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The sustainable agriculture imperative: implications for South African agricultural extension

Authors:
  • UNIVERSITY OF MPUMALANGA

Abstract

This paper draw on relevant published (review) papers to argue that extension is well positioned to promote sustainable agriculture through five pillars of sustainability. Agriculture is not only greatly influenced by the environment in which it operates, but in recent decades it has become increasingly apparent that some modern farming practices may harm the natural environment. In fact in most countries of the Southern Africa, severe environmental problems are direct results of modern farming practices. As a result of the ever growing human population in South Africa, farmers are forced to resort to farming practices that will increase productivity, but compromising the natural environment, in order to ensure food security. Thus the need for establishing frameworks, methods and processes that support viable and attractive sustainable agriculture is imperative. This is particularly true in South Africa's context with its primacy on transforming the agricultural sector where, in the efforts to redress issues of the past, it runs the danger of replicating the inefficient, unsustainable practices of that same past. Ultimately, this has significant implications for South African agricultural extension, which need to be able to help the nation balance the increasing and often conflicting demand for more efficient production, greater inclusion of marginalised smallholder farmers, and creating wealth in impoverished rural communities. The paper concludes by presenting some philosophical recommendations that agricultural extension can utilize in promoting sustainable agriculture.
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THE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE IMPERATIVE: IMPLICATIONS FOR
SOUTH AFRICAN AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION
Khwidzhili, R. H.2 & Worth, S. H.3
Correspondence Author: R H Khwidzhili, Email: humphrey.khwidzhili@ump.ac.za.
ABSTRACT
This paper draw on relevant published (review) papers to argue that extension is well
positioned to promote sustainable agriculture through five pillars of sustainability.
Agriculture is not only greatly influenced by the environment in which it operates, but in
recent decades it has become increasingly apparent that some modern farming practices may
harm the natural environment. In fact in most countries of the Southern Africa, severe
environmental problems are direct results of modern farming practices. As a result of the
ever growing human population in South Africa, farmers are forced to resort to farming
practices that will increase productivity, but compromising the natural environment, in order
to ensure food security. Thus the need for establishing frameworks, methods and processes
that support viable and attractive sustainable agriculture is imperative. This is particularly
true in South Africa’s context with its primacy on transforming the agricultural sector where,
in the efforts to redress issues of the past, it runs the danger of replicating the inefficient,
unsustainable practices of that same past. Ultimately, this has significant implications for
South African agricultural extension, which need to be able to help the nation balance the
increasing and often conflicting demand for more efficient production, greater inclusion of
marginalised smallholder farmers, and creating wealth in impoverished rural communities.
The paper concludes by presenting some philosophical recommendations that agricultural
extension can utilize in promoting sustainable agriculture.
Keywords: Environment, food security, farming practices, Sustainable agriculture,
agricultural extension.
1. INTRODUCTION
The protection of our resources is vital for the continued viability and productivity of
agriculture in South Africa. This paper explores the definition of sustainable agriculture and
discusses in detail why it has become imperative, during the last decade, to focus on the
sustainable agricultural practices. Existing literature on sustainability mostly emphasizes
three pillars of sustainable agriculture namely; environment, social and economic aspects.
This paper put emphasis on five pillars of sustainable agriculture and how extension can help
farmers in promoting the pillars. For agricultural production systems to be sustainable, such
systems should meet requirements of biological productivity, economic viability, protection
of all natural resources, reduced levels of risk and be social acceptable. The specific examples
of change in the agricultural environment and why it is now imperative to scrutinise
2 PhD Student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Lecturer: Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource
Management, University of Mpumalanga, P/Bag x 11283, Nelspruit, 1200. Tel. 013 002 0144; Email:
humphrey.khwidzhili@ump.ac.za. This article is part of the author's PhD Thesis at the University of KwaZulu-
Natal, Pietermaritzburg Campus.
3 Programme coordinator: Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management, School of Agriculture,
Earth and Environmental Sciences. University of KwaZulu Natal, P/Bag x01, Scottsville, 3209. Tel. 033 260
5811; Email: worth@ukzn.ac.za
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agricultural production practices for their sustainability are also discussed. Agricultural
extension should have a deeper understanding of how natural ecosystems function will help
us plan more efficient and sustainable cropping systems (Francis, 1990). Most practical
examples are based on cropping system because of availability of literature and also that the
principal author is a crop scientist. Finally, the paper discuses the application of sustainable
agriculture to South Africa’s agricultural development agenda.
2. BACKGROUND
2.1. Focus towards sustainable agriculture
Figure 1: Five pillars of sustainable agriculture (adapted from Khwidzhili, 2012)
Figure 1 graphically depicts the elements of sustainable agriculture. These elements frame the
space in which farmers and extension must operate if farmers are to be successful at
genuinely engaging in sustainable agriculture and if extension services are to be successful in
supporting them. The five pillars are:
Maintaining and increasing biological productivity;
Decreasing the level of risk to ensure larger security;
Protecting the quality of natural resources;
Ensuring agricultural production is economically viable; and
Ensuring agricultural production is socially acceptable and acceptance.
The discussion of pillars presents the relevant principles for each pillar and gives a few,
perhaps obvious, examples of their practical application to illustrate the point in each case the
challenge is in engaging farmers in honest conversations about the respective pillar as it
applies to their farming operation and assist them to develop appropriate responses that meet
the conditions of sustainable agriculture (as defined by these pillars) and fits their unique
circumstances. As will also be discussed, these pillars are meant to be addressed in an
integrated fashion, not as individual aspect to be addressed in isolation. And the second
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challenge will be in resolving the inevitable tension that attempt to correct farming operations
relative to one pillar will create on the ability to address the requirements of others. At the
ecological level, land scarcity is causing food scarcity for the ever-increasing population.
Brown, Abramovitz & Starke (2000) pointed that resources are becoming scarce, natural
species and forests are destroyed which also leads to destruction of wildlife and fisheries.
Extension should play a pivotal role in discouraging further exploitation of the natural
environment.
3. OBJECTIVES
The main objectives of this study are;
To investigate existing literature on pillars of sustainable agriculture and how public
agricultural extension can facilitate the realization of sustainable farm production
practices.
To analyze why it became imperative in the last decade to focus on pillars of
sustainable agriculture (implications for agricultural extension).
To determine some of the challenges faced by farmers and how agricultural extension
could help to mitigate them.
To highlight the importance of preventing further degradation of the natural resources.
4. RESEARCH METHOD
This paper was published as a result of thorough process of reading some background
information that already exist and appear relevant to the topic (Bless & Higson-Smith, 1995).
A number of documents were used as a major source of evidence to support this study.
Merriam & Associates (2002) also support this kind of study. These authors emphasizes that
the strength of documents as a data source is that information already exist and do not intrude
upon or alter the settings in a way that the presence of the of the investigator might be
influenced. Literature on sustainable agriculture mostly provides emphasis on three pillars of
sustainable agriculture which are; economic, social and environment sustainability. This
paper further explores extra two pillars of sustainability which are production and risk. This
is a case study which was aimed at reviewing already existing literature. This paper draws its
theoretical framework from Dumanski, Tery, Byerlee & Pieri (1998) in their publication,
performance indicators for sustainable agriculture. This framework can be used nationally
and internationally to evaluate sustainability. A Framework for Evaluation of Sustainable
Land Management (FESLM) was developed through collaboration among international and
national institutions as a practical approach to assess whether farming systems are trending
towards or away from sustainability (Dumanski et al, 1998). Nieuwenhuis (2007) suggested
that case study research is a systematic inquiry into an event or a set of related events which
aims to explain the phenomenon of interest in social setting so as the researcher understand
how it operate or function. As supported by Yin (2003) a blend of data gathering techniques
were used to compile this study and these included literature review, document analysis, and
some already analysed data information.
5. DISCUSSION
5.1. The definition of sustainable agriculture
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According to Francis (1990), sustainable agriculture is a philosophy based on human goals
and understanding the long-term impact of human activities on the environment and,
consequently, on other species. Use of this philosophy guides our application of prior
experience and the latest scientific advances to create integrated, resource-conserving,
equitable systems. Sustainable agriculture is not a return to pre-industrial methods, and the
rejection of modern techniques. Sustainable agriculture must necessary transcend this
dichotomous view and operate solely from the entrenched principles of sustainability. It may
well be that the resulting technologies reflect a combination of traditional and modern
techniques. Issues central to sustainable agriculture are the necessity of taking a long-term
view, thereby ensuring the supply of products to future generations, the necessity to maintain
and enhancing soil fertility, veld condition, water supply, water quality, and generic resource
on which agriculture depend. Sustainable agriculture delivers on these critical elements
through a variety of technology options.
Sustainability is a direction rather than destination (Dumanski, 2007). First we must agree on
what is to be sustained, for whom, and for how long? If we degrade our natural resources and
poison our natural environment, we will degrade the productivity of agriculture and
ultimately destroy human life on earth. Thus sustainable agriculture must be ecological
sound, economically viable and social responsible (Botha & Ikerd, 1995). Dumanski (1997)
in the context of, planning for sustainability in agricultural development projects, reinforced
the generally accepted definition of sustainability put forward by the 1987 Bruntland
Commission that “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the
present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”.
Dumanski (1997), further insisted that the aim of sustainability is to leave future generations
as many, if not more, opportunities as we had ourselves. He further stressed that sustainable
land management combines technologies, policies and activities aimed at integrating socio-
economic principles with environmental concerns so as to simultaneously:
Maintain or enhance production/services;
Reduce the level of production risk;
Protect the potential of natural resources and prevent degradation of soil and water
quality;
Be economically viable; and
Be socially acceptable.
The meaning of sustainability was further highlighted by Pearson (2003) who defined
a sustainable system as one in which: resources are kept in balance with their use
through conservation, recycling and renewal; practices preserve agricultural resources
and prevent environmental damage to the farm and off-site land, water and air; and
production, profit and incentives retain their importance, because not only agriculture
needs to be sustained, but so do farmers and society. These definitions of
sustainability pose challenges to farmers (both established and new) and for the South
African government, in particular its agricultural extension policies, agencies and
operations. They need to be translated into practical measures for agriculture.
However, as domestic and international economic pressures and competition cuts
profit margins, farmers will need clear guidelines and support if they are to build the
capacity to engage in sustainable agriculture.
5.1.1. Maintaining and increasing biological productivity
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The first pillar of sustainable agriculture is the requirement that the biological productivity of
the soil is maintained and, if possible, increased. Biological productivity refers to the ability
of soil to promote microbial activities. Farmers will need to explore ways to achieve this. A
key element is to the percentage of organic matter in the soil. For example, extensive open
cast mining completely removes biological communities and presents conditions which are
extremely hostile for invertebrates. According to Carry & Good (1992), features of newly
restored mining and industrial waste sites are likely to inhibit faunal establishment include,
lack of suitable food and adverse physicochemical conditions, particularly unfavourable
moisture conditions and excessive fluctuations in surface temperature.
Many soil micro-organisms cannot function in acidic soil. The most common way of
correcting the pH level of acidic soil is by applying agricultural lime to the soil (Barrett,
Pieterse, & Strydom, 2008). Farmers need first to understand the productivity status of the
soil and take appropriate actions. These actions, however, must be implemented in concert
with responses to the other pillars- that is the essence of ‘sustainability’- which as stated
earlier is more a direction than a destination.
5.1.2. Decreasing the level of risk to ensure larger security
The second pillar of sustainable agriculture is that the level of production risk must be
minimised (it can never be totally eliminated). Risk is endemic to all human endeavours, be
they social or economic, it is also clearly true to agriculture. On a simple production level,
planting of crops that are not suitable for a particular area increases the chances of production
risk. Matching climate and cultivar will eliminate production risk.
Water erosion is another example of risk in agriculture. Rainfall deficiencies limit crop
production in dry-land regions; many soils in dry-land regions are highly susceptible to water
erosion. Susceptibility will result in, low crop yield, low soil organic matter content, high
intensity rainstorm and poor soil-water management (Unger, 1990). Sustainable agriculture
will demand that the farmer take command of the risk of water erosion through appropriate
crop production operation such as tillage and the use of seedlings which can decrease the
impact of rain drops on the soil; maintain favourable water infiltration; decrease run-off
velocity; and decrease soil detachability.
5.1.3. Protecting the quality of natural resources
This third pillar of sustainability is directly linked to the biological productivity (first pillar).
Sustainable agriculture will have to work within the bounds of nature not against them. This
means matching land uses to the constraints of local environment, planning for production
not to exceed biological potentials, and carefully limiting fertilisers, pesticides and other
inputs to ensure that they do not exceed the capacity of the environment to absorb and filter
any excess (Dumanski, 1997) or in considering alternative less measures. Deeper
understanding of how natural ecosystems function will help farmers plan more efficient and
sustainable cropping system (Francis, 1990).
Land degradation is driven by a combination of forces, such as poverty, excessive population,
low productivity, lack of knowledge, ability and desire, or disincentives to adopt technology ,
and poorly defined or inadequate land tenure systems (Miller & Wali, 1995).
In their conclusion Miller & Wali (1995), highlighted some of the premises of sustainability
and indicated that:
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Traditional agricultural systems; some which are sustainable, are disappearing.
They are being replaced by farming systems that are more intensive and (or)
dependent on finite fossil fuel and off-farm resources etc.
5.1.4. Ensuring agricultural production is economically viable
One of the challenges facing South African agriculture is the shift from production of food
primarily for home consumption to farm businesses aimed at generating sustained income via
profits attained through marketing of agricultural products. Economic viability is vital. The
income from selling products must at least equal or, preferably exceed the cost of producing
them. However, such economically viability must be sustained without compromising the
natural environment.
Technological and scientific advances will be instrumental in the transition to sustainable
agriculture, but political, economic and institutional structures will also have to be part of the
solution. According to Dumanski (1997), the procedures being developed to assess and
monitor farm-level, agricultural sector and even national wealth, and the concept of
‘sustainability as opportunity’ need to be further developed to balance the bias towards
economic efficiency as a primary criterion for sustainability.
5.1.5. Ensuring agricultural production is socially acceptable and accountable
The principle of this pillar is that agricultural production and post-harvest activities must fit
the society in which they occur. This covers substantial territory from the choice of products
themselves, to the raw (genetic) material used, to the inputs used, and to the production,
processing and marketing used. All of these are subjected to the social acceptability and
accountability.
A case in point is the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO); to increase agricultural
production which has received negative reception by the society. The negative perception
towards GMO products is linked to sustainable health of end- users as well as to the impact
they have on traditional farming methods, seed storage, and economic viability, among
others. Many other such examples are extant.
The economic and social sciences are fundamentally different from physical and agricultural
sciences and the natural science of ecology. Agriculture involves self-conscious attempts by
human to change or manage natural ecosystem. Human are unique among species in that we
make purposeful, deliberate decisions that can either enhance or degrade the health of the
environment (Botha and Ikerd, 1995). While these two branches of science have different
agendas, both of which must be addressed. A key to addressing these different agendas is to
avoid dichotomous thinking, but to view them as a coherent whole. Again, farmers, who live
in both these worlds, will need assistance in addressing these fundamental challenges.
5.2. Challenges to sustainable agriculture in South Africa
5.2.1. Overgrazing
Masiteng, Van der Westhuizen, & Matli (2003), recommended that a detailed survey and
evaluation of the extension services available to farmers grazing on commonage land needs
be done. He further insisted that extension services from the Department of Agriculture are
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insufficient and ineffective due to lack of capacity. There are very few extension officers with
proper knowledge of pasture management. Pasture management research and extension
education, training and practice in general to have take in consideration and also reflect the
leaning towards more participatory approaches to extension. Training should basically focus
on helping farmers towards self-reliance, and environmentally sound practices (NDA,
undated). Poor management has led to overgrazing through overstocking and limited grazing
rotations, leaving the large tracts of land severely denuded and under threat of desertification.
Extension officers should also work with traditional leaders in communal land to encourage
villagers on proper grazing management.
Studies conducted by Buttel (2001), predicts that environmental degradation will continue
unabated until more preventive measures are taken to alter the behaviour of producers and the
trajectory of farming and grazing industries throughout the world. Preventive measures as
suggested by Pietikainen & Lehtila (2006) include amongst others minimum number of live
stock to avoid exceeding the carrying capacity of local grazing. Some measure includes
putting a price on grazing on control areas. Communities should decide on which areas will
be used for farmland, grazing land or forest. Extension practitioners should also advice
farmers to sell their stock and invest in cultivation (this advice could only be done when
necessary). Finally Oba & Kaitira (2006) highlighted that rotational grazing and management
of multiple livestock are traditional methods that can be recognised as Traditional Economic
Knowledge. Traditional Economic knowledge emphasizes that villagers should not work in
isolation, instead they should be govern by the same rules and procedures.Extension officers
should assist farmers to determine the caring capacity and appropriate stocking rate in a
particular season (Walker & Hodgkinson, 2000). Emphasis should be to keep minimum stock
in winter unless there is provision of adequate supplementary feeding.
5.2.2. Pollution by chemical fertilizers
Inorganic fertilisers are often environmental costly. They can leach from the soil and
contaminate ground water and streams. Other consequences of injudicious use of fertilisers
can reflect in the built-up of toxicity, acidification and salinisation (NDA undated, pp 8).
According to the report by OECD (1999) excessive use of nutrients in the soil contribute to
eutrophication problem and pollution of drinking water. Excessive levels of nutrients in soils
may also result in soil acidification.For example; excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizers
concentrates nitrates in the soil and water. Nitrate rich water is carried off into surface water
bodies such as ponds, rivers and lakes where it accelerates the growth of algae. These algae
consume dissolved oxygen from water and thus deplete the water of its oxygen content
leading to the death of useful aquatic life such as fish.
Excessive use of fertilizers over a long period may affect the acidity of the soil and may
adversely affect the crop production. They contain ingredients that are toxic to the skin or
respiratory system. Incorrect measure of fertilizers can also burn crops. Chemical fertilizers
can build up in the soil, causing long-term imbalances in soil pH and fertility. Apart from the
essential nutrients required by plants, chemical fertilizers contain certain compounds and salts
which a plant is unable to absorb, which are left behind in the soil. With time, these
compounds build up in the soil and can even change its structure.Pearson (2003) emphasized
that a sustainable system should be kept in balance with their use through conservation,
recycling and renewal. He further argued that practices should preserve agricultural resources
and prevent environmental damage. It is therefore apparent that extension should assist to
educate farmers on the use of both organic and inorganic fertilizers.
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5.2.3. Pollution by pesticides, herbicides and fungicides
Pesticides are known to also kill non-target and often beneficial organisms in the immediate
area of application. Others chemicals are not biodegradable and may accumulate in the soil
and water with hazardous consequences to both animal and human life (NDA undated, pp 8).
Pesticides have contributed greatly to increased agricultural productivity and crop quality, but
once in the environment can accumulate in soil and water, and damage flora and fauna as
concentrations in food-chains become high enough to harm wildlife (OECD, 1999). Pesticide
residues also impair drinking water quality, contaminate food for human consumption, cause
adverse health effects from direct exposure to farm workers, while some pesticides contain
bromide compounds which, when volatised, convert into stratospheric ozone-depleting gases.
A difficulty with establishing indicators that address the issue of agricultural pesticide use is
that pesticides vary strongly in their degree of toxicity, persistence and mobility, depending
on the type and concentration of their active ingredients, and hence vary in the environmental
risk they impose. Also an increase in pesticide use could coincide with a reduction of
environmental damage, when more but less harmful pesticides are used, and vice versa,
which emphasises the need to undertake pesticide use risk assessment(OECD, 1999).
Furthermore, the quantity of pesticides that leach into soil and water depend on, for example,
soil properties and temperature, drainage, type of crop, weather, and application method, time
and frequency. Moreover, where pesticides are used in combination with certain pest
management practices, such as integrated pest management, it may have little or no harmful
impact on the environment, pesticide users, or food consumers.
5.2.4. Soil crusting
Regular and/or incorrect tillage changes the structure of the soil causing soil compaction
resulting in slower water infiltration, increased run-off and greater risk of erosion. Intensive
cultivation and loss of organic materials, together with excessive overhead irrigation, can
aggravate the problem. An examination of South Africa’s rural areas reveals the extent to
which the country’s ecology has been damaged. Political, economic and social factors impact
on the sustainability of agriculture and livelihood of people living in rural areas (NDA,
undated). According to a review by Miller & Wali (1995), the world’s soil resources have
been pressured not only by food production of indigenous populations but also by advent of
modern transportation and storage systems, which brings many of the world’s unique and,
heretofore, unused resources to market worldwide.
Agricultural extension practitioners should work to assist farmers in minimising or even
avoiding soil crusting. These amongst others should include practices that protect or increase
soil structure and organic matter and provide protective vegetation on the soil surface.
Practices such as no-till or reduced tillage of cropland reduce or eliminates crust formation.
Extension practitioners should promote the use of organic matter and plant residues on the
soil to avoid the physical impact of rain drop.
5.2.5. Water
Water scarcity is receiving more attention as an increasingly land-related problem. A recent
report from Population Action International predicts that by the year 2025, the number of
people living in water deficient countries will approach three billion up from 335 million in
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1990 (Miller & Wali, 1995). The implications of water shortage for agriculture are obvious.
Studies conducted by Angadi, Cutforth, Mcconkry, & Gan (2003) reveals that growing plants
in area with low rainfall patterns will require planned irrigation to avoid plant water stress.
Water quality is an important aspect in the bid to achieve sustainable management of irrigated
land. The quality of irrigation water affects soil salinity and cation exchange, soil acidity and
alkalinity, nutrient availability and soil structure. Sustainable water usage should aim to
prevent degradation of ground and surface water (Hillel, 2000).
Water shortage is a major obstacle to agricultural production and also damage aquatic
habitats and wildlife. The need to maintain and restore the ‘‘natural’’ state of water resources
is an integral part of water management and sustainable agriculture practices. The
intensification of agricultural practices in many countries has increased the abstraction rates
of limited surface and groundwater resources (OECD, 1999). With the higher demand for
water from industrial and public consumers, in addition to agriculture, the growing
competition for water resources within the economy is of great concern to policy makers in
many countries. Extension officers should assist farmers in measurement of agricultural water
use in terms of developing water balances for both the use of surface and groundwater
resources by agriculture, together with exploring possible linkages with indicators related to
farm management, especially aspects of irrigation management. As part of sustainable water
use, agricultural extension should endeavour to encourage farmers on various water use
efficiency equations, monitoring stream and river flows (surface water) and also groundwater
levels. This can be achieved by making it a point that farmers record or measure the amount
of water used for both domestic and agricultural purpose. Farmers should be made aware of
the water requirements for crops during different growth stages.
6. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The foregoing discussion highlights two things. First, in defining sustainable agriculture, it is
seen that elements of it are technical, but that its underpinning is essentially philosophical in
which farmers will operate at a level of principle while exploring specific options to specific
issues related to production. Second is the essential aspect that these pillars must be viewed in
their totality and to avoid dichotomous thinking, but recognising that it is a matter of
‘considered choice’ within recognised limits. Agricultural extension can play a considerable
role both in raising farmers’ awareness of the individual pillars and their application to their
respective farms and in integrating their application.
The concept of sustainability will remain uncertain and imperfect until better procedures for
assessment and evaluation are available. However, the concept can be usefully employed in
development projects even with the current imperfections in the definition. It is important that
people, farmers and the community at large should engage themselves in practices that will
not degrade their natural environment. The probability and capacity for a sustainable future
rest largely on our ability to tap the earth’s natural resource with sustainable management
strategies.
Sustainable land management in developing countries requires long-term, sustained support
and investment in the prudent management and conservation of natural resources to achieve
the combined goal of increased production and environmental maintenance. The government,
private sectors, non- government organisations, including the international communities
should join together in developing policies and guidelines that promote sustainable
agricultural practices. Extension officers should continue to give a necessary advice to the
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farming community on practices that will not degrade our natural environment. In conclusion
the big challenge is to ask what will happen in the future if farmers continue to use
unsustainable farming practices that continue to harm the natural environment. Finally a
follow up question should be what agricultural extension will do to assist the farmers in
producing food that will meet the needs of the ever growing world's population without
compromising the natural environment.
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... Adapted from Khwidzhili and Worth (2017b) ...
... In response to the pressure for food production to meet the demand of the ever-growing world population, many farmers have resorted to using farming practices that increase agricultural production without considering the potential harm to the natural environment (Khwidzhili & Worth, 2017b). Respondents were asked the following question: What is the reaction of farmers as you advise them about the importance of sustainable agriculture? ...
... The study reveals that there are no frameworks or guideline documents supporting sustainable agriculture in Mpumalanga Province. This might be as a result of South Africa not having an inclusive policy on sustainable agricultural practices (Khwidzhili & Worth, 2017b). ...
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The ever-growing population of the world compels most farmers to resort to farming practices that are unsustainable. This is particularly true in Mpumalanga Province, where there is a lack of support towards promoting sustainable agriculture. This study evaluates the role of public agricultural extension in promoting sustainable agriculture in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa. The role of public agricultural extension is evaluated against the framework of the five pillars of sustainable agriculture. The study evaluates the context of dominant agricultural extension approaches used in Mpumalanga Province. Data were collected through questionnaires with 68 respondents, comprising of various extension practitioners in all 17 districts in Mpumalanga Province. The study provides an analytical emphasis that assessment of farmers' livelihood will assist extension practitioners to programme their interventions based on farmers' needs. The study further evaluates extension practitioners' knowledge towards the concept of sustainable agriculture. The support provided to extension practitioners in promoting sustainable agriculture was also appraised. The results of the study present empirical consolidated responses on extension practitioners' knowledge of the five pillars of sustainable agriculture. Finally, extension practitioners provided their suggestions on what measures could be taken to promote sustainable agriculture in Mpumalanga Province. Drawing from the results of this study, it is evident that there is a need for frameworks and support for extension practitioners towards promoting sustainable agricultural practices.
... It may well be that the resulting technologies reflect a combination of traditional and modern techniques. Thus, sustainable agriculture is a direction rather than a destination (Khwidzhili and Worth 2016). With that in mind, there should be agreement on what should be sustained, for whom, and for how long, because if natural resources are degraded and the natural environment is further poisoned, agricultural productivity will be reduced and, ultimately, human life will be threatened because of a shortage of food. ...
... Thus, sustainable agriculture must be ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible (Kassie et al. 2015). Planning for sustainability in agricultural development projects has reinforced the generally accepted definition of sustainability put forward by the 1987 Bruntland Commission, which outlined that, 'sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs' (Khwidzhili and Worth 2016). Khwidzhili and Worth (2016) further insist that sustainability aims to leave future generations with as many, if not more, opportunities than we had ourselves. ...
... Planning for sustainability in agricultural development projects has reinforced the generally accepted definition of sustainability put forward by the 1987 Bruntland Commission, which outlined that, 'sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs' (Khwidzhili and Worth 2016). Khwidzhili and Worth (2016) further insist that sustainability aims to leave future generations with as many, if not more, opportunities than we had ourselves. They further stressed that sustainable land management combines technologies, policies and activities aimed at simultaneously integrating socioeconomic principles with environmental concerns. ...
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There is increasing concern over the role that modern agricultural methods play in the degradation and destruction of natural resources such as water, soil, forests, and microorganisms, and the wider environment. Modern agricultural production methods, though they are effective at catering to the present generation’s needs, have been found to pose threats to future farming activities. As a result, there have been widespread calls for farmers to use sustainable agricultural practices (SAPs) as an alternative to traditional farming practices. Despite this, there seems to be limited knowledge of the extent to which smallholder farmers in South Africa have done so. This study investigates the use of SAPs by 130 smallholder farmers in a rural community in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa. The findings show that the majority use SAPs such as intercropping and crop rotation and that there is a low prevalence of mineral and pesticide use, both of which are considered unsustainable to the environment and the health of people and other resources. The findings also show that manure is not widely used as an alternative to chemical fertilizers and that the use of electricity as a form of energy for cooking and lighting is prevalent. These findings are useful for policymakers keen on encouraging the successful implementation of SAPs in South Africa.
... Gates [40] contends that small-scale farming in South Africa, as with rest of Southern Africa, is currently not sustainable given the extent of the damage caused to the environment. Unsustainable farming practices is further compounded by insufficient financial resources to acquire technology that will align practices, products and processes that will result in sufficient and profitable yields that preserves the environment for future generations Khwidzhili and Worth [41]. ...
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Food security is becoming a growing problem worldwide. Much focus should therefore be placed on the agricultural sector with a view of equipping the sector for increased food production capabilities. The agricultural sector is changing rapidly globally due to the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) mega technologies, resulting in smarter ways to farm. These technologies allow farmers to maximise production remotely while controlling every aspect of crop farming such as pest control, soil conditions, crop monitoring, and soil moisture. These advances will allow farmers to be more profitable, efficient and environmentally friendly. However, evidence suggests that small-scale farmers are left behind in the use of 4IR mega technologies in South Africa. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the use of various 4IR technologies in the agricultural sector by using a desktop review of current literature. The paper recommends for a government-driven entity to be established that will focus on building capacity for small-scale farmers to build more sustainable and bigger businesses to assist in increased food production through the introduction of 4IR technologies.
... [37] contends that small-scale farming in South Africa, as with rest of Southern Africa, is currently not sustainable given the extent of the damage caused to the environment. Unsustainable farming practices is further compounded by insufficient financial resources to acquire technology that will align practices, products and processes that will result in sufficient and profitable yields that preserves the environment for future generations [38]. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Food security is becoming a growing problem worldwide. Much focus should therefore be placed on the agricultural sector with a view of equipping the sector for increased food production capabilities. The agricultural sector is changing rapidly globally due to the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) mega technologies, resulting in smarter ways to farm. These technologies allow farmers to maximise production remotely while controlling every aspect of crop farming such as pest control, soil conditions, crop monitoring, and soil moisture. These advances will allow farmers to be more profitable, efficient and environmentally friendly. However, evidence suggests that small-scale farmers are left behind in the use of 4IR mega technologies in South Africa. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the use of various 4IR technologies in the agricultural sector by using a desktop review of current literature. The paper recommends for a government-driven entity to be established that will focus on building capacity for small-scale farmers to build more sustainable and bigger businesses to assist in increased food production through the introduction of 4IR technologies.
... Balancing food security in the context of accelerating soil degradation, competing land uses, and climate change is the major challenge facing the Maloti-Drakensberg. The establishment of frameworks, methods, and processes that support viable sustainable agriculture is imperative to balance these conflicts (Khwidzhili and Worth 2016). The objective of this review paper is therefore to appraise the status of mountain farming in the Maloti-Drakensberg in terms of its challenges and opportunities for sustainable food production. ...
... Balancing food security in the context of accelerating soil degradation, competing land uses, and climate change is the major challenge facing the Maloti-Drakensberg. The establishment of frameworks, methods, and processes that support viable sustainable agriculture is imperative to balance these conflicts (Khwidzhili and Worth 2016). The objective of this review paper is therefore to appraise the status of mountain farming in the Maloti-Drakensberg in terms of its challenges and opportunities for sustainable food production. ...
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Achieving sustainable food security is a critical goal for smallholder farmers in mountainous regions around the world. In the 40,000 km2 Maloti–Drakensberg mountains (South Africa and Lesotho), one of the important mountain ranges of southern Africa, farmers are directly dependent on natural resources. Natural resource management is currently unsustainable, driving landscape degradation and entrenching poverty cycles. Through a comprehensive literature review, we explore the current status of knowledge, opportunities, and agriculture-dependent natural resource sustainability in the Maloti–Drakensberg, and outline the priorities for future research in mountain agriculture in southern Africa. The Maloti–Drakensberg has diverse land tenure systems and climatic heterogeneity that together determine farming practices. Agropastoralism is the predominant agricultural practice, occupying 79% of the land, because of the natural grass-dominated vegetation. Despite decades of concern, the sustainable management of communal rangeland remains elusive. Arable cropping is practiced on 12% of the land at subsistence levels, while game farming contributes a small amount to local revenues. A multipronged research approach is needed to understand the complex social–ecological issues around soil degradation and sustainable utilization of the limited agricultural natural resources base. Innovative and adaptive strategies that take into account local and indigenous knowledge, mitigate soil degradation, and enhance water and rangeland conservation are needed to promote sustainable food production in the Maloti–Drakensberg.
... The resulting technologies may reflect a mixture of traditional and new techniques. Hence, it can be said that sustainable agriculture is a trend, not a destination (Khwidzhili and Worth, 2016). ...
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The adoption of sustainable agricultural practices is widely recognized as essential to ensure agricultural sustainability. This study analyzed factors influencing citrus farmers adoption of sustainable agricultural practices (SAPs) in the Northern Ghor of Jordan valley. The study used a quantitative approach. Simple random sampling was adopted to select 115 farmers in the study area. The study found that the largest proportion 44.4% of the citrus farmers had a fairly high adoption rate of SAPs while 13.0% of ones had high adoption of SAPs. In addition, the study revealed that age was the significant variable that positively influences farmers SAPs adoption, while experience, primary education, and tertiary education have a negative influence on the adoption of SAPs. The study recommends that special attention be given to older farmers to exploit their skills and receptive to implementing SAPs, encourage and guide farmers toward implementing sustainable agriculture techniques and suitable inputs by providing premium and incentive payments to them, and take deterrent penalties against farmers who using inappropriate and harmful applications, or who do not use appropriate applications.
... Two of the five dimensions of agricultural sustainability (Dumanski et al., 1998) are of interest here. Those dimensions frame the space in which the support services must operate to support farmers to engage in sustainable agriculture (Khwidzhili and Worth, 2016). Some services are poorly delivered to some categories of the population due to geographical, economic or social constraints, or lack to promote environment-friendly practices in agriculture. ...
Technical Report
This report aims at outlining both conceptual basis and methodological guidelines for addressing the research questions: 1) What innovation support services are most appropriate and qualitatively best match innovative stakeholders’ needs in the different phases of innovation processes? 2) What critical service situations can be observed as being responsible for the success of these innovation processes? 3) What has been the performance level of the identified service situations, both from the beneficiaries and providers’ perspectives? and 4) Which innovation support services and actors are key in supporting the inclusiveness of marginalized social groups in the process of innovation? By so doing, these findings will help to better understand how ISS contribute to advancing innovation processes and how can these services and corresponding processes of innovation be better strengthened and/or improved.
... The pillars of sustainability are included in many topics, from social to agricultural sciences, and other components have been added to the three well-known supports of sustainability. For example, Khwidzhili and Worth [9] stated that in order to have a sustainable agricultural production system, it must first meet the requirements of biological productivity, meet the protection of natural resources, be economically viable, reduce the level of risk, and be socially acceptable. Interestingly, the revised five pillars are by the objectives of the circular economy, and according to Lilja [10], the adequate concept to seek global sustainability is a local circular economy approach. ...
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Because of the climate change and emerging need for an environmentally sustainable production system, circular economic characteristics have come to the front in many studies. There are many challenges in this shift toward a circular value chain. Still, it is unquestionable that the analysis of consumers’ behaviour is crucial, because without their engagement, circular systems cannot work correctly. This article aimed to explore the circular characteristics of consumers’ attitude towards food purchasing in Hungary. Factor and cluster analyses were applied for market segmentation. The question to be answered was the following: “Are there any segments in the Hungarian food market that can be aimed at by different marketing tools to promote circular systems?” The hypothesis was that well-defined segments can be separated, garnering more engagement in the circular value chain in Hungary. We could separate two clusters, in which the members’ opinions were in line with the circular economic characteristics. Summing up the features of the different clusters, we can state that the members in cluster 1 (“Information-dependent”) and cluster 3 (“Direct purchasers”) were in the most local dimension; their attitude was the most adequate for the circular economic values. The “Information-dependent” consumer in particular was remarkable from the aspect of this investigation. This study showed that highly educated young people, who are very conscious consumers and live on good incomes, may be the target group for circular innovation. These young consumers usually buy organic food, are confident internet and software users, live in cities, and follow a healthy lifestyle. Finding the right marketing tools to integrate these consumers into more sustainable circular systems effectively and to be committed to the concepts of circular consumption is an essential mission in the future. Collecting from different databases and continuously analysing consumer feedback can be a huge step towards in achieving sustainable consumption and avoiding food waste. The significance of this analysis was that we found a defined segment that represents propensity towards accepting circular economy values and can be the target group of policies integrating circular systems.
Chapter
This chapter introduces to sustainable agriculture (SA), which is seen as a necessary way to feed and maintain/improve the quality of life of a growing world population without exacerbating environmental degradation. It starts by recalling the general importance of agriculture and showing the diversity and heterogeneity of agriculture forms around the world along with their disparities and problems faced. It then underlines the core of SA, and demonstrates several possible pathways toward SA, including organic farming, integrated farming, ecological and sustainable intensification, conservation, climate-smart and precision agriculture, permaculture and vertical farming. By the end of the chapter, the challenges for the main actors involved in building sustainability of agriculture, that is, science, education, policy-makers, and farmers, were summarized.
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Agriculture remains the engine of economic development in most developing countries, and a more sustainable agriculture is more likely to provide the long term benefits required to achieve sustainable development antipoverty reduction. The foundation for sustainable agriculture is maintenance of biological production potential, particularly maintenance of land and water quality, and genetic diversity. The following discussion describes progress in the World Bank to evaluate sustainable development, and activities in the scientific community to develop principles and procedures to evaluate sustainable agriculture and sustainable land management. The generally accepted definition of sustainability was given by the Bruntland commission (WCED, 1987): 'Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs'. Although philosophically attractive, this definition has prompted many interpretations and it has been difficult to put into practice. It has often been interpreted to mean that the next generation should inherit exactly the same amount and composition of natural capital as was available for us, and this precludes the economic growth and expansion necessary to alleviate poverty in developing countries. As a consequence, sustainability has remained more an area of research than an operational concept. However, some progress is being made in various institutions -among others the World Bank -to develop the new lines of thinking and the scientific paradigms necessary to evaluate and monitor progress towards sustainability.
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Establishing a good canola (rapeseed; Brassica napus L.) stand is difficult in the semiarid prairie region of Canada where low temperature, water stress, and soil crusting could result in poor seed bed conditions. A field study was conducted from 1999 to 2001 at Swift Current, SK, Canada, to determine the effect of a range of uniform (5 to 80 plants m-2) and nonuniform (seedlings from 1-m lengths from two adjoining rows were removed and retained alternatively; 10 to 40 plants m-2) plant populations on yield and yield components of canola. Canola adjusted seed yield across a wide range of plant populations, although it did not compensate completely for the decreasing populations. Environmental conditions played a significant role in the expression of plasticity of canola. For example, in 2000, with slightly above-normal growing season precipitation, canola maintained similar yield levels across a wide range of populations (20 to 80 plants m-2), while in 2001, with well below normal precipitation, seed yield declined as populations dropped below 40 plants m-2. Reducing plant population by half from 80 to 40 plants m-2 did not reduce seed yield when the reduced plant population was uniformly distributed, but reduced yield when the population was nonuniformly distributed. The primary response of canola to lower plant population was increased pods per plant through increased branching and increased pod retention at each node. The number of pods formed on primary and secondary branches increased as population decreased. Seeds per pod and seed weight were stable across populations.
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Viewing soils in the full context of landscape ecology is imperative. Both land and its component soil resources are finite. The biological capability of the earth’s ecosystems is limited, even though agriculture productivity has been manipulated by genetic selection of plants, adjusting nutrient flows, managing water, and controlling pests. However, these interventions also have serious economic and environmental repercussions. Increasing populations require more space, more food, more fuels and more of other resources. For soil scientists, the challenge is to (a) understand soil processes, (b) characterize and map soil resources, and (c) predict soil behavior under a variety of potential uses in the interest of providing society and its governing institutions with options and trade-offs in land use decisions. Global and regional economic and agricultural productivity will depend solely on our ability to increase productivity by (a) making economic–agricultural development congruent with ecological and social–political realities, (b) proper use and conservation of indigenous genetic resources, and (c) rehabilitating disturbed and degraded ecosystems. In this review, we assess these considerations and suggest needed strategies. Key words: Productivity, sustainable agriculture, land use, food security, soil quality
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The costs of three conservation tillage systems - chisel plow, ridge-till, and no-till - were compared to a conventional moldboard plow system for hypothetical corn-soybean farms in southern Ontario, differentiated by farm size and soil type. Total farm costs per hectare were higher in all farm scenarios for the moldboard plow and chisel plow tillage systems compared to no-till and ridge-till systems because of their larger machinery complement. Variable costs per hectare for the no-till and ridge-till systems were higher than for the fall tillage systems for each farm scenario. This was due largely to the pre-emergent herbicide treatment costs, which were higher for the two reduced tillage systems. The reductions in labour associated with the reduced tillage systems indicated that labor costs could be reduced up to 61% annually compared with a moldboard plow system. -Authors
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Four aspects of the application of sustainability to agricultural policy have remained problematic between the 1987 Brundtland Report and the 2002 World Summit. These are: Multidimensionality: early emphasis on a triple bottom line of social, economic and biophysical criteria gave way to emphasis on the biophysical, although there is now evidence of re-convergence in policy and from elite consumers. Hierarchy: sustainability is addressed within systems that are nested in space, time, the principal actor and the dominant factor affecting it. Emergent properties: an emphasis on anticipating and monitoring sustainability through, e.g. indicators, has obscured the reality that sustainability is an outcome or emergent property. Recent methods derive problem-determined objectives for sustainable development. Uncertainty: agricultural systems are not simply predictable and deterministic. Assessment of sustainability should quantify and anticipate uncertainties and avoid policy intervention which is coloured by the evaluator and their circumstances. Social aspects of decision-making pervade all these problems. It is proposed that progress will be accelerated by: pro-active government policy intervention in rural areas (of the type which is accepted by citizens of cities); participatory decision-making from the outset and throughout any development of, or decision to provide financial support to maintain, a sustainable enterprise; and evaluations of sustainability that anticipate variability or risk, uncoloured by short-term priorities such as business survival.