Promote Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture

March 19, 2014

Photo: World Bank Group

For agriculture to be sustainable, land and water must be used efficiently to reduce negative impact on the environment and ensure resilience to climate change.

We can’t achieve global food security without preserving the services that ecosystems such as trees and forests provide, and we can’t sustain forests without thinking of how we will feed a growing global population.

The World Bank champions a landscape approach to managing land, water and forest resources. This weighs the benefits of pristine natural resources with the benefits  of production for food and other commodities. The goal is to maximize productivity, improve livelihoods and minimize negative environmental impact. Put more simply, we can use natural capital without using it up.

One such approach is “Climate-Smart Agriculture” or CSA which has huge potential to increase productivity, enhance resilience, and lower our footprint.  This includes practices such as improving the management of livestock and rangelands and enhancing soil carbon.

Better Management of Livestock and Rangelands

The Bank supports investments to better manage environmental and health problems related to raising livestock, which includes reducing methane emissions and nutrient runoff. To date, the Bank has helped improve environmental practices on livestock farms in Henan Province, China and implement better waste management systems to reduce methane emissions in Thailand and preserve soil quality in Turkey.

Protecting pasture and rangelands so that they continue to be productive is equally important. The Bank helps prevent the degradation of pastures and other landscapes, upgrades grasslands to more productive species, strengthens pastoralist associations and improves land and water rights.

To boost the resilience of these landscapes to climate change, the Bank promotes practices that increase crop yields while enhancing the retention of carbon in soils, as well as agro-forestry, which could potentially sequester carbon and preserve agricultural productivity, even during extreme weather events. The Bank has helped empower pasture users’ associations to improve pasture management in Kyrgyzstan.

Promoting Sustainable Forest Management

Forests absorb about 15 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. Unless properly managed, they are vulnerable to deforestation and degradation—about 13 million hectares of forests are lost every year. The Bank works with countries to sustainably manage their forests--through improved management systems, stronger forest governance and law enforcement, community forest management that emphasizes benefit sharing, improved pest management and fire prevention, conservation and restoration activities and use of the latest technologies. With Bank support, watershed management has been improved in China and Albania, 70 million hectares of rainforest are now protected in Brazil and forest law enforcement has been strengthened in 7 Eastern European countries including Belarus, Moldova and Russia. The Bank has also worked with farmers to regenerate forests in Ethiopia, which has boosted food security. A project that strengthened community forest management in Mexico increased jobs by 27%

Conserving Ecosystems, Including Oceans

The Bank works with coastal communities to promote sustainable management of their resources so that they can continue to earn a living. Bank engagement with communities in Senegal, Liberia and Sierra Leone has helped replenish fishing stocks, and protected mangroves that prevent soil erosion in Vietnam.

Enhancing Soil Carbon

The Bank supports farm management practices that boost soil carbon sequestration such as agro-forestry, mulching and intercropping. In Kenya, the Bank has helped farmers use a wide range of techniques to improve soil on 45,000 hectares of land. It also works to improve links between farmers and carbon markets through programs that encourage climate smart agriculture as a way to generate additional income for livestock production, among other activities. Projects in Costa Rica, Colombia and Nicaragua have supported the use of small payments to farmers for environmentally-friendly practices, which has contributed to increased productivity, carbon sequestration, water quality and biodiversity.