Agroecology offers local solutions to pave the road to agricultural sustainability
Amidst accelerating and converging health, climate, ecological, economic, financial and food system crises, the need to radically reconceive and change our approach to agriculture and even more fundamentally, our relationship to the earth, has become paramount. Millions of people worldwide in over 150 countries celebrated the World Food Day on 16th October 2020 under the theme Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together’. The motive is to encourage awareness of sustainable agricultural practices and celebrate the food heroes who work to provide food for the world. The heroes are small scale farmers who play an important role in food production. They produce the majority of all food worldwide.
The COVID-19 global health crisis has presented us a time to reflect on things we genuinely cherish and our most basic needs. One of the most crucial aspects gained from the pandemic is immunity check boosted by our diets. This exposes serious policy gaps on the food systems that must be addressed promptly. Agroecology as an alternative solution is expected to drive the momentum and public awareness for sustainable agriculture.
Basing on agroecology as a sustainable way to redesign food systems from the farm to the table provides a solution to achieving ecological, economic, and social sustainability. Unlike other food systems, agroecology promotes wholesomeness by propagating a variety of food to nourish a growing population and sustain the planet, together. Following strict underlined health safety measures and protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease and with infections now increasing, it is time to reflect on the agricultural sector and prescribe solutions. The critical role played by agroecology in any country’s development cannot be overstated. As we focus on the pandemic, we need not forget the need for a healthy biodiversity.
In 2015, the global community adopted the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development to improve people’s lives by 2030. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provided a new global agenda to collaborate to end poverty and hunger and pursue a sustainable future within a sustained Environment. However, statistics paint a gloomy picture. Extreme hunger and malnutrition remain a huge barrier to development in many countries. Over 821 million people are chronically undernourished as of 2017, often as a direct consequence of environmental degradation, drought, and biodiversity loss.
Undernourishment and severe food insecurity appear to be increasing in almost all regions of Africa. Africa always seems to have the worst of everything, even though we have a solution at hand with us. As most countries are subscribed to the 17 Global Goals, “Our” biggest worry is whether we will meet the SDG aims, including ending all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030, which is less than ten years from now.
With this in mind, there is an urgent need to change to sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality. That is what agroecology is all about.
Maintenance of biological diversity and nutrient cycling mechanisms are global principles that are essential in the design of sustainable agricultural systems. Agroecology favours better nutrition because the greater diversity on the farm results in greater diversity in the plates for communities who produce their food. Waste is a human concept that does not exist in natural ecosystems. Agroecological practices support biological processes that drive the recycling of nutrients, biomass and water within production systems, thereby increasing resource use efficiency and minimizing waste and pollution. Sustainable agricultural practices comprise only those that build, sustain or regenerate humus over the long term.
Finally, as various social, economic, political, and biological systems deteriorate, the importance of sustainability as a necessary, fundamental goal has received increasing attention worldwide, ranging from discussions of how to create a sustainable society. To guarantee the globe’s long-term health, we must dramatically reduce agriculture’s adverse impacts.
By Brotry Fibanda, Route To Food Alliance Member.