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Tropentag, September 20 - 22, 2017 in Bonn

"Future Agriculture: Social-ecological transitions and bio-cultural shifts"

The Future of Agriculture: Which Way to Go?

Martin Kropff

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico


The question remains whether we can increase food production by 2050 to meet the demand of growing populations and their changing dietary habits, while also developing economically and adapting to increasing pressure from climate change, depleting natural resources and competition for land.
For many, development is defined by the “demographic transition” from largely rural agrarian societies to a predominantly urban industrial society. That being said, there is still a massive disparity between high economic growth and progress in the fight for food and nutrition security. Agriculture needs to go through a major transformation to bridge this gap – and the good news is that in many ways it already is.
What needs to happen next?
Firstly, we need to shift our thinking from agriculture to agri-food systems and from fields to landscapes. In addition to farmers, consumers, processors and distributors play a pivotal role in the availability, quality, sustainability and safety of food products. Nutritional and food security is not just being driven by what happens on the farm, but by many other factors along the pathway from gene discovery to food on a plate. The key to a food-secure future is how we harmonise and align these different interests, understand trade-offs and work multidisciplinary.
Secondly, agriculture must be an exciting and economically viable business to attract and retain new generations. Rural infrastructure and services, business skills, farmer organisations, entrepreneurship and technology are key to making this happen. Addressing youth-specific as well as larger social inclusion issues via policies will be important. What kind of environment does agriculture need now to thrive in 30 years?
Linked to this is the need for a technological revolution in agriculture. Although many technologies are available, we need to move them beyond the research stage to end users. Advances in genomics and remote sensing, to name a few technological innovations, can be used to increase food production and ease pressure on natural resources.
Achieving this agricultural transformation requires a better integration of research domains and sharing research infrastructure and data, to better leverage global expertise and technologies, according to a recent CIMMYT-led article published in the journal Science. Creating the next generation of Global Crop Improvement Networks presents a new partnership opportunity for CGIAR and German researchers, development practitioners and policy-makers.
Germany has a long history of investing in Laendliche Entwicklung. This could lead the way in encouraging new collaborative paradigms, encompassing a broad range of stakeholders at different stages of the research-to-development cycle, to help build resilient agri-food systems.

Keywords: Agricultural transformation

Contact Address: Martin Kropff, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), El Batán, Mexico, e-mail: m.kropff@cgiar.org

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