2 Raising agricultural productivity in a sustainable way is indispensable for accelerating poverty reduction and feeding a growing world population from an increasingly constrained natural resourcebase. Farmers need to increase production on the available land to meet the growing demand for food. Many farmers also need to increase their labour productivity to make inroads into rural poverty
3 Farmers must also innovate to use natural resources more efficiently for environmentally sustainable production. This chapter reviews the challenge of sustainable productivity growth and assesses the opportunities and barriers facing family farmers in implementing more sustainable technologies and farming practices
4 The need for sustainable productivity growth: Historically, agricultural productivity growth has allowed remarkable increases in food production, far outpacing growth in population and leading to a long-term downwards trend in real food prices. Over the last half century (1961–2011)
5 Global agricultural production more than tripled, while the world’s population expanded by 126 percent. Global cereal production grew by almost 200 percent, although the area harvested increased by only 8 percent. However, decreases in yield growth of major crops and recent rises in international food prices have led to renewed concerns over agriculture’s ability to feed a growing world population, let alone to eradicate hunger
6 Climate change is another growing threat Climate change is another growing threat. Agriculture will suffer from the consequences of changing climate: rising temperatures, pest and disease pressure, water shortages, extreme weather events, loss of biodiversity, and other impacts. Negative effects on crop yields are more frequent than any positive impacts, and overall production is expected to continue to suffer, although there could be benefits in some places
7 in summary, sustainable productivity growth is indispensable for at least three reasons: to produce more food with the available natural resources so as to meet growing demand; to contribute to poverty reduction by raising farm incomes and lowering food prices; and to preserve and improve the natural resource base and reduce and offset negative impacts on the environment
8 The higher prices on international agricultural markets experienced over recent years and projected for the future should provide an incentive for reducing yield gaps, both through increased use of inputs and the factors of production such as land and labour, and through the adoption of new technologies and practices.
9 The capacity of family farms, especially small family farms, to respond to higher prices and increase their production depends on three factors:household access to assets, including natural resources, labour and capital; the degree to which the family farm is connected to markets
10 increasing labour productivity for poverty alleviation: reducing poverty in rural areas requires substantial increases in labour productivity – and thusrewards to labour input – on family farms. Globally, labour productivity in agriculture, measured as the total value of crop and livestock production per person employed in the sector, has been increasing over the past two decades, following earlier declines
11 Family farming and sustainable productivity growth Family farms are central to sustainable productivity growth in agriculture. In many countries, especially low- and lower- middle-income countries, small and medium-sized family farms occupy a large share of agricultural land and are responsible for much national food production.
12 They are therefore indispensable in both narrowing productivity gaps and ensuring sustainability of production. However, helping family farms to produce more, to increase their incomes and to do so sustainably represents a major challenge
13 Benefits, costs and trade-offs of innovation for sustainable farming Private returns versus public benefits A major issue in sustainable agricultural intensification is whether there are trade-offs between productivity growth and economic returns to farmers on the one hand, and environmental benefits and ecosystem services on the other.
14 Such trade-offs are frequent under the institutions that currently govern agricultural systems, in which environmental goods are generally not valued. For instance, reducing livestock numbers, or managing manure to reduce nitrogen runoff to water or emissions to the atmosphere could benefit the environment, but would probably increase costs or reduce returns to the farmer
15 Key messagesincentives may be needed to encourage farmers to adopt farming practices that combine increased production with environmental benefits and services. Locally developed knowledge needs to be supplemented with research and development suited to local agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions to provide farmers with suitable options for sustainable productivity increases
16 Governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must help farmers overcome barriers to innovation for sustainable intensification. Secure property and tenure rights, transparent marketing institutions and good infrastructure are key elements of promoting the wider adoption of improved practices by family farms.
17 Local institutions such as producers’ organizations can play a crucial role in facilitating family farmers’ access to markets, capital, information and financing and in helping them to adopt improved practices. Effective participation of women in such organizations can help close the gender gap in access to productive resources