Almost every conversation surrounding the agricultural industry has the term “sustainable agriculture” in it. This is because it concerns everyone, from the farmers to the middle men and the consumers. However, there are five things you should know which will help you understand why people are having conversations on this topic:
What Sustainable Agriculture Means
Sustainable agriculture can be defined in many ways but one common denominator in all its definition is carrying out agricultural practices which provide long term crops and livestock and has as little negative effect on the environment as possible.
The concept tries to understand the relationship between organisms and their environment and find a balance between the need for food production and the preservation of the environment. Its key focus are – a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. The practice also supports less use of chemicals, energy and water conservation, biodiversity and ecology, as well as local food production
Why We Need Sustainable Agriculture
There are 7 billion people in the world, and that gives us 7 billion reasons why we need sustainable agriculture. Aside from the fact that sustainable agriculture seeks to provide food for everyone, here are some other reasons why we need to consciously practice sustainable agriculture:
- To Conserve Energy:
When agricultural products are moved from one point to another by any means of transport, energy is used. One of the main focuses of sustainable agriculture is to grow and sell agricultural products locally, thus reducing the need for transportation.
Other activities which require energy in their production are fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides.The agricultural industry relies heavily on fossil fuels for producing fertilizers, packaging, and others. Sustainable agricultural practices seek to reduce the dependence of the industry on unsustainable energy sources which could be damaging to the natural environment.
Sustainable agriculture adapts methods which makes soil healthier and protects other natural resources such as air and water. Conserving these resources are necessary for future food production. It also embraces farming practices which require less energy and thus, eliminates the need for fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions which are produced by the agricultural sector.
To Promote Biodiversity:
Sustainable agriculture seeks to understand the relationship between organisms and their environments to make for better food production. This could lead to a healthier ecosystem and create a balance. It also encourages diverse farming systems which includes incorporating variety of crops.
- To Produce Healthy Food:
Crops grown using sustainable agriculture do not contain residues of harmful chemicals and pesticides, thus they’re considered healthier. These healthy crops are used to feed livestock, which ultimately leads to nutritious food for people.
To Reduce Pollution:
Sometimes chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers wash away and become land and water pollutants, causing harm and ruining the environment. Adopting sustainable agricultural practices can help reduce pollution with its use of organic methods of fertilizers and pest control.
Sustainable Agriculture Practices
When crops are planted, they use up the soil nutrients. One of the ways to replace those nutrients is through crop rotation. This involved planting a particular crop to replace the nutrients a previous crop used up.
For instance, planting a heavy nitrogen depositing plant such as soyabeans after a heavy nitrogen using plant such as corn, can help maintain the nutrients in the soil. Crop rotation helps keep the soil healthy and conserve the nutrients in it as well as prevent diseases and allow the soil to fallow after planting, which is good for the health of the soil.
We need to start growing food closer to home and there’s no better way to do that than through urban agriculture. So many people already live in the cities and to bridge that gap between where food is produced and where it’s mostly consumed, urban agriculture comes to play. We can grow our own farms in backyards, gardens, and rooftop gardens.
When livestock grazes on a particular field, without allowing that land to fallow and regain its nutrients, it becomes dangerous. Rotational grazing is similar to crop rotation but it applies to livestock. The livestock grazes on different fields and is exposed to nutrients. The land also fallows and regains its nutrients.
The excreta of those animals can also serve as manure for the soil and fosters the growth of plants. Also, when overgrazing occurs, the soil is exposed and trampled upon, which can easily be eroded but rotational grazing helps reduce this.
Water management is a big issue in agriculture. Irrigation systems that are planned will help in channel water where it is needed. Luckily, technological advancements have made it possible to apply precision to agriculture and help conserve resources such as water. For instance, agricultural drones can be used to track plants and spray the exact amount of water needed for growth.
Natural Pest Management:
Overuse of pesticides could result in environmental damage. Sustainable agriculture entails using biological and mechanical pest control methods to eliminate pests. For instance, some insects such as birds and bats can serve as predators of beetles and weeds.
Some countries are already adapting this method. For instance, in Japan, farmers are using ducks instead of pesticides to control weeds in their rice farms. The ducks are specially trained. The farmers release the ducks into the paddy fields and the ducks eat insects, weeds, and even the weed’s seeds. They eat everything except the rice.
Planting trees around the farm can attract birds, who will not only nest there but feed on the insects and control pest.
What Happens if There’s no Sustainable Agriculture?
Based on the reasons why we need sustainable agriculture, it is easy to see all the things that could go wrong if we don’t adapt it. The practice gives balance to the environmental, social, and economic needs of agriculture, and to the society at large.
Sustainable agriculture reduces the release of toxic chemicals into the environment and encourages the growth of nutritional food for humans. It also encourages practices which will ensure sufficient supply of food.
How You Can Contribute to Sustainable Agriculture
Creating Awareness: Farmers need to understand the implications of their farming practices. Some farmers practice harmful farming activities. These activities could be detrimental to the environment in the long run. With your knowledge of sustainable agriculture, you can spread the word.
By Providing Appropriate Technology:There are tools which can help reduce the use of harmful practices. For instance, proper irrigation systems which supply plants with the exact amount of water they need can help reduce water wastage. The right planting and harvesting technology can also prevent wastage.
Purchase Locally: When we buy and sell locally, it helps. Food sold locally requires less packaging, and less fuel in transport, It also keeps the food in the economy, and takes less time to move from farm to consumption than other foods, it fosters good community relationships.
3 Fun Facts About Vegetables
Vegetables have become such a huge part of our daily meals that we cannot? our meals without them. Here are three fun facts about vegetables that you probably didn’t know about:
1. Tomato Is Botanically A Fruit But Legally A Vegetable:
By definition, a fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant while vegetables are other plant parts such as roots, leaves, and stems. Based on this, a lot of what we consider vegetables (such as cucumber, avocado, eggplant, okra, and even pepper) are actually fruits. However, even though tomatoes fit into the definition of a fruit, legally, tomatoes are vegetables.
In the late 1800s, the Congress passed a tariff act that imposed a 10% tax on whole vegetables. Vegetable merchants used to bring in tomatoes and not pay the tariff, on the basis that tomatoes were fruits. They took the case to court and in the end, the Supreme Court ruled tomato as a vegetable in 1893. They made this decision based on the culinary application of the food.
Many people backed this argument because despite being a fruit, we eat tomatoes like vegetables.
2. Eating Too Many Carrots Can Turn Your Skin Orange:
This seems like something you would tell a kid who was eating too many carrots so they’d stop but it is actually a fact. Eating too many carrots can turn your skin orange and here’s why.
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a natural pigment which is responsible for the vegetable’s orange color. When you eat too many carrots (or pumpkins or any other food high in carotene), the excess beta-carotene will enter your bloodstream and be stored under your skin. This will cause your skin to have a yellow or orange sort of tint. Medically, this condition is known as carotenemia.
Now for the question of how many carrots is too many? Well, that differs based on individuals but the average healthy dosage of beta-carotene is 6 – 8 milligrams. Therefore continuously going above that limit for a long period can be too many carrots.
3. Tomatoes Win The Popularity Contest:
If I asked you to name the most popular vegetable, you’d probably think of onions or other vegetables you use in your everyday meal. However, tomatoes actually take the prize.
Be it a fruit or a vegetable, tomatoes are actually the most consumed food in the world. About 177 million metric tons of tomatoes are produced yearly in the world. The three largest producers of the food are China, India, and the United States.
Tomatoes are so popular that there is an entire festival around them called “La Tomatina.” The festival is held every last Wednesday of August in a town called Buñol ( in Valencia). It involves the participants throwing tomatoes at each other and getting into tomato fights, all for entertainment purposes.
Do you know any more fun facts about vegetables? Share it with us in the comment section.
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Forests
Forests do not only provide a habitat for wild animals or exist to scare us in horror movies, they do more for us than we realize. One of the most widely accepted definitions of a forest is by the FAO. The organization explains forests as land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 meters and a canopy cover of more than 10%.
Forests cover about 31% of the world’s land surface (which is just over 4 billion hectares where one hectare equals 2.47 acres). A better way to visualize this is by telling you that one hectare is about the size of an European football field. Therefore, 4 billion hectares is a lot of football fields.
Now that we know just how much of the earth is covered by forests, here are some more facts about them you probably didn’t know:
1. Forests Are Big Employers Of Labor: The United Nations estimates that about 10 million people are directly employed in forest management and conservation. The World Bank also states that the formal timber sector employs more than 13 million people.
These records cover only the formal sector. What about the undocumented forest workers? Forest business is largely informal and therefore many contributions and workers are largely unreported and the figures could amount to a lot more than we imagine.
Forests creates jobs which ranges from wood production to transportation, charcoal production and so much more.
2. They Serve As Habitat To Many: Forests serve as habitat to many animals such as deer, tigers, bears, and other wildlife. They also house plants and trees like oak, magnolia, moss, and many others. However, you would be surprised to find out that many people live in forests, 300 million people to be exact.
Therefore, forest destruction not only ruins habitats for plants and animals, but also renders some humans homeless and takes away their source of survival.
3. Forests Affect Our Everyday Lives: Almost everything you’ve done today can be traced back to forests. If you’ve eaten today or taken the bus, or even written something down on a piece of paper, then forests have paid an important role in your activities.
The manufacturing of products such as paper, fruits, wood, and even ingredients for detergents, medicine, and cosmetics, can be trailed back to the forest.
The importance of forests, especially in our daily lives, cannot be overemphasized.
4. They Give Us Oxygen: Did you know that one tree provides about 260 pounds of oxygen yearly? That means two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four. How much more a forest?
Forests make oxygen by absorbing carbon dioxide and converting it to oxygen. Without this process, we would not survive. Forests also clean up the air by absorbing harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide to release oxygen.
Apart from making the air clean for us, they also cool the air. The evaporation from a single tree can create the cooling effect of 10 room size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. If one tree can do that, what can a whole forest do?
5. Forests Attract Tourism: Nature is beautiful, and a lot of people are willing to pay good money to experience nature. Forests can be a good way to drive agritourism and enhance the economy. When tourists pay to see forests and their reserves, this contributes to the economy of the community where the forest is found.
Also, the visual aesthetics and cooling effects they have can boost creativity and serve as a source of inspiration.
Are we missing an important point in this post? Let us know in the comment section below.
AfDB, African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership sign $5.4 million agreements to foster fertilizer market in Nigeria and Tanzania
The African Development Bank and the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) have signed two grant agreements to implement trade credit guarantees worth $5.4 million to support fertilizer value chains in Nigeria and Tanzania, potentially benefiting hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers.
The organizations held a signing ceremony at the African Green Revolution Forum in Accra, Ghana on 5 September 2019. Dr. Jennifer Blanke, African Development Bank Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development said the agreements would provide the inputs needed for Africa to have “the productivity that we hope for.”
“We are just thrilled to be getting together with our partners in order to expand the efforts to make sure that we are financing the development of manufacturing and blending of fertilizer,” Blanke said. “This is an African effort, led by Africans, for Africa,” she added.
The grants are designed by the Bank’s Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism (AFFM) to provide sustainable financing solutions to boost the fertilizer value chain in Africa.
African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership CEO Jason Scarpone signed the agreements on behalf of the continental body, emphasizing the importance of value chain financing – bringing fertilizer financing from manufacturer, to distributor, to retailer to farmer. “Few succeed in doing it. This project will be successful,” Scarpone told reporters.
The two deals are the first agreements signed by AFFM, which is hosted by the African Development Bank, since it was became fully functional last year;they pave the way for the first implementation of trade credit guarantee projects for fertilizer financing led by AFFM in Nigeria and Tanzania.
The African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership will be the implementing partner operating in the two countries on behalf of the Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism. The Partnership has substantial experience in supporting the agricultural value chain across the continent.
Scheduled for implementation over a two-year period, the projects will lead to the enhancement of fertilizer value chains in the two countries and will target 10 importers, 5 blenders/manufacturers, and 37 hub agro-dealers as direct beneficiaries, 520 retail agro-dealers as indirect beneficiaries and 700,000 smallholder farmers as final beneficiaries.
By supporting the fertilizer value chain in the two countries, the projects will go a long way to making fertilizer available to more farmers, a key objective of the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy.
“We have expected results that are realistic. We are here to make sure this happens,” AFFM Coordinator Marie Claire Kalihangabo said at the signing ceremony.