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.
Climate change report shines spotlight on Africa’s agriculture potential
It seems almost incongruous to talk about the opportunity that exists in ensuring the world’s food security by bolstering Africa’s agricultural output when the very pressing and public crisis of climate change could be its undoing.
Particularly in the run up to COP26 and the “reality check” that came with this week’s release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Six Assessment Report, it is clear the entire African continent is “highly exposed” to climate extremes, at a relatively “high level of vulnerability”.
With over two thirds of Africans deriving their livelihood off agriculture, climate change-led crises like droughts, floods and cyclones continue to threaten the continent’s economic growth, employment, and food security. And yet, ensuring Africa’s agricultural resilience would not just help Africa. It’s essential for ensuring global food security.
What’s more, these climate-led natural disasters have the greatest and most disproportionate impact on small- to medium-scale farmers, comprising as much as 80% of Africa’s agricultural output, from maize and wheat to rice, cassava, and sorghum.
“The UN Report confirmed that climate change is intensifying the water cycle and affecting rainfall patterns, bringing more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions,” says Malvern Chirume, African Risk Capacity Limited Chief Underwriting Officer.
“These African farmers are the heart of the continent’s agriculture and are at the mercy of climate change events completely out of their control,” Chirume adds.
Established in 2014, ARC Limited provides natural disaster insurance relief to African countries which have joined the sovereign risk pool.
Along with its partners, which provide premium support, the insurer has already paid over US$65m to seven African countries to provide drought relief and address the economic concerns these countries’ most vulnerable citizens face.
Responding to the climate crisis
Traditionally, countries have responded to climate change-led disasters such as droughts or floods by raising funds for emergency relief. This approach is time-consuming and inefficient.
“It takes far too long for African countries to mobilise the immediate resources they need for relief efforts, to save lives and livelihoods. Our role at ARC Limited is to work with countries to prepare them for the risk exposure they have and how to respond swiftly to climate-related food security emergencies. This includes helping them to establish a rainy-day fund which pays out swiftly, before the problem has become worse, and more funding is needed.”
The ARC Limited model, built on parametric insurance (pre-specified pay-outs based upon a trigger event), has been highly successful, says Chirume.
“We have to date paid out close to $65 million dollars in claims. When one considers that every dollar in insurance pay-outs saves US$4 dollars, this makes the cumulative economic impact around US$240 million. With those funds, we’ve helped more than 5.9 million people whose livelihoods have been affected by climate change impacts,” Chirume explains.
While parametric insurance against natural disasters has enormous potential for the agricultural sector, it has a further economic impact. Because agriculture makes up such a significant portion of the continent’s economy, a downturn caused by a climate shock will echo through the broader economy of any nation affected.
This can bring an economic downturn, a lack of funding for key infrastructure and services at government level, and a loss of jobs as farmers struggle to recover. There is also evidence of migration away from areas experiencing drought, which can have a long-term impact on the regional economy.
Organisations such as ARC Limited have an essential role to play in this way in protecting agricultural value chains and the economies of and employment in Africa. “Our role is to help mitigate and manage the risk, building resilience and ensuring the African country is able to bounce back sooner after a natural disaster,” says Chirume.
With the negative impacts of climate change increasing and their potential to devastate the agricultural sectors and food security of African countries, it has become more important than ever to put sustainability at the heart of interventions.
“Creating an environment that limits the impact of climate shocks on the agricultural sector is about more than just securing economic transformation. At the heart of this investment is the need to ensure basic food security for the continent and the world,” says Chirume.
In its Sustainable Development Series, the World Bank says the African continent could play a leading role in ensuring food security for the earth’s estimated 9 billion people by 2050.
According to McKinsey, Africa’s full agricultural potential remains untapped. It determines that Africa could produce two to three times more cereals and grains, which would add 20% more cereals and grains to the world’s current output of 2.6 billion tons.
Given Africa’s productive potential, the continent could be a key contributor to feeding the world in the future. But to fully realise that potential will require overcoming many obstacles, including how it deals with the impact of climate change on agriculture and food security.
“We need broader collaboration between private and public sector to solve the climate change disaster response problem our continent faces. The problem is so big, that all of us have a role to play,” says Lesley Ndlovu, ARC Limited CEO.
With the support of the United Kingdom and German Government, ARC Limited has been equipped to help the member states of the African Union reduce the risk of loss and damage caused by extreme weather events affecting African populations.
“But there’s so much more work that still needs to go into reaching as many people as possible to help build the resilience of local communities and ensure they have the means to bounce back whenever they are impacted by a natural disaster,” concludes Ndlovu.
World Poultry Foundation (WPF) launches video series to help Africa’s farmers improve poultry production
With poultry increasingly a focus for emerging farmers across Africa, the US-based World Poultry Foundation (WPF) has released a series of training videos to help farmers reduce waste and optimise profits.
Feed accounts for up to 70% of the costs of raising poultry, so proper feeding techniques enable farmers to reduce waste, cut production costs and raise healthier birds, says WPF. Water is equally important in poultry farming, with proper water management crucial for healthy birds.
WPF’s training series, with four videos dedicated to production, explains how farmers should store feed, proper feeding of poultry and how to prepare and manage zones of comfort to encourage proper brooding for chicks. The videos also explain the importance of litter in helping to prevent common diseases to improve production and returns.
World Poultry Foundation CEO Randall Ennis says the video series has been developed to address the most common challenges faced by emerging poultry farmers across Africa. “By applying best practice poultry farming methods, farmers can significantly increase their production, their incomes, and the nutrition available to their families and communities,” he says.
The training videos, as well as free checklists and worksheets, are available here
AFEX Raises $50Million for Agri-SMEs, Africa’s First Warehouse Receipt Backed Commercial Paper
AFEX CEO, Ayodeji Balogun (Source: AFEX)
AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited (AFEX), Nigeria’s leading private commodities exchange company, has announced the first Warehouse Receipt Backed Commercial Paper in Africa, with tech-enabled operations and a 24-hour fast cash turnaround for borrowers. With over $50 million raised for Agri-SMEs, this bridges the funding gap between lenders and borrowers in the Nigerian agricultural sector with a commodity-backed instrument – for the first time.
The AFEX financing deal will help eradicate the high cost of procurement incurred by processors by deploying a discounted value of a warehouse receipt distributed among five leading players in the Food and Beverage, Trading Poultry and Animal Feed segments in Nigeria. The receiving companies are top 10 players in their respective segments. They have now been enabled access to a tool for managing price volatility, enabling up to 30% direct savings on prices.
“With our vision to reach a cumulative total of over $5 Billion in investment to the agriculture sector over the next five years, this financing deal is right on track to achieve this goal’’ – said Ayodeji Balogun, CEO, AFEX Commodities Exchange. “As we move towards building a derivatives market in Africa, we want to be able to reduce exposure to price risk for stakeholders, by enabling them to hedge their positions and trade in commodity derivatives.”
The warehouse receipts, which can then be transferred from commodities to a financial asset and listed under the borrower’s portfolio on the AFEX trading platform, will create a sustainable funding structure and address underfunding in the Nigerian agricultural sector. With the warehouse receipt system linked to financiers, the system allows financiers value and marks the commodities’ price to market on a real-time basis.
“Our mission is to provide low-risk working capital facility for stakeholders in the Agro sector, in a way that is transparent and has a very high viable investment return’’ – said Akinyinka Akintunde, VP Financial Markets at AFEX. “As a licensed commodities exchange and warehouse receipt system operator, we deploy a warehouse receipt system and collateral management infrastructure to increase market confidence for both lenders and borrower.”With AFEX’s goal to support Africa’s food security while promoting a fair exchange of value among players in commodity value chains, this deal’s social impact is delivered through market access for farmers and reduced post-harvest losses. AFEX continues to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 5 and 8; no
poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, decent work, and economic growth.
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