A native bean nursery in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Higher investments in research into non-commercial crops could make a major contribution to food security.
Photo: L. Ringhofer


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The discussion on the type of land investment and agricultural intensification that best address both food security and sustainability should be based on a broad definition of “investment” which accommodates the realities of smallholder farming.

The tremendous production growth in the second half of the last century was underpinned not only by scientific plant breeding but also by oil-based mechanisation and the increased use of agrochemicals. It is becoming clear that, for all its successes in terms of yield, the agricultural model which is based on these drivers comes at a very high social and environmental cost. Not only has it led to an extreme concentration of land and other natural resources in many regions, but it has little to offer small-scale farmers and is increasingly destroying its own resource base. Soil degradation affects 33 per cent of cultivated areas worldwide to a greater or lesser extent (FAO 2012) and the number of chronically undernourished people has increased in recent decades. The growing consensus is that, in order to both feed a growing global population and also retain our resource base, we have no option but to intensify crop production and at the same time make the transition to true sustainability.

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