Sustainable Intensification


The concept of sustainable intensification has come to the fore in recent years as a response to the challenges confronting global food security. These challenges are principally continuing population and economic growth in the face of scarcities of agricultural land and water and the dangers posed by climate change, agricultural pollution and biodiversity loss. This project was initiated by the RISE Foundation to explore the relevance and meaning of the concept for the European Union and for its future agricultural policy.

Two important features of the project have been consultations with experts, officials and practitioners at two workshops in Brussels, and three case studies utilizing on-going re-search into soils, nutrient recovery and biodiversity protection to explore specific dimensions of the concept. A clear consensus which emerged from these consultations and research is that sustainable intensification is a useful, globally based, concept which aims to steer farmers to land management which has a better balance between food production and the environment.

The report

In June 2014, the RISE Foundation launched its review on The Sustainable Intensification of European Agriculture. The report was launched at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).

The concept of Sustainable Intensification (SI) is used in the context of feeding a global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. The RISE report comprises the first analysis of SI in a European context, and argues it must be the paradigm within which future agricultural policy is made in the EU.

The report makes three key points:

  • The agricultural input which needs to be intensified across all of Europe is knowledge per hectare. This means knowledge in managing delicate ecosystems, knowledge to ensure that pollinator populations thrive, knowledge to make water management minimise flooding, as well as knowledge to achieve more food output per hectare.
  • The EU needs to devise a measurement tool for environmental farming performance. It would be strongly preferable to build on an EU-wide set of indicators already developed, for example the Joint Research Centre’s IRENA indicators.
  • In addition to better enforcement of existing environmental regulations, and using policy measures under the CAP, changes in farming practices must also come from farmers and private actors themselves. Many companies up- and downstream already operate sustainability schemes, some of which are reviewed in the report. These should be strengthened and broadened, with more efforts to monitor and demonstrate their impact.

This report represents the first systematic look at the policies needed to prepare European agriculture for the challenges of the 21st century. It represents a tremendous contribution to future rounds of CAP reform.

Dr. Franz Fischler

The report makes clear that the next increase in global food output must come from continued intensification of existing agricultural land, and that this must be accompanied by a steep reduction in the negative environmental consequences of agriculture. The last round of negotiations failed to produce meaningful green reform of the CAP, which is why this report is written with the 2017 mid-term review in mind.


To download a copy of the report, go to Publications.


Since the publication of the report, the RISE Foundation has been travelling throughout Europe to present the report’s findings and inspire change. Find here a copy of the presentation being given.

You can also listen to a 3-minute presentation of the SI report by Allan Buckwell:

Consultation process

As part of the consultation process of the RISE study, the Foundation held three consultative workshops on the subject – at the European Parliament, at a Workshop in the Squre and during the Forum for the Future of Agriculture.  The following brochure was presented at the workshops to inspire debate.  You can also find below the report of the write up of the workshop at the Square, Brussels.


This project was funded by the RISE Foundation’s own funds and received no financial support from any external donors.