Living in a city or out in the suburbs one might not think too much about what it takes to produce the food we eat and why healthy agriculture is so important. But conventional farming is unsustainable: substantial amounts of topsoil are being lost by erosion. Arable land is being degraded and lost.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has protested that “we must stop soil erosion to save our future”. Conventional farming methods also cause significant emissions of greenhouse gases–which contributes to climate change. A 2016 OECD report estimates that 17% of global emissions come directly from agriculture, while an additional 7 to 14% of emissions are caused by land-use practices such as clearing forests for farming.
Agriculture is the single greatest contributor to biodiversity loss and the largest consumer of increasingly limited freshwater resources—consumption that will increase over the next few decades. Conventional farming methods have led to financial hardship for many farmers due to the costs of inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Moreover, food production contributes significantly to diseases such as COVID 19. The future of agriculture lies in tackling these problems while at the same time increasing yields to feed a growing global population.
Enhance and regenerate
Regenerative agriculture (RA) is farming which goes beyond just doing no harm to the environment–like sustainable agriculture. It enhances and regenerates the natural environment. A good definition of RA from the consultancy Terra Genesis International is: “a system of farming principles and practices that increase biodiversity, enrich soils, restore watersheds, and enhance ecosystem services”, and which helps “reverse current global trends of atmospheric accumulation of carbon, offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming and ranching communities.”
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