Read this article to learn about the Sustainable Agriculture:- 1. Definition of Sustainable Agriculture 2. Approaches to Sustainable Agriculture.
Definition of Sustainable Agriculture:
At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defined sustainable agriculture and rural development as follows:
Sustainable development is the management and conservation of 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.
In 1995, FAO defined sustainable agriculture and rural development more specifically as a process that meets the following criteria:
1. Ensures that the basic nutritional requirements of present and future generations, qualitatively and quantitatively, are met while providing a number of other agricultural products.
2. Provides durable employment, sufficient income, and decent living and working conditions for all those engaged in agricultural production.
3. Maintains and enhances the productive capacity of the natural resource base as a whole and the regenerative capacity of renewable resources, without disrupting the functioning of basic ecological cycles and natural balances, destroying the socio-cultural attributes of rural communities or causing contamination of the environment, and
4. Reduces the vulnerability of the agricultural sector to adverse natural and socio-economic factors and other risks and strengthens self-reliance.
Approaches to Sustainable Agriculture:
Sustainable agriculture is a broad concept that covers a number of different approaches. Every-one tries to achieve environmentally sound, economically profitable, ethically acceptable and socially responsible form of the land husbandary.
Following approaches can be employed to attain sustainable agriculture:
1. Organic Agriculture:
Organic agriculture was developed as a holistic, ecosystem based approach, conceived as an alternative to conventional agriculture. However, it is necessary to distinguish between certified and non-certified organic agriculture.
Different countries have introduced regulations determining what can be recognised and sold as ‘organic’ as well as procedures for inspection and certification. Many of these regulations are based on standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM), an international grouping of NGOs and groups of organic producers. In India, the government’s National Programme for Organic Production accredits inspection and certification agencies.
2. Traditional Organic Practices:
Many traditional agricultural practices around the world refrain from using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They do this because farmers cannot afford agrochemicals. This traditional form of organic agriculture is not necessarily sustainable, even if it has been adapted to local conditions over many generations.
Population growth, declining prices, insecure land tenure and water-use rights, along with many other factors, have often led to overuse, loss of diversity, soil degradation and other environmental problems. In many instances, traditional forms of agriculture can no longer produce enough income and a secure livelihood. Hence there is an urgent need for more sustainable approach.
Some modern attempts to update these traditional forms of land use are described below:
(i) Eco-farming or Site-appropriate Agriculture:
This approach tries to cut down on costly inputs and minimize negative environmental impacts by making intelligent use of existing ecological factors. It was developed as an alternative to the increasingly intensive use of irrigation and fertilizers and tries to free farmers from constraining factors in the local natural environment.
(ii) Low-external-input agriculture:
This aims to practise sustainable agriculture with minimal use of external inputs but does not completely exclude the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.
(iii) Integrated pest management (IPM):
IPM approach reduces the use of synthetic pesticides by integrating a range of ways to control pests and disease pathogens, from crop rotation to determining damage thresholds before applying plant protection measures.
(iv) Integrated nutrient management:
This approach makes a special effort to minimize fertilizer inputs.
(v) Watershed management:
The rehabilitation of degraded watershed areas has become a high priority. Watershed management aims to adapt land management practices in ecologically vulnerable hill and mountain regions to the natural carrying capacity by means of systematic management. Watershed management is not an agricultural production system.
Rather, it is a process that plans and regulates the use of land, water and other resources within a watershed area, in ways that sustain these resources. It involves not just technologies, but also devising policies and usage guidelines. It emphasizes adapting technical solutions to the socio-economic circumstances of users, respecting the needs of different resource users and attempting to reconcile their interests.
(vi) Conservation agriculture and minimum tillage:
This aims to conserve the soil structure and improve the water storage capacity of the soil. Introduced on a large farm level it is often combined with weed management through pesticides. Because it eliminates ploughing, conservation agriculture needs less labour, so is a viable option for areas with labour shortage. By using crop rotation and intercropping, it reduces risk through diversification.