Global meta-analysis of sustainable intensification in smallholder agriculture

Globally, the food production system is facing unprecedented challenges (Cassman and Grassini, 2020). The growing food demand, shifts in climatic pattern, and a deteriorating natural resource base are increasingly stressing global food security (Smith et al., 2017). Sustainable intensification (SI) of agricultural practices are being investigated as means to ensure food, fodder, fuel, and fiber are produced, while mitigating negative consequences for the environment, and promoting sustainability more broadly (Pretty et al., 2018). SI is a term whose exact definition remains elusive (Petersen and Snapp, 2015), however emerging consensus indicates that it incorporates five domains: productivity, economic sustainability, human wellbeing, environmental sustainability, and social sustainability (Petersen and Snapp, 2015; Smith et al., 2017). This is an inherently holistic framework, yet the few systematic reviews that report on SI focus almost entirely on the productivity domain as a performance indicator (Smith et al., 2017). Environmental services such as wild biodiversity and water quality are reported on, yet are often limited to specific assessments and case studies (Clough et al., 2011; Köberl et al., 2015; Rocha et al., 2019). We know of no systematic, global literature review that assesses SI technologies based on indicator performance for multiple dimensions of sustainability (Grabowski et al., 2018). We focus this literature synthesis on an important and often understudied sector, smallholder farms.

For more details, check out our recent publication - Reich et al. (2021).