The human population is increasing at an alarming rate – projected to reach around 9 billion by 2050. If we are to meet our feeding needs and at the same time preserve the environment for future generations, now is the right time to fully embrace sustainable farming – a system in which farmers use techniques that protect the environment, economy, people, and communities.
The benefits that sustainable farming affords to the environment, local economies and people are enormous. Let me highlight a few of them!
Using sustainable techniques, farmers are able to grow high yielding seeds such as pest and weed resistant seeds on agricultural lands. Doing this, farmers can harvest more crops and provide food for a significant number of people using less land resources. Using less land resources will certainly help to reduce carbon emissions in the agriculture sector.
By embracing sustainable farming, farmers are driven to think critically about their cradle to grave farming processes and creatively devise innovations to reduce carbon emissions associated with their farming activities, thereby making them more resourceful. For example, sustainable farming practices will require farmers to think carefully about the use of natural resources such as water, waste, and energy. And this is good news from a resource and/or carbon management point of view.
Another good thing about sustainable farming in today’s world is that it prompts farmers to develop strategies to reduce food miles and/or grow food locally.
When food products are grown locally, it stimulates local economies, thereby improving lives. Not only are lives improved, the use of air or road transport in the production in food supply chains is also reduced or eliminated, thus lowering transport emissions and improving environmental sustainability.
Wherever sustainable farming is practiced, community cohesion is also enhanced. Community cohesion is improved in the sense that environmental sustainability (in the agriculture sector) requires everyone (farmers, laborers, consumers, etc.) involved in food supply chains to collectively make environmental sustainability efforts for the preservation of the environment. A collective effort towards environmental preservation is one good way to combat environmental issues (such as climate change) in the agriculture sector.
It is noteworthy that community cohesion is vitally important for climate change mitigation, given the fact that the agricultural supply chain is complex, thus requiring everyone to be part of the solution. Come to think of it, some of the food items produced in the agriculture sector are sent as waste to landfill, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas, which is 21 times more powerful than carbon at warming the atmosphere.
While farmers can use sustainable farming to reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with the food production stage, the end- of- life stage of food items is outside the direct control of farmers and within the direct control of consumers, thereby making it necessary for consumers to be part of the solution if the goals of sustainable farming are to be achieved in any society. A sustainable system of farming can, therefore, make consumers more environmentally aware and considerate when disposing of waste, thereby reducing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and improving environmental sustainability.
It is imperative to also note that agricultural supply chains are global in nature, with widespread activities in both developing and developed countries. Significant environmental issues such as ground, water, air and land pollution are not uncommon in areas used for farming. However, sustainable farming practices operate within sustainable development principles, serving to promote traceability and accountability in the agriculture sector by asking critical questions such as:
– Where do our food items come from?
– How were our food items grown?
– Who produced our food items?
– How environmentally trained are our farmers?
– Is there any issue of environmental pollution associated with the production of our food items?
– Is there any plan in place to mitigate pollution in food supply chains?
Sustainable farming is, therefore, an effective tool for the total eradication of negative environmental impacts in agricultural supply chains.