Achieving sustainable agricultural practices: From incentives to adoption and outcomes

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The pressure to achieve global food security demands that we rethink current production systems and shift rapidly toward more sustainable models. New IFPRI/PIM/Ceres2030 policy brief explains.

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The pressure on agricultural production systems to achieve global food security — particularly in today’s context of growing populations, changing food demand, and threats of natural resource degradation and climate change — demands that we rethink current production systems and shift rapidly toward more sustainable models.

When employed by land users, a combination of sustainable agricultural practices can facilitate ecosystem protection, increase farm productivity, reduce poverty, and advance food security. Sustainable agriculture has the potential to contribute directly to meeting several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including those on poverty, hunger, inequality, responsible consumption and production, climate, and ecosystems, in addition to local and national development and environmental goals.

Sustainable agricultural practices are those that enable more efficient use of natural resources, mitigate the impact of agriculture on the environment, and strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change and climate variability. They include crop rotation, increased crop diversity, use of cover crops, no-till and reduced-till systems, integrated pest management (IPM), integration of livestock and crops, sustainable agroforestry practices, and precision farming, among others. Achieving environmental sustainability in agriculture requires good management of the natural systems and resources that farms rely on, which can provide important public goods, particularly in the form of ecosystem services.

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This brief was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The views and opinions presented do not necessarily reflect those of PIM, IFPRI, or CGIAR. These findings benefited from the Ceres2030 program, developed in cooperation with Cornell University, the International Food Policy Research Institute, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The authors thank the Ceres2030 program and its funders, BMZ (Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Photo: Kate Evans/CIFOR

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