It is clear that enormous opportunities exist to increase food production in ways that make optimal and sustainable use of water and other resources. This means that we can feed a global population without massive and irreversible damage to our ecosystems. It also means that ensuring food security, managing water resources and protecting ecosystems must be considered as a single policy rather than as separate, and sometimes competing, choices.
This approach calls for a fundamental shift in perspective and a deeper understanding of the enormous economic importance of ecosystems and the broad suite of services they provide. For example, well-managed agroecosystems not only provide food, fiber and animal products, they also generate services such as flood mitigation, groundwater recharge, erosion control and habitats for plants, birds, fish and other animals.
It also requires intersectoral collaboration, because only then can policies and practices change. The overarching recommendation of this synthesis is that future sustainability requires an integrated approach to managing multipurpose agroecosystems in a landscape or river basin setting. These ecosystems—whether they are wetlands or forests, arid pastoral lands or rice fields— represent the future of food security and resilience against shocks while offering a way towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and beyond.