The dictionary defines ‘sustainable’ as something that can be upheld or maintained within a certain period and at a certain level.
When you say ‘sustainable agriculture’, it means farming as a viable enterprise that can sustain a farmer’s living, as well as adequately provide for the needs of the people and the community in general.
With the growing problem on climate change, experts estimate that in 20 to 30 years, only 60 of the world’s land mass will be viable for crop planting. Add to this the fact that a lot of farmers are already losing interest in farming because of their declining income from it due to severe weather disturbances and infestation.
So, how will the world’s booming population have sufficient food in the near future? Let’s understand several factors affecting the sustainability of agriculture and see if it has the capacity to sustain humanity’s future food needs.
Sustainable agriculture must be economically viable.
For a farm to be sustainable, the farmer must have sufficient capital to buy seedlings for growing crops, or for buying animals raised for food.
Add to this the cost of labor for planting or animal raising, labor for care of the crops and animals, fuel for machineries, etc.
If the expenses for these farming needs can be recuperated from the sales or proceeds of the crops and animals, with remaining earnings after the deduction of the total production cost, then farming can be considered economically viable.
An economically viable farming must be able to sustain its expenses by earning from the harvests or animal sales that are sold in the market and consumed by the people. The farmer should be able to live decently from the farm’s earnings.
In addition to this, the soil must also be fertile for it to be productive. It must be fit for planting crops and for raising animals. If it’s depleted of essential nutrients, crops will not grow abundantly, and animals will not have grass to feed on.
Sustainable agriculture must be environment-friendly.
Sustainable farming must be able to restore and not deplete the nutrients of the land because it is its very source of income. Without a fertile land, no farmer can gain profitably from crop production.
Sustainable agriculture aims to protect the environment by employing soil-friendly products that would enhance this natural resource. Non-chemical farm enhancers and alternatives like organic fertilizers must be used so as not to pollute the land and water beneath it.
Water is a very vital part of farming because it provides life to plants. Without water, no plants will ever grow properly.
Sustainable agriculture must enhance the farmer’s quality of life.
As the word connotes, agriculture must ‘sustain’ a quality life for the farmer. This means it should improve the farmer’s living conditions, not just allow the farmer to survive on a day to day basis. He should have enough money to provide for his basic needs like food and clothing, as well as enough money for contingency purposes, as well as for his children’s education, payment for utilities, etc.
Governments all over the world have taken notice of sustainable agriculture and are devising ways to support it. Sustainable farming practices like promoting crop diversity, less soil tilling to avoid soil erosion, minimizing the use of chemical pesticides, and numerous other healthier farm practices are being implemented. If these are observed properly, humanity can be assured of sufficient food in the future.