Abstract for: System Dynamics and Sustainable Intensification of Food Systems: Complementarities and Challenges

Food systems face the challenges of both providing more food for a growing human population and rebuilding and maintaining ecosystem stocks and services. “Sustainable intensification” to achieve these and other objectives has become an important policy goal. Progress towards sustainable intensification can be evaluated against a range of intensification outcomes such as food production, farmer incomes, and nutritional well-being, as well as against a series of sustainability measures. The agricultural literature about sustainable intensification is growing, but our review suggests that relatively few studies have adopted designs and methods required to understand the range of outcomes that would be important for achievement of sustainable intensification. Many analyses of sustainable intensification options suffer from narrow (model) boundaries, limited understanding of how system components interact, and from a short-term perspective that ignores longer-term impacts of sustainable intensification options. Our principal objective is to illustrate how system dynamics concepts and empirical models can help to address each of these limitations. We therefore develop conceptual models to indicate how general classes of sustainable intensification options could be analyzed, and use an empirical system dynamics model of a farm household in Kenya to illustrate the potential for and challenges of sustainable intensification.