Sustainable Food Production
A sustainable production model provides sufficient healthy and nutritious food using production methods that respect planetary boundaries and stays within them and that progressively works towards social equity and poverty reduction. Another component of sustainability is resilience to cope with shocks such as natural disasters, climate change and price fluctuations.
The level and stability of household income (of food producers, processors, retailers as well as consumers) heavily influences local food production and markets. Therefore attention should be given to access natural resources, basic services, business development and extension services.
Public policies should promote livelihoods and jobs where people live, and ensure food is at all times available locally, among other strategies:
- The provision of public goods (infrastructure, research and extension services, bank loans) which complements farmers’ own investment rather than facilitating foreign private sector investment.
- To ensure stable and fair prices, by using policy tools which help to stabilize food markets and food producers to cope with unpredictable harvests.
- To direct agricultural research towards meeting the needs of family farmers: improving nutrition, developing innovative agro ecological methods and restoring the environment in direct collaboration with food producers.
Attempts to increase productivity have often been accompanied by negative effects on agriculture’s natural resource base, to such an extend that it could negatively affect its production potential in the future. These negative effects can be attributed to production methods characterized by extensive use of pesticides, limited crop varieties and livestock breeds, in addition to agricultural biodiversity (as a result of the focus on monocultures), significant production of greenhouse gases, introduction of GM crops, contamination due to fertilizer runoff, soil degradation and dependence on fossil fuels.
In the context of a changing climate and growing concerns on the negative effects as described above, agro ecology is gaining momentum. There is growing anecdotal and case study evidence of its multiple benefits, from climate resilience to farm productivity (IIED, 2014).
Agro ecology is a scientific approach drawing together ecological, sociological and economic disciplines to balance the needs of communities and integrity of ecosystems. The aim is to maintain the ecological functions that natural systems provide while developing a robust, productive, resilient and fair food system. Attempts to increase productivity have often been accompanied by negative effects on agriculture’s natural resource base, to such extend that it could negatively affect its production potential in the future. Production methods characterized by extensive use of pesticides, loss of crop varieties, livestock breeds and wider agricultural biodiversity (as a result of focus on a monocultures), significant production of greenhouse gases, introduction of GM crops, contamination due to fertilizer runoff, soil degradation and dependence on fossil fuels.
Agro ecology as an alternative - a growing body of evidence reveals the advantages of agro ecology over conventional high-external input farming:
- Greater environmental sustainability and resilience, especially in marginal areas subject to environmental degradation and extreme climatic events, and higher biodiversity
- The ability to support farmers’ food sovereignty, reducing their dependence on costly and sometimes difficult-to-access inputs such as synthetic, fertilizers, pesticides and MV seeds.
Thereby, diversified production makes farmers less vulnerable to fluctuations in the price of a single crop.
- Higher overall productivity (at farm than crop level) achieved through a diverse range of agricultural products and environmental services, which reduce risks of crop failure in the long term. Increased quantity and diversity have a positive impact on household food security. Diversification is an important strategy for addressing micro-nutrient deficiencies in people’s diets.
- Soil and water conservation, on-farm biodiversity and crop health. Sustainable and organic soil- and crop-management practices help to build up nitrogen, organic matter and beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. Restoring biodiversity on farms, plays an important role maintaining a healthy farm ecosystem.
- Lower greenhouse gas emissions, through the reduced use (or complete avoidance of) nitrogen fertilizers, through use of multiple sustainable practices that sequester carbon dioxide or lower methane emissions and through increased tree and shrub covers, locking carbon dioxide.
- Community empowerment, since sustainable agriculture often involves a strong element of local-level-institution building and farmer-to-farmer networking. And although this can also exist under conventional farming practices, it forms an important part of sustainable agriculture, which relies more on local knowledge, leadership and collaboration.
- Regeneration of rural economies and labor impacts. Successful farms generate rural wealth. Increased farming household incomes mean less forced migration, more money to be spent on local labour and basic services and demand for goods and services from local businesses.
|Agro ecology knows many methods and techniques.
The most important elements are:
|More sustainable agriculture techniques. |
More information can be obtained from the following publication Christianaid.
- Concord, 2014. Justice, Democracy and Diversity in our food systems. Concord position paper on food security.
- FAO, 2014. Report for the International symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition.
- FAO, 2014. Agroecology: Farmer’s perspectives.
- IIED, 2014. Agroecology, What it is and what is has to offer. Issue Paper, June 2014
- Christian Aid, 2011. Healthy harvests: The benefits of sustainable Agriculture in Africa and Asia.