More food on smaller foot


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Title More food on smaller foot
Period 01 / 2011 - 12 / 2014
Status Current
Research number OND1345814


In the coming 40 years the world population will increase to 9 billion inhabitants. Currently there are more than 800 million people whose basic human right of access to sufficient food is infringed or at risk. To cope with the present and future food challenges the yield gap between potential and actual production that still exists in many parts of the world, needs to be closed or at least narrowed. This requires a transition or jump innovation towards efficient agricultural production systems without compromising vital ecosystems. Water availability and water allocation is at the basis of water security which is essential for food security as a cross-cutting issue that requires a management approach on the basin and sub-basin level (IWRM).

The decrease of the yield gap by increasing agricultural productivity requires higher external inputs, with associated environmental risks. Sustainable Production Thresholds (SPTs), related to production factors (natural resources, input uses), outputs (yields, revenues, carbon sequestration, etc.) and impacts need to be established. These STPs need to be evaluated at various scales.

In order to reach such sustainable agriculture with higher production and lower ecological footprint, knowledge is needed on the interrelations between the various aspects of sustainability. Our ambition is to provide the biophysical and agro-ecological elements for such an integrated approach covering the knowledge domains of the participants: soil, water, catchment hydrology, and ecosystems. We strongly advocate further integration with agriculture (farming systems) and rural economy with our colleague science groups.

Sustainable Production Thresholds have up till now been formulated, defined either in local or global terms. However, in areas where water is limiting, the basin scale is crucial. Therefore it s necessary to make these concepts operational for sustainable production and ecosystem conservation within the context of IWRM in Catchment/basin management.

Research objectives
To develop an integrated approach for improving food security and resource use efficiency in agriculture within sustainable thresholds and with minimal ecological footprint, focusing on water, nutrients, and biodiversity at the local and river basin scale.

In recent years there has been a search for sustainable development strategies. In many low-income countries agriculture still plays a major role because of its prime economic importance and its strong relation with the natural resources (soil, water, ecosystem). Three areas can be identified where agriculture can make a critical contribution: alleviating poverty, increasing food security and protecting natural resources. These areas are directly related to two Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): eradicating extreme poverty and hunger (MDG1) and ensuring environmental sustainability (MDG 7).

In order to be effective innovative agriculture needs to pay due attention to all corners of the People Planet Profit triangle. The strategic role of agriculture in development processes can be broken down in the following components: i) secure and provide sufficient affordable food of sufficient quality (people) on local, national and global scale to sustain the growing and urbanizing world population; ii) provide sufficient income to the farmers and contribute to economic growth with agro-production chains (profit), iii) improve resource use efficiency, prevent emissions and degradation of environment, ecosystem and nature, and deliver ecosystem services (planet and biodiversity).

The solutions that we try to develop are essential for the transformation of subsistence societies to market oriented economies with a growing urban population that requires sufficient food of good quality. Economic development for the rural poor is also essential to prevent the emergence of so called fragile states. The project will provide opportunities for the Dutch private sector in the food chain to contribute to the above achievements.

A detailed workplan will be elaborated on 31 January 2011. The research is structured into five Work Packages (WPs):

WP1: Umbrella
WP2: Local scale analysis
WP3: Integrated approach at basin level
WP4: Scenario-analysis at basin level to support the design of robust agro-ecosystems.
WP5: Link to global models.
WP1 focuses on the conceptualization, the interaction, feedback with the other WPs and the risk analysis. Activities include:
a) PSU/Kick-off: Conceptualization of SPT and ecological foot print
b) Inventory of elements from existing projects
c) Selection of case study basin, pilot areas, local partners, etc.
d) Interaction with and feedback from WPs 2, 3, 4 and 5
e) Joint reporting on lessons learned.
f) Environmental risk analysis (cross cutting theme).

In WP2 sustainable production thresholds (SPT) will be established for increased agricultural production in Sub-Sahara Africa, and a relation between SPTs and ecological footprint will be developed. Activities include:
a) Determination of farm scale SPTs for increased agricultural production in Sub-Sahara Africa
Farming systems and Agricultural Land Use Types
b) Define ecological land use types in terms of requirements, output, emissions and socio-economical spin-off.

Inventory and description of existing ecological types
Requirements, products and services
In WP3 an integrated approach at basin level will be developed to define source-effect and impact relations between sub-basins. Activities include:
a) Integrate models for water quantity and water quality
b) Define source-effect relations for basin level analysis
c) Use impact relations from the local scale for analysis at the basin scale

d) Derive hydrological production thresholds at local level (upstream) based on limits set by other (downstream) agricultural or nature areas
e) Determine water productivity at basin scale
f) Determine the consequences of climate change

In WP4 scenarios will be identified and used to test the robustness and acceptability of the newly designed agro-ecological innovation and spatial redesigns. Activities include:
a) Stakeholder analysis, including private and public sector
b) Communication of the results of WP 1, 2 and 3 to stakeholders
c) Inventory with stakeholders of scenarios, including innovative designs
d) Scenario runs and analysis
e) Feed back, stakeholder discussions
f) Determine socio-cultural (feel ware), institutional (org ware), educational (know ware), economical ( ware) limits to innovative solutions for increased water and nutrient productivity in agriculture and formulate recommendations.

In WP5 no global food production models will be developed, but results will be communicated to colleagues dealing with this. Because of their low resolution these global models don t include detailed knowledge on SPTs to close the yield gap, nor do they include effects of specific agronomical practices. The use of agro-ecological land use types enables both the inclusion of SPT and assessment of yields under changing practices in these models.

Management tool(s) to facilitate an integrated approach in a joint learning process with relevant stakeholders. In 2011 we will produce three scientific papers in international journals with working titles:
1 Conceptual framework for sustainable production threshold and ecological foot print
2 Agro-ecological land use types in terms of i/o, spin-off, emissions and ecological foot print.
3 Modeling framework for spatial analysis of land use types on catchment scale.
In 2011 three milestones on the way towards SPT will be developed:

Approaches to show water quality dynamics over space and time at the river basin level New methods to quantify the natural system interactions in hydrological modeling Agro typology

Abstract (NL)

Publicaties bij dit project zijn beschikbaar via deze Link

Related organisations

Related people

Researcher Dr. E.J.M.M. Arets
Researcher C.L. van Beek
Researcher Ir. H.C. Jansen
Researcher Ir. I.G.A.M. Noij
Researcher Dr. E.P. Querner
Researcher Ir. C.W.J. Roest
Researcher J.H.M. Wösten
Project leader J. Froebrich

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