A sustainable agricultural management framework for a biosphere reserve
Van der Merwe, Daniel Charl Stephanus
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The state of the environment was identified as the most prominent global risk in 2017 by the World Economic Forum. This menace is exacerbated by the worldwide loss of natural habitat, biodiversity and ecosystem services to the ever-growing footprint of conventional agricultural activities. As the global population keeps on growing, the total demand for agricultural production will continue to expand accordingly, thereby increasing the negative effects of traditional agricultural systems on the environment. The capability of sustainable agricultural practices to improve agri-production and to build ecological capital at the same time is well proven on field and farm level. To optimise the benefits of these practices, it must be integrated with the natural occurring ecological processes and replicated on the landscape and bioregional level. Fusing sustainable agricultural practices with the UNESCO’s biosphere reserve concept provides a strategy that can be implemented by a landowner-driven governance structure to improve agri-production and build ecological capital simultaneously on the field, farm, landscape and bioregional level. This model provides a sustainable multi-level agricultural framework to diminish the environmental risks and amplify the return on investments through creating integrated value for the bioregion. It is clear from the study that sustainable agricultural practices compare very favourably with the same conventional agricultural systems due to lower input costs and higher yields. The main barriers preventing or delaying the migration to sustainable agricultural practices by the landowners in the region were determined to be the cost of capital, insufficient knowledge of sustainable agricultural practices and the uncertainty of implementing new systems. Due to the extent and long-term nature of the proposed interventions, the implementation, evaluation and adaptation of this framework fall outside the scope of this study and will therefore form the subject of further study.