“We have reached the limit of the paradigm of the green revolution,” said FAO director-general (DG) José Graziano da Silva in Rome, yesterday (5 February 2019).

Speaking during a panel discussion, Graziano da Silva said: “We cannot continue to produce food in the same way, relying on intensive farm techniques, chemical inputs and mechanisation. We need to shift to a more holistic approach on sustainability.”

Graziano da Silva spoke at the launch of a new publication, Sustainable Food and Agriculture: An Integrated Approach, that aims to present state-of-the-art evidence on how to improve sustainable agriculture at different scales.

The book is a seminal contribution to getting policy frameworks right to face the challenges of climate change and a growing global population, FAO’s DG said.

Policies are most needed to address the inevitable conflicts of interest that arise amid the need for change, he said. Graziano da Silva spoke of the need to improve on- and off-farm income and opportunities for rural communities world-wide, especially in the developing world. Shoehorning new techniques into existing patterns often fails to integrate all the players and their interests in a progressive way.

“The only way to put them together and harmonise things, to move ahead, is to revise policies and guidance,” said Graziano da Silva.

A range of content

The book, a 585-page tome published by FAO with Elsevier’s Academic Press Division, brings together the work of 78 FAO experts and a wide array of universities and organisations.

The book is organised into 48 chapters with five sections and covers topics that range from demographics and rural poverty, to biodiversity and water scarcity. It  also looks at viable examples of increasing agricultural productivity by integrating different sectors without harming existing environmental and social capital.

Governments, scientists, civil society and the private sector need a common understanding of concepts, methods and strategies and this “should not be done in silos but by looking holistically across sectors” said Clayton Campanhola, chief editor of the publication and head of FAO’s Strategic Programme for Sustainable Agriculture.

The last section focuses on research and innovation, policies and incentives, resource mobilisation, and governance and institutions. These are the four areas considered most critical to meaningful and necessary structural transformation for sustainable food and agriculture systems.

It ends with a set of recommendations that, if adapted and adopted, would improve productivity and sustainability of agriculture and food systems.

Mustering such a broad set of experts to work together to produce the book is testimony to FAO’s commitment to working through partnerships.  FAO’s own strategic programs framework is designed to generate greater “whole of FAO” collaboration across sectors.

The new publication targets policy makers, agricultural research and extension professionals, development practitioners, and students and teachers of biological, social and agricultural sciences. It complements FAO’s recent publication Transforming Food and Agriculture to Achieve the SDGs, which outlines 20 interconnected actions that will lead to the required transformation. – Press release