In prioritizing mass production of cheap and plentiful food, industrial agriculture takes a massive toll on the environment and humans. Agriculture drives 80 percent of deforestation and threatens 86 percent of species currently at risk of extinction. It is responsible for significant crop and genetic diversity losses and up to 37 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Today’s conventional agriculture accelerates land degradation and land-use change and uses 70 percent of global freshwater resources. The impacts go well beyond the environment. The homogenization of our food sources and diets has reduced nutrition quality for families and resulted in declines in farming incomes, crop resistance to pests and diseases, and the resilience of smallholder farming systems and wider society. All these problems have compounding impacts, exacerbated by misaligned public policies and economic incentives. Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine underscore the fragility of our food systems and their reliance on a small number of crops produced in a few countries.
But a change of thinking is under way. The 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit formally recognized nature-positive production as one of five critical pathways to sustainable food systems. Much of the business case for nature-positive solutions is in place but the actionable science required to support planning by the agricultural research for development community has not been done.
This Initiative aims to re-imagine, co-create, and implement nature-positive solutions-based agrifood systems that equitably support local food and livelihoods, while simultaneously ensuring that agriculture is a net positive contributor to nature.