Farming is sometimes seen as an opposing force to environmental conservation, but with the steps listed below, it can work together with environmental efforts to help reach the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.

Here are the steps that can be taken:

Thus our long-term goal must be a more ambitious re-shaping of the relationship between farming and ecosystems:

  • From a leading source of greenhouse gases, to one of the most important carbon sinks;
  • From a leading threat to biodiversity, to a key pillar of our biodiversity conservation strategy;
  • From a leading consumer and polluter of water, to a key contributor to healthy watersheds and reliable clean water supplies;
  • From a leading consumer of fossil fuels, to a producer of renewable energy.

So, as we all prepare our organizational work plans for the coming year, may I suggest some practical actions to prioritize, in order to build our movement towards this vision of agriculture as a provider of both food and ecosystem services:

  • Influential public and private investment organizations can develop design principles and guidance for incorporating agroecological practices and ecosystem management strategies at scale into agricultural investment and development programs;
  • International and national farmer organizations can advance dialogues with their members, and with field-based environmental actors, on effective short- and long-term strategies for action and for farmer co-leadership in the design of policies, programs and practices;
  • Highlight strategies to support climate-smart, integrated agricultural landscapes in the upcoming UNFCCC discussions on agriculture and climate;
  • National committees coordinating country responses to the SDGs, and design of national climate commitments, can evaluate how public policies can better support integrated agriculture-environment planning and investment;
  • Agribusiness and food industry (both SMEs and large corporate actors) can extend their agricultural sustainability initiatives to include investment in integrated landscape initiatives;
  • National Academies of Science and the CGIAR research systems can develop strategies to scale up research on highly productive, ecosystem-enhancing agricultural systems, and on strategies to manage non-farm lands to enhance agricultural yields and resilience; and
  • The High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the SDGs can focus attention on the many nations that have made progress in this transformation, and the benefits from sustainable food systems for the full set of goals to be considered during their July 2017 meeting.

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