To achieve future-proof agriculture for both nature and farmers, more insight and knowledge about how agriculture and nature can enhance one another is needed. For this reason, the Worldwide Fund for Nature is financing the new Chair in Resilient Landscapes for Nature and People, to be held by Prof. Pablo Tittonell of the University of Groningen (UG).
An important goal of this Chair within the Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES) at the UG is to research how nature and agriculture can be brought closer together. This could be accomplished, for example, through researching the role of agricultural areas as habitats for wild animals, as well as the contribution that biodiversity brings to agriculture by providing services delivered by nature, such as pollination and fertile soil. This knowledge will contribute to the development of an agricultural system that is profitable for farmers, meets the needs of society and offers added value for nature.
‘Instead of contrasting each other, agriculture and nature actually work hand-in-hand,’ says Pablo Tittonell. ‘Farmers working with nature, also known as agroecology, is a current that has displayed remarkable, positive results in science and in practice. And this isn’t only the case for small-scale agriculture: the principles are also easily applicable to safeguard a sustainable food supply. Agriculture can profit from nature and vice versa, without any adverse compromises.’
Within the agricultural sector, there is great interest in nature-friendly agriculture. However, there is also a strong need for more knowledge about, for example, the role of pollinating insects, natural pest management and the stimulation of soil life. It is therefore important to invest in research, share knowledge and connect knowledge to practice.
‘Nature reserves only take up 10% of our land surface. If we wish to reverse the trend of a loss of biodiversity to actually recovering it, then we therefore also need to recover ecosystems that lie outside nature areas,’ says Kirsten Schuijt, CEO of WWF-NL. ‘The food system is one of the most important causes of the loss of biodiversity around the globe. There is therefore an important solution to be found for agricultural landscapes. However, the current agricultural system must undergo drastic changes to this end. The Worldwide Fund for Nature is supporting this need for an urgent agricultural transition, also in the Netherlands. This Chair will help in the search for innovative agricultural solutions to effectively achieve this transition, together with farmers, businesses and government.’
Pablo Tittonell is the national coordinator of the Natural Resources and Environment programme of INTA (National Agricultural Technology Institute, Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria), an agricultural research organization in Argentina. He was formerly a professor within the Farming Systems Ecology research group at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and is affiliated with the SIBAGHE (Systèmes Intégrés en Biologie, Agronomie, Géosciences, Hydrosciences, Environnement) Doctoral School at the University of Montpellier, France and with the National University of Lomas de Zamora in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He obtained his PhD in production ecology and national resource management and his expertise includes soil fertility, agroecology, biodiversity and the analysis of agricultural systems. He has taken part in various research and development projects across the entire globe in the area of design, resilience and adjustments to agricultural systems, with a focus on socioecological processes at the interface of agriculture and nature. He worked at CIRAD (Centre de coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement), where he led a research team in the field of systems design and evaluation, conducting activities on Réunion Island and in Brazil, Vietnam, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Benin, Kenya and Zimbabwe. He is a member of the board of the Agropolis Foundation in Montpellier, a member of the Latin American Society for Agroecology (SOCLA) and is editor-in-chief of the academic journal Agricultural Systems. Tittonell advises the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and three of the collaborative CGIAR programmes, and supervises 22 PhD students conducting fieldwork in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.
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