Agricultural intensification often undermines conditions for sustainability such as biodiversity, soil formation and water regulation.
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10.08.2018

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Land-use intensification in agrarian landscapes is seen as a key strategy to simultaneously feed humanity and use ecosystems sustainably; but the conditions that support positive social-ecological outcomes remain poorly documented.

Agricultural intensification rarely leads to simultaneous benefits for ecosystem services such as biodiversity and human wellbeing, researchers say. In the study  “Social-ecological outcomes of agricultural Intensification” published in the Nature Sustainability journal, which analysed 60 case studies from countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, they found that fewer than 20 per cent of cases had benefits across both these outcomes.
 
Agricultural intensification — activities that aim to increase either the productivity or profitability of agricultural land — tends to get high priority as a strategy for sustainable food production. But how to achieve positive outcomes in different regions is unclear, according to the authors.
 
This knowledge gap was their motivation to analyse the twin impacts of agricultural intensification in low- and middle-income countries.
 
The findings are based on 53 peer-reviewed papers published from 1997 to 2017, with 15 of the 60 case studies focusing on African countries: Ethiopia, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia.
 
The researcher team analysed wellbeing using indicators such as income, education, health and food security.

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