Sustainable Agriculture

Tanja Folnovic

Agronomy Expert

Agriculture and other natural resource-based enterprises are the foundation for economic growth in many developing countries. Of the 11 percent of the world's land surface that is suitable for agriculture, 38 percent has become degraded by poor natural resource management practices. With no significant room to expand areas of cultivation, good farming practices and stewardship of the available land are necessary to increase agricultural productivity, ensure economic growth, protect biodiversity, maintain sufficient amounts of clean water, and meet the increasing food demands of a growing global population.

Sustainable agriculture is founded on the premise that our resources can be carefully managed and cultivated to make them last indefinitely. Here are few practices that can sustainably intensify farming system productivity:

  • Improving soil quality while reducing erosion, salinization, and other forms of degradation to achieve greater resilience to drought, better fertilizer efficiency, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Minimizing the use of pesticides and herbicides by applying integrated pest management, crop rotation, and crop diversification
  • Environmental management systems to ensure proper treatment of solid waste, manure, and waste water. Farms can be developed to be drought-resistant by using low-volume irrigation systems, growing drought-tolerant crops and improving water conservation measures.
  • Ensuring the safe storage, application, and disposal of agricultural chemicals
  • Maintaining habitats to support wildlife and conserve biodiversity
  • Labour practices and social and economic equity, establishing better labour laws and work practices. Many are severely impoverished and lack access to adequate employment, healthcare, and education.

Sustainable agriculture integrates environmental health, economic viability, and social equity to ensure long-term productivity of natural resources and improved livelihoods. It helps reduce the risks in developing countries of complex problems like climate change and water scarcity. It is also important because agriculture constitutes approximately 70 percent of water consumption in the developing world, increasingly competing with demand for domestic, industrial, and ecosystem services.