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There is no doubt that flaws exist within our global food and agriculture systems. However, there are several innovative options for how to improve these systems. Many farmers and communities worldwide have discovered a possible solution through a technique known as agroecological farming.

The idea behind agroecological farming is to link ecology, culture, economics and society to foster a healthy environment for food production. It focuses on food production that maximizes the use of goods and services without harming these resources in return.

Studies show that agroecological farming programs are more efficient than conventional methods. Improving upon efficiency also increases cost efficiency. By using fewer inputs, expenses are reduced, soil fertility is maintained, pests are managed and higher incomes for farmers are possible.

The Muscatine Island LTAR is a long-term agroecological farming site as well as a soil fertility research field where research has shown the benefits of agroecological farming. In a study comparing the yield of fruit quantity of conventional versus organic peppers, no significant difference in yield was found, but organic peppers fetched prices 70 percent higher at market value. Analyzing this study economically, the organic plants cost more to produce, but being able to sell them for more, they far exceeded the conventional plants in profits made. The benefits of the organic method reach beyond profit. In this study, soil fertility in organic plots actually improved over time. The Muscatine Island LTAR allows for long-term cropping systems experiments that have land tenure and advanced management.

Organizations around the globe are investing in agroecological farming practices to improve them and, along with farmers, develop ways to create more efficiency within these programs.

Agroecological farming allows farmers to participate in innovative processes where creativity and skills are encouraged to jump-start agriculture and food production, which forms the basis for life as well as the economy. Agriculture, especially agroecological farming, and food production are centers for addressing challenges like hunger and poverty.

The U.N. confirms that agroecological farming could double global food production within ten years, reduce the effects of climate change and help alleviate poverty. This farming style also conserves biodiversity and improves nutrition by creating a more well-balanced diet. Since production happens locally, it brings families and communities closer together.

Katelynn Kenworthy

Photo: Flickr


Pollution and development are inextricably linked. In the process of developing, nations often rely on the exploitation of natural resources in order to build up revenue. While such options present an economic advantage, considering that costs are restricted while the output is boosted, an environmental disadvantage often comes in the form of pollution.

For example, within the Niger Delta in Nigeria, the capitalization of oil by various companies has resulted in innumerable spills and leaks. Nigerian villagers have noted that these spills kill their fish, ruin their skin, and destroys their water supplies. Similar situations can be seen in other developing nations, such as Venezuela.

Even if developing nations do not exploit natural resources for profit, they may still contribute to pollution by consuming energy from fossil fuels. In comparison to renewable sources of energy such as solar power, fossil fuels provide cheaper energy to developing nations, helping to advance the economy by encouraging industrialization.

The building of mass infrastructure, another key part of development, often utilizes energy from fossil fuels as well, serving to further pollution. At a time when nations are mainly concerned with advancing their economies, the issue of the environment is unlikely to be on the political agenda.

Furthermore, energy use from fossil fuels is likely to increase in the future. As the United States Energy Information Administration reports, developing nations will collectively account for 65 percent of the world’s energy consumption by the year 2040, compared to 54 percent in 2010. Because these countries use mainly fossil fuels for energy, it follows that pollution will increase as well.

Inevitably, such an increase in pollution, in regard to that of air, water and soil, will lead to increased sickness and even death. Diseases caused by air pollution include asthma, pulmonary cancer and cardiovascular issues, among others. For water pollution, the list includes typhoid, diarrhea, cancer and liver damage. For soil pollution, adverse consequences include cancer, nerve and brain damage and liver and kidney disease.

Once the connection between pollution and development is known, the issue then comes in preventing pollution without hindering development. As Oluwasola Omoju of the organization Breaking Energy argues, compelling developing countries to pursue environmental goals will require compensation for the economic losses taken, probably including substantial economic, technological and financial support from the international community.

Regardless of which solutions are pursued, global leaders must soon rectify the adverse correlation between pollution and development in order to counter a worldwide spread of disease.

Genevieve DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Lake Malawi MediationOver two million Africans depend on the waters and shores of Lake Malawi for their livelihoods. The lake, which borders Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique, has historically belonged 100 percent to Malawi. However, Tanzania has now laid claim to 50 percent of the lake. The dispute between the two countries has been ongoing for the last fifty years and has only recently come to a head as the result of oil exploration within the lake.

Malawi and Tanzania have submitted their position papers in preparation for the conflict mediation that will take place between March and May of this year, overseen by the African Forum.

The lives of two million Africans hang in the balance. About 1.5 million Malawians and 600,000 Tanzanians depend on Lake Malawi for their daily needs, including food, income, and transportation. As tension between the countries has heightened, Malawian fishermen have experienced abuse at the hands of Tanzanian security forces. One Malawian fisherman, while fishing on the Tanzanian side of the lake, reported being detained, beaten, and told never to fish on that side again. Tanzanian officials denied the harassment charges and expressed concern over Malawian aircraft flying over Tanzania without permission.

Even as tensions over Lake Malawi have increased, residents continue to depend on the lake’s vast resources for their survival. For years, fishermen of both countries have been crossing the invisible border between the countries to fish the entire lake. Local residents depend on the lake’s 2,000 different fish species to support themselves and their families. As a result of being unable to fish the Tanzanian side of the lake, the Malawian fisherman has seen his income reduced from $286 per month to just $142.

The fishermen, as well as national authorities and NGO officials, express concern over what may come to pass if the oil is discovered in Lake Malawi. The lake’s ecological diversity would most likely suffer as a result of oil exploration and drilling. Lake Malawi’s fish stocks have already declined from 30,000 to 2,000 tons per year over the last twenty years. The decline further endangers the livelihoods of local fishermen.

– Kat Henrichs
Source: All Africa
Photo: About.com

indonesian-frog
A new study led by Harvard Medical School researcher Matthew Bonds is linking an environment’s biodiversity and public health, namely its susceptibility to the spread of disease. Bonds found that countries with decreased biodiversity “will have a heavier burden of vector-borne and parasitic diseases,” an assertion which has drastic implications for public health systems worldwide.

Previously, some might have suggested that a lack of funding is the biggest roadblock to protecting people from pathogens. These new findings indicate that governments may be well-served in their quests for healthy citizens by protecting natural ecosystems. Bonds explains that “the more organisms you have out there, the more things there are that can interrupt the life cycle of disease, and the less concentration you’ll have of any vector.” When humans urbanize an area, many species are forced out of their natural habitats and end up dying off in large numbers. Pests and other disease-carrying creatures breed freely, resulting in a much greater risk of exposure for humans.

The United Nations estimates that one out of every three species on Earth faces extinction. Bonds uses this statistic to demonstrate how a country like Indonesia faces a grave threat from losing its biodiversity: given a 15% decline in this metric, the country would face a 30% larger disease burden. By elucidating biodiversity’s link to public health, Bonds demonstrates yet another area in which undamaged ecosystems provide major benefits to humans who can exist alongside natural cycles, instead of in place of them.

Jake Simon

Source: NPR
Photo: About Indo