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sustainable agriculture techniques are the key to successful development Sustainable agriculture techniques increase the profitability and health of farmlands. The easiest sustainable agriculture techniques are crop rotation and reduced usage of pesticides. This is because the quality of the soil is key to the health of plants and consequently people. Sustainable agriculture techniques are the key to the successful and sustainable development of economies around the world. It can benefit both small and large economies.

According to the UN, agriculture is the largest employer in the world. The industry provides employment to 40 percent of the world’s population. However, on average 1 in 4 children suffer from stunted growth around the world due to undernourishment. In fact, poor nutrition kills up to 3.1 million children each year. People in the developing world are more likely to be affected by malnutrition due to food insecurity.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is a sustainable agricultural technique that is both easy to explain but difficult to understand. To fully grasp how it works and understand its benefits, one must understand soil composition. According to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, an average soil composition is 45 percent minerals, 20-30 percent air, 20-30 percent water and 5 percent organic material. Water helps to hydrate the plant and circulate the minerals and organic material that feed the plant. Air allows room for the seeds to grow when planted.

Crop rotation involves planting different crops during different seasons every year. Crops such as corn or wheat are nitrogen-demanding and pull much of it from the soil. If they are planted year after year, they drain the soil of its fertility. Therefore, in the following year it is important to plant crops such as legumes. They demand less nitrogen and sometimes even help replace the lost nitrogen. The process continues depending on the farm’s specific soil composition. The time at which different crops are planted may be different for each farm.

Reduce Usage of Pesticides

One might be tempted to say that fertilizers and pesticides are necessary as they are used to increase crop yield. But heavy use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers increases water pollution which can harm humans and other animals and plants. It can also degrade the soil quality over time.

A sustainable farming technique that can be used to reduce a farm’s reliance on pesticides is to stop using pesticides altogether. A study published in a peer-reviewed journal, Nature Plants, claims that in 77 percent of the farms investigated, there was no correlation between increased profitability and high pesticide usage. They estimate that many farms could reduce their pesticide usage by 42 percent and see no difference in their crop yield. Pesticides are not only harmful but are also expensive; reducing use of pesticides can help save money. With so much of the world’s population relying on agriculture as their main source of income, every little bit of money saved counts.

Farmer Field School Approach

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations began a program in 1989 called Farmer Field School Approach. This program has been developing with practice and continued implementation. It has helped educate over 180,000 farmers in East Africa alone about the benefits of sustainable agricultural techniques and how to implement it on their farms.

Farmers who participate in these classes then go on to educate their neighbors. This is where the real impact happens. It has resulted in more sustainable farms. In the end, sustainable agriculture techniques lead to healthier farms, healthier people and a healthier economy.

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

 

Feeding the World

About 800 million people (one in nine) worldwide are still undernourished. Creating food sustainability is a growing need across the globe. In recent reports by the Guardian, Africa could face the worst food crisis since 1985, with 50 million people going hungry.

Continued droughts have spread across Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Madagascar, Angola, Swaziland and South Africa, causing the season’s crops to fail.

Even worse, unsustainable farming practices have been destroying fertile lands necessary for food production. Soy production, for example, destroys 55 million tons of topsoil in Brazil each year. Similarly, destructive crops are coffee, palm oil, tobacco, wheat and corn. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, 30 percent of global arable land has already been degraded.

While nearly a billion people still need proper access to food, expensive appetites and irresponsible corporations have been abusing land and practicing unsustainable farming methods.

The practice of raising livestock for meat has contributed to global warming by deforesting areas that would otherwise cleanse the air of carbon dioxide, and by adding methane to the air. Raising livestock also requires the use of massive amounts of water. Agriculture accounts for one-third of global greenhouse emissions and 80 percent of water usage in the US.

Because of the lack of sustainability of many current farming practices, and the need to feed much of the developing world, scientists have proposed new technologies to tackle these challenges. One proposed controversial method of sustainability is in vitro meat production — producing meat in a laboratory.

In theory, the practice would rid the food production industry of all the traditional worries of raising livestock and handling the waste produced. However, the procedure may be extremely energy-intensive in keeping the meat sterile and the process may eventually also contribute to global warming. Once optimized, the world’s growing desire for meat may have the chance to shift to this laboratory product.

Another technology currently under development by NASA is 3D food printing, which would convert basic proteins, carbohydrates and fats into actual foods. The technology could utilize alternative ingredients like insects or algae to source sustainably but also satisfy our specific appetites.

Genetically modified foods (GMOs) have the potential to be sustainable  and help end hunger, although they are also very controversial. In Uganda, the World Bank has helped introduce a non-native, biofortified sweet potato that would combat the stunting of children’s growth and help empower women farmers with economic independence. The sweet potato provides a child’s daily dose of Vitamin A in less than two ounces and gives women the opportunity to grow and sell the food.

While scientists have proposed many ideas for feeding the world in a sustainable manner, public opinion has been the crux to progress. With such bitter backlash to GMOs and other non-natural foods, funding will always be limited. These technologies will have to be supported and developed in the richest nations before they can safely and effectively be implemented for the poorest.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr

uc global food initiative
University of California is determined to downsize hunger and make the world a healthier place. UC will research what is causing world hunger, how it could be solved, and then it will put its findings to work.

It is estimated that by the year 2025, the world’s population will reach eight billion, and UC wants to nutritiously feed all of the eight billion people.

President Janet Napolitano announced the launch of the UC Global Food Initiative at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA on July 1, 2014. This program will be directed by Napolitano and the 10 UC chancellors.

“Our goal is audacious, and it is far-reaching. It is our intent to do everything in our power to put the world on a pathway to feed itself in ways that are nutritious and sustainable,” said Napolitano during a press conference on July 1. Napolitano went on to explain that the issue of “food” does not just consist of what people eat, but it also has to deal with delivery systems, population growth, climate issues and policy. She went on to say that, every night, one billion people go to bed hungry, while half a billion people are suffering from obesity.

There is already so much research going on at the different UC labs. For example, at the Berkeley lab, researchers have developed a smart cookstove called the Darfur stove. This stove is able to address food security issues caused by misplaced people in Darfur. At the same time, the Darfur stove is able to decrease women’s exposure to violence while collecting firewood.

Napolitano went on to explain that the idea of this organization is not to come up with a solution to problems that have to deal with food but to provide information and examples for communities in California and around the world on how to provide food security and sustainable food.

Some of the smaller ways the initiative will address food issues is by incorporating these issues in undergraduate and graduate classes.

In addition to traditional research topics such as agriculture, health and the environment, the program will also research topics such as law, humanities, education and social science to help develop discussion about food issues.

– Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: Contra Costa Times, University of California Office of the President, University of California Office of the President, Cookstove Projects, University of California
Photo: UCR Today

aspire_food_insects
Insects have always played a beneficial role in the ecosystem by pollinating plants and helping maintain the balance of the ecosystem.  In certain cultures, insects are also a vital source of nutrients. The United Nations believes that eating of insects could be a simple way to fight global hunger, as insect farming requires a smaller amount of land than other forms of farming. This newfound interest in insects prompted MBA students at McGill University to found Aspire Food Group.

Aspire Food Group aims to build a social enterprise that allows local farmers to farm, harvest, and process insects in order to make breads and other foods.  Today, the Food Group is conducting grasshopper-farming trials in Kenya, Thailand, and Mexico in an attempt to make processing these insects more labor and resource efficient. Aspire Food Group was recently praised by The Hultz Prize and awarded $1 million for further research. Ahmad Ashkar, founder and CEO of the Hultz Prize, believes insect farming “is our chance to empower the next generation and solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.”

However, in order for this new diet to be used most efficiently, it is important to address the social stigma associated with eating insects. Harman Johar believes that this misconception can be overcome just like that of eating raw fish in sushi. Johar devotes his time to harvesting and selling dry roasted insects to people all over the country. Dr. Marianna Shockley, an entomologist at the University of Georgia, believes that the United States is not a part of the 80-85% of the world that regularly consumes insects because of the perception and the nation’s wealth. In the United States, land for agriculture is readily available. Dr. Shockley believes that the Americans should attempt to incorporate insects into their diet as they provide an alternative source of protein while creating a much smaller carbon footprint.

Harman Johar is looking for investors in his company and believes that the insect movement will take off “when the timing is right.” He believes that food shifts come in great movements such as the industrialization of food in the post-World War II era and the realization that that industrialized food is unhealthy in the late 20thcentury. He is convinced that the next shift will be towards healthy and environmentally sustainable food.

Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: Mother Nature Network
Photo: Daily Mail