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Reducing food poverty by increasing agricultural sustainability

Reducing food poverty by increasing agricultural 1
sustainability in developing countries 2
J.N. Pretty, J.I.L. Morison and R.E. Hine 5
Centre for Environment and Society and Department of Biological Sciences, 6
University of Essex, Colchester UK 7
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 95(1), 217-234 10
Corresponding author: 14
Prof. Jules Pretty 15
Centre for Environment and Society and Department of Biological Sciences, 16
University of Essex, 17
Wivenhoe Park 18
Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK 19
Tel: +44-1206-873323 21
Fax: +44-1206-873416 22
Email: 23
Abstract 24
We examined the extent to which farmers have improved food production in recent years 25
with low-cost, locally-available and environmentally-sensitive practices and technologies. 26
We analysed by survey during 1999-2000 208 projects in 52 developing countries, in 27
which 8.98 million farmers have adopted these practices and technologies on 28.92 28
million hectares, representing 3.0% of the 960 million hectares of arable and permanent 29
crops in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We found improvements in food production 30
occurring through one or more of four mechanisms: i) intensification of a single 31
component of farm system; ii) addition of a new productive element to a farm system; iii) 32
better use of water and land, so increasing cropping intensity); iv) improvements in per 33
hectare yields of staples through introduction of new regenerative elements into farm 34
systems and new locally-appropriate crop varieties and animal breeds. The 89 projects 35
with reliable yield data show an average per project increase in per hectare food 36
production of 93%. The weighted average increases across these projects were 37% per 37
farm and 48% per hectare. In the 80 projects with small (< 5 ha) farms where cereals were 38
the main staples, the 4.42 million farms on 3.58 million hectares increased household food 39
production by 1.71 t yr-1. We report on the practices and technologies that have led to 40
these increases: increased water use efficiency, improvements to soil health and fertility, 41
and pest control with minimal or zero-pesticide use. This research reveals promising 42
advances in the adoption of practices and technologies that are likely to be more 43
sustainable, with substantial benefits for the rural poor. With further explicit support, 44
particularly through national policy reforms and better markets, these improvements in 45
food security could spread to much larger numbers of farmers and rural people in the 46
coming decades. 47
Key words: agricultural sustainability, food security, rural livelihoods, policies 49
Introduction 50
Over the past 40 years, per capita world food production has grown by 25%, with 51
average cereal yields rising from 1.2 t ha-1 to 2.52 t ha-1 in developing countries (1.71 t ha-1 52
on rainfed lands and 3.82 t ha-1 on irrigated lands), and annual cereal production up from 53
420 to 1176 million tonnes (FAO, 2000). These global increases have helped to raise 54
average per capita consumption of food by 17% over 30 years to 2760 kcal day-1, a period 55
during which world population grew from 3.69 to 6.0 billion. Despite such advances in 56
productivity, the world still faces a persistent food security challenge. There are an 57
estimated 790 million people lacking adequate access to food, of whom 31% are in East 58
and South-East Asia, 31% in South Asia, 25% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 8% in Latin America 59
and the Caribbean, and 5% in North Africa and Near East (Pinstrup-Andersen et al., 60
1999). A total of 33 countries still have an average per capita food consumption of less 61
than 2200 kcal day-1 (FAO, 2000). 62
An adequate and appropriate food supply is a necessary condition for eliminating 64
hunger. But increased food supply does not automatically mean increased food security 65
for all. A growing world population for at least another half century, combined with 66
changing diets arising from increasing urbanisation and consumption of meat products, 67
will bring greater pressures on the existing food system (Popkin, 1998; Delgado et al., 68
1999; Pinstrup-Andersen et al., 1999; UN, 1999; ACC/SCN, 2000; Smil, 2000). If food 69
poverty is to be reduced, then it is important to ask who produces the food, who has 70
access to the technology and knowledge to produce it, and who has the purchasing 71
power to acquire it? Modern agricultural methods have been shown to be able to increase 72
food production, yet food poverty persists. Poor and hungry people need low-cost and 73
readily-available technologies and practices to increase food production. A further 74
challenge is that this needs to happen without further damage to an environment 75
increasingly harmed by existing agricultural practices (Pretty et al., 2000; Wood et al., 76
2000; McNeely and Scherr, 2001). 77
Key Questions for Research on Agricultural Sustainability 80
There are three strategic options for agricultural development if food supply is to be 82
increased: 83
i. expand the area of agriculture, by converting new lands to agriculture, but 84
resulting in losses of ecosystem services from forests, grasslands and other areas of 85
important biodiversity; 86
ii. increase per hectare production in agricultural exporting countries (mostly 87
industrialised), but meaning that food still has to be transferred or sold to those who need 88
it, whose very poverty excludes these possibilities; 89
iii. increase total farm productivity in developing countries which most need the 90
food, but which have not seen substantial increases in agricultural productivity in the 91
past. 92
In this research, we explore the capacity to which more sustainable technologies and 94
practices can address the third option. We draw tentative conclusions about the value of 95
such approaches to agricultural development. This is not to say that industrialised
agriculture cannot successfully increase food production. Manifestly, any farmer or 97
agricultural system with unlimited access to sufficient inputs, knowledge and skills can 98
produce large amounts of food. But most farmers in developing countries are not in such 99
a position, and the poorest generally lack the financial assets to purchase costly inputs 100
and technologies. The central questions, therefore, focus on: 101
i) to what extent can farmers increase food production by using low-cost and 102
locally-available technologies and inputs? 103
ii) what impacts do such methods have on environmental goods and services and 104
the livelihoods of people who rely on them? 105
The success of industrialised agriculture in recent decades has often masked significant 107
environmental and health externalities (actions that affect the welfare of or opportunities 108
available to an individual or group without direct payment or compensation). 109
Environmental and health problems associated with industrialised agriculture have been 110
well documented (cf Balfour, 1943; Carson, 1963; Conway and Pretty, 1991; EEA, 1998; 111
Wood et al., 2000), but it is only recently that the scale of the costs has come to be 112
appreciated through studies in China, Germany, UK, the Philippines and the USA 113
(Steiner et al., 1995; Pimentel et al., 1995; Pingali and Roger, 1995; Waibel and Fleischer, 114
1998; Norse et al., 2000; Pretty et al., 2000, 2001). 115
What do we understand by agricultural sustainability? Systems high in sustainability are 117
making the best use of nature’s goods and services whilst not damaging these assets 118
(Altieri, 1995; Pretty, 1995, 1998; Thrupp, 1996; Conway, 1997; Hinchliffe et al., 1999; NRC, 119
2000; Li Wenhua, 2001; McNeely and Scherr, 2001; Uphoff, 2002). The aims are to: i) 120
integrate natural processes such as nutrient cycling, nitrogen fixation, soil regeneration and 121
natural enemies of pests into food production processes; ii) minimise the use of non-122
renewable inputs that damage the environment or harm the health of farmers and 123
consumers; iii) make productive use of the knowledge and skills of farmers, so improving 124
their self-reliance and substituting human capital for costly inputs; and iv) make productive 125
use of people’s capacities to work together to solve common agricultural and natural 126
resource problems, such as pest, watershed, irrigation, forest and credit management. 127
Agricultural systems emphasising these principles are also multi-functional within 129
landscapes and economies. They jointly produce food and other goods for farm families 130
and markets, but also contribute to a range of valued public goods, such as clean water,
wildlife, carbon sequestration in soils, flood protection, groundwater recharge, and 132
landscape amenity value. As a more sustainable agriculture seeks to make the best use of 133
nature’s goods and services, so technologies and practices must be locally-adapted. They 134
are most likely to emerge from new configurations of social capital, comprising relations 135
of trust embodied in new social organisations, and new horizontal and vertical 136
partnerships between institutions, and human capital comprising leadership, ingenuity, 137
management skills, and capacity to innovate. Agricultural systems with high levels of 138
social and human assets are more able to innovate in the face of uncertainty (Uphoff, 139
1999; Pretty and Ward, 2001). 140
Research Methods 142
The aim of the research was to audit recent progress in agricultural sustainability in 144
developing countries. We accessed an international network of key professionals in the 145
field of agricultural sustainability and food security, and asked them both to suggest 146
projects and initiatives, and to pass on details of this research project to other relevant 147
people or institutions. We also accessed other datasets (eg Hinchcliffe et al., 1996; FAO, 148
1999). We asked for nominations for three types of initiatives: i) research projects with 149
active farmer involvement, but which may not yet have spread; ii) community-based 150
projects with proven impacts; and iii) regional projects/initiatives that have spread to 151
many communities. We use the term `project/initiative’ here, as these have emerged 152
from many types of institutional context – some are international development projects, 153
some are activities within government programmes, some are non-government 154
organisation or private company led, and some are promoted entirely by farmers’ 155
organisations themselves. 156
We developed a four-page questionnaire as the survey instrument, with a short 158
descriptive rationale on agricultural sustainability and the aims of this research project. 159
The questionnaire survey instrument was based on an assets-based model of agricultural 160
systems, and was developed to understand both the role of these assets as inputs to 161
agriculture and the consequences of agriculture upon them (Conway, 1997; Pretty, 2000; 162
Pretty and Hine, 2000). The questionnaire addressed key impacts on total food 163
production, and on natural, social and human capital, the project/initiative structure and 164
institutions, details of the context and reasons for success, and spread and scaling-up 165
(institutional, technical and policy constraints). The questionnaire was sent out in 166
English, French and Spanish to all potential projects by email and conventional post in 167
early 1999. Field operatives from nodal organisations were contacted with specific 168
requests and questionnaires. Each project was contacted with a personalised covering 169
letter and questionnaire, and the resultant high response rate (some 60% of those 170
contacted replied with some information) appears to be a consequence of this personal 171
contact. Some 200 reminders and questionnaires were sent out by email in autumn 1999 172
to attempt to access those who had not yet answered. Follow-up contacts were made to 173
many of these during the course of the year 2000. In a number of instances, we received 174
secondary data on the project rather than a completed questionnaire. We collated 175
returned questionnaires and secondary material, and added these to country files. All 176
datasets were re-examined to identify gaps, and correspondents contacted again. 177
Not all proposed cases were accepted for the dataset, and rejections were made: i) where 179
there was no obvious link to agricultural sustainability; ii) where payments were used to 180
encourage farmer participation, as there have long been doubts that ensuing 181
improvements persist after such incentives end; iii) where there was heavy reliance on 182
fossil-fuel derived inputs, or only on their targeted use (this is not to negate these 183
technologies, but to simply indicate that they were not the focus of this research); and iv) 184
where the data provided was too weak or the findings unsubstantiated. We also 185
acknowledge that just because projects/initiatives have been accepted for this dataset, 186
this does not necessarily mean they will be sustained indefinitely. The problem of
agricultural development activities not persisting beyond the end of projects has been 188
widely-analysed through post-project reviews (Bunch, 1983; Chambers, 1983; Cernea, 189
1991; Carter, 1995). However, we do have confidence about these projects/initiatives, as 190
farmers are adopting novel technologies and practices on their own terms and because 191
they pay – not because they are being offered distorting incentives to do what an external 192
agency wishes. 193
The questionnaires were self-completed, so were subject to potential bias. We therefore 195
established trustworthiness checks through checks with secondary data, by critical 196
review by external reviewers and experts, and by engaging in regular personal dialogue 197
with respondents. We verified projects by sending full details entered on the database to 198
the named verifier on the questionnaire. We also sent batches of projects to key 199
authorities to obtain a second or third view on the project. This research, therefore, 200
comprises a purposive sample of existing `best practice’ projects/initiatives explicitly 201
addressing agricultural sustainability. It was not a random sample of all agricultural 202
projects, and thus the findings are not representative of all developing country farms. 203
Our aim was to discover the impacts of existing initiatives, to understand the processes 204
and policies that encouraged or restricted them, and to indicate the potential for 205
addressing food poverty through a focus on agricultural sustainability. 206
Survey Results 209
This was the largest known survey of sustainable agricultural practices and technologies 211
in developing countries, with 45 projects in Latin America, 63 in Asia and 100 in Africa, in 212
which 8.98 million farmers have adopted more sustainable practices and technologies on 213
28.92 million hectares. As there are 960 million hectares of land under cultivation (arable 214
and permanent crops) in Africa, Asia and Latin America, more sustainable practices are 215
now present on at least 3.0% of this land (total arable land comprises some 1600 million 216
hectares in 1995/97, of which 388 million hectares are in industrialised countries, 267 217
million hectares in transition countries, and 960 million hectares in developing countries: 218
FAO, 2000). 219
The most common country representations in the dataset are India (23 221
projects/initiatives); Uganda (20); Kenya (17); Tanzania (10); China (8); the Philippines 222
(7); Malawi (6); Honduras, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia (5); and 223
Bangladesh (4). The projects range very widely in scale - from 10 households on 5 224
hectares in one project in Chile to 200,000 farmers on more than ten million hectares in 225
southern Brazil. Most of the farmers in the projects surveyed are small farmers. Of farms 226
in the total dataset, 50% are in projects with a mean area per farmer of less than one 227
hectare, and 90% with less than or equal to 2 hectares (Figures 1a and 1b). Thus of the 228
total, there are some 8.64 million small farmers practising forms of more sustainable 229
farming on 8.33 million hectares. Most of these initiatives increasing agricultural 230
sustainability have emerged in the past decade. Using project records, we estimate that 231
the area a decade ago in these 208 initiatives was no more than 500,000 hectares. 232
[FIGURES 1a and 1b] 234
Changes in Farm and Household Food Productivity 237
We found improvements in food production were occurring through one or more of four 239
different mechanisms: 240
i. the intensification of a single component of a farm system, with little change to 241
the rest of the farm, such as home garden intensification with vegetables or tree crops, 242
vegetables on rice bunds, and introduction of fish ponds or a dairy cow; 243
ii. the addition of a new productive element to a farm system, such as fish or 244
shrimps in paddy rice fields, or trees, which provide a boost to total farm food 245
production and/or income, but which do not necessarily affect cereal productivity; 246
iii. the better use of natural resources to increase total farm production, especially 247
water (by water harvesting and irrigation scheduling), and land (by reclamation of 248
degraded land), so leading to additional new dryland crops and/or increased supply of 249
additional water for irrigated crops (both increasing cropping intensity); 250
iv. improvements in per hectare yields of staple cereals through introduction of new 251
regenerative elements into farm systems, such as legumes and integrated pest 252
management, and new and locally-appropriate crop varieties and animal breeds. 253
Thus a successful project increasing agricultural sustainability may be substantially 255
improving domestic food consumption or increasing local food barters or sales through 256
home gardens or fish in rice fields, or better water management, without necessarily 257
affecting the per hectare yields of cereals. Figure 2 illustrates the frequency of occurrence 258
of each of these mechanisms in the dataset. The most common mechanisms were yield 259
improvements with regenerative technologies and new seeds/breeds, occurring in 60% of 260
the projects, by 56% of the farmers and over 89% of the area. Home garden intensification 261
occurred in 20% of projects, but given its small scale only accounted for 0.7% of area. 262
Better use of land and water, giving rise to increased cropping intensity, occurred in 14% 263
of projects, with 31% of farmers and 8% of the area. The incorporation of new productive 264
elements into farm systems, mainly fish/shrimps in paddy rice, occurred in 4% of 265
projects, and accounted for the smallest proportion of farmers and area. 266
[FIGURE 2] 268
As mechanism 4 was the most common, we analysed these projects in greater detail. The 270
dataset contains 89 projects (139 entries of crop x projects combinations) with reliable 271
data on per hectare yield changes with mechanism 4, and these are shown as relative 272
yield changes over a baseline of 1.0 according to yields before or without the 273
interventions (Figure 3). Agricultural sustainability has led to a 93% increase in per 274
hectare food production through mechanism 4 averaged across all projects. The weighted 275
averages are a 37% increase per farm household, and a 48% increase per hectare in these 276
projects. The relative yield increases are higher at lower yields, indicating greater benefits 277
for poor farmers, most of whom have been missed by recent decades of agricultural 278
development. We also analysed the yield data according to crop types (Figure 4). The 279
largest relative increases in yield occur for vegetables and roots, and the smallest for rice 280
and beans/soya/peas. 281
[FIGURES 3 AND 4] 283
We also calculated the marginal increase in food production per household for these 89 285
projects with reliable data on yields, area and numbers of farmers. Using the data for 286
average farm size in each project, we calculated the average increase in annual food 287
production per household after adoption of more sustainable practices and technologies 288
(Figure 5). In the 80 projects with small (< 5 ha) farms where cereals were the main 289
staples, the 4.42 million farms on 3.58 million hectares increased household food
production by 1.71 t yr-1 (an increase of 73%). In the 14 projects with roots as main staples 291
(potato, sweet potato and cassava), the 146,000 farms on 542,000 hectares increased 292
household food production by 17 t yr-1 (increase of 150%). In the four projects in southern 293
Latin America with larger farm size (average size of 90 ha farm-1), household production 294
increased by 150 t yr-1 (increase of 46%). 295
[FIGURE 5] 297
These aggregate figures understate the benefits of increased diversity in the diet as well 299
as increased quantity. Most of these agricultural sustainability initiatives have seen 300
increases in farm diversity. In many cases, this translates into increased diversity of food 301
consumed by the household, such as availability of fish protein from rice fields or fish 302
ponds, milk and animal products from dairy cows, poultry and pigs kept in the home 303
garden, and vegetables and fruit from home gardens and other farm micro-304
environments. Although these initiatives are reporting significant increases in food 305
production, some as yield improvements, and some as increases in cropping intensity or 306
diversity of produce, few are reporting surpluses of food being sold to local markets. We 307
suggest this is because of a significant elasticity of consumption amongst rural 308
households in this dataset experiencing any degree of food insecurity. As production 309
increases, so also does domestic consumption, with direct benefit particularly for the 310
health of women and children. 311
As indicated earlier, for an average farm size of 1.4 ha (for the 4.4 million households for 313
which good data exists), the annual increase in gross food production (not including root 314
crops) was 1.71 tonnes. The net amount of food available to each household will, of 315
course, be lower than this – owing to post-harvest losses to pests, conversion of harvested 316
crops to consumable food, and feeding of some as feed to animals. Assuming a worst case 317
of 30% loss to pests, and a further 30% reduction in available food, this still leaves 800 kg 318
of available food per household. This is sufficient to feed two adults or one adult with 319
two children for a whole year. 320
We acknowledge that these findings on agricultural sustainability may sound too good to 322
be true for those who would disbelieve these advances. Many still believe that food 323
production and nature must be separated, that practices increasing agricultural 324
sustainability offer only marginal opportunities to increase food production, and that 325
industrialised approaches represent the best, and perhaps only, way forward (cf Avery, 326
1995). However, prevailing views have gradually changed in the last decade, and some 327
sceptics are beginning to recognise the value of innovative capacity emerging from 328
poorer communities in developing countries. 329
Technical Options for Improving Food Production and Agricultural Sustainability 332
We discern in the dataset three types of technical improvement that have played 334
substantial roles in these food production increases: 335
i) more efficient water use in both dryland and irrigated farming; 336
ii) improvements to soil health and fertility; 338
iii) pest and weed control with minimum or zero-pesticide use. 340
i) More Efficient Use of Water 343
Improvements in the efficiency of water use can benefit both irrigated and rainfed 345
farmers by allowing new or formerly-degraded lands to be brought under farming, and 346
to increased cropping intensity on existing lands. In the projects analysed, water 347
harvesting has been widely applied in dryland areas. The Indo-British Rainfed Farming 348
project, for example, works with 230 local groups in 70 villages on water-harvesting, tree 349
planting, and grazing land improvements (Sodhi, 2001). Basic grain yields of rice, wheat, 350
pigeonpeas and sorghum have increased from 400 to 800-1000 kg ha-1, and the increased 351
fodder grass production from the terrace bunds is valued highly for the livestock. 352
Improved water retention has resulted in water tables rising by one metre over 3-4 years, 353
meaning that an extra crop is now possible for many farmers, thus turning an 354
unproductive season into a productive one. 355
Women are major beneficiaries. Sodhi (2001) puts it this way: “In these regions, women 357
never had seen themselves at the front edge of doing things, taking decisions, and dealing with 358
financial transactions. The learning by doing approach of the project has given them much needed 359
confidence, skills, importance and awareness.” The wider benefits of a transformed 360
agriculture are also evident, as “the project has indirectly affected migration as people are 361
gaining more income locally through the various enterprises carried out in the project. People are 362
now thinking that they must diversify more into new strategies. There has also been a decline in 363
drawing on resources from the forests”. Other projects in India have seen similar 364
environmental and social changes (Devavaram et al., 1999; Lobo and Palghadmal, 1999). 365
In Sub-Saharan Africa, water harvesting is also transforming barren lands. Again, the 367
technologies are not complex and costly. In central Burkina Faso, 130,000 hectares of 368
abandoned and degraded lands have been restored with the adoption of tassas and zaï. 369
These are 20-30 cm holes dug in soils that have been sealed by a surface layer hardened 370
by wind and water erosion. The holes are filled with manure to promote termite activity 371
and enhance infiltration. When it rains, water is channelled by simple stone bunds to the 372
holes, which fill with water, and into which are planted seeds of millet or sorghum. 373
Cereal yields in these regions rarely exceed 300 kg ha-1, yet these improved lands now 374
produce 700-1000 kg ha-1. Reij (1996) calculated that the average family in Burkina Faso 375
using these technologies had shifted from being in annual cereal deficit amounting to 650 376
kg, equivalent to six and a half months of food shortage, to producing a surplus of 150 kg 377
yr-1. Furthermore, tassas are best suited to landholdings where family labour is available, 378
or where farm labour can be hired, so that this soil and water conservation method has 379
led to a market for young day labourers who, rather than migrating, now earn money by 380
building these structures. 381
Good organisation also helps to improve irrigated agriculture. Despite great investment, 383
many irrigation systems have become inefficient and subject to persistent conflict. 384
Irrigation engineers assume that they know best how to distribute water, yet can never 385
know enough about the specific conditions and needs of large numbers of farmers. 386
Recent years, though, have seen the spread of programmes to organise farmers into water 387
users’ groups, and let them manage water distribution for themselves (Cernea, 1991; 388
Uphoff, 2002). One of the best examples comes from the Gal Oya region in Sri Lanka. 389
Before this approach, Gal Oya was the largest and most run-down scheme in the country. 390
Now, farmers’ groups manage water for 26,000 hectares of rice fields, and produce more 391
rice crops per year and per unit of water. Moreover, when farmers took control, the 392
number of complaints received by the Irrigation Department about water distribution fell to 393
nearly zero (Uphoff, 1999). The benefits were dramatically shown during the 1998 394
drought. According to government, there was only enough water for irrigation of 18% of 395
the rice area. But farmers persuaded the Irrigation Department to let this water through 396
on the grounds that they would carefully irrigate the whole area. Through cooperation 397
and careful management, they achieved a better than average harvest, earning the 398
country $20 million in foreign exchange. Throughout Sri Lanka, 33,000 water users’ 399
associations have now been formed – a dramatic increase in local social organisation that 400
has increased farmers’ own capacities for problem-solving and cooperation, and for using 401
nature more efficiently and effectively to produce more food. 402
ii) Improvements in Soil Health and Fertility 406
Soil health is fundamental for agricultural sustainability, yet is under widespread threat 408
from degradation processes (Cleaver and Schreiber, 1995; World Bank/FAO, 1996; 409
Smaling et al., 1997; Hinchcliffe et al., 1999; Petersen et al., 2000; Koohafkan and Stewart, 410
2001). Agricultural sustainability starts with the soil by seeking both to reduce soil 411
erosion and to make improvements to soil physical structure, organic matter content, 412
water-holding capacity and nutrient balances. Soil health is improved through the use of 413
legumes, green manures and cover crops, incorporation of plants with the capacity to 414
release phosphate from the soil into rotations, use of composts and animal manures, 415
adoption of zero-tillage, and use of inorganic fertilizers where needed (Reicosky et al., 416
1997; Sanchez and Jama, 2000). In projects in Central America, the incorporation of 417
nitrogen-fixing legumes into agroecosystems has substantially affected productivity, 418
particularly the velvetbean (Mucuna pruriens). This grows rapidly, fixes 150-200 kg N ha-1 419
yr-1, suppresses weeds, and can produce 35-50 tonnes of biomass ha-1 yr-1 (Bunch, 2000; 420
Anderson et al., 2001). Addition of this biomass to soils substantially improves soil 421
organic matter content, and has helped to increase cereal productivity for some 45,000 422
families in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. 423
In the past decade, Latin American farmers have found that eliminating tillage can be 425
highly beneficial for soils. After harvest, crop residues are left on the surface to protect 426
against erosion and, seed is directly planted into a groove cut into the soil. Weeds are 427
controlled with herbicides or cover crops. The fastest uptake of minimum till systems has 428
been in Brazil, where there are now 15 million hectares under plantio direto (also called 429
zero-tillage even though there is some disturbance of the soil) mostly in three southern 430
states of Santa Caterina, Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná, and in the central Cerrado. In 431
neighbouring Argentina, there are more than 11 million hectares under zero-tillage, up 432
from less than 100,000 hectares in 1990, and in Paraguay, another one million hectares of 433
zero-tillage (Sorrenson et al., 1998; Petersen et al., 1999; de Freitas, 1999; Peiretti, 2000; 434
Landers et al., 2001). 435
Elsewhere in Brazil, the transformations in the landscape and in farmers’ attitudes are 437
equally impressive. The Cerrado is a vast area of formerly unproductive lands colonised 438
for farming in the past two decades. These lands needed lime and phosphorus before 439
they could become productive, and now zero-tillage is being widely adopted (Landers et 440
al., 2001). In the early days, there was a widespread belief that zero-tillage was only for 441
large farmers. That has now changed, and small farmers are benefiting from technology 442
breakthroughs developed for mechanical farming. A core element of zero-tillage 443
adoption in South America has been adaptive research – working with farmers at 444
microcatchment level to ensure technologies are fitted well to local circumstances. There 445
are many types of farmers groups: from local (farmer micro-catchment and credit 446
groups), to municipal (soil commissions, Friends of Land clubs, commercial farmers and 447
farm workers’ unions), to multi-municipal (farmer foundations and cooperatives), to 448
river basin (basin committees for all water users), and to state and national level (state 449
zero-tillage associations and the national zero-tillage federation). 450
Farmers are now adapting technologies – organic matter levels have sufficiently 452
improved that fertilizer use has been reduced and rainfall infiltration improved, such that
some farmers are removing contour terraces. Other side-effects zero-tillage include 454
reduced siltation of reservoirs, less flooding, higher aquifer recharge, lowered costs of 455
water treatment, cleaner rivers, and more winter feed for wild biodiversity (Landers et al., 456
2001). However, there is still controversy over zero-tillage, as some feel the use of 457
herbicides to control weeds, or of genetically-modified crops, means we cannot call these 458
systems sustainable. However, the environmental benefits are substantial, and new 459
research is showing that farmers have some effective alternatives, particularly if they use 460
cover crops for green manures to raise organic matter levels. Using 20 species of cover 461
crops and green manures, Petersen and colleagues have shown how small farmers can 462
adopt zero-tillage systems without herbicides (Petersen et al., 2000; von der Weid, 2000). 463
A public good is also being created when soil health is improved with increased organic 465
matter. Soil organic matter contains carbon, and soils with above-ground biomass can act 466
as `carbon sinks’ or sites for carbon sequestration (Reicosky et al., 1995; Smith et al., 1998; 467
Sanchez et al., 1999; Watson et al., 2000; Pretty and Ball, 2001). Conservation tillage 468
systems and those using legumes and/or cover crops contribute to organic matter and 469
carbon accumulation in the soil. 470
In the Sahelian countries of Africa, the major constraints to food production are also 472
related to soils, most of which are sandy and low in organic matter. In Senegal, where soil 473
erosion and degradation threaten large areas of agricultural land, the Rodale Institute 474
Regenerative Agriculture Resource Center works closely with farmers’ associations and 475
government researchers to improve the quality of soils. The primary cropping system of 476
the region is a millet-groundnut rotation. Fields are cleared by burning, and then 477
cultivated with shallow tillage using animals. But fallow periods have decreased 478
dramatically, and inorganic fertilizers do not return high yields unless there are 479
concurrent improvements in organic matter, which helps to retain moisture. The Center 480
collaborates with 2000 farmers organised into 59 groups on improving soil quality by 481
integrating stall-fed livestock into crop systems, adding legumes and green manures, 482
increasing the use of manures, composts and rock phosphate, and developing water-483
harvesting systems. The result has been a 75%-190% improvement in millet and 484
groundnut yields – from about 300 to 600-900 kg ha-1. Yields are also less variable year on 485
year, with consequent improvements in household food security (Diop, 1999). 486
Thus if the soil is improved, the whole agricultural system’s health improves. Even if this 488
is done on a very small scale, people can benefit substantially. In Kenya, the Association 489
for Better Land Husbandry found that farmers who constructed double-dug beds in their 490
gardens could produce enough vegetables to see them through the hungry dry season. 491
These raised beds are improved with composts, and green and animal manures. A 492
considerable investment in labour is required, but the better water holding capacity and 493
higher organic matter means that these beds are both more productive and better able to 494
sustain vegetable growth through the dry season. Once this investment is made, little 495
more has to be done for the next two to three years. Women in particular are cultivating 496
many vegetable and fruit crops, including kale, onion, tomato, cabbage, passion fruit, 497
pigeon pea, spinach, pepper, green bean and soya. According to one review of 26 498
communities, 75% of participating households are now free from hunger during the year, 499
and the proportion having to buy vegetables had fallen from 85% to 11%. For too long, 500
agriculturalists have been sceptical about these organic and conservation methods. They 501
say they need too much labour, are too traditional, and have no impact on the rest of the 502
farm. Yet the spin-off benefits are substantial, as giving women the means to improve 503
their food production means that food gets into the mouths of children. They suffer fewer 504
months of hunger, and so are less likely to miss school (Hamilton, 1998). 505
iii) Pest Control with Minimal or Zero-Pesticide Use 508
Modern farmers have come to depend on a great variety of insecticides, herbicides and 510
fungicides to control pests, weeds and diseases, and each year, some 5 billion kg of 511
pesticide active ingredients are applied to farms (BAA, 2000). But farmers in these 512
projects have found many effective and more sustainable alternatives. In some crops, it 513
may mean the end of pesticides altogether, as cheaper and more environmentally-benign 514
practices are found to be effective. 515
Many projects in our survey reported large reductions in pesticide use in irrigated rice 517
systems. Following the discovery that pest attack on rice was proportional to pesticide 518
use (Kenmore et al., 1984), farmer field schools were later developed to teach farmers the 519
benefits of agro-biodiversity. In Indonesia, one million farmers have now attended 50,000 520
field schools, the largest number in any Asian country. In Vietnam, two million farmers 521
have cut pesticide use from more than 3 sprays to 1 per season; in Sri Lanka, 55,000 522
farmers have reduced use from 3 to 0.5 per season; and in Indonesia, one million farmers 523
have cut use from 3 sprays to 1 per season. In no case has reduced pesticide use led to 524
lower rice yields (Evelleens et al., 1996; Heong et al., 1998; Mangan and Mangan, 1998; 525
Desilles, 1999; Jones, 1999). Amongst these are reports that many farmers are now able to 526
grow rice entirely without pesticides: 25% of field school trained farmers in Indonesia, 20-527
33% in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, and 75% in parts of the Philippines. 528
If pesticides are removed, then fish can be reintroduced. In Bangladesh, an aquaculture 530
and integrated pest management programme implemented by CARE has completed 6000 531
farmer field schools, resulting in 150,000 farmers adopting more sustainable methods of 532
rice production on about 50,000 hectares. The programme emphasises fish cultivation in 533
paddy fields, and vegetable cultivation on rice field dykes. Rice yields have improved by 534
5-7%, and costs of production have fallen owing to reduced pesticide use. In addition, 535
each hectare of paddy yields up to 750 kg of fish, a significant increase in system 536
productivity for poor farmers with few resources (Rashid, 2001). 537
In Kenya, intercropping of local legumes and grasses with maize has been found to 539
reduce stem borer (Chilo spp.) attack through interactions with parasitic wasps. 540
Researchers call their redesigned and diverse maize fields vutu sukuma (push-pull 541
systems). More than 2000 farmers in western Kenya have adopted maize, grass-strip and 542
legume-intercropping systems, and have increased maize yields by 60-70%. The official 543
advice to maize growers in the tropics has been to create monocultures for modern
varieties of maize, and then apply pesticide and fertilizers to make them productive. Yet 545
this very simplification eliminated vital and free pest management services produced by 546
the grasses and legumes. Vutu sukumu systems are complex and diverse, and are cheap as 547
they do not rely on costly purchased inputs (Khan et al., 2000). 548
Another project in Yunnan, China has shown the value of mixtures of rice, both in 550
reducing disease incidence and increasing yields (Zhu et al., 2000; Wolfe, 2000). 551
Researchers working in ten townships on 5350 hectares encouraged farmers to switch 552
from growing monocultures of sticky rice to alternating rows of sticky rice with hybrids. 553
The sticky rice brings a higher price, but is susceptible to rice blast, which is generally 554
controlled through applications of fungicides. But planting mixtures in the same field 555
reduced blast incidence by 94% and increased total yields by 89%. By the end of two 556
years, it was concluded that fungicides were no longer required. 557
Impacts on Rural Livelihoods and Economies 560
Rural people’s livelihoods rely for their success on the value of services flowing from the 562
total stock of natural, social, human, physical and financial capital (Coleman, 1990; 563
Putnam, 1993; Costanza et al., 1997; Carney, 1998; Scoones, 1998; Pretty and Ward, 2001). 564
A number of examples can be extracted from the dataset to show that agricultural 565
sustainability projects and initiatives have been able to contribute to the accumulation of 566
locally-valuable assets. A selection of the impacts reported in these sustainable 567
agriculture projects and initiatives include: 568
i) improvements to natural capital, including increased water retention in soils, 569
improvements in water table (with more drinking water in the dry season), reduced soil 570
erosion combined with improved organic matter in soils, leading to better carbon 571
sequestration, and increased agro-biodiversity (cf Hinchcliffe et al., 1999; Watson et al, 572
2000; McNeely and Scherr, 2001; Pretty and Ball, 2001); 573
ii) improvements to social capital, including more and stronger social organisations 574
at local level, new rules and norms for managing collective natural resources, and better 575
connectedness to external policy institutions (cf Uphoff, 1999; Pretty and Ward, 2001); 576
iii) improvements to human capital, including more local capacity to experiment and 577
solve own problems; reduced incidence of malaria in rice-fish zones, increased self-578
esteem in formerly marginalised groups, increased status of women, better child health 579
and nutrition, especially in dry seasons, and reversed migration and more local 580
employment (cf Li Kangmin, 1998; Shah and Shah, 1999; Bunch, 2000; Regasamy et al., 581
2000). 582
The empirical evidence indicates that some improvements in agricultural sustainability 584
have had positive effects on regional economies. In the Ansokia Valley, Ethiopia, one 585
project increased annual food production from 5600 to 8370 tonnes in six years, at the 586
same time as the population increased from 36,000 to 45,000. The project turned around 587
an annual food regional deficit of -2106 tonnes to a surplus of 372 tonnes year-1. In 588
Bushenyi, Uganda, formerly experiencing substantial food shortages during the months 589
of October to December, one project so increased banana and cattle production that the 590
region could sells 330 tonnes bananas and 2.7 tonne of meat each week. In En Nahud, 591
Sudan, the 10,000 tonnes of additional food produced by 15,000 households were 592
consumed by local people. None found its way into national statistics. 593
There is also evidence that productivity can increase over time as natural and human 595
capital assets increase. If agricultural systems are low in capital assets (either intrinsically 596
low, or have become low because of degradation), then a sudden switch to `more 597
sustainable’ practices that have to rely on these assets will not be immediately successful. 598
In Cuba, for example, urban organic gardens produced 4200 tonnes of food in 1994. By 599
1999, they had greatly increased in per area productivity – rising from 1.6 kg m-2 to 19.6 600
kg m-2 (Murphy, 1999; Funes, 2001). Increasing productivity over time has also been 601
noted in fish-ponds in Malawi. These are typically some 200-500 m2 in size. Researchers 602
compared the performance of 35 fish-ponds over six years: in 1990 yields were 800 kg/ha, 603
but rose steadily to 1450 kg/ha by 1996. This is because fish-ponds are integrated into a 604
farm so that they recycle wastes from other agricultural and household enterprises, 605
leading to steadily increasing productivity over time as farmers themselves gain 606
understanding (Brummet, 2000). 607
Confounding Factors and Trade-Offs 610
What we do not yet know is whether moving to more sustainable systems, delivering 612
greater benefits at the scale occurring in these projects, will result in enough food to meet 613
the current food needs in developing countries, let alone the future needs after continued 614
population growth and adoption of more urban and meat-rich diets (Delgado et al., 1999). 615
But what we are seeing should be cause for cautious optimism, particularly as evidence 616
indicates that productivity can grow over time if natural, social and human assets are 617
accumulated (see also McNeely and Scherr, 2001). 618
A more sustainable agriculture which improves the asset base can lead to rural livelihood 620
improvements. People can be better off, have more food, be better organised, have access 621
to external services and power structures, and have more choices in their lives. But like all 622
major changes, such transitions can also provoke secondary problems. For example, 623
building a road near a forest can help farmers reach food markets, but also aid illegal 624
timber extraction. Projects may be making considerable progress on reducing soil erosion 625
and increasing water conservation through adoption of zero-tillage, but still continue to 626
rely on applications of herbicides. If land has to be closed off to grazing for rehabilitation, 627
then people with no other source of feed may have to sell their livestock; and if cropping 628
intensity increases or new lands are taken into cultivation, then the burden of increased 629
workloads may fall particularly on women. Also additional incomes arising from sales of 630
produce may go directly to men in households, who are less likely than women to invest 631
in children and the household as a whole. 632
There are also a variety of emergent factors that could slow the spread of agricultural 634
sustainability. First, practices that increase the asset base may simply increase the 635
incentives for more powerful interests to take over, such as landlords taking back 636
formerly degraded land from tenants who had adopted more sustainable agriculture. In 637
these contexts, it is rational for farmers to farm badly – at least they get to keep the land. 638
The idea of sustainable agriculture may also appear to be keeping people in rural areas 639
away from centres of power and `modern’ urban society, yet some rural people’s 640
aspirations may precisely to be to gain sufficient resources to leave rural areas. 641
Agricultural sustainability also implies a limited role for agro-chemical companies, who 642
would not be predicted to accept such losses of market lightly. It also suggests greater 643
decentralisation of power to local communities and groups, combined with more local 644
decision-making, both of which might be opposed by those who would benefit from 645
corruption and non-transparency in private and public organisations. Research and 646
extension agencies will have to change too, adopting more participatory approaches to
work closely with farmers, and so must adopt different measures for evaluating job 648
success and the means to promotion. Finally, social connectivity, relations of trust, and 649
the emergence of significant movements may present a threat to existing power bases, 650
who in turn may seek to undermine such locally-based institutions. 651
Further tensions arise over the balance between whether food production is more 653
sustainable if for local markets alone, or whether poorer farmers and communities should 654
be encouraged to access international markets, but with the result that food causes 655
greater transport externalities through long-distance travel. Moreover, farms with 656
increased productivity export increasingly large amounts of nutrients to be eaten 657
elsewhere, and it will be vital to ensure that replacement occurs at sustainable rates. 658
There will be some who dispute this evidence of promising successes, believing that the 659
poor and marginalised cannot possibly make these kinds of improvements. But we 660
believe there is hope and leadership in this evidence of progress towards sustainability. 661
What is quite clear is that these technologies and practices offer real opportunities for 662
people to improve their food production whilst protecting and improving nature. 663
Scaling Up through Appropriate Policies 666
Three things are now clear from this dataset about spreading agricultural sustainability: 668
i) some technologies and social processes for local scale adoption of more 669
sustainable agricultural practices are well-tested and established; 670
ii) The social and institutional conditions for spread are less well-known, but have 671
been established in several contexts, leading to very rapid spread in the 1990s; 672
iii) The political conditions for the emergence of supportive policies are least well 673
established, with only a very few examples of real progress. 674
As has been indicated earlier, agricultural sustainability can contribute to increased food 676
production, as well as make an impact on rural people’s welfare and livelihoods. Clearly 677
much can be done with existing resources. A transition towards a more sustainable 678
agriculture will not, however, happen without some external help and money. There are 679
always transition costs in learning, in developing new or adapting old technologies, in 680
learning to work together, and in breaking free from existing patterns of thought and 681
practice. It also costs time and money to rebuild depleted natural and social capital. 682
Most agricultural sustainability improvements seen in the 1990s arose despite existing 684
national and institutional policies, rather than because of them (Pretty, 1999; Pretty et al., 685
2001). Nonetheless, the 1990s have seen considerable global progress towards the 686
recognition of the need for policies to support sustainable agriculture. Although almost 687
every country would now say it supports the idea of agricultural sustainability, the 688
evidence points towards only patchy reforms. Only two countries, Cuba and Switzerland, 689
have given explicit national support for a transition towards sustainable agriculture – 690
putting it at the centre of agricultural development policy and integrating policies 691
accordingly. Cuba has a national policy for alternative agriculture; and Switzerland has 692
three tiers of support for practices contributing to agriculture and rural sustainability 693
(Funes, 2001; Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape, 1999, 2000). Several 694
countries have given sub-regional support, such as the states of Santa Caterina, Paraná and 695
Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil supporting zero-tillage and catchment management, 696
and some states in India supporting participatory watershed and irrigation management. 697
A larger number have reformed parts of agricultural policies, such as China’s support for 698
integrated ecological demonstration villages, Kenya’s catchment approach to soil 699
conservation, Indonesia’s ban on pesticides and programme for farmer field schools, 700
Bolivia’s regional integration of agricultural and rural policies, Sweden’s support for 701
organic agriculture, Burkina Faso’s land policy, and Sri Lanka and the Philippines’ 702
stipulation that water users’ groups manage irrigation systems (Pretty, 2002). 703
A good example of a carefully designed and integrated programme comes from China. In 705
March 1994, the government published a White Paper to set out its plan for implementation 706
of Agenda 21, and put forward ecological farming, known as Shengtai Nongye or agro-707
ecological engineering, as the approach to achieve sustainability in agriculture. Pilot 708
projects have been established in 2000 townships and villages spread across 150 counties. 709
Policy for these `eco-counties’ is organised through a cross-ministry partnership, which 710
uses a variety of incentives to encourage adoption of diverse production systems to replace 711
monocultures. These include subsidies and loans, technical assistance, tax exemptions and 712
deductions, security of land tenure, marketing services and linkages to research 713
organisations. These eco-counties contain some 12 million hectares of land, about half of 714
which is cropland, and though only covering a relatively small part of China’s total 715
agricultural land, do illustrate what is possible when policy is appropriately coordinated (Li 716
Wenhua, 2001). 717
An even larger set of countries has seen some progress on agricultural sustainability at 719
project and programme level. However, progress on the ground still remains largely 720
despite, rather than because of, explicit policy support. No agriculture minister is likely to 721
say they are against sustainable agriculture, yet good words remain to be translated into 722
comprehensive policy reforms. Agricultural systems can be economically, 723
environmentally and socially sustainable, and contribute positively to local livelihoods. 724
But without appropriate policy support, they are likely to remain at best localised in extent, 725
and at worst simply wither away. 726
Conclusions 729
This empirical study shows that there have been promising advances in the adoption and 731
spread of more sustainable agriculture. The 208 projects/initiatives show increases in 732
food production over some 29 million hectares, with nearly 9 million households 733
benefiting from increased food production and consumption. These increases are not yet 734
making a significant mark on national statistics, as we believe there is a significant 735
elasticity of food consumption in many poor rural households. They are eating the 736
increased food produced, or marketing small surpluses to other local people. We cannot, 737
therefore, yet say whether a transition to more sustainable agriculture, delivering 738
increasing benefits at the scale occurring in these projects, will result in enough food to 739
meet the current food needs of developing countries, the future basic needs after 740
continued population growth, or the potential demand following adoption of more meat-741
rich diets. Even the substantial increases reported here may not be enough. There should 742
be cautious optimism, as the evidence indicates that productivity can increase steadily 743
over time if natural, social and human capital assets are accumulated. 744
Increased agricultural sustainability can also be complementary to improvements in rural 746
people’s livelihoods. It can deliver increases in food production at relatively low cost, 747
plus contribute to other important functions. Were these approaches to be widely 748
adopted, they would make a significant impact on rural people’s livelihoods, as well as 749
on local and regional food security. But there are clearly major constraints to overcome.
There will be losers along with winners, and some of the losers are currently powerful 751
players. And yet, social organisation and mobilisation in a number of contexts is already 752
leading to new informal and formal alliances that are protecting existing progress and 753
developing the conditions for greater spread. Improving agricultural sustainability 754
clearly will not bring all the solutions, but promising progress has been made in recent 755
years. With further explicit support, particularly through international, national and local 756
policy reforms, these benefits to food security and attendant improvements to natural, 757
social and human capital could spread to much larger numbers of farmers and rural 758
people in the coming decades. 759
Acknowledgements 760
We are grateful to three organisations for their support for this research: the UK 762
Department for International Development (DFID), Bread for the World (Germany), and 763
Greenpeace (Germany). We are grateful to Thomas Dobbs, Per Pinstrup-Andersen, 764
Hiltrud Nieberg, Roland Bunch and Vo-Tung Xuan for substantive comments on the 765
project report, together with feedback from participants at the St James’s Palace, London 766
2001 conference on `Reducing Poverty with Sustainable Agriculture’. Two anonymous 767
referees gave additional useful comments. We are indebted to 358 people directly 768
associated with sustainable agriculture projects who have given their valuable time to 769
send material, to complete questionnaires, to verify findings, and to advise on the wider 770
project. In the final project report, we thank them all by name (At URL 771 772
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Figure 1a. Cumulative proportion of farmers by project size according to region (dotted 957
horizontal lines represent 50%, 75% and 95% of total farmers) 958
0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10 100 1000 10000
average area/farmer (ha) per project
proportion of total farmers
Latin America
Figure 1b. Cumulative proportion of total area by project size according to region 961
(dotted horizontal lines represent 50%, 75% and 95% of total area) 962
0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10 100 1000 10000
average area/farmer (ha) per project
proportion of total area
Latin America
Figure 2. Frequency of occurrence of each type of improvement mechanism by projects, 965
farmers and area (data from SAFE-World research project) 966
0 20406080100
Intensification of
single component
New productive
element (ii)
Better use of water
and land (iii)
Per ha food crop
yield improvements
Other (plantation
and fibre crops)
Proportion of total (%)
Projects (%)
Farmers (%)
Area (%)
0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000
yields before/without project (kg/ha)
relative yield change after or with project
potato/sweet pot/cassava
no change
Figure 3. Relative crop yield changes in agricultural sustainability projects/initiatives 968
(89 projects) (data from SAFE-World research project) 969
Figure 4. Relative change in yield grouped by crop type (mean and +/- s.e.m) (data from 971
SAFE-World research project) 972
beans, soya, peas
grand total
relative yield change after/with projec
Figure 5. Change in annual household food production with sustainable agricultural 974
practices and technologies (data from SAFE-World research project) 975
hectares per household
marginal increase in household
food production (t/yr)
... Os conceitos de soberania alimentar e sistemas de produção baseados na agricultura familiar e em princípios da agroecologia ganharam muita atenção nas quatro últimas décadas. Iniciativas que dialogam com conhecimentos tradicionais -lideradas por agricultoras/es ou por grupos urbanos periféricos, organizações não-governamentais e a partir de parceria com instâncias Editora CRV -Proibida a impressão e/ou comercialização governamentais e acadêmicas -estão mostrando que é possível garantir a segurança alimentar a partir da conservação de recursos naturais, da agrobiodiversidade e da conservação do solo e da água (Pretty, Morrison, & Hine, 2003;Chonchol, 2005;Altieri, 2010). ...
... Os conceitos de soberania alimentar e sistemas de produção baseados na agricultura familiar e em princípios da agroecologia ganharam muita atenção nas quatro últimas décadas. Iniciativas que dialogam com conhecimentos tradicionais -lideradas por agricultoras/es ou por grupos urbanos periféricos, organizações não-governamentais e a partir de parceria com instâncias Editora CRV -Proibida a impressão e/ou comercialização governamentais e acadêmicas -estão mostrando que é possível garantir a segurança alimentar a partir da conservação de recursos naturais, da agrobiodiversidade e da conservação do solo e da água (Pretty, Morrison, & Hine, 2003;Chonchol, 2005;Altieri, 2010). ...
... As expected, the least deforestation would occur in the local-high scenario. However, in order to meet the assumptions for this scenario related to maintaining production and yield levels with low environmental impact, new technologies are required to mitigate the negative effects of unsustainable intensification (Pretty et al. 2003;Pretty 2008;Ickowitz et al. 2019). This scenario, designed to protect ecosystem functions and services by improving landscape connectivity, has already been proposed in previous studies (Müller et al. 2014a, b;Gavier-Pizarro et al. 2014;Tejada et al. 2016), where the need to generate new policies that promote efficient land use is also described (Macedo et al. 2012). ...
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The Gran Chaco (Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil) has turned into a global deforestation hotspot as a consequence of the agricultural expansion. These land use changes can lead to large socio-ecological conflicts. To reduce adverse effects, common regional planning is needed, which requires diagnostic and prospective information on the territorial dynamics. In this context, we analyzed possible land use change threats over time according to four scenarios of agricultural expansion under different degrees of market opening and state regulation (inertial scenario, high transformation scenario, low transformation scenario, and rigorous law enforcement). Additionally, we identified areas of high susceptibility to deforestation by combining the spatial information from each scenario. We found that the magnitude of the land use changes in the Gran Chaco varies across scenarios, with common spatial patterns of change in the areas adjacent to paddocks previously deforested. This work contributed to a better understanding of the land use change patterns and to envisioning the potential consequences of alternative future land use change scenarios in the Gran Chaco. Particularly, deforestation was analyzed to measure the gap between scenarios and the internationally assumed zero-deforestation objectives. We also identified the areas of greater susceptibility to deforestation where protection efforts should be prioritized when designing future land-use policies and forest governance systems. We demonstrated how scenario generation and simulation models can provide deep insights into the spatiotemporal patterns of deforestation hotspot regions for more sustainable land use planning.
... The concept of food sovereignty and production systems based on family agriculture and agroecology got a lot of attention in the last four decades. Initiatives that dialogue with traditional knowledges -led by farmers, peripheral urban groups and nongovernmental organizations and from partnerships with government and academic institutions -show that it is possible to ensure food safety through conservation of natural resources and agrobiodiversity of soil and water (Altieri, 2010;Chonchol, 2005;Pretty et al., 2003). ...
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Agroecological spaces have developed in the last few decades in different countries, not only through the commercialization of healthy products in farmers markets but also through the valorization of a sustainable production chain, which considers both the technical care with the cultivation and processing of the products and the health and respect to the ways of life of the men and women who do the farming. Its basis is organized in the field of agroecology, which is structured through the promotion of food sovereignty and family agriculture. This text is about a research-action experience that develops through community and political-pedagogical action, aiming to commercialize and consume agroecological food from the interactions between inhabitants of an urban neighbourhood and families of farmers from rural communities in the Northeast of Brazil. The interpretation presented here is theoretically and methodologically based on social community psychology, popular education, citizenship and human rights. In this text, the analysis of the activities achieved is directed to the interaction between the rural and the urban and the organization of clients to the production units and the commercialization of products at agroecological fairs. The reflections here can help situate how, considering the sociocultural particularities, such experiences can promote autonomy and foment solidarity networks and the common production between family farmers and urban clients, dislodging them from their conventional fields of knowledge as to favour the interchange of knowledge, effects and mutual knowledge.KeywordsAgroecological fairsHuman rightsPopular educationRural communities
... As the population grows and puts more pressure on natural resources, more people will probably become food insecure, lacking access to sufficient amount of safe and nutritious food for normal growth, development and an active healthy life. It is thus, pertinent to provide the poor and hungry with a low cost and readily available strategy to increase food production using less land per caput, and less water without further damage to the environment (Pretty et al., 2003). The country has a high potential to develop fish farming through cat fish production due to adequacy of natural water endowments. ...
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The decline and shortage in animal protein among households in Nigeria has led to unbalanced food consumption and malnutrition among rural households. Therefore, this study examined the Productivity of catfish production in Egbedore and Ede North Local Government Areas of Osun State. A multi-stage sampling; purposive and random sampling technique were used to select 131 catfish farmers with structured questionnaires used to collect data in the study areas. Descriptive statistics, Profitability analysis, Total Factor Productivity (TFP) and a multiple regression model were used to analyze data. Results showed that majority (87.79%) of the catfish farmers were males and married with a mean age of 49 years and more than three-quarter (89.31%) had tertiary education. The average gross margin of ₦788,823.54 and average profit of ₦413,012.27 per production season (5-6 months) and Benefit-Cost Ratio of 1.06 indicate that catfish farming is profitable, feasible and worth venturing into. TFP was found to be 11.32. The high ratio indicates the more the amount of variable input used the more the output. Regression result indicates that years of farming experience, quantity of feed used and cost of hired labour were positively significant at 10%, 1% and 1% respectively with output of catfish sold in naira. This means as more money is expended on the quantity of feed used, cost of hired labour and increased years of farming experience in the catfish business, the output in catfish production increases and thereby brings about increase in total revenue. Stocking density, pond size, cost of fingerlings, type of water use, and cost of transportation have negative relationships with output of catfish production though significant at different levels except pond size that is not significant at any level. The major constraints identified are poor access to credit facility, high cost of feed and unorganized market for producer and marketer relationship. Therefore, it is recommended that farm inputs most especially feed should be subsidized by governments to encourage effective use of inputs to increase catfish production and subsequently, the productivity of farmers. Also, government should also assist farmers in giving out soft loan in order to boost their scales of operation and their economic potentials.
... En 14 proyectos en los que los cultivos de raíces y tubérculos eran los alimentos básicos (papa, camote o boniato, y yuca), incluyendo 146,000 fincas en 542,000 ha, aumentaron la producción en 17 toneladas al año (aumento del 150%). Estos incrementos productivos constituyen un gran paso adelante para que los campesinos alejados de las instituciones agrícolas convencionales alcanzaran la seguridad alimentaria (Pretty et al. 2003). ...
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Ciencia y política de la agroecologia
... Under this view, initiatives that apply and combine agroecology with indigenous knowledge systems have emerged ( Altieri 2009b). These initiatives have demonstrated that it is possible to improve food security while conserving natural resources and agrobiodiversity ( Altieri 2009b;Pretty et al. 2003). Food sovereignty (FSv) is a concept developed by the international peasants' movement at the World Food Summit 1996 and states that in terms of food, every community has the right to define its own agricultural policies in order to achieve sustainable development and self-sufficiency goals ( Vía Campesina 1996). ...
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p>Intensive production systems have damaged many natural ecosystems and have altered their capacity to provide ecosystem services such as climate regulation, soil fertility, and vector-borne disease control. Therefore, these agroecosystems are unsustainable and poorly resilient. However, traditional agroforestry systems (TAS) contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and to the provision of inputs for the maintenance of local populations. The objective of this study was to evaluate the contribution of the TAS in the food supply under the food sovereignty (FSv) approach in three different ethnic groups. The study was conducted in three communities of different origin in the State of Campeche, one Maya Tseltal-Chol, the other Mestizo, and the third Yucatec Mayan. The theoretical-methodological framework of this research was based on agroecology . Ethnographic methods and participatory research activities were carried out to describe and analyze the factors that strengthen FSv using five indicators. Our results present a description and analysis of resource access, current production models, patterns of consumption and food security, commercialization and participation in decision-making of these communities. Traditional agroecological management practices are still preserved and native species are still being cultivated. Farmers obtain about 55% of their food from TAS. The consumption of food is influenced by the culture, the purchasing power linked to economic activities and government support. TAS have played a strategic role for the survival of families but to ensure their contribution to FSv, it is necessary to articulate the actions of the sectors that share the same objective and encourage the active participation of communities in agricultural policies.</p
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The multiple crises facing humanity at the onset of the Anthropocene are creating a moment in which agroecology acquires greater relevance as an alternative approach for meeting sustainable development goals and providing guidelines for the reconstruction of a post-COVID-19 agricultural system that is capable of minimizing future widespread disruptions of food supplies by pandemics and climate change by enhancing linkages between small-scale food production and local consumption. There are three main areas in which agroecology can be used in the development of a new post-COVID-19 agricultural system: revitalizing small farms, creating alternative animal production systems and enhancing urban agriculture. Focusing food and agricultural policies on agroecology as a main strategy for achieving autonomy and resilience can rapidly transform the ways in which we produce and consume food while addressing global challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity, poverty, and deteriorating health.
This study examined the economic analysis of catfish production in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria. A total of 42 respondents were randomly sampled in the study area. Descriptive statistics was used to identify the socio-economic characteristics of the respondents, constraints faced by fish farmers, and budgetary analysis was used to determined profitability of catfish farm in the area. The results of the analysis showed that majority of the respondents are males, relatively educated, had about 1-5 years of experience in business, majority acquired land through rentage, and lack of capital being the most serious problem being faced in the study area. Moreso, the result further showed that catfish farming is more profitable as the average net profit accruable per fish farmer per year is N35, 078,384.87. The benefit-cost ratio is 2.3 The study therefore recommends that the extension agents should assist the farmers in getting fingerlings at a cheaper rate; farmers are advised to form cooperative union to increase their scales of operations and government should also assist farmers in giving out soft loan in order to boost their scales of operation and their economic potentials.
This new edition builds on the explosion of research on sustainable agriculture since the late 1980s. By separating myth from reality, Miguel Altieri extracts the key principles of sustainable agriculture and expounds on management systems that “really work.” Providing case studies of sustainable rural development in developing countries, he goes beyond a mere description of practices to include data that reveal the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of alternative projects. Each chapter of Agroecology has been enriched and updated with the latest research results from around the world. New emphasis has been placed on such issues as the ecological economics of agriculture, policy changes needed for promoting sustainable agriculture, rural development in the Third World, the role of biodiversity in agriculture, and new research methodologies.
Many rice farmers decide to spray insecticides based on their perception of potential damage and losses caused by pest species. Farmers generally overestimate the seriousness of the rice leaf folder from visible damage and apply insecticides early, and therefore, changing perceptions may help reduce the perceived benefits of unnecessary spraying. Farmers in Long An province, Vietnam, were motivated to ‘test’ a heuristic or rule of thumb, ‘insecticide spraying for leaf folder control in the first 40 days after sowing is not needed’, by the distribution of carefully designed communication media materials. The media reached 97% of the farmers in the study sites. Leaflets, radio drama and posters had the most effective reach. Thirty-one months after the media introduction, the number of insecticide sprays dropped significantly from 3.35 sprays per farmer per season to 1.56. The proportion of farmers spraying at early and late tillering and booting stages was reduced from 59%, 84% and 85% to 0.2%, 19% and 30%, respectively. Those who did not use any insecticides increased from 1% to 32%. Correspondingly, farmers' perceptions of leaf folder damage as indicated in a belief index, decreased significantly from 11.25 to 7.62. The proportion of farmers who believed that leaf folders could cause losses was reduced from 70% to 25%, as did those who believed that early season spraying was required, from 77% to 23%, respectively. Farmers' insecticide spray frequencies and the belief index were significantly correlated and were not significantly different between farmers who had attended farmer field school training and those who had not. The cost (insecticide and labour) saving was the most important incentive for farmers to stop early season spraying as cited by 89% of the farmers. A survey of 12 other districts in Long An showed that 82% of the province's 210000 households were reached. About 20% had not applied any insecticides, 77% had stopped early season spraying and the average number of insecticide sprays was 1.6 (compared with 1.55 in study sites). The approach was readily adopted by extension in 15 provinces that launched their own programmes, extending to the whole Mekong Delta of 2 million farmer households.