Risk Management in Agriculture: Production and Technical Risk Management

Risk Management in Agriculture: Production and Technical Risk Management

Youssef Mohamed Hamada
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5481-3.ch036
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Risk has always been part of the business of agriculture. It's an industry built on the unpredictable forces of nature. What looks like a promising crop or herd can suddenly fall victim to the weather, insects or disease. Farmers are continually developing new ways to manage risk, from the use of hardier and higher yielding crop varieties and animal breeds to the application of new technologies on the farm to innovative marketing strategies. Smart agricultural policy has also evolved toward risk management programming that helps farmers deal with short-term income fluctuations as a result of risks largely outside their control. But the risks in agriculture today are greater and more complicated than ever before. International competition is fierce. Technological improvements are increasing world production and driving down real commodity prices. Public demand for higher food safety standards and better environmental practices requires new investments in the food system. Advances in science and technology are raising moral and ethical questions about the way food can and should be produced. At the same time, Smart agriculture itself has never been more diverse, ranging from specialty crops planted in small plots to grain farms covering thousands of hectares. In between being livestock operations of all sizes, greenhouses, organic farms and a growing number of agricultural businesses catering to unique consumer demands? It's an environment that is demanding new approaches to how business is conducted on the farm and consequently, how governments conduct agricultural policy.
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Agricultural systems, especially those of least developed countries face new challenges: to produce more to feed a growing population, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, to adapt to climate change and its variability but also to mitigate its contribution to emissions of greenhouse gases (the three pillars of Climate Smart Agriculture). These issues lead to a necessary adaptation for all agricultural systems whose diversity is proven. Among the pathways that can lead to such a transition, a better mobilization of ecological processes is the focus of research and development activities. This is primarily to increase production and improve its stability despite other changes, allowing farmers to improve their nutrition and generate income. It is also necessary to increase the other performances of agricultural systems, in particular by reducing their negative environmental externalities and increase resource use efficiency. This transition should contribute to reduce or to substitute chemical inputs and transformation of environments by techniques / practices that instead valorize the biodiversity and positive ecological processes within cultivated systems. In this approach, the specificity of local contexts in their biophysical, climatic and socioeconomic or cultural dimensions is a major element to be considered (AGRICORA, 2016).

This axis aims to better characterize, valorize and use this diversity (usable resources, biodiversity, production contexts, and local practices). System performance should thus be evaluated through their ability to better use natural resources such as solar energy, major nutrients (nitrogen -N-, -P- phosphorus) and water resources. Thus, they must promote facilitation processes between plant species for access to nutrients (e.g. inorganic P), the use of species that do not compete but instead have access to different nutrients tanks (nitrogen fixing, not fixers for example, surface water, deep water) and / or associating crops and livestock allowing nutrient transfer (crop residues, manure). Similarly, this approach requires consideration of articulated spatial scales of the plot, the cultivated system or the entire agro-ecosystem to better explore a wide range of available resources at these different scales. The continuum of land / farm / landscape is therefore of major interest (AGRICORA, 2016).

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