For decades now, farming has posed a serious threat to natural resources and the environment. On the other hand, sustainable farming is the art of growing without depleting. Often misunderstood as organic farming, sustainable farming is the production of food, implementing techniques that lead to a healthier environment including preserving natural resources, protecting human and animal welfare.
It is about adapting something that can be sustained in the future. Sustainable farming practices are intended to be sensitive towards the ecosystem without diminishing the capability of current and future generations to equally produce and suffice their demands. Besides contributing towards protecting the environment, sustainable farming also contributes to efficient and profitable economic activity, protects public health, and provides social and economic equity.
In the Indian landscape, sustainable farming is fairly a new term. Its most primal version was first introduced in the 1970s termed as the ‘permaculture movement’. The term is a combination of “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture” and favors the three ethics of people care, earth care, and fair share.
The major focus of permaculture is to make small-scale farmers self-reliant ensuring that there is consistency between systems and communities taking into account that energy, food, shelter, and other needs are satisfied without compromising the natural balance.
Growing sustainably is crucial to ensure food security in the future. By 2050, we’ll need to feed 9.8 billion people around the world, requiring food production to grow by 70 percent to cater to this massive population. There must be a serious improvement in the agricultural sector if we are going to ensure that our food system is up to par with the challenges posed by a rapidly expanding global population. For the future, we need to reform our agriculture from the conservative industrial food system to sustainable farming.
In the European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture (EISA), Integrated Farm Management (IFM) is a whole-farm management system that allows farmers to identify opportunities and threats and act accordingly while taking into account consumer interests in their business. The integrated farming system is the method of integrating all-natural resources together with standard farm practices or by using smart agriculture software to achieve maximum desirable yields. IFM is a key approach to sustainable agriculture. It relies upon 11 aspects or toolbox (as they are referred to)- Organisation and planning, Human and social capital, Energy efficiency, water use, and protection, Soil management, Crop Nutrition, Crop health and protection, Animal husbandry, health and welfare, Landscape and nature conservation, Waste management and pollution control, and Climate change and air quality. These 11 tools can be chosen to be used according to a given site and situation to develop adequate understanding and sustainable solutions.
IFM is widely regarded as the most appropriate system for incorporating sustainability principles and practices into agriculture. However, it seems that this system, when practiced or promoted across the nation, falls short of holistic sustainable agricultural practices, or even exists in very small measure in India.
One of the eight Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) seeks to address issues regarding ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ in the context of risks associated with climate change by devising appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies for ensuring food security, equitable access to food resources, enhancing livelihood opportunities and contributing to economic stability at the national level.
It’s a 20-foot-reinvented shipping container where tilapia are raised in specially designed tanks that give the fish plenty of room to grow, while on top, greens are grown in vertical columns.
A parcel of public land transformed into an edible forest garden. Its goal is to mimic a natural ecosystem, creating a space that requires less maintenance and yields higher yields.
Tomatoes hang from the ceiling at the Tokyo headquarters of Pasona Group, while wild herbs grow in the meeting rooms and a rice field forms the centerpiece of the lobby. Office planters aim to declutter employees, stimulate farm innovation, and create a sense of community amongst workers. The office produce is served in the company’s cafeteria.
Mostly known as a plant tower, this equipment (see photo below) holds up to 32 trays of greens — including lettuce, spinach, and a variety of Asian greens — on a high, narrow A-frame structure. The plants slowly rotate, as if on a Ferris wheel, so that each tray gets adequate sunlight exposure.
Sustainable farming is the only option that will leave us with options for the future. Sustainable farming remains a misunderstood practice under the name of organic farming in most parts of the country, as it is viewed as the only viable approach to sustainable agriculture. But it’s only one of the mechanisms of sustainable agriculture, and it doesn’t ensure sustainable agriculture in a holistic way. Sustainable agriculture is most definitely requiring a coherent approach such as the IFM and integration between different stakeholders so that the nation can ensure food security for its people. As evidenced by EISA’s IFM approach, sustainable agriculture goes beyond organic farming.