Rainfed agriculture plays and will continue to play a dominant role in providing food and livelihoods for an increasing world population. We describe the world's semi-arid and dry sub-humid savannah and steppe regions as global hotspots, in terms of water related constraints to food production, high prevalence of malnourishment and poverty, and rapidly increasing food demands. We argue that major water investments in agriculture are required. In these regions yield gaps are large, not due to lack of water , but rather due to inefficient management of water, soils, and crops. An assessment of management options indicates that knowledge exists regarding technologies, management systems, and planning methods. A key strategy is to minimise risk for dry spell induced crop failures, which requires an emphasis on water harvesting systems for supplemental irrigation. Large-scale adoption of water harvesting systems will require a paradigm shift in Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), in which rainfall is regarded as the entry point for the governance of freshwater, thus incorporating green water resources (sustaining rainfed agriculture and terrestrial ecosystems) and blue water resources (local runoff). The divide between rainfed and irrigated agriculture needs to be reconsidered in favor of a governance, investment, and management paradigm, which considers all water options in agricultural systems. A new focus is needed on the meso-catchment scale, as opposed to the current focus of IWRM on the basin level and the primary focus of agricultural improvements on the farmer's field. We argue that the catchment scale offers the best opportunities for water investments to build resilience in small-scale agricultural systems and to address trade-offs between water for food and other ecosystem functions and services.
The role of agriculture in development remains much debated. This paper takes an empirical perspective and focuses on poverty, as opposed to growth alone. The contribution of a sector to poverty reduction is shown to depend on its own growth performance, its indirect impact on growth in other sectors, the extent to which poor people participate in the sector, and the size of the sector in the overall economy. Bringing together these different effects using cross-country econometric evidence indicates that agriculture is significantly more effective in reducing poverty among the poorest of the poor (as reflected in the $1-day squared poverty gap). It is also up to 3.2 times better at reducing $1-day headcount poverty in low-income and resource rich countries (including those in Sub-Saharan Africa), at least when societies are not fundamentally unequal. However, when it comes to the better off poor (reflected in the $2-day measure), non-agriculture has the edge. These results are driven by the much larger participation of poorer households in growth from agriculture and the lower poverty reducing effect of non-agriculture in the presence of extractive industries.
France was a traditionally agricultural country until the first half of the 20th century. Today, it is the first European cereal producer, with cereal crops accounting for 40% of the agricultural surface area used, and is also a major country for livestock breeding with 25% of the European cattle livestock. This major socioecological transition, with rapid intensification and specialisation in an open global market, has been accompanied by deep environmental changes. To explore the changes in agricultural GHG emissions over the long term (1852–2014), we analysed the emission factors of N O from field experiments covering major land uses, in a gradient of fertilisation and within a range of temperature and rainfall, and used CH emission coefficients for livestock categories, in terms of enteric and manure management, considering the historical changes in animal excretion rates. We also estimated indirect CO emissions, rarely accounted for in agricultural emissions, using coefficients found in the literature for the dominant energy consumption items (fertiliser production, field work and machinery, and feed import). From GHG emissions of ~30,000 ktons CO Eq yr in 1852, reaching 54,000 ktons CO Eq yr in 1955, emissions more than doubled during the ‘Glorious thirties’ (1950–1980), and peaked around 120,000 ktons CO Eq yr in the early 2000s. For the 2010–2014 period, French agriculture GHG emissions stabilised at ~114,000 ktons CO Eq yr , distributed into 49% methane (CH ), 22% carbon dioxide (CO ) and 29% nitrous oxide (N O). A regional approach through 33 regions in France shows a diversity of agriculture reflecting the hydro-ecoregion distribution and the agricultural specialisation of local areas. Exploring contrasting scenarios at the 2040 horizon suggests that only deep changes in the structure of the agro-food system would double the reduction of GHG emissions by the agricultural sector.
Strategies towards agricultural intensification differ on the definitions of sustainability and the variables included in its evaluation. Different notions of the qualifiers of intensification (ecological, sustainable, durable, etc.) need to be unpacked. This paper examines conceptual differences between sustainable and ecological intensification as used in research, development, policy and the industry, particularly with respect to the balance between agriculture and nature. The study compares different discourses on models of intensification that differ in the role nature plays in the actual design of the systems. While sustainable intensification is generally loosely defined, so that almost any model or technology can be labeled under it, ecological intensification proposes landscape approaches that make smart use of the natural functionalities that ecosystems offer. The aim is to design multifunctional agroecosystems that are both sustained by nature and sustainable in their nature.