Hivos International

Why Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity and Climate Change

The natural resources that constitute the fundament for many rural livelihoods are increasingly deteriorating and being depleted, which is compounded by the effects of climate change. With changes in temperatures and rainfall patterns, agricultural systems are becoming more insecure and risks of harvest failures are increasing. Furthermore, the increasing global demand for food is expected to intensify competition for resources (land, water). This, combined with rising prices and yield volatility as extreme weather continues, puts the livelihoods and food security of many rural communities at serious risk.

For the 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide, agriculture is their main source of income. But because they produce about seventy percent of the world’s food, their efforts are just as crucial for society at large. The important role of smallholders, and particular women, in ensuring (current and future) food security is being increasingly acknowledged. Investment in sustainable small-scale farming is crucial to avoid further resource depletion, ensure future food security and enable smallholders to create viable livelihoods. This implies that smallholders need support to produce in a way which integrates biodiversity, climate and water objectives.  

More sustainable agricultural systems have shown to play a significant role in improving soil fertility and water-holding capacity, mitigating pests and diseases (crop failures), supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation, and enhancing food quality. These features have a positive influence on the livelihoods of rural people by increasing agricultural productivity, lowering costs for external inputs, securing their incomes, generating jobs and contributing to a safe and healthy working environment. In addition, sustainable agriculture provides consumers access to healthy food, free from toxics used in chemical pesticides and fertilizer.

Agricultural biodiversity and biodiverse farming systems are more productive and more resilient to climatic changes and other shocks.  Ensuring that biodiversity is understood as an important asset and brought back on the agenda of decision-makers requires a change to the work and orientation of many stakeholders, from farmers (men and women) and their organisations to extension services, research organisations, financial institutions, companies and governments. Tools, processes and regulations must ensure that biodiversity is optimally used and stimulated. Mainstreaming and therefore scaling up the existing successes is urgently required.

Hivos aims to support this transformational change through financial support, knowledge generation and sharing, as well as innovative collaboration efforts.  We have an excellent network  and a good track record of organising partnerships between buyers, business development service providers, agricultural producers, and providers of green finance (banks, microfinance Institutions (MFIs)) to help small-scale producers make agriculture as resilient and future-proof as possible.