and the design of additional ones - to foster the transition to sustainable food and agriculture systems, with a view to maximize synergies and minimize trade-offs, while ensuring policy coherence.

Going forward

The framework is currently being piloted within the framework of the project “Sustainable productivity in agriculture in the context of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) and Agroecology”, under FAO’s Flexible Multi-Partner Mechanism (FMM).

As testing progresses, the framework will be updated and refined, before it is made available for broader applications. To this aim, capacity development material will be prepared and trainings carried out for practitioners and decision-makers from developing countries interested in implementing the framework.

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