0538 GMT April 22, 2021
Healthy ecosystems are vital if we are to ensure that agricultural production is maintained at a level that is commensurate with the increasing needs and requirements of individual countries. Safeguarding the stability and strength of ecosystems is equally essential for enhancing the resilience and agricultural sectors in order that they may cope with the myriad of complex challenges arising from the environmental impacts being caused by such factors as current practices as well as changes in climatic conditions.
There is a firm consensus amongst global experts based on the evidence gathered to date that climate change could potentially lead to substantial reductions in potential crop production in our region. Predictions of significant rises in temperature coupled with the possible exacerbation of water scarcity as well as forecasts of increased incidents of sudden pest and disease outbreaks could yield greater unpredictability in terms of production and underscore a need for rapid and adaptable management responses.
Given the magnitude and severity of the existing environmental challenges being faced, there is little doubt about the necessity of securing that the agricultural production methods being applied are sustainable. Over the coming decades, the agricultural practices being pursued will need to embrace greater flexibility and embody key properties of resilience and adaptability that reflect the multifunctional nature of agriculture and the need to deal with change and uncertainty. Production systems accordingly would need to have greater reliance on ecological processes that produce positive feedbacks on sustainability and production and ensure improved provision of all ecosystem services.
Taking into account the envisaged impacts of changes in climatic conditions, there has been a drive advocated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) towards a paradigm shift in agricultural production that promotes less input-intensive approaches through the embedding of agro-ecological and climate-smart agriculture practices. In this endeavour, emphasis is placed on the capitalisation of biological processes and the pursuit of enhanced agricultural production without compromising or adversely affecting natural resources and the environmental capital such as biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The alternative approaches advocated will involve the integrated use agricultural biodiversity, bringing together the contributions of crops, livestock, agro-forestry species, soil organisms, pollinators and other components. Capitalizing on diversity-based dynamics will reinforce the capacity of agricultural systems in order that they may achieve high levels of productivity whilst optimising economic profitable concurrently with a reduced need for external inputs.
In countries, such as Iran, where the agricultural sector comprises a high proportion of small-scale agriculture, the sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity is likely to be particularly beneficial for small-scale farmers in view of the fact that such farmers are obliged to optimize the limited resources available to them and their access to external inputs is restricted due to financial or infrastructural constraints. Benefits on a large-scale can also be achieved by focusing on improvements relevant to large commercial farmers and conservation agriculture has already been effective in this respect.
On May 22 (Khordad 1 on the Iranian calendar), the global community marked this year's International Day for Biological Diversity by highlighting the significance of 'Biodiversity for Sustainable Development'. As we commemorate the environmental week here in Iran, it is opportune that we reflect further on the importance of agricultural biodiversity in ensuring food security and of adopting the approaches being advocated by FAO in safeguarding this biodiversity in the face of the major challenges that are confronting us today and with which we would have to deal with in the forthcoming years.
*Serge R. Nakouzi is the representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to the Islamic Republic of Iran and to the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).