Natural Resource Management

Managing natural resources through sustainable agricultural development

Natural resources face ever increasing pressure related to global population growth, urbanization, energy consumption, and food production.  Conventional agricultural practices frequently contribute to soil erosion, water pollution from runoff, high fossil fuel consumption, deforestation and habitat loss. Although recent rates of deforestation have slowed, an area about the size of Costa Rica is still destroyed annually, due in a large part to agricultural expansion.

Natural resource management and sustainable agricultural practices can help to do more with less: growing crops on fewer hectares, for example, using less energy and preventing soil and habitat loss, minimizing nutrient runoff.  These practices can be part of a watershed approach that considers the impact on an entire ecosystem.  Practitioners may apply concepts like agroforestry to integrate crops and livestock into forests on the farm. For families in developing countries, however, uptake of these practices is more challenging.  Financial and technological resources are limited, and the day-to-day struggle for subsistence is a much bigger priority.

Take Haiti, for example, where political upheaval and recent earthquake devastation have made agricultural production very difficult. As a result, the nation’s population suffers from high food insecurity.  To overcome these barriers, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (SANREM Innovation Lab)  is working with stakeholders to implement sustainable agricultural practices to increase smallholder food security.

The SANREM Innovation Lab (formerly SANREM CRSP) is in its fourth phase, currently at Virginia Tech. It has refined its approaches, particularly in the expansion of techniques of conservation agriculture, since starting in 1992 at the University of Georgia as a program of training and information exchange with landowners and decision-makers in agricultural regions of developing countries.  The SANREM CRSP transitioned to Virginia Tech with the start of Phase III in 2006, and reaffirmed its goal of stakeholder empowerment. The SANREM Innovation Lab’s current focus is on the implementation of conservation agriculture production systems (CAPS) in developing countries to promote sustainable resource-based local enterprises.

The Soil Management (SM) CRSP focused specifically on soils as a natural resource throughout its two phases of work from 1997 to 2008 with a Management Entity at the University of Hawaii.  Soil conservation techniques, fertilizer and nutrient management, and carbon sequestration were all part of the SM CRSPs efforts towards combating land degradation to reduce poverty and hunger.  Prior to that, the TropSoils CRSP (1981-1996), with its Management Entity at the North Carolina State University, concentrated its efforts on three agro-ecological zones which included the humid tropics of Peru and Indonesia, the semiarid tropics of Niger and Mali and the acid savannas of Brazil, developing local capacity for conducting soil surveys and managing new techniques for nitrogen fixation, helping to improve degraded soils in these regions.

For more information:

SANREM Innovation Lab Phase IV

Office of International Research, Education, and Development (OIRED)
526 Prices Fork Road
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0378
TEL: +1-540-231-1230; Fax: +1-540-231-1402

Adrian Ares, Program Director


Soil Management CRSP (1997-2008)
Trop Soils (1981-1996)