According to C.A. Edwards of the U.S. Agency for International Development, “Sustainable agriculture is a management system for renewable natural resources that provides food, income, and livelihood for present and future generations while maintaining or improving the economic productivity and ecosystem services of these resources.”
In many developed nations, the concept of sustainable agriculture blends basic economic concerns, conservation, and maintenance or improvement of the resource base. The motivation is derived primarily from environmental and ecological concerns. In developing countries, farmer’s immediate concerns include improving crop yield, increasing crop diversity, and increasing income. Even in these countries, the visionary segment of the population and the institutional values of the culture may also focus on efficient cropping systems, pest-control methods, potable water supplies, support for agriculturally based industries, and related infrastructure. In the last few years, sustainable agriculture has improve the quality of life in the context of an environmentally sound approach to farming. Due to which the resource base is maintained or enhanced for future generations. National and international agricultural research centres are stepping up their efforts to improve the productivity of farming. New farming systems are more likely to succeed if they accommodate the existing variability in soils.
Several constraints often lead developing countries to resist adopting the concepts and practices of sustainable agriculture. The overriding constraint may be the absence of economic incentives from the government policy making level to that of the farmer. Reduction in soil loss or long-term environmental degradation are not tangible for small farmers to adopt sustainable agriculture practices when their immediate concern is simply feeding their families. Another major constraint is lack of awareness, not only at the farm level but also at higher levels in the society. The extension services are poor or non-existent in most developing countries, even if the farmers are willing and able. In practice it is observed that no system becomes operational if it is not institutionalized. It is a massive constraint for sustainable agriculture. In many developing countries, particularly in Africa, research and development in agriculture are inadequate and suffer from lack of trained personnel, facilities, and motivation. In many African countries, donor supported research is still the rule. In this situation, it is difficult for a country to build satisfactory research traditions and local expertise. A sustainable agriculture constraint relates to the information base. In the absence of information on the resource base, it is usually a waste of time and effort to try to institute sustainable agriculture. A last but not least constraint to implementing sustainable agriculture is that appropriate research methodology which is not readily available in developing countries. In such situations, fundamental questions are how long should an experiment be conducted, what are the treatments, what are the measurements, and how can the data be analysed have yet to be answered.
The stability of the global eco system requires an unequivocal commitment to long-term support of sustainable agriculture. The alternative to sustainable agriculture is degradation of the resource base, loss of biodiversity, environ- mental pollution, reduction of the population-supporting capacity for humans and animals, and a general decrease in the quality of life for all living things on this planet. Therefore we must look serious concerns on sustainable agriculture.
This article first appeared Observer Times