Food Security, Smallholder Farming and Agriculturally Sustainable Intensification

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Since the middle of the 20th Century, the world has produced more people than the entire rest of human history. The human population totaled one billion for the first time in the early 19th Century. It would be another 120 years before the world saw two billion people. Another 33 years and we see our population reach three billion. The population of the world would reach the fourth and fifth billionth person in 14 more years, and 13 years respectively.

This brings about a question that must sooner or later be answered by the world. How does the world reach food security while sustaining natural resources? Food security refers to the amount of food available and the access an individual has to it. This paper will address the growing issues in sustainable agriculture and smallholder seed production, the affects of seed privatization on agricultural production, and the impacts on food security.

Currently, the world can produce enough food to provide 2,700 calories per day, per person. However, more than 800 million people in the world suffer from chronic under nutrition, food insecurity, and starvation (Food and Agriculture Organization). World grain stocks have dwindled to dangerously low levels. Overuse of cropland, agricultural resource degradation, waste of food and calories, combined with increased use of inefficient inputs threaten not only our ability to feed the growing population, but our ability to sustain any form of agricultural production both environmentally, and economically. Our ability to feed the world depends on sustainable agriculture that makes proper use of resources in order to provide the necessary calories to feed the world. But when 5 percent of calories are used in biofuels, a third of the calories produced are used to feed animals, and another third is wasted throughout the food chain, we quickly see why 800 million people suffer (Bittman). Sustainable agriculture begins with sustainable production. This effort must be spearheaded by the public sector through policies as well as agricultural subsidies and investments in private capital by the local governments.

In addition to an improper allocation of resources in the appropriate market sectors, the current application of agricultural resources proves to be overwhelmingly dangerous to our natural resources and food security. Over 21 percent of global land under pasture and 38 percent of global cropland are degraded due to water and wind erosion, as well as land overuse (Guei 10-11). This, included with the fact that industrial food production uses 70 percent of agricultural resources but accounts for only 30 percent of food production reveals to us our path of unprecedented environmental waste in the name of speed and technological progress (ETC Group).

            The change, however, is not one that can come simply through legislation. It is necessary for the action of solving the issue to be a combined effort between the public and private sector. Over 90 percent of the crops in developing countries come from farm-saved seeds. Private sectors, however, continue to push annual seed purchasing while focusing on seed hybridization. This surge by the private sector has, with the combination of cut backs in international agricultural research organizations as well as reduced public sector funding, provided a serious barrier for developing countries in achieving food security (Geui).

Food security is not simply an issue of production issues, nor is it a question of who will take responsibility. It is an issue of affordability and distribution. Increased privatization of seed production and agriculture has greatly led to food insecurity by increasing the gap between what it costs to eat, and what people can afford. Beyond bridging the financial gap, the physical gap of seed distribution and education also plays a significant role in feed insecurity. Public sector efforts to curb the issue have been inhibited by logistical issues in distribution at the local farm, village, and town levels, according to recent studies.

The cooperation of the private commercialization of seed production in the area of seed hybridization with government, university, and local NGO efforts provides a promising solution to the issue at hand. Through cross-pollination over several plant generations, plant varieties are able to better tackle micro-climates, adapt to local plant life, and acclimate themselves to the local life-cycles. Seed privatization has led away from hybrid seed production and cross-pollination, and more to Genetically Modified Seed production. On one hand, the genetically modified seeds can be produced with pesticides already in their genes. However, the issue with this is the private companies are treading the line of crossing biological kingdoms in order to speed up a process and save money, rather than to feed the world in a healthy manner than will sustain the environment. Many experts believe agriculturally sustainable intensification can solve many issues that GMO’s are trying to tackle, while reducing the number of issues created by the GMO’s themselves.

According to the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, full integration with broader commercial considerations such as farmer access to seed distribution systems that facilitate dissemination of improved varieties and functioning markets for produce are critical for the benefits of agricultural biotechnology to be fully realized by smallholders. Public–private partnerships offer opportunities to catalyze new   approaches and investment while accelerating integrated research and development and commercial supply chain-based solutions (Vivienne).

            One example of such a partnership taking hold can be seen in Ethiopia. Khalid Bomba is the CEA for Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation Agency. Bomba elaborates with Dan Glickman, former US Secretary of Agriculture, just how Ethiopia is solving food insecurity. Their efforts have reshaped the economic and agricultural landscape of the nation drastically, claiming a reduction in extreme poverty from 55 percent in 2000 to 29.6 percent in 2011, according to World Bank statistics. Their numbers in the global poverty line have been reduced from nearly 78 percent to 66 percent over the course of 2012-2013. With this, the food supply on average has been increased by 117 kilocalories per day (Bomba).

            Ethiopia has made these results through the expansion of agricultural research and development by improving seed varieties, breed, farming practices, and access to fertilizers, seeds, as well as other forms of high quality input. Combined with an expansion of extension and education to smallholder seed producers, Ethiopia has taught smallholder farmers better techniques such as cross-pollination, intercropping of maize and beans for support in the local ecosystem, and marketing of such products to supplement income to coffee production.

            This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg for solving the world’s issues in food security and sustainable agriculture. The approach must be two-pronged, and centered toward more efficient, economic, and environmentally responsible agriculture. The destruction of local ecosystems and erosion of cropland has risen at a rate that is deadly to the existence of humanity.

            In a study written by Anthony Vivienne with the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, he continues to outline solutions in food production. Vivienne claims that the expansion of the agricultural frontier as well as agricultural intensification can both be used to increase food production. However, the tapping of land and water reserves to increase global production is a dangerous avenue considering past agricultural practices and the current rate of degradation. Required expansion of food production must come from responsible intensification of our finite resources that are already being overused. Sustainable intensification is defined in this instance as producing more output from the same area of land while reducing the negative environmental impacts while simultaneously increasing contributions to natural capital and flow of environmental services (Vivienne).

The process of sustainable intensification seeks to use natural processes to substitute external inputs. This is done through the integrated use of pest, nutrient, soil, and water management technologies, increased diversity of enterprises within farms and farming communities, combined with services for their production. The use of by-products from one component become inputs to another, thereby eliminating external inputs, we alleviate negative side effects that further the issue of land degradation (Jules).

In a time when populations are soaring, technologies are expanding, and output is exceedingly high, it becomes easy to overlook logistic, economic, and practical technicalities. The result of this negligence, however, can lead to a build up of catastrophic impacts. The degradation of land, use of pesticides, reduction in cross-pollinations and intercropping combined with irresponsible use of water, genetically modified organisms and mass production of food through industrial processes has solved few problems, while caused many more.

Not only are current practices wasteful, but also they threaten our ability to continue feeding at the rate of production through these processes when competing with the rate of growth in human population. With over a third of cropland being degraded, a third of calories produced not being consumed, and the reduced focus on smallholder seed production and farming, sustainable agricultural and responsible allocation of natural resources has become a leading issue in our world today. Ironically, as our population increases, so will the amount of calories needed to feed livestock to keep production levels parallel.

Sustainable intensification seeks to solve these issues by eliminating the need for most genetically modified organisms through intercropping, cross-pollination, promotion of smallholder seed production, hybridization and reduction in annual seed purchasing through farm-saved seeds. Through these combined efforts of private and public institutions, countries like Ethiopia are proving to the world that over short periods of time poverty levels can be reduced, people can be fed, and land can be conserved.






















“Who Will Control Agricultural Inputs, 2013?.” . ETC Group, n.d. Web. 28 Feb 2014. <>.


Guei, Robert. Promoting the Growth and Development of Smallholder Seed Enterprises for Food Security Crops. Rome: Office of Knowledge Exchange, Research and Extension, FAO, 2010. 10-11. Print. <>.

. “Agriculture and Food Security.” Food and Agriculture Organization. Food and Agriculture Organization, 2013. Web. 28 Feb 2014. <;.


Greenberg, Brian. “Agricultural Development for Food Security and Poverty Reduction.” Interaction. InterAction, n.d. Web. 1 Mar 2014. < 2013_Sec7_FoodSecurityAgricultureNutrition.pdf>.


Vivienne, Anthony. “Agricultural Biotechnology and smallholder farmers in developing countries.” Elsevier Ltd, 10 December 2011. Web. 1 Mar 2014. <;.


Bomba, Khalid. “The Ethiopian Approach to Food Security.” Standford Social Innovation Review. Stanford University, 31 Jan 2014. Web. 2 Mar 2014. <;.


Pretty, Jules. “THE SUSTAINABLE INTENSIFICATION OF AGRICULTURE: MAKING THE MOST OF THE LAND.” Mekong Info. University of Essox. Web. 2 Mar 2014. <;.

The Lonely Mountain

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Originally posted on scenes from the trail:

So I haven’t seen The Hobbit, nor do I know if Mt Taranaki was used as the filming location for the film, but if I had been in charge, it’s definitely the mountain I would have picked as The Lonely Mountain. Mt Taranaki is truly striking, in a way that only volcanoes can be. It seems to rise out of nothing, towering over the surrounding farmland and coastline.
Mt Taranaki from the north.
A hazy Mt Taranaki from the north.

I was visiting Bec and Holly in the area, so Bec and I thought we’d give the summit a go. It’s not a particularly difficult climb if you don’t mind a little bit of stair climbing. The track is well established and not particularly long, but definitely a slog. The weather is a bit iffy, and afternoon cloud often gathers around the mountain. Fortunately the summit sometimes pokes through the cloud, as it did the…

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8 Reasons It’s Okay To Be Single

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Originally posted on James Michael Sama:

With Valentine’s Day having just passed, we’ve all been witness to self-loathing Facebook statuses about being single, but this doesn’t just happen because of the holiday.

I find often times the perception in society is that if you’re single, you’re unhappy – and if you’re in a relationship, you’re automatically happy.

Given how many people live fulfilling single lives and how many people settle into the wrong relationships, this is not always the case.

Here are 8 reasons it’s okay to be single.


It shows you don’t lower your standards.

Many people think that if you’re single, it means you can’t find someone. But, in reality it’s smarter to wait for the right person to come along, than to settle for all of the wrong ones. Give yourself a pat on the back for committing to this.

It gives you time to learn about yourself.

The most important relationship you’ll…

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Crying Cheshire Gets Rowdy Over Reid

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Im so excited for the season premiere of House of Cards tomorrow. Just kidding folks. House of Cards, or rather House of Cary, just had its season premiere right here on campus.

Last night, Student Senator Cary Cheshire started writing a statement about his motion to impeach Texas A&M University Student Body President. Im not sure if he got lost along the way, but his train of thought surely went missing very early on.

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Bills and Chill Pills

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Today was probably one of the roughest days I have had in a long, long time. Read the rest of this entry »

My Red Oak Bow

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Sorry folks, this isn’t really a “How To” post, but I’ll be more than happy to answer questions in comments.

Building a bow really isn’t that complicated. Read the rest of this entry »

Totally paying attention.

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So I’m sitting in Geology 101 as a junior, watching freshmen role into class with their laptops. I think to myself Read the rest of this entry »