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Growing food and other agricultural products now has to meet multiple goals. The mosaic of forests, wetlands, semi-intensive and intensive farmed land and settlements found in agricultural landscapes needs to ensure food security, provide energy and clean water, alleviate poverty, safeguard livelihoods and sustain biodiversity.
This must happen against a backdrop of an increasing human population with changing diets; degrading land, water and nutrients; and climate change. It is one of the greatest conservation challenges of the 21st century.
We are at a crucial point in history to shift to sustainable agricultural systems that can support both people and the planet into the future.
Agricultural landscapes are important for biodiversity. Much of the world’s biodiversity exists in developing countries where large-scale plantations and smallholder farmers provide agricultural products for local and global markets. If well-managed and well-planned, agricultural practices can provide opportunities to conserve biodiversity, to use natural resources sustainably and to bring people out of poverty.
Regrettably, all too frequently agriculture is responsible for land conversion that threatens species with extinction more than any other sector. It also undermines the very ecosystem services – the benefits provided by ecosystems to humanity – on which agricultural production and rural populations depend. This includes decreased water quality, vulnerability to pests, diseases, floods and droughts, as well as impacting water and soil nutrient cycling, and soil formation.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) sees the potential for using agriculture as a means to win gains for biodiversity, ecosystem services and rural livelihoods. Many of our projects around the world are already finding ways that work at different scales within agricultural landscapes.
Our Agricultural Landscapes Programme brings together this experience to influence the choices over land conversion, to help protect and restore areas of high biodiversity or ecosystem value and to enable sustainable intensification – increasing food production while minimising pressure on the environment.