Nature-positive Solutions for Shifting Agrifood Systems to More Resilient and Sustainable Pathways - Proposal

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The eyes of the world are on Nature-Positive Solutions (NPS). In prioritizing the mass-scale
production of cheap and plentiful food, industrial agriculture has inflicted a disastrous cost
on both the environment and humans. In terms of its impact on nature, industrial agriculture
drives 80% of deforestation, threatens 86% of the 28,000 species currently at risk of extinction
(through habitat conversion and pollution), is responsible for significant loss of crop and
genetic diversity and up to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE), accelerates
land degradation and land-use change, and uses 70% of global water resources withdrawn.
In terms of its impact on humans, the homogenization of our food sources and diets has
resulted in dramatically reduced (a) nutrition outcomes for families, particularly for women
and children, and (b) farming incomes due to impoverished soil and water health, reduced
crop resistance to pests and diseases, and poor waste management, which have collectively
reduced the resilience of smallholder farming systems (Figure 1).

The circularity of these problems is exacerbated by misaligned public policies and economic
incentives that incentivize production of the cheapest food possible, at the (long-term) cost
of both nature and humans. Not accounting for the true cost of food in AFS makes it
challenging for public and private sector actors to design incentives and investments that
encourage smallholder farmers to shift to NPS-based pathways on-farm, with the result that
smallholders continue to be pushed towards adoption of agricultural practices more suited to
industrial systems.

Recently, however, there has been a seismic shift in thinking on how to (re)organize our
agricultural production systems, partly prompted by the structural fault lines and
vulnerabilities of industrial agriculture laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic, and partly by
formal recognition by the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) that nature-positive
production (NPP) is one of five critical pathways to sustainable food systems. This
momentum was sustained by 92 governments and 95 high-profile corporations pledging
urgent action and investment at UKCOP26 to protect nature, pursue nature-positive
pathways, and shift to more sustainable ways of farming.

While much of the business case for NPS is in place — the 2020 World Economic Forum’s
“The Future of Nature and Business Report” suggests that NPS-focused stimulus packages
could enable people to tap into an estimated 395 million new NPS-driven jobs by 2030 — the
actionable science (evidence and tools) required to support NPS planning by the agricultural
research for development (AR4D) community lags behind. Herein lies the challenge.

Fadda, C. and Nikiema, J. 

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