How sustainable food production can change developing countries

| 12th June 2018
Sustainable food production

Sustainable agriculture can lead to a more stable environment and a healthier economy in countries most affected by food scarcity.

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Food scarcity is an issue that affects people around the world. Developing countries often struggle the most with food scarcity, but sustainable farming techniques could change their food system and lead to economic development and environmental protection. EMILY FOLK investigates

Sustainable agriculture doesn't just lead to short-term improvements. It helps enable food security over the long run.

The ability to produce food sustainably can be a powerful force for change. It can have a wide range of benefits, expanding beyond just the obvious ones, especially in developing countries.

Some farmers in these nations are working to improve the sustainability of their farming. Doing so in a developing country isn’t easy, though. Various groups, from small charities to large international organisations, are helping to provide them with the resources and education they need to produce food sustainably.

Despite the challenges, the people of these nations and those supporting them continue to work toward these goals. Perhaps that’s because they understand the many benefits it can provide. Here are five of the most impactful changes sustainable food production can have in developing countries.

Food Security

People that live in developing countries often can't get enough to eat. Sustainable agriculture could help them increase their yields.

A study published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science & Technology found that sustainable farming practices could increase yields in these nations by around 80 percent in just four years. Harvests of some crops even improved by 100 percent.

Sustainable agriculture doesn't just lead to short-term improvements. It helps enable food security over the long run.

By its very nature, sustainable agriculture helps ensure resources are available indefinitely, barring some unexpected event. This means these nations can feed their populations and become self-sustaining.

Having food security dramatically improves the well-being of a nation's people and opens doors to a variety of other benefits.

Water Security

In addition to food security, sustainable food production also helps promote water security.

Sustainable agriculture involves various practices that help to conserve water. It uses techniques such as drip irrigation, which supplies water directly to crops’ roots. This technique drastically increases the efficiency of crop watering.

Farmers may also use recycled wastewater, which might otherwise have been discarded, to help conserve this vital resource. Doing so could also help improve sanitation management.

Implementing these irrigation techniques requires certain technologies, resources and expertise. Various groups are working with small farmers in developing nations to give them the tools they need to manage their water use sustainably.

The Global Agriculture & Food Security Program expects to help provide new, improved or rehabilitated irrigation and drainage services on 44,415 hectares of land in 12 countries.

American Near East Refugee Aid, or Anera, has helped to irrigate around 1,700 acres of farmland in Palestine with treated wastewater and also develops irrigation techniques.

Economic Opportunity

Deploying sustainable farming practices in a developing nation also increases economic opportunity for those that live there, both directly and indirectly.

Increased yields, of course, means farmers earn more. Because sustainable agriculture encourages resource conservation, sustainably operated farms may also require fewer inputs, meaning farmers have fewer expenses. Because they protect their resources, these farmers have a reliable income source for the future.

Efforts to share sustainable agriculture practices with farmers in developing nations can have widespread impact, especially since a substantial portion of the population in these countries is typically involved in the agriculture industry.

Improving farming practices can have broad indirect economic impacts as well. Food and water security also empower other citizens to pursue education and work.

When people do not have enough to eat, they might not feel well enough to attend school or work. Even if they do feel well enough, they might have to spend that time looking for food and water.

However, once people have sufficient access to consumables, they can focus on other things. This can lead to economic development and improved well-being.

Increased Stability

Food security, water security and economic development all lead to increased stability. When people have their basic needs met, their lives are much more stable, as is the nation as a whole.

Competition over resources can initiate or exacerbate conflicts between nations and groups. When resources are shared, such as when a body of water extends over two nation’s borders, tensions may be especially high.

People may also be forced to migrate to find food and water. This can put added pressure on the resources of other areas and increase tensions between groups.

No true wars have yet been waged over water, but it has contributed to many conflicts. Food and water scarcity may have played a role in wars and conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa.

These conflicts can disrupt people’s lives, preventing them from attending school or work. This can prolong water and food scarcity and economic hardship far into the future.

Environmental Protection

Sustainable food production also has environmental benefits, since it minimises ecological damage and ensures resources don't become depleted.

Sustainable farming practices minimize the use of pesticides that could damage the environment. Instead, they use methods such as integrated pest management, which combines biological, cultural, mechanical and physical controls and use chemicals only as a last resort.

They also increase carbon sequestration, which could help slow rising global temperatures. Increasing the food supply sustainably will be crucial in the fight against climate change.

Additionally, it helps conserve natural resources such as water and healthy soil.

Sustainable agriculture also incorporates practices such as crop rotation, which ensures soil does not become depleted. If a previously fertile field becomes depleted, this hurts the farmer economically and decreases the country’s overall food supply.

Sustainable food production is key to building a better world for today and the future. It can help us feed the world's growing population, spur economic development, fight climate change and promote stability and peace around the world. Farmers in developing countries need the resources to make their operations more sustainable.

This Author

Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.

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