Beyond the agroecological and sustainable agricultural intensification debate: Is blended sustainability the way forward?
This discussion paper (PDF) by the German Development Institute (DIE) examines the debate over two pathways to sustainability, namely sustainable agricultural intensification (SAI) and agroecological intensification (AEI). The results reveal that proponents of the SAI pathway are predominantly private sector actors, while support for the AEI pathway comes mainly from international donors, NGOs and civil society actors. Both pathways aim to promote food security; however, the actors differ on discourse relating to the concept of farming, the role of GMOs, the scale of operation, and land use, as well as views on the social, economic, and ecological dimensions of sustainability. These fundamentally different perceptions make the question of which pathway to take to feed the growing population even more pertinent. At the same time, it is important to accept that there are synergies and tradeoffs between the AEI and SAI approaches. Acknowledgment of the tradeoffs implies that one pathway cannot be considered a panacea to achieving sustainable agriculture and food security. Rather, location-specific situations should determine the best set of practices by considering the strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats of AEI and SAI and moving towards an integrated approach. Considering that the current impasse makes progress challenging, it is imperative to seek a more consensus-oriented approach among actors of the AEI and SAI pathways to sustainability.