Zero Hunger

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Sustainable Agriculture: Implication for SDG2 (Zero Hunger)

  • Mohammad Sadegh AllahyariEmail author
  • Alireza Poursaeed
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69626-3_50-1

Synonyms

Definitions

Sustainable Agriculture

There are many definitions for sustainable agriculture, and the concept has different meanings to different people (Jayaratne et al. 2001). According to the dictionary, “sustainable” can be defined as what can be kept up or prolonged over a long time period. Sustainable agriculture is not supposed to cause any harm to humans or to the Earth and is even touted for its ability to reverse the negative effects of conventional practices, replenish the soil, revive the Earth’s biodiversity, and enhance food nutrition. In addition, sustainable agriculture aims to improve not only environmental conditions for future generations but also economic and social conditions (WCED 1987). Sustainable agriculture is the successful management of the resources of agriculture to meet changing human needs, protect the environment, and increase biological resources. Rao and Rogers (2006) defined sustainable agriculture as a practice that satisfies current and long-term needs for food, fiber, and other related needs of the society while maximizing net benefits through conservation of resources to maintain other ecosystem services and functions and long-term human development. It seems that sustainable agriculture is more than a shift in farming practices; rather, it must focus on raising consciousness too (Allahyari et al. 2008; Allahyari 2009).

Introduction

Sustainable agriculture can be traced to environmental concerns that began to appear in the 1950s and 1960s. Nevertheless, concepts and practices regarding sustainability date back at least to the oldest living texts from China, India, Greece, and Rome (Pretty and Bharucha 2014). These days, we consider agricultural practices like organic agriculture; low-input sustainable agriculture; permaculture, biodynamic, natural, regenerative, low external inputs; agroecology; etc. as agricultural practices toward sustainability as synonyms for sustainable agriculture. All of these approaches have the same objective toward conserving the environment and enhancing socioeconomic features based on humanity values.

The Food Challenges

World population has grown from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 6.1 billion in the year 2000. By the year 2050, world population is estimated to reach 9.1 billion (between 7.7 and 10.6 billion depending on estimates). This means that the population of the Earth has more than doubled in the past 50 years, from 1950 to 2000, and will probably grow only slightly less in the next 50 years from 2000 to 2050 (Carvalho 2006). The food issues are rooted in rising demand and increasing gap between consumption in the world; the gap between wealthy and poor continues to grow. The increasingly higher purchasing power of wealth will lead to an increase in demand for processed foods, and in the end, the pressure on producers and the negative impact on the environment will increase. This increasing gap will lead to decreased access to food for poor and many health issues (Godfray et al. 2010).

Food is an intrinsic basic human need that is necessary for survival and general well-being (Schönfeldt et al. 2010). It has been recognized that humans cannot live a sustainable livelihood without an adequate supply of food (Schönfeldt et al. 2010). Currently, more than one in seven people do not have access to essential nutrients and even suffer a form of malnutrition (Godfray et al. 2010). Poverty and hunger are inexorably linked to food insecurity. Hunger has been prevalent in human history for centuries (Fraser and Rimas 2011).

However, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), malnourishment has declined globally from over 1 billion individuals, 18.6% of world population, in 1990–1992 to just over 800 million individuals, 11.8% of the world population, in 2010–2012 (FAO 2015). Moreover, on the African continent, while the percentage of malnourished population has declined, the actual number has increased (FAO 2015). Despite the decline in the number and percentage of hunger in the world, many people are still suffering from hunger and are vulnerable to food insecurity. The concept of “hunger” has been changed to the phenomenon of “food insecurity.” Many people all over the world go to bed without food, and this is unethical, immoral, and unacceptable because people are deprived of basic human rights and needs. The concept of food insecurity refers not only to the constraints regarding availability, access, and the way food is used and prepared within the household but also to perceptions about food-related topics such as insufficiency, inadequacy, access uncertainty, and social and cultural unacceptability of certain foods (Wolfe and Frongillo 2001). Hence, addressing food insecurity involves two dimensions referring directly to food (availability, access) and two social and psychological aspects (certainty about food availability and access, social and cultural acceptance of food and its quality) (Olson 1999). Food insecurity has, in addition, been classified into chronic, seasonal, or transitory (FAO 1996; Devereux 2006). The 1996 World Food Summit defined food security as existing “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO 1996). The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has deduced four dimensions of food security from this latter definition, namely, “physical availability of food,” “economic and physical access to food,” “food utilization,” and “stability of the other three dimensions over time” (FAO 2015).

Factors such as natural disasters, political and economic instability, inflation, high food prices, and production shortfall commonly cause transitory food insecurity in the short term. On the other hand, factors such as world population, climate changes, diminishing natural resources (e.g., land, water, energy, biological resources), infectious diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS pandemic), low levels of education and literacy, and inadequate application and distribution of technology also impose substantial impacts on global food security and create obstacles for the reduction of hunger in the long run (WFP 2009; Nah and Chau 2010). A country can only be classified as food secure if all three aspects (food availability, accessibility, and utilization) of food security are sustainably addressed (UNDP 2012). Since the 1960s, an intensification practice in agriculture has contributed to increasing global agricultural supply (2.3% per year from 1961 to 2005) (FAO 2007). However, after nearly 40 years, hunger and malnutrition issues are still great challenges to the world and among the major causes of human death, killing nearly 6 million children each year (FAO 2005). At close to one billion, the number of hungry people in the world remains unacceptably high. Most of them are located in developing countries, especially in Asia and the Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa (FAO 2009a).

Another aspect relates to the sources of diet. Throughout the world, people get their daily supply of calories from different diets. In Europe and North America, this supply is largely obtained from livestock products, while in many other regions, the calories supply is primarily obtained from cereal grains. Overall, 80% of the poor in developing countries live in rural areas and derive their livelihood directly from agriculture with diets that are deficient in micronutrients (minerals, vitamins, etc.) and amino acids (FAO 2002).

Food production is an ecosystem service that is dependent on natural resources like water, soil nutrients, clean air, and biodiversity. However, food production also leads to the degradation of these natural resources it depends on: water is consumed in irrigation; fertilizer and pesticides applied to crops escape to the environment, leading to air and water pollution; land cover change results in changes in water and surface radiation balance; soil processes are disrupted; and greenhouse gases are emitted (Foley et al. 2005). Food security is, thus, a balance between taking advantage of the ecosystem service concerning food production for human use and preventing the exploitation of natural resources to a degree that undermines the ability of the ecosystem to produce this food. Sustainable food security, therefore, requires that sufficient food is produced for nourishing present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to produce sufficient and nutritious food for their needs.

Therefore, agriculture is central to human survival – it provides food and fuel, is an important source of livelihood, and plays a crucial role in economic development. Agriculture is, however, a major source of environmental degradation too, contributing to climate change, depleting freshwater resources, degrading soil fertility, and polluting the environment through inappropriate use of fertilizers and pesticides (Foley et al. 2005). Ironically, food production is critically dependent on the very natural resources that are degrading.

This implies that sustainable use of natural resources such as water and soil is important as it has an effect on the amount of food available (Hansen 2013). The inability of developing countries to be food secure in a sustainable way remains a worrying aspect as it negatively affects the economy and human development of countries (IFPRI 2002). Households are only sustainable if they remain food secure regardless of environmental changes such as periods with sudden shocks (e.g., an economic or climatic crisis) and seasonal food insecurity in the community (FAO 2006). Constant development of all three components of food security (availability, access, and utilization) is necessary to ensure stability among the components as well as a sustainable food security status among households (Hansen 2013). A food secure community has better development, growth, and productivity rate (UNDP 2012) than those who suffer from severe hunger or are malnourished. Additionally, the country’s economic growth also benefits (Labadarios et al. 2009).

Sustainable Agriculture is a Key for Food Security

Paradoxically, enough food is being produced to feed the growing population. However, structural changes in the livestock and agricultural sectors, as well as access to adequate, nutritional, and dietary diversified foods, have a detrimental impact on food security (FAO 2009b; Godfray et al. 2010). The negative impacts from human activity of organized agriculture have increased over a comparably short time period (Esquinas-Alcázar 2005). It is estimated that we have developed approximately 15% of Earth’s surface to row-crop agriculture and an additional 8% to pastures, where “overall, land transformation represents the primary driving force in the loss of biological diversity worldwide” (Vitousek 1997). When we diminish the diversity of plant species, we are doing more than endangering our food resources; we are actually undermining our ability to meet all of our human needs. Referring to access to an adequate supply of food, food security engenders critical consideration of agricultural practices, distribution and supply chains, and dietary and consumption habits (Carolan 2013). In addition, the rapid population growth, the loss of biodiversity, and the increasing pressures of ecological degradation, climate change, and globalization have placed the issue of food security front and center, and the world is taking note and proposing solutions (Esquinas-Alcázar 2005). Sustainable food security, therefore, requires not only that all people at all times have access to sufficient food (Pinstrup-Andersen 2009) but also that this food be produced with minimal environmental impacts (Godfray et al. 2010).

Another aspect of this relates to the development of industrial agriculture. Current industrialized agriculture aimed at increasing crop production rates includes the wide use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), deforestation to increase cultivable land, and increased use of fertilizers and other technological advances. Each of these methods further decreases biodiversity and ecological vitality of the Earth. Without having a complete understanding of the side effects of these actions, they could cause extreme unintended outcomes (Varghese 2011). The use of fossil fuels and other greenhouse gas activities continues to increase annually, which is known to directly affect the Earth’s climate. FAO (2009a) argues that “large parts of all continents are experiencing high rates of ecosystem impairment, particularly reduced soil quality, biodiversity loss, and harm to amenity and cultural heritage values.” This, of course, affects food security directly.

If food poverty is to be reduced, then it is important to ask who produces the food, who has access to technology and knowledge to produce it, and who has the purchasing power to acquire it. Modern agricultural methods have been shown to be able to increase food production; yet, food poverty persists. A further challenge is that food production needs to take place without further damage to the environment that is increasingly harmed by existing agricultural practices (Pretty et al. 2000; Wood et al. 2000; McNeely and Scherr 2001). Aliber (2009) argues that the implementation of agricultural activities must be a central component of policy approaches to alleviating food insecurity and accelerating economic growth. Increased investment in agriculture will help redress the current inequalities.

On the other hand, current conventional agriculture fails in achieving such sustainable food security on numerous fronts. Agriculture today is not only a leading driver of environmental degradation and a major force driving the Earth system beyond the “safe-operating space” for humanity (Rockström et al. 2009; Bennett et al. 2014), but it also does not feed people adequately. Given that we have not achieved sustainable food security today and that we will probably need to double food production by 2050 to feed nine billion people with increasing demand for meat and dairy products (Kearney 2010; Tilman et al. 2002), there is a drastic need for changes in current food production systems.

Peterson and Snappy (2015) state that agricultural intensification that has been practiced over the years and involves the use of agricultural inputs to produce more food on a given area of land has dramatically increased food production, but at the expense of the environment. They argue that sustainable production of food is an alternative for conventional agriculture, which is environmentally detrimental.

While agricultural production has consistently exceeded the rate of population growth in the preceding five decades, previous growth has only “been achieved at considerable ecological cost and with heavy use of energy and oil inputs” (EFRA 2009).

Sustainability is the key to food security. Agriculture and food security are inextricably linked. Agriculture plays a dual role in the abolition of hunger – it produces food and can also produce a great variety of jobs needed by households to buy food. Since agriculture is the world’s single largest employer, raising productivity can immediately bolster the purchasing power of the rural poor, who will in turn use the additional income to buy more food and other basic consumer goods. The agricultural sector in each country is dependent on the available natural resources, as well as on national and international policy and the institutional environment that governs those resources (Lund 2008).

Another factor implying the significance of sustainability is the population growth as it has an impact on the agricultural sector in terms of producing enough food and food supplies to meet growing demand. The main objective of sustainable agriculture is to escalate agricultural production while taking into consideration the conservation and protection of renewable resources, meeting people’s basic needs and health, protecting the surrounding environment, keeping the possible risks under control, developing and implementing certain integrated plans and programs of good agricultural practices, and, last but not least, monitoring and evaluating methods. Sustainable agriculture can help protect the environment without harming it. Sustainable agriculture and food security, therefore, can help with maximizing the productivity of the land and improving the well-being of people with minimal damage to natural resources (i.e., land, water, air, and biodiversity) (Pretty 1999).

Sustainable agriculture is defined by Middelberg (2013) as “an agricultural system combining sustainable agricultural practices, while simultaneously discontinuing or reducing the use of agricultural practices harmful to the environment.” She indicates that sustainable agriculture encompasses three main goals: economic efficiency, environmental quality, and social responsibility.

There are many views of sustainable agriculture, and different types of agriculture have been described as components of sustainability in agriculture (Zhang et al. 2001; Lee 2009). Examples include fertility agriculture, organic agriculture, biodynamic agriculture, biological agriculture, integrated agriculture, agro-ecological engineering, bio-ecological agriculture, ecological agriculture, scientific ecological agriculture, regenerative agriculture, and conservational agriculture (Lee 2009).

Agricultural sustainability system includes resilience and persistence implying the capacity of a system to adapt and change as external and internal conditions change (DFID 2004). In addition, sustainable agriculture aims at maintaining cropping systems that do not reduce soil fertility, even over the long-term, and also do not lead to the development of overwhelming pest, disease, or weed problems (Bromilow 2013).

In general, agriculture is the art or science of tilling land for raising crop and rearing animals for food or sale. To be sustainable, a farm should be cultivated in ways that are environment-friendly, not destabilizing the ecosystem. Since almost all rural households depend directly or indirectly on agriculture and given the sector’s large contribution to the overall economy, it might seem obvious that agriculture should be a key sector in development. Indeed, agriculture-led growth has played an important role in reducing poverty and transforming economies.

In developing countries, sustainable agriculture has taken shape within a different social context. The majority of the world is chronically poor and hungry living in these countries, with 70% in tropical ecosystems (Persely and Doyle 1999).

Sustainable agriculture in developing countries emphasizes food security and sustainability of smallholder farmer livelihoods, as opposed to food safety and convenience for consumer livelihoods and environmental protection in developed countries.

Responding to the pressure from food supply and agriculture sector, there is an increasing focus on “sustainable intensification” as a means to increase yields on underperforming landscapes while simultaneously decreasing the environmental impacts of agricultural systems (Foley et al. 2011; Cassman 1999; Burney et al. 2010). However, it is unclear what such efforts might entail for the future of global agricultural landscapes.

In order to meet the growing demand for food, agricultural systems must close the yield gap (Foley et al. 2011; Godfray et al. 2010) while minimizing environmental impacts. This means that production should be increased in underperforming lands. Closing gaps to approximately 95% of their yield potential for 16 staple food and feed crops could add 2.3 billion tons of additional production without using more land (Foley et al. 2011). The kinds of developments that could close yield gaps include the following: improved seed varieties, water conservation and irrigation, precision agricultural practices, soil nutrients, pest management, biodiversity conservation, integrating organic agricultural practices, as well as reforming conventional input rates and timing (Foley et al. 2011; Godfray et al. 2010).

It should, however, be noted that most of the world’s best quality farmable land is already in production, leaving mostly marginal lands available for further expansion. Thus, expansion may result in low yields and further land degradation (Cassman 1999).

Nonetheless, reduction of waste could significantly increase sustainability. Between 30% and 40% of all food produced is lost as waste as a result of lack in food chain infrastructure for storage, transportation, pest exclusion, or spoilage (Godfray et al. 2010). In addition, as population and consumption increase, directly and indirectly produced volumes of waste increase in developing countries and industrialized countries at the consumer level (Foley et al. 2011). This implies that the overall waste challenge is immense, and the focus should initially be directed to reducing waste in the most resource-intensive foods (Foley et al. 2011).

Another factor is related to eating habits. There are pros and cons for the worldwide change in eating habits (Godfray et al. 2010). Negative consequences include substantial variations in production efficiency for different food sources and a variation in the environmental impact of different types of meat consumed by people, such as methane gas produced from livestock production. On the other hand, nonarable land may be used for grazing to satisfy enormous protein requirement of developing countries. On the other hand, livestock is used as a source of income in poor communities and often plays an important cultural role. However, there is a possibility that better animal husbandry and genetic improvement of animal breeds may improve production (Godfray et al. 2010).

In addition to livestock, aquatic products provide nearly three billion people with at least 15% of their animal-based protein supply too (Godfray et al. 2010). There is much more room for the expansion of aquaculture systems than terrestrial agricultural systems so that aquaculture may be able to support the sustainable agriculture goal. However, it is important to develop fishery and coastal zone management strategically in order not to deplete or displace natural fisheries (Whitmarsh and Palmieri 2008). Fish growth rates and the time required before harvest call for a financial arrangement that provides working capital as well as risk management for farmers (Godfray et al. 2010). Environmental impact from aquaculture inputs, such as disease treatment chemicals, fish food, fish waste, and genetic contamination of wild species, are challenges associated with expanding aquaculture systems (Godfray et al. 2010).

As population increases, competition for water and arable land also rises, leading to increasing food security issues (Godfray et al. 2010). In the past 50 years, world’s irrigated cropland has doubled, and now 70% of freshwater withdrawals are used in irrigation (Foley et al. 2011). According to Gleick (1993) and Postel et al. (1996), it is estimated that 40% of crop yields come from 16% of arable land that is irrigated.

To meet the growing demand of this increasing population for food while saving water, it is imperative to enhance irrigation efficiency. Since 1978, the global rate of irrigated acres has decreased by 5%, and new dam constructions may only offer a 10% increase in irrigation water supplies over the next 30 years (Dynesius and Nilsson 1994; Postel et al. 1996). Many regions, including China, India, Pakistan, North Africa, and the Middle East, will soon fall short of adequate water supply to sustain per capita food production from irrigated ground (Seckler et al. 1999). Without irrigation, global cereal production would decrease by approximately 20%, which would require more land to produce equal yields (Foley et al. 2011).

Additionally, agricultural runoff tends to carry more salts, nutrients, minerals, and pesticides into the surface and groundwater. This affects downstream agriculture productivity, natural ecosystems, and drinking water (Tilman et al. 2002). Several approaches may address these challenges, including utilizing more efficient irrigation technologies, such as drip and pivot irrigation, adding manure to the soil to aid in water retention, reducing tillage, and breeding more drought-resistant crops (Tilman et al. 2002).

Fertile soil is another factor that is necessary to support a sustainable agriculture system. However, since 1945, approximately 17% of arable land has suffered human-induced soil degradation and has lost its productivity, often from poor fertilizer management, soil erosion, and shortened fallow periods (Tilman et al. 2002). Continuous cropping and insufficient nutrient and organic matter replacement undermine fertility and deplete organic soil matter, often to half or less of original levels (Matson et al. 1998). Tillage increases the rate of decomposition of organic matter and the release of mineral nutrients, and erosion may be severe on slopes that are mismanaged (Tilman et al. 2002). Crop rotation, reduced tillage, cover cropping, increased fallow periods, manuring, and balanced fertilizer application can all help maintain and restore soil fertility (Tilman et al. 2002).

As far as soil fertility is concerned, fertilizers form a key component of sustainable agriculture; however, mismanagement of them has negative impacts. Widespread nutrient pollution and the degradation of surface water bodies are already prevalent in the world (Godfray et al. 2010). In addition, the release of nitrous oxide from fertilized fields aggravates climate change. Excessive nutrients also have energy costs associated with the processes that convert atmospheric nitrogen and mined phosphorus into a plant, an available form of fertilizer.

Although negative environmental consequences occur from overuse of fertilizers, it is equally a problem that insufficient nutrients are available in worldwide agronomic production. Therefore, many yield gaps emanate from incorrect amounts of nutrient supply to plants (Cassman et al. 2002). A survey of world agriculture illustrates that there are “hotspots” of both low nutrient use efficiency and large volumes of excessive nutrients. About one tenth of the cropland around the world accounts for 32% of the global nitrogen surplus and 40% of the phosphorus surplus. Policy and better management strategies could improve the balance between the environment and yields (Foley et al. 2011).

It is, also, important to consider that improvement in pest control can increase yields. Tilman et al. (2002) suggested a threefold approach to addressing pest and pesticides. It includes breeding for new disease resistance, discovering new pesticides, and planting different crops with greater spatial and temporal diversity.

As another factor to consider, since 1970, global per capita meat production has grown more than 60%. This trend is correlated with global per capita income increases (Tilman et al. 2002). In response to this trend, livestock production evolved into an industry. In livestock production, large-scale operations are economically competitive because of economies of scale; however, this scale of production has health and environmental costs (Upton 2004). Management practices that can minimize health and environmental costs include composting animal waste to create a crop fertilizer that no longer harbors pathogens (Tilman et al. 2002). Alternatively, pasture-based grazing systems make widespread use of ecosystem services and minimize negative environmental externalities associated with protein production (Tilman et al. 2002).

Currently, arable land covers approximately 38% of the Earth’s surface (Foley et al. 2011). The growth in agricultural land development is moving toward tropical ecosystems. In addition, expanding agriculture into sensitive ecosystems has negative effects on biodiversity, stored carbon, and important ecosystem services (Foley et al. 2011). Annual estimates show that five to ten million hectares of forests are still being cleared annually for agricultural expansion (Foley et al. 2011). Maintaining ecosystem services is imperative for global sustainability. For example, preserving forests to purify water through soil filtration serves humanity as a whole. However, it is understood that agricultural practices decrease the ability of an ecosystem to perform these services (Tilman et al. 2002).

Another aspect of this relates to climate change that affects global efforts to produce sustainable food. When discussing sustainable agriculture, there are two major climate change areas of concern. These may refer to the agricultural impact on climate change and the impact of climate change on agriculture. Worldwide, agriculture is responsible for 30% to 35% of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from tropical deforestation, emissions from livestock, rice cultivation, and overly fertilized soils (Foley et al. 2011). There are several factors in agriculture that directly or indirectly affect the climate, such as the quantity and type of land cover, the type of materials used to create a windbreak, the type of irrigation system, and the tillage techniques. These factors alter the climate by changing transpiration, adding particles to the air, and modifying both precipitation and wind (Desjardins 2009). Global climate change can affect agriculture in several ways, such as shifting temperatures, precipitation, quality of soil, growth patterns for each season, and pest management. “Resilient agriculture systems” are more likely to maintain economic, ecological, and social benefits when external forces such as climate change and price fluctuations occur. In order to be sustainable in an unpredictable environment, food production systems should be developed that are diverse and flexible, with incorporation and management of livestock and crop production (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition 2009).

Conclusion

The agricultural sector plays an important role in improving the access to more diverse food in developing countries, especially in rural areas where agriculture employs a large share of the population and contributes to the livelihoods of the poor. Agriculture is inherently connected to so many different sections of the society as agricultural producers and consumers, affecting rural livelihoods and urban overcrowding, the wider economy, and the environment. The depletion of natural resources is a major challenge for agricultural production. It has been shown that the degradation of soils, the exhaustion of freshwater resources, and the loss of biodiversity directly contribute to reduced crop yields via increasing the risk of crop diseases and lowering the fertility of soils (Reynolds et al. 2015; Giovannucci et al. 2012; Tscharntke et al. 2012; Tilman et al. 2002). While input-intensive agricultural systems are needed to increase global food production, the use of external inputs such as chemical fertilizers is associated with negative environmental externalities (Pingali 2012; Graham et al. 2007).

Some challenges facing the agricultural sector include “ensuring secure food supply, addressing the environmental impacts of agriculture, practicing fair labor standards, and providing safe and healthy products” (Rankin et al. 2011). Four broad dimensions of food security are usually identified: availability, the supply of food in an area; access, the physical and economic ability of people to obtain food; utilization, the proper consumption of food; and stability, the sustainability of food supplies (FAO 2002). Food insecurity is the absence of food security implying that hunger exists as a result of problems with availability, access, and utilization or that there is susceptibility to hunger in the future (FAO 2002).

The concept of sustainable food security does not, however, end with ensuring food production into the future. It also requires that the process of food production does not undermine other key ecosystem services provided by the Earth system. In many places of the world, the exploitation of natural resources by agriculture is proceeding at a rate that undermines the stability and function of ecosystems and consequently, the welfare of the human society, which is dependent on the services provided by the biosphere (Foley et al. 2005; Robertson and Swinton 2005; Bennett and Balvanera 2007). Sustainable agriculture must maintain high yields while minimizing environmental impact. As the global population continues to climb toward nine billion (Godfray et al. 2010), net benefits that society receives from agricultural systems and from ecosystem services must be maximized (Tilman et al. 2002).

Sustainable agriculture is the type of agriculture that produces abundant food without depleting the Earth’s resources or polluting its environment and has social values, one whose success is indistinguishable from vibrant rural communities, rich lives for families on the farms, and wholesome food for everyone (Earles and Williams 2005). Sustainable agriculture is thus about the balance between producing enough food without undermining the ability of the Earth system to provide ecosystem services like climate regulation, carbon sequestration, or water cycling. In addition to sustainable food production, sustainable food security also needs to ensure long-term access to nutritious food for all people. Several factors directly influence the development of sustainable agriculture. Not only is population growth a driver of consumption growth, but as a population’s per capita income increases, their consumption habits change to demand more food diversity and consumable goods. Recent analyses suggest that the world will need 70–100 percent more food than agriculture is supplying today (Godfray et al. 2010; Pardey et al. 2013).

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural ManagementRasht Branch, Islamic Azad UniversityRashtIran
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural Extension-EducationIlam Branch, Islamic Azad UniversityIlamIran

Section editors and affiliations

  • Mohammad Sadegh Allahyari
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural ManagementRasht Branch, Islamic Azad UniversityRashtIran