Innovative Agriculture for Food Security: An integrated agro-ecosystems approach
Agricultural research has improved the lives of millions of people in the past three decades. But today, poverty, hunger, lack of access to food and nutrition remain a daily fact of life for millions of people in many of the world’s low-income regions of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. If agricultural research and innovation are to deliver acceptable levels of food and nutrition security to poor communities, a rethink is needed of how current approaches to research-for-development are planned and executed. The obstacles to taking food security to the next level lie in three factors: the current vertical and agricultural commodity or thematic focus – by, researchers, research leaders and development agencies – that do not effectively address countries’ needs; the current short-term project focus to agricultural research and development funding; and a lack of practical policy options that can help countries respond to the realities they face of chronic food insecurity and nutrition deficit. If we can shift thinking in these areas, agricultural innovation will take a more holistic approach and deliver more benefits to smallholder farmers and their communities. This is the path to achieve global food security. The research approach needs to be broadened. Current project-focused and vertical approaches of research programs and development agencies – that focus on solutions based on one commodity crop or a series of ‘mandate’ disciplinary technologies – should be replaced with a view that looks at all combinations of approaches (e.g. crops, livestock, trees, fish, natural resources management, policies, income options) that best respond to a country’s nutrition and food security needs and can increase income for small farmers. Low-income countries need less ‘global policy advice’ and more practical policy options that help improve income for smallholders and communities, and that work in their reality of imperfect institutions and capacity and lack of adequate funding.