Vanessa Meadu/CCAFS.

New book: Sustainable agriculture under climate change

A decade of research shows that partnering with communities is vital if we are to meet growing food needs, while preserving the environment in two of the world’s largest river deltas. This is especially true in the face of climate change.

This finding is highlighted in a new book, to which scientists working with the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) have contributed a chapter on community-driven approaches to sustainably intensifying agriculture—ensuring it adds value to the environment as well as provides food and income—in river deltas.

The authors draw on more than a decade of research undertaken in the Mekong and Ganges deltas. Both have been described as the ‘rice bowl’ or ‘breadbasket’ of their regions because their abundant natural resources feed hundreds of millions of consumers.

Yet, both deltas are under pressure, especially from human activities, such as poorly managed and insufficiently maintained infrastructure. Climate change, of course, is exacerbating such negative impacts, with droughts and floods becoming more severe and increasing salination affecting production systems.

But, the authors conclude, research has identified a promising solution: “Creating partnerships with communities from the beginning and strengthening their capacities for collectively identifying, testing and adapting solutions to high-priority problems, is the most effective pathway to sustainable intensification of agro-eco-systems.”

Such partnerships can take form through citizen science, a kind of participatory research, in which local people, not the scientists, lead investigations. In Vietnam, such activities have already led some communities to adapt their livelihoods to new realities, seeking to protect the natural ecosystem they depend on.

So far, citizen science have taken place on a pilot scale in the two deltas, and the challenge, the authors point out, is to scale up the practice through collaborations with investors and government programs. Powered by long-term, multidisciplinary socio-ecological systems research, such participatory efforts might be just the cure that the Mekong and Ganges deltas need.

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