Sustainable agriculture can be a broad and sometimes vague term without a universally agreed-upon definition. I like to define sustainability in the broadest sense possible, in that sustainability is the ability to carry out practices indefinitely, without having to eventually halt them because of negative impacts on environment, community, or the processes themselves. Sustainable agriculture thus involves more than just environmentally sound farming practices, but also necessarily encompasses both economic considerations (questions of resource utilization) and human considerations as well.Why is sustainability important in agriculture?Unfortunately, the current agricultural production systems in place not only in the U.S. but in many parts of the world are highly unsustainable. Some of the problems with agriculture include the destruction of wild ecosystems, such as the clearing of rainforest and other biomes to make room for farming, nutrient pollution and chemical pollution from agricultural runoff, waterway disruption and aquifer depletion from the use of water for irrigation, and climate destabilization resulting from a combination of factors.What are best practices, with respect to sustainability, in farming and agriculture?People often focus on certain simple issues, like organic farming, or the use of specific harmful chemicals, without looking at the broader picture. Even if everyone in the world were to completely stop using all harmful chemicals in agriculture, and only farm organically, there could still be catastrophic environmental implications of farming.The key issue in sustainability, most important than all other issues, is leaving intact ecosystems, and not clearing or developing more than a certain portion of wild areas for agriculture or human use. The rule of thumb or target that I like to shoot for is to leave 70% of land as intact wild ecosystem. This does not mean that the land is not being used in any way, but only that it is not being directly used for agriculture or other uses (i.e. crops are not being grown there, timber is not being harvested, people are not living there), and that whatever uses of the land only have negligible impacts on the ecosystem.Economic value of wild areas:One argument for continued development is that the development is necessary for economic growth, and growth is necessary for economic health. I find this argument to be fallacious, for two compelling reasons. One is that the paradigm of indefinite economic growth without bound is a flawed one. Resources are always limited, and there is only a certain capacity of goods that can be produced sustainably. Achieving sustainability requires abandoning this old model of economic growth.My second reason, however, is that intact wild ecosystems are actually necessary for sustained economic health, especially in the agricultural sector, but also in virtually all other aspects of society as well.Direct economic benefits of wild areas:In terms of direct effects, intact wild ecosystems provide a buffer which prevents the spread of insects, diseases, and other pests which can destroy crops. Our current unsustainable agriculture system relies on expensive chemical control systems to control pests, which are continually adapting. A sustainable system would rely on natural buffer zones, which not only prevent the spread of disease, but also house predators which feed on insect pests, thus making it unlikely for pests to get established among crops in the first place. The organic farms and gardens that I have worked with which practice crop diversification and the use of wild buffer areas around the operation remark that they typically have almost no problem with pests.Indirect economic benefits of wild areas:Indirect effects, however, are even stronger. Wild ecosystems stabilize climate and weather, which can greatly reduce or even prevent natural disasters like flood, drought, and moderate temperature and humidity, lessening the severity of extreme weather events like cold or hot spells. Wild ecosystems can also produce numerous resources, including foods, which can be sustainably harvested, including wild fish and meat, and plants for food or medicinal use. Wild areas also provide beauty, increasing land value in nearby residential areas, and providing recreation and income to local economies through tourism. Often, an intact wild area can have numerous different uses. And lastly, ecosystems also filter and purify water and air, thus lowering health care costs and lessening the need for burdensome environmental regulations.In summary:Sustainable agriculture is more than just organic agriculture; it encompasses environmental, economic, and human factors together. The single most important issue in organic agriculture is the preservation of intact, wild ecosystems. I set the goal of preserving 70% of all land as wild ecosystems. These lands can provide immense economic value, both for agriculture and society at large, and both through direct and indirect effects.
In the last three years, there has been a rebound in agricultural profitability as the global demand for fibre, fuel and food entered a golden era where agriculture gave highest profits as the market risks in agriculture soared amidst highly volatility and raising commodity prices. Although there has been a high volatility in the sector investors are optimistic about investing in agricultural land because of the balanced food consumptions and the increasing income of global population which is expanding the appetite for agricultural products.Some of the complex problems such as global warming, changes in food habits, climate change and poor agricultural output resulted in sharp increase in food prices across the world and the number of people who are either malnourished or hungry is increasing which has been a concern for policy makers.Hunger crisis in AfricaFor the third time Sahel region in West Africa is suffering poor harvest, droughts and soaring food prices. Last year Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia were affected by worst hunger crisis and the government of the countries are promoting investment in agricultural land. Investors are seeing great values in investing in agricultural land and they are buying either farmlands outrights or targeting the subsectors in farming such as fertilizers. The main trick in investment is to be part of farming production which helps to generate high returns in the form of regular harvests as there is increasing demand for food grain harvests in the global market and also you get returns from the increasing price of the farmlands.Increasing food demandsInvestment in agriculture involves commodity trading and farmers are using agricultural contracts to offset losses in crop production. Agriculture has been a link for increasing friendship between China and Africa. By the year 2050 the global population will be 34% higher than today’s population as it will reach 9.1 billion and the demand for food grains will increase by 50% by 2030 as per UN statistics. Poor weather conditions and rising demand from the emerging market will make it difficult to regulate food prices.The dangers of climate change and urbanisationClimate change poses the major risk over long term food security. Climate change is having a negative impact on agricultural output and urbanisation also affects 70% of the world population as it reduces the number of people who are into rural agricultural sector. To feed the growing population, which will get richer and earn more, an increased amount of food grains production is required and the world will need at least 70% more food grains.Capital Alternatives: Invest in agricultural land in Sierra LeoneCapital Alternatives provides opportunity to invest in prime agricultural land in West Africa in Sierra Leone where the investors can own farmlands at a low investment of $9000 (for three acres of farmland) and there are no hidden costs included in the price. We provide planting, management, harvesting and maintenance of farmlands in Africa and give 40% of the net profits generated from rice crops to the investors. The value of agricultural land in Sierra Leone is increasing at a conservative rate of 7% and income from rice farming is expected to be more than 15% per annum. To know more about the investment opportunity in rice farming in Sierra Leone, contact mailto:[email protected]