Yes indeed, messages around sustainability are incredibly mixed – from the farmers to the development practitioners, through to policy makers. We can see this in the use (some may say co-option) of terms like sustainable intensification and, to some extent, how conservation agriculture is promoted & practiced in relation to inputs, though in reduced quantities, in different countries.
There is certainly a need to locate the common ground/language. Perhaps these may be found to lie a two distinct levels:
1) Ecosystem services upon which farmers depend, and the ability of this system to provide the same functions when subjected to change, and the degree to which it has the capacity for self-organisation once change occurs (affecting microbial activity in soil, as well as pests & pathogens etc). These also extend to off-farm realities, such as watershed and wider biodiversity management, and are not currently taken in to account within the BBA;
2) The human/farmer dimension within which s/he is able to take control over and manage on- and off-farm resources. This of course includes rights & access to improve and exchange genetic resources appropriate to his or her environment, without being tied to proprietorial or costly inputs. And of course the farmers ability to collectively build and increase capacity for learning & adaptation.
In this regard sustainability is linked to the level of social and ecological resilience (which itself opens a host of other questions). And of course both are intrinsically linked.
But within the context of the BBA, we would like to see more investment in appropriate and scaleable solutions, such as supporting farmers’ breeding skills to further adapt germplasm; improving and sharing locally appropriate seed; identifying and testing biological pest and disease controls for cultivation and storage. Increasing access to and sharing of genetic resources goes hand-in-hand with building adaptive capacity – with effective, locally available resources traded by agri-dealers with shorter supply chains - linking the economic to social and environmental sustainability. In a rapidly changing environment these strategies are critical to the future sustainability of local food systems and trade.
There are many other points which link here – and it would be great hear from others on this.