The world population is approximated to increase to more than 9 billion by 2050, mainly in developing countries. Therefore, it is important to transfer sustainable agriculture practices or principles effectively and efficiently from one region to another or from industrialized to developing countries.
What therefore is Sustainable Agriculture? This can be defined as adopting productive, competitive and efficient production practices, while improving or maintaining the natural environment and global ecosystem, as well as the socioeconomic conditions of local communities.
Conventional agriculture differs in that its goal is to maximise yields and economic returns and usually carry out with little regard for the environment and the impact on society.
On the other hand, sustainable agriculture is designed to address problems like environmental pollution from excessive use of fertilisers and also to arrest the collapse of farm economies because of rising production costs and to preserve social integrity.
The challenge for Africa is sustainable intensification of agriculture (increased production per unit of land). In addition, the amount of land in agricultureBas du formulaire in some regions of Africa can potentially be expanded. This projections indicate that a good number of countries could make much progress toward reducing poverty and food and nutrition security in the next 15–20 years by applying strategies targeting policies and investment that raise average crop productions, and increase livestock numbers by 50 percent, and accelerate overall gross growth rates of domestic products to 6.5–8.0 percent and the agricultural sector growth rate to 6 percent. Many experts agree that to achieve such a level of growth would require a commitment among governments to reallocate up to 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture, raise from an average of 5 percent over the past decade continent-wide and only 4 percent in sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank & African Union Report, 2008).
Science & Technology Recommendations to Increase Food Security in Africa
- Adopt a production ecological friendly approach with a primary focus on identified continental priority farming systems.
- Adopt a strategy of integrated sustainable intensification.
- Integrate knowledge: intensive and technology driven strategies that integrate with indigenous knowledge.
- Pursue a market-led productivity improvement technic to strengthen the competitive ability of smallholder farmers.
- Accord priority to rain-fed agriculture.
- Decrease land degradation and replenish soil fertility.
- Explore higher-scale integrated catchment technics for natural resource management.
- Enhance the use of mechanical power.
- Communication and information technology improvement.
- Bridge the genetic divide.
- Improve the coping technics of farmers in response to environmental variability and climate change.
Encourage the conservation and the sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity management.
There are twelve (12) major areas of agricultural science and technology, policy, agricultural-supporting infrastructure, and development process that are critical for the United States and have relevance, with appropriate adaptation, to African sustainable agricultural development.
Sustainability is ultimately defined by the objectives and goals
Sustainability is a process of moving toward identified goals, but progress could be made in many different ways or by using a combination of different technics. The technics for achieving different sustainability objectives are specific to particular regions, and as such will require creation of interdisciplinary research and education institutions at every level, from national and regional to local, with effective mechanisms to exchange information and knowledge.
Sustainable systems need to be efficient in resource use, productive, and robust.
System attributes that are important for sustainability, productivity, and robustness (having a combination of resistance, resilience, and adaptability to stress and changing conditions). Put another way, a system needs to be endorse with the ability to continue meeting identified goals in the event of unpredictable weather and fluctuations in cost and availability of inputs to be sustainable.
Indicators and criteria are needed to assess progress toward achieving sustainability goals.
Criteria for assessment and well-designed indicators of progress toward sustainability are needed at each level from the global to regional, national, and community levels. “Sustainability” has priority objectives and time frames when very poor farmers are striving to move toward greater quality of life, productivity, and resource stabilization, which indicators need to reflect. For instance, ensuring adequate productivity is critical for short-term survival, as is sufficient system robustness to prevent yields falling below critical levels over the longer term.
Integrated systems approach that encompasses technological, ecological, and socioeconomic elements should be prioritized.
If the four sustainability goals must be addressed, then substantial efforts is needed to develop new technologies to use integrated systems approaches to assess performance characteristics and the socioeconomic, agroecological, and environmental drivers operating in the farming system. Integrated studies of performance and the various drivers are vital to identify synergies among different management practices or barriers to adoption of different practices.
Farmer participation in research is very important to ensure research is locally relevant.
Agricultural research that is locally relevant is necessary and can be achieved by consulting with and actively involving clients, notably farmers. Potential ways to address this problem include increasing collaboration with social scientists, involving farmers in setting research priorities, and increasing participatory and interdisciplinary work at the core research institutions.
It is important to consider the social, market, and policy environments within which farming systems are embedded.
Farms and the technologies and principles used in their management are nested in changing and fluctuating social, include involving farmers in setting research priorities, and economic environments. This account stresses the importance of markets, knowledge institutions, policies, and local resource conditions in shaping the ability of farmers to move toward sustainability goals.
A major investment in institution-building is required to advance African agriculture.
The lack of well-funded and well-equipped research and education institutions is a serious problem facing much of Africa. The infrastructural lack is related to a lack in government investment.
Adoption and development of better technologies to address abiotic and resource constraints will be critical.
Digital innovations and development will provide new tools and practices to increase agricultural production and achieve other sustainability goals at the same time.
Technologies are required to effectively address biotic constraints to production.
Losses to pests, diseases, and weeds are substantial in developing countries, with about 40 percent of potential productions lost to diseases and insects in Africa. The use of synthetic pesticides in those countries is likely to be limited because of cost and access constraints; therefore, strategies like integrated pest management (IPM), use of resistant crop varieties, biopesticides, development of disease-suppressive soils, and biological control could be as or more important than synthetic pesticides
Genetic improvement of both animals and crops will play an important role in the sustainable intensification of African agriculture.
Active plant-breeding programs are essential for agricultural systems to respond to changing biotic and abiotic constraints that affect crop yield. Host plant resistance is especially important for farmers with limited resources to purchase and use external inputs, such as biopesticides. Also, tolerance to abiotic stresses such as drought, flood, and heat are increasingly important, especially for rain-fed agricultural systems. Unfortunately, donor and government support has not kept up with the needs of many developing countries for public plant-breeding programs.
Sustainability and productivity could be improved by increased crop and livestock integration.
The ability to feed crops to livestock enables producers to capture and potentially recycle nutrients back to farm fields. This helps to reduces the need for purchased fertilizers and enhances desirable soil attributes such as water-holding capacity, organic matter, and soil structure
Many processes and issues need to be addressed by landscape- and watershed-level planning and analysis.
Sustainability and robustness of agroecosystems are defined by economic, social, and environmental characteristics at the farm, landscape, and regional levels. The scale and diversity of individual enterprises on the landscape is an important determinant, for instance, nutrient and water movement and vulnerability to extreme events. Also, higher-level catchment technics are needed to optimize land and water use, address competition for water, and avoid developing overdrafts
Digital technology and digital marketing are helping farmers and agribusinesses achieve scale, build resilience, and develop sustainable solutions. These technologies are here and will continue to improve production farming in the U.S. and worldwide. One of these technologies is helping farmers work more efficiently without producing more waste. The world is digitized, and we’re going to implement the same digitization on the farm.
Embracing technology, like GPS, on a realistic scale is the responsible approach to helping global agriculture. It’s all about easier-to-use technology, smart technology, and more practical use of the machinery and tools.
For the livestock industry, big data is an incredible resource. Technology innovation is a solution to productivity which is the solution for sustainability. The company is able to create reports based on data submitted by customers to share effective practices with other producers.
The fertilizer industry is well aware that it needs to adapt and improve as technology continues to revolutionize farming. Availability of good fertilizers is an important issue for developing countries. Creating a product that can be produced at scale and that is affordable for all farmers is the real challenge the industry faces.
How Digital Is Solving Problems in Agriculture
Nearly one third of the global population depends on agriculture for a living, and growth in this sector has been proven to be at least twice as effective at reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. But progress is frustratingly slow. The average American maize farmer, for instance, produces five times more per hectare than the average African grower.
A variety of new digital applications are now accelerating interventions that have been shown to improve productivity and growth in this sector. A platform known as Connected Farmer (mobile product started in East Africa), for instance, helps farmers work with agribusinesses and better manage their own crops and finances.
Generally, there are great promises in digital solutions that are addressing three key constraints in agriculture; mainly resilience, scale, and market incentives.
Farmers and agribusinesses can now build resilience, achieve scale and develop sustainable solutions via digital technology.
This is achieved through mobile platform or online business sites. Farmers are easily linked to wider market for their farm products and an easy and secure mode of payment into their digital wallet. With the touch of a few buttons, a process that used to take days weeks or even months is now complete.
Bad weather, crop disease, low prices
From middlemen for farmers without a safety net, these challenges can quickly turn into catastrophes.
Through products such as Connected Farmer, farmers get mobile payments and receipts whenever they sell to an agribusiness on the platform. It also gives financial history to the phone of thousands of farmers. Better records could make them more attractive customers for bank, ultimately providing easy access insurance, credit, and other financial tools.
Furthermore, online resources and mobile applications are removing guesswork from planting and maintaining crops by providing up-to-date weather information and agronomic tips.
Scale: spreading the solution
After managing these challenges, farmers still need stable, sizeable markets for their crops. Online and mobile platforms can register farmers, provide extension services, make payments, extend farmer loans, manage contracts, and provide online (email) or SMS receipts.
Deliveries and other tasks are still done manually (by person), of course, but mobile supply chain management now makes working together vastly easier for buyers and farmers.
“Will the solution last?”
Are these solutions sustainable enough to last? This is the ultimate question that remains unanswered in this particularly tricky sector of agriculture, where farmer “clients” are often prone to risk, with limited ability to pay.
Bringing a “blue sky” approach to earth
Internet and mobile applications are changing the way livestock and crop farmers tend their cows; get micro-insurance against bad weather; or determine the most scientifically optimal time to plant crops.
The ultimate success of any strategy depends not so much on a “blue sky” approach as an on-the-ground understanding. How do farmers actually operate on a daily basis, and what do they care about most? Which approaches can best trade on this information to help farmers achieve real change over the long term? What are the incentives among market actors in an agricultural system?
The global food demand is expected to increase (soar) by 70 percent before 2050. The answers to these questions grow more critical by the day. But working together to develop a firm understanding of these answers could open the door for humanity’s newest technologies to solve some of its oldest developmental problems.