A growing world population, combined with economic and social development, will continue to lead to increased demand for the outputs of agriculture – food, fodder, fuel and fibre. Simply increasing the amount of land dedicated to agriculture to meet this demand is neither desirable nor feasible. Instead, it has become essential to grow more with the same, or fewer, inputs of water, energy and chemicals; lose less of what is produced; maintain the long-term health of the land, ecosystems, people, plants and animals involved in agricultural production; and deliver prosperity. These are the ingredients of sustainable agricultural intensification. Capturing the synergies and managing the trade-offs involved in sustainable intensification means tackling these challenges at the landscape level. Landscapes encompass a diversity of interactions between people and environment, and between agricultural and non-agricultural systems. Healthy landscapes not only exhibit healthy ecosystems, but also sustain productive agriculture and communities.
The need for integrated action to deliver sustainable agricultural intensification at the landscape scale has stimulated the formation of the Association of International Research and Development Centres for Agriculture (AIRCA, www.airca.org), a nine-member alliance focused on increasing food security by supporting smallholder agriculture and rural enterprise within healthy, sustainable and climate-smart landscapes. The member organizations all have a proven track record of research, development and implementation, working closely with farmers, extension systems, national research institutes, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector across a wide range of crops and ecosystems.