Modern definition: Sustainable agriculture is the use of farming systems and practices which maintain or enhance
- The economic viability of agricultural production;
- The natural resource base; and
- Other ecosystems which are influenced by agricultural activities.
This definition can be supplemented by some fundamental principles of sustainable agriculture:
- That farm productivity is enhanced over the long term;
- That adverse impacts on the natural resource base and associated ecosystems are ameliorated, minimized or avoided;
- That residues resulting from the use of chemicals in agriculture are minimised;
- That net social benefit (in both monetary and non-monetary terms) from agriculture is maximized; and
- That farming systems are sufficiently flexible to manage risks associated with the vagaries of climate and markets.
Few would argue that the definition and principles of sustainability are not thoroughly worthy. But the question remains: how can we measure sustainability?
Sustainable Agriculture in Global perspective
Definition 1: Agriculture is sustainable when it is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, culturally appropriate and based on a holistic scientific approach. (NGO, Sustainable Agriculture Treaty , 1992).
Definition 2: Low-External-Input and Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA) is agriculture which makes optimal use of locally available natural and human resources (such as soil, water, vegetation, local plants and animals, and human labour, knowledge and skill) and which is economically feasible, ecologically sound, culturally adapted and socially just.(Reijntjes, Haverkort and Waters-Bayer, Farming for the Future , 1992).
Definition 3: Sustainable development is the management and conservation of the natural resource base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such sustainable development (in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors) conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.( Document CL 94/6 94th Session of the FAO Council ,1988).
Source: FAO (1994) Development and Education Exchange Papers (DEEP): Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development: Part 1: Latin America and Asia, Rome, p. 5.
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