Interesting study, brought to our attention by Joern Fischer. An interesting element of this study, of course, is that the yield being talked about here is explicitly staked to livelihoods and not the abstract concept of a “sufficient” world yield or yield towards fighting hunger. In other words, it really has nothing to do (as far as I can see) with the traditional Borlaug Hypothesis that motivated the original land-sparing claims and ideas.
Is it meaningful that the socio-economic-political mechanism here is quite distinct from classic land-sparing arguments, and that it is based on an actually existing policy regime rather than an abstract one? Or is (or should) the debate be broad enough that land-sparing covers a situation which doesn’t clearly fit into the classic land-sparing formulation? I think it depends on if you are speaking of rhetoric, or scientifically assessable rigor, but more on that another time…

Ideas for Sustainability

By Joern Fischer

Today I’d like to recommend a new paper by Richard Chandler, available here. It’s called A Small-Scale Land-Sparing Approach to Conserving Biological Diversity in Tropical Agricultural Landscapes, and gives us a fresh perspective on land sparing versus land sharing. Comments are welcome of course — when you read my review below, you will find I have never sounded so positive about land sparing before!

This paper may well spark some controversy. It compares land sparing and land sharing systems for coffee in Costa Rica. There are several features of this particular study that set it apart from other, apparently similar studies:

– the land sparing system examined (called integrated open canopy coffee, IOC) includes an institutional mechanism to spare land that is actually in place (rather than being advocated);

– the scale of farms practicing land sparing and land sharing is the same; both sharing and…

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