Sustainable intensification of agriculture with sustainable irrigated agroecosystem services
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Makin, Ian W.; Manthrithilake, Herath. 2015. Sustainable intensification of agriculture with sustainable irrigated agroecosystem services. Paper presented at the International Network for Water and Ecosystems in Paddy Fields (INWEPF) Symposium 2015 on Achieving the Goals of Food security in Sustainable Paddy Water Ecosystems, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 3-5 November 2015. 13p.
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Irrigated agriculture is undeniably a significant modification to natural ecosystems, and one which has not been without significant adverse impacts on the ecology and hydrology of the landscapes and river basins in which irrigation systems are located. A lack of consideration for broader ecosystem service values during planning, implementation and subsequent operation of irrigation projects may explain the underperformance of investments in irrigation systems. In many cases, this has arisen because irrigation schemes have been designed for a single purpose (intensification or increase) of agricultural production without due consideration being given to other ecosystem functions, and in isolation from the landscape of the entire catchment. Large-scale irrigation systems (LSIS) and smaller, often community managed, systems have been a central component in the food security of the population in much of Asia3, and these systems are expected to make increased contributions to food security and improved livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Irrigation has been an essential input to agriculture to meet the fast-increasing demand for food and is also a contributor to poverty reduction. Future population growth and economic development means that the increasing demand for food must be expected to continue, and it is projected that intensified irrigated agriculture will have to provide about 60% of the extra food needed (World Bank, 2007). Yet, the expansion of irrigated areas has slowed, rates of productivity improvement are slowing, and water availability for irrigation is being constrained by alternate demands for water. Simultaneously, concerns over loss of biodiversity and disruption of ecosystems have increased, resulting in the increasing examination of the sustainability of agricultural value chains and the role of agriculture in the landscape. The core objective of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), is to promote the sustainable intensification of agriculture through evidence-based research and policy development. Fundamental to the achievement of this goal is the application and uptake of an ecosystem services and resilience-based approach. This paper presents an ecosystem service-based approach to sustainable intensification of irrigated agriculture, highlighting approaches to guide research, policy development and strategies to stimulate ecosystem-inclusive management of irrigated agriculture. The concepts of ecosystem services are reasonably well established. However, attempts to develop ecosystem-inclusive management of LSIS is new.