The demand for food is growing globally as the world’s population explodes. To meet this demand agriculture needs to increase yields without compromising the ability of future generations to provide for their food requirements.
The answer to preserving our environment and stopping further damage to the ecosystem lies in sustainable farming – a system which is sustainable environmentally, socially and economically.
Sustainable farming means producing food, fibre, plant or animal products without harming natural resources and land and considering social responsibilities such as working and living conditions of farmers and workers, the needs of rural communities, and health and safety of the consumer both in the present and the future.
It takes into account economic viability and profitability and integrates it with environmental health and social and economic equity.
Ideally, sustainable farming meets the needs of the present generation without damaging the ability for future generations to meet their needs.
Stops crop disease
Sustainable farming involves crop rotation where crops are grown according to the season on the same land. This prevents crop diseases and also the risk of wiping out entire crops due to intensive monoculture practices.
Prevents soil erosion
Crop rotation leads to healthier soil and improved pest control methods besides promoting diversity. Intercropping and growing cover crops prevent soil erosion and also helps replenish nutrients along with minimising weeds.
Managing irrigation to reduce runoff is another practice that helps prevent soil erosion.
Traditional methods like tilling and ploughing and using organic manure and fertilisers help improve soil quality.
Reduce pollution and use of chemicals
Sustainable farming reduces pollution by using natural fertilisers and using fewer chemicals. This means that farm produce is healthier and better for you.
Sustainable farming incorporates integrated pest management to identify pests in the initial stages and target spraying only for particular pests limited to a particular area. This way it doesn’t affect the bio-diversity and protects the natural wildlife.
Farmers also build shelters to keep natural pest eliminators such as bats, birds and insects who work to keep pests away.
Even the waste produced by sustainable farming goes back into the farm’s ecosystem and does not pollute the environment.
An important aspect of sustainable farming is that it remains economically viable for farmers, farm workers, and others who are employed in the food system so that they make a liveable wage and work in a safe environment.
Sustainable farming encourages the resurgence of smaller family-run farms that strengthen the rural community which benefits everyone.
Food produced by sustainable farming methods has more nutrients in it as it avoids dangerous chemical and pesticides.
Crop rotation also guarantees more nutrients in fruits and vegetables while livestock farmers raise animals in a humane way without any dangerous practices such as the use of growth hormones and non-therapeutic antibiotics. Thus the meat is safe for consumers.
The food also tastes better.
Improve animal welfare
Sustainable farming improves the welfare of animals by raising animals on pasture and letting them move freely. Animals consume their natural diet and are treated humanely by the farmers. Animals are not stressed and are healthier thus needing fewer medications.
Sustainable farming methods protect biodiversity and the environment and it fosters growth and maintenance of healthy ecosystems. Sustainable farming integrates whole systems and landscapes as part of the farm which supports biodiversity. By mixing trees and shrubs along with growing crops, farmers provide shade and shelter to plants, animals and water resources.
Renewable energy sources
Sustainable framing relies less on non-renewable energy which is substituted with renewable energy such as solar power, hydro energy or wind power and by labour to the extent that it is economically feasible. This helps protect the environment from further damage and depletion.
Water is also managed better with sustainable farming by choosing the right crops for the season. Water storage and better irrigation systems are built such as rainwater harvesting systems to make optimum use of natural resources.
Photos by: Dương Trí, Annie Spratt, Markus Winkler, Annie Spratt.