Contrary to Big Agriculture’s claims, research out of Essex University shows evidence that sustainable farming practices can dramatically increase yields and potentially feed the world.
The study looked at ‘agroecological’ farming methods, which treat farmland as part of the greater ecosystem (imagine that!). Like organic farming, agroecology takes a whole systems approach using renewable resources and minimizing the use of toxins in food production.
According to the Organic Consumers Association, the Essex study on agroecology:
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.
That is an astounding gain! UN expert Olivier De Schutter advocates agroecology, pointing to this natural farming method as the key to boosting worldwide food production and combating climate change.
Jules Pretty’s Essex study does mention some potential pitfalls (pdf alert) to scaling up agroecological farming, such as:
- Building a road near a forest can help farmers reach food markets, but also aid illegal timber extraction.
- If land has to be closed off to grazing for rehabilitation, then people with no other source of feed may have to sell their livestock;
- If cropping intensity increases or new lands are taken into cultivation, then the burden of increased workloads may fall particularly on women.
He also points out that Big Ag would suffer, since demand would drastically drop for their chemicals.
These are definitely all things to take into consideration, and it’s great that advocates of agroecology are looking at the whole picture!
So what do you guys think? Is sustainable farming the answer to our food crisis?
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by David Bradbeer