What happens when there is no longer arable land to plant on or livestock to rear because of all the harmful agricultural practices that have been practiced over the years? We experience pollution, land degradation, food shortages, and devastating climate change.
Sadly, that’s where we are headed if we don’t nip some of those practices in the bud.
Presently, earth has lost about ⅓ of its arable land in the last 40 years. Erosion is one of the leading causes of this and there are some harmful farm practices which result in erosion. As global food demand soars, we need to make sure some of those practices are minimized, if not eradicated completely.
1. Use of Harmful Pesticides:
In agriculture, farmers use pesticides to control pest and disease carriers which could be harmful to crop and animal production. The pesticides come in forms of herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides. However, pesticides are usually poisonous and sometimes, they end up being harmful to unintended targets.
For instance, neonicotinoids are agricultural insecticides which affect the central nervous system of insects. While they’re efficient in wiping out unwanted insects, they’re considered a huge threat to honey bees.
Keith Delaplane, a professor of entomology and director of the Honey Bee Program at the University of Georgia says that neonicotinoids are one of the most serious causes of negative pressure on pollinators.
There are also other harmful pesticides such as Metam Sodium and Telone II. Although these are some of the most widely used compounds in America, they are considered dangerous to not just animals, but to humans.
Metam Sodium is an organosulfur compound which is used as a pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide, while Telone II is a liquid soil fumigant, used to control plant parasitic nematodes in the soil.
Metam Sodium can be toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that the fumes released from Telone II can cause cancer when inhaled over long periods.
There are some organic alternatives to using pesticides to control pests on the farm. Some of the good farming practices to replace the harmful ones are; interplanting, strip cutting, reproductive controls, and quarantines. Studies also suggest that botanic soil amendments with weeds could help fight against nematodes.
2. Slash and Burn Agriculture:
Sometimes, when farmers have to clear farmland in preparation for planting, they do so by setting fire to the forests, weeds, and grasses. Slash and burn agriculture, also called fire-fallow cultivation, involves cutting and burning plants in a forest to pave way for farming.
Aside from the obvious environmental pollution and potential health hazards of this method of farm clearing, there are many other adverse effects. It alters the soil nutrient cycle and sometimes irreversibly breaks down some mineral constituents by excessive drying after burning. This greatly affects the quality of the soil.
It also exposes the top soil to one of the leading causes of arable land destruction; erosion. Slash and burn agriculture also produces harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen oxides, and other oxidants.
It could also lead to loss of reserves. FAO warns that indiscriminate bush burning and cutting of trees could lead to loss of forest reserves in communities.
One of the common alternatives to slash and burn agriculture is Inga Alley Cropping. This involves planting agricultural crops between rows of Inga trees. Inga is a nitrogen-fixing plant. When the trees develop, they are pruned at chest height and their branches are stripped of leaves and used as mulch.
The mulch fertilizes the soil, thus removing the need for chemical fertilizers and they use the larger branches for firewood, creating an alternative to cutting down trees. Inga trees regrow quickly to repeat the cycle of pruning and planting crops.
Overgrazing is eating up soil fertility – literally. It occurs when livestock continuously grazes on a particular land area for a long period of time, without giving the area enough recovery time. Some of the reasons for this are improper land use, poor livestock management, and many others.
As you can imagine, exposing a specific land area to intensive grazing will reduce fertility, soil organic matter, and productivity of that land. Erosion can also take place as a result of it. Overgrazing creates loss of habitat for wildlife or other livestock which feeds on grass.
One of the long term effects of overgrazing is food shortage. It destroys land fertility, which makes it difficult for planting to take place. It also makes it difficult for grazing livestock to feed and thus, we could lose both land and livestock to overgrazing.
Nonetheless, we can put certain practices in place to avoid overgrazing. Proper land assessment, maintaining proper pasture residuals, monitoring grass growth and creating a balance between livestock feeding habits and pasture could go a long way to control overgrazing.
Are we missing any harmful agricultural practices? Spread the word by letting us know in the comments section below.
In Morocco youths are making money from agriculture with the support from the African Development Bank
In Morocco, the African Development Bank has helped thousands of young people towards a new future in agriculture.
Abdelhak Boukhari, a young farmer said he learned farming from his father. “I started in this area in 1995 when I was very young. It was really difficult at first because I didn’t have any land; I didn’t have anything. I shared a plot with other farmers and after that I started renting land. It was then that I really got into agriculture as a career,” said Boukhari.
At the age of 40, Boukhari, who grows strawberries for export mainly to Europe and North America, struck out on his own. Now, thanks to improved farming methods, he has become an entrepreneur and has leased more arable lands and modern equipment.
“I really feel like a champion, because my father had only one or two workers, but I now have between 40 and 50. Thanks to God, I have a lot of equipment: the tractor for ploughing, agricultural machinery, greenhouses, and drip-feed irrigation. I really do have modern tools at my disposal,” he said.
Other young farmers, like Hicham Mokadem, 30, share similar testimonies.
Mokadem, 30, is an agronomist. He went into berry production in Laouamra, in north-west Morocco and exports the bulk of his produce to Europe.
“It is a 15-hectare farm and I decided to invest in soft fruit because it is a growth sector,” said the young agronomist. “I’m confident and I’m not on my own,” he added, referring to the thousands of young people flocking to farming , motivated by Morocco’s new agricultural policy, ‘the Green Morocco Plan’ (PMV).
Launched in April 2008, the PMV aims to make agriculture one of the first sectors of productive development and to modernize it. It also intends to promote agricultural investment, ensure food security, stimulate exports of agricultural products, and promote local products.
Since its inception, this project has received more than 500 million euros from the African Development Bank through the Green Morocco Plan Support Programme (PAPMV).
“A 30% increase in agricultural yield, a 40% decrease in water usage and a 45% increase in agricultural earnings. These have been the outcomes of the Green Morocco Plan which we have been supporting since 2008,” said Bank resident representative for Morocco, Leila Farah Mokaddem.
Young Moroccans such as Boukhari and Mokadem demonstrate the Bank’s success in transforming livelihoods under its High Five development priorities: Feed Africa, Industrialize Africa, and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.
Important Food Habits You Should Adapt This Year
It’s a new year and while you’re writing up your new year resolutions, we hope “contributing to food security” is one of them. If it isn’t, there’s still time to add it.
One of the biggest threat to food security is Food loss and waste (FLW). According to the FAO, approximately one-third of all produced foods (1.3 billion tons of edible food) for human consumption is lost and wasted every year across the entire supply chain. When food is wasted, the resources such as water and nutrients which were used to produce that food, are also wasted.
With numbers that high, it might seem like adapting the food habits which will be discussed later in this post will not solve affect anything. However, if we all make our own little efforts from our various homes, the results might surprise us.
Shop Smart: Have you ever found an old banana you bought rotting out in the fridge because you bought it and forgot about it? Probably.
Shopping is not easy. Sometimes we end up buying and forgetting about the existence of what we bought, sometimes we end up buying more than we need, or sometimes we don’t buy enough. To be a smarter shopper, it is important to not only make a shopping list, but to stick to it. This will help reduce impulse buying which could lead to food waste.
Shopping smart also means knowledge of that buying in bulk may not always be smart. You might be certain of what you will eat next Monday but by next Monday, someone takes you out for a meal and what happens to the food produce you bought ahead of Monday? It could go to waste.
The reality of life is that plans change and purchasing food items against the unforeseeable future could lead to waste. You could easily see an advert for a nice meal which could cause you to change your plans to cook dinner. What happens to the food produce you had already bought? It could go to waste.
A study conducted by Victoria Ligon of the University of Arizona to understand how people acquire, prepare, consume, and discard food. She tracked shopping and food preparation patterns and her results confirmed that bulk-buying too often leads to food waste.
“To me, the big-picture finding is that while this meal planning helps us psychologically feel less stressed about all of the home tasks we have to manage, it is not easy to execute. In the end, it results in inefficiency and waste because food is perishable.”
- Victoria Ligon.
She also explained that the rapid increase of fast food has created more food options. This has caused people to change meal plans without notice. This could cause the previous meal plan to go to waste if products had already been purchased for it.
These are some key points you should take into consideration when shopping so you can make smarter decisions.
Pay Attention to Expiry Dates: You might feel justified throwing out food because it is expired. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. You don’t have to wait till the food expires before you take action.
Another reason why buying in bulk should be discouraged is because we are humans and sometimes, we forget. Purchasing canned food in bulk can also lead to expiration and eventual wastage.
One of the ways of curbing this is by creating a “last in, first out” system in your refrigerator. This means that the last thing you put in should be the first thing out. That way, nothing overstays its welcome in the fridge. You should also use this system for expiry dates. The foods closest to their expiration should be used up before the ones whose expiration is still far off.
Which of the above listed habit will you be adapting? Let’s know in the comments section below.
Elnefeidi Group Secures African Development Bank $60 million loan To Boost Agriculture
The African Development Bank’s Board of Directors has approved a $60m loan to Elnefeidi Group Holding Company to help finance its long-term agriculture and food expansion programme.
The planned expansion includes increasing agricultural productivity, enhancing related infrastructure, food processing and distribution. It will directly contribute in developing Sudan’s livestock value chain (poultry and beef) by increasing the country’s export capacity for value-added livestock products. This will help reduce the economic value that the country loses by exporting millions of live animals each year.
“Agricultural transformation is one of the Bank’s top five strategic priorities and the Bank is delighted to have identified a viable private sector actor like Elnefeidi Group which has a proven track record and through which we can channel the Bank’s support” said Atsuko Toda, African Development Bank Director for Agriculture Finance and Rural Development.
The loan is expected to contribute significantly to food security, food import substitution, and household incomes by creating jobs and increasing local productivity and distribution by over half a million metric tonnes each year across several countries. Elnefeidi Group employs over 1,842 people and has distribution networks covering North, East and Central Africa.
“This approval to Elnefeidi Group is another demonstration of the African Development Bank’s continued support and strong commitment to enable, deepen, and empower the private sector in Sudan, as an engine of economic and inclusive growth,” said Raubil Durowoju, the Bank’s Country Manager for Sudan. “This is also consistent with Sudan’s National Agriculture Investment Plan, which seeks to achieve agriculture-linked growth, largely through private investments.”
Sudan is widely considered to hold immense food production potential. Sixty-three percent of its land area is classified as agricultural, and its competitive advantages include: a promising demographic profile, projected growth in household food demand, and proximity to a range of markets in Central Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, many of them food-deficit countries.