Agriculture is being practiced since civilization took its birth. With the passage of time people learned to better the methods of agriculture. In the olden days people took great care to maintain the basic support system on which his survival depended. And as long as this harmonious relation was maintained between man and nature, the productivity of the land continued for ages and both the environment and man maintained their health and integrity.
With industrialization a new class called the ‘middle class’ came to the fore. This new class was not only rich and powerful but also covetous. Man began a new era of dominance over the nature and interfered with its laws with little understanding of the fact that he would have to face nature’s spite for his greed and foolishness.
The terms pollution, erosion, degradation, contamination, depletion and poisoning are all associated with modern techniques of agriculture. To satiate more mouths more and more hazardous chemicals, with fast results, are being incorporated in the agricultural methods. Agriculture has become like traditional manufacturing industries with the same environmental risks and waste disposal problems. The chemicals applied on the crops are hazardous not only to the pests but to plants, animals, humans and the environment as well. This is a serious issue as the impacts on agriculture are much more widespread than imagined. Some major problems include- soil erosion, loss of genetic diversity, pollution, depletion of resources and energy, contamination of food chains and supplies, increasing pest problems etc. The utilization of fertilizers and pesticides has no doubt increased the crop production but at the same time they have caused irreparable damages to the environment.
A growing movement has emerged during the past two decades to question the role of the agricultural establishment in promoting practices that contribute to these social problems like topsoil depletion, groundwater contamination, continued neglect of the living and working conditions for farm laborers, etc. Much damage has already been done but whatever is saved or can be reclaimed need attention on a priority basis at local, regional, national and international level. To compensate this damages the method of sustainable agriculture must be adopted. Today this movement for sustainable agriculture is garnering increasing support and acceptance within mainstream agriculture. Sustainable agriculture is the need of the hour, with rising demands for food production for the ever-growing population.
What is Sustainable Agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture is the production of food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that are environment friendly. Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals-environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Sustainable agriculture depends on replenishing the soil while minimizing the use or need of non-renewable resources, such as natural gas, or mineral ores.
It seeks to sustain farmers, resources and communities by promoting farming practices and methods that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities. To achieve the goals of sustainable agriculture the initiative and cooperation of both human and natural resources is imperative. A sense of responsibility toward the society and concern for the present and future must be developed. It is essential to understand and consider the impacts and consequences of the farming practices on both the human communities and environment. A systematic approach provides us the tools to explore the interconnection between farming and other aspects of our environment. Farmers must be taught and informed about the toxic effects of the chemicals that they are using and its effects on plants, animals, humans and the environment. They must adopt techniques that are environment friendly.
Three pillars of sustainability
The three pillars of sustainability include:
Need for a sustainable economic model that ensures fair distribution and efficient allocation of our resources. This pillar ensures that our economic growth maintains a healthy balance with our ecosystem.
This pillar supports initiatives like: renewable energy, reducing fossil fuel consumption and emissions, sustainable agriculture and fishing, organic farming, tree planting and reducing deforestation, recycling, and better waste management.
This pillar supports initiatives like peace, social justice, reducing poverty, and other grassroots movements that promote social equity. As human beings we have an ethical responsibility to do something about human inequality, social injustice, and poverty.
Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture
I) Preservation of environment
In sustainable agriculture there is little dependence on toxic agrochemicals that degrade the soil. Sustainable farms protect biodiversity and maintain healthy ecosystems by growing a variety of plants and using techniques such as crop rotation, conservation tillage, and pasture-based livestock husbandry. This helps to replenish land and other resources like soil, water, and air to make them sufficiently available for the coming generations. It decreases the use of non-renewable environmental resources. Products obtained do not contain any inorganic chemicals like insecticides and pesticides. All these factors make sustainable agriculture a preferred choice of farmers all over the world.
II) Protection of human health
Since in sustainable agriculture hazardous pesticides are not used they’re able to grow fruits and vegetables that are safer for consumers, workers, and surrounding communities. Similarly sustainable livestock farmers raise animals without dangerous practices like use of non-therapeutic antibiotics or arsenic-based growth promoters. Besides, the crops produced through sustainable agriculture can also be more nutritious because the overall crops are healthier and more natural.
III) Animal welfare
Sustainable farmers treat animals with care and love and implement livestock husbandry practices that are healthy and safe for the animals. By raising livestock on pasture, farmers enable their animals to move freely, engage in instinctive behaviors, consume a natural diet, and avoid the stress and illness associated with confinement. All animals living in the farm are facilitated to exhibit their natural behaviors like grazing, pecking or, rooting. This helps them to grow in a natural way.
IV) Economically beneficial for farmers
Sustainable farmers receive a fair wage for their efforts. Workers are offered competitive salaries and benefits. As a result their dependence on government subsidies is reduced, thereby strengthening the rural communities. The working ambiance is also humane and they are treated with humanity. They are provided with food and proper living conditions. Sustainable agriculture reduces the use and cost of buying fossil fuels and minimizes transportation costs as well.
V) Increases biodiversity
As the farms produce different kinds of animals and plants sustainable agriculture also increases biodiversity of the area and also provides the organisms healthy and natural environments to live in.