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The Need for Sustainable Agriculture – It’s So Obvious and Inevitable That Even The UN Has To Admit It

Editor’s Note: Quite some time ago, I shared the big 400-scientist-strong IAASTD worldwide study that concluded that small scale, localised, ecological agriculture was an imperative we cannot afford to ignore any more. The post was titled The Food Crisis: “A Perfect Storm” – and How to Turn the Tide. If you missed it, do check it out, and if you’re already conversant in the multiple crises we’re dealing with, then simply jump to the ‘The Solutions’ section. Now, halfway through 2010, whilst I had my head down, working on a tool to help fast track the aforementioned solution — — yet another study shares the same holistic, science-based vision. Read on.

The great need to stop burning out our soils, wasting precious water, and polluting both, is no longer open to dispute. A rapid transition to sustainable methods of agriculture simply needs to be implemented on a massive scale — and it needs to be done yesterday.

This is the great task of our age.

"Agroecology outperforms large-scale industrial farming for global food security," says UN expert. — The United Nations Office at Geneva

In the aforementioned article (first reported 22 June 2010), UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Professor Olivier De Schutter "makes an airtight case for a global policy shift toward agroecological production."

Along with 25 of the world’s most renowned experts on agroecology, the UN expert urged the international community to re-think current agricultural policies and build on the potential of agroecology.

The widest study ever conducted on agroecological approaches (Jules Pretty, Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex, UK) covered 286 projects in 57 developing countries, representing a total surface of 37 million hectares: the average crop yield gain was 79%. Concrete examples of ‘agroecological success stories’ abound in Africa. — The United Nations Office at Geneva

Jules Pretty

In a number of articles authored by Professor Pretty, he has made specific mention of permaculture as one of the design strategies and systems worthy of attention and consideration which utilizes the agroecological approach being endorsed. In a piece titled Can Ecological Agriculture Feed Nine Billion People?, he writes under the heading What is Agricultural Sustainability?:

What, then, do we now understand by agricultural sustainability? Many different approaches have emerged to advance greater sustainability over both pre-industrial and industrialized agricultural systems. These include biodynamic, community-based, ecoagriculture, ecological, environmentally sensitive, extensive, farm-fresh, free-range, low-input, organic, permaculture, sustainable, and wise-use. —

More writings from Professor Pretty referring to permaculture:

To quote the famous 19th century French Romantic writer, Victor Marie Hugo:

One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas.

I would dare say that this is an idea whose time has come… and not a moment too soon.

Rhamis Kent

Rhamis Kent is a consultant with formal training in mechanical engineering (University of Delaware, B.S.M.E. '95) and permaculture-based regenerative whole systems design. He has previously worked for the renowned American inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen at DEKA Research & Development, with subsequent engineering work ranging from medical device research and development to aerospace oriented mechanical design. After taking an interest in the design science of Permaculture, he sought extended training with permaculture expert and educator Geoff Lawton at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. This led to his involvement with design work connected to the development of Masdar City in UAE after Mr. Lawton and his consulting company (Permaculture Sustainable Consultancy Pty. Ltd.) were contracted by AECOM/EDAW to identify solutions which fit the challenging zero emissions/carbon neutral design constraint of the project.

One Comment

  1. Much respect to you Rhamis for the work that you do. We’ll all end up helping out our neighbours before too long.

    I’m producing a small quantity of my own food through through organic methods for vegies, a food forest and chooks and capturing and restoring the nutrient cycle. It’s hard work though, but as time goes on, the output becomes higher, the soil quality improves and there’s less overall work to do.

    Permaculture has a lot to offer.



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