Integrated food–energy systems for climate-smart agriculture
Climate, Energy and Tenure Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153, Rome, Italy
Agriculture & Food Security 2012, 1:9 doi:10.1186/2048-7010-1-9Published: 16 July 2012
Food production needs to increase by 70%, mostly through yield increases, to feed the world in 2050. Increases in productivity achieved in the past are attributed in part to the significant use of fossil fuels. Energy use in agriculture is therefore also expected to rise in the future, further contributing to greenhouse emissions. At the same time, more than two-fifths of the world’s population still depends on unsustainably harvested wood energy for cooking and heating. Both types of energy use have detrimental impacts on the climate and natural resources. Continuing on this path is not an option as it will put additional pressure on the already stressed natural resource base and local livelihoods, while climate change is further reducing the resilience of agro-ecosystems and smallholder farmers. Ecosystem approaches that combine both food and energy production, such as agroforestry or integrated crop–livestock–biogas systems, could substantially mitigate these risks while providing both food and energy to rural and urban populations. Information and understanding on how to change course through the implementation of the practices outlined in this paper are urgently needed. Yet the scientific basis of such integrated systems, which is essential to inform decision-makers and to secure policy support, is still relatively scarce. The author therefore argues that new assessment methodologies based on a systems-oriented analysis are needed for analyzing these complex, multidisciplinary and large-scale phenomena.