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Just published: Sustainable Food and Agriculture. An Integrated Approach

Achieving sustainable agriculture requires an integrated approach. FAO launches comprehensive publication that points the way to how we can improve our food systems. 

Sustainable Food and Agriculture: An Integrated Approach, that aims to present state-of-the-art evidence on how sustainable agriculture can be continuously improved at different scales.

The book is a seminal contribution to the importance of getting policy frameworks right to face the challenges posed by climate change and a growing global population, Graziano da Silva said.

Policies are needed most to address the conflicts of interest that inevitably arise amid the need for change, he said. Citing the need to enhance on and off-farm income and opportunities for rural communities around the world, especially in the developing world, he said that too often trying to shoehorn new techniques into existing patterns is unable to "integrate all the actors and interests around and to move ahead."

He added: "The only way to put them together and harmonize things to move ahead is to revise policies and guidance."

The new book

The book, a 585-page tome published by FAO with Elsevier's Academic Press Division, brings together the work of 78 experts from FAO as well as a wide array of universities and organizations around the world.

It is organized through 48 chapters and five sections, covering areas ranging from demographics and rural poverty to biodiversity and water scarcity, while also looking at viable examples of how to increase agricultural productivity by integrating different sectors without harming and even increasing existing environmental and social capital.

Its analyses make a point of identifying and balancing trade-offs that typically arise and highlighting successful governance and policy initiatives for resolving them at global and national levels.

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

The final section focuses on research and innovation, policies and incentives, resource mobilization, and governance and institutions - the four areas considered most critical to the meaningful and needed structural transformations 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 testifies 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 is targeted at policy makers, agricultural research and extension professionals, development practitioners, and students and teachers of biological, social and agricultural sciences. It complements FAO's recent Transforming Food and Agriculture to Achieve the SDGs, which outlines 20 interconnected actions leading to the transformation changes required.

Sustainable Food and Agriculture: An Integrated Approach is the first book to look at the imminent threats to sustainable food security through a cross-sectoral lens. As the world faces food supply challenges posed by the declining growth rate of agricultural productivity, accelerated deterioration of quantity and quality of natural resources that underpin agricultural production, climate change, and hunger, poverty and malnutrition, a multi-faced understanding is key to identifying practical solutions. This book gives stakeholders a common vision, concept and methods that are based on proven and widely agreed strategies for continuous improvement in sustainability at different scales.

While information on policies and technologies that would enhance productivity and sustainability of individual agricultural sectors is available to some extent, literature is practically devoid of information and experiences for countries and communities considering a comprehensive approach (cross-sectoral policies, strategies and technologies) to SFA. This book is the first effort to fill this gap, providing information on proven options for enhancing productivity, profitability, equity and environmental sustainability of individual sectors and, in addition, how to identify opportunities and actions for exploiting cross-sectoral synergies.

Reference to Chapter 6 - Forests, Land Use, and Challenges to Climate Stability and Food Security

Reference to Chapter 7 Land and Water Governance, Poverty, and Sustainability