At last week’s international conference on Integrated Systems Research for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture, Randall Ritzema presented a paper on behalf of Tim Robinson about agricultural futures in the humid tropics.
Growing populations, income gains and urbanization are translating into increasing demand for agricultural products, and this growth is particularly strong in Africa and southeast Asia. Based on current projections we will need to feed a larger, more affluent global population of over 9 billion in 2050, equating to a potential 70 percent increase in global food demand. This growth will take place in the context of changing climates and increasing scarcity of natural resources. The role of poor, rural agricultural communities in this growth is uncertain and the research proposed here aims to enhance understanding of what that role might be, and the types of innovation that may be needed to optimize that role.
There are a number of ways to consider the future in the agriculture sector. While typically taking a systems approach, these methods vary in terms of spatial scale, geographic precision and temporal scale. At one end of the spectrum are the global, long-term projections of demographic, economic, land use and climate change under different scenarios. At the other end are participatory, community-based foresight approaches that explore people’s short-term aspirations and concerns, and the opportunities and constraints affecting the achievement of desirable outcomes. At an intermediate level, both spatially and temporally, scenario analysis based on detailed farm household survey data, can be utilized to enhance projections of the effects of innovations, to strengthen the linkages between scales, and to clarify relationships across systems.
We propose to explore combination of these approaches to contemplate possible futures in two contrasting areas: western Kenya and north-west Vietnam. Global and regional projections will provide the broad context; analysis of household data collected using the IMPACT Lite survey instrument will be used to explore the geophysical and economic plausibility of proposed scenarios; and participatory approaches will be undertaken with selected communities in these two areas to explore people’s hopes, fears and expectations regarding their agricultural and livelihood futures.
Lessons from each approach will be consolidated with a view to driving the research, innovation and policy and institutional contexts required to steer agricultural development along socially desirable and economically and ecologically sustainable pathways.
The paper was co-authored by Timothy Robinson (ILRI), Randall S. Ritzema (ILRI), Nils Teufel (ILRI), Mark T. van Wijk (ILRI), Robin Bourgeois (GFAR), Mark Lundy (CIAT), Keith Wiebe (IFPRI), Cees Leeuwis (Wageningen UR), Iddo Dror (ILRI), and Ingrid Öborn (ICRAF)
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