SMALL SCALE FARMERS NOURISH THE WORLD
Farming is not always easy on the environment, especially when undertaken by large-scale agribusinesses that over fertilize and misuse their water resources. However, a new trend in farming is beginning to emerge around the globe – small-scale farms are working to improve the world through environmental protection and social change.
Agriculture is the most important sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Tanzania, particularly, the profits from farming make up the majority of the country’s GDP. But climate change has the potential to devastate agriculture throughout the region – dry spells, desertification, and loss of soil quality threaten farms that don’t take steps to combat them. But farmers are fighting back! A study published by Economic Research Southern Africa found that farmers were incorporating best practices into their farms – planting short season crops, cultivating drought-resistant crops, making use of irrigation, changing planting dates, and inter-planting trees – all of which have been shown to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Benin, located between Togo and Nigeria in Western Africa, has taken advantage of its potential for solar energy. With the aid of the Solar Electric Light Fund, several women-run farming collectives now use solar-powered drip irrigation systems for their crops. This has led to a marked increase in food production and food security, as the women can now grow food crops year round. Not only did these solar powered pumps and wells allow the women of Benin to break free from rain-fed agriculture, they also vastly improved the quality of life throughout the farming communities.
Located north of Oaxaca, Mexico, the Mixteca region has lost an average of 15 feet of soil since the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s due to a combination of deforestation, the introduction of European goats, and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Since the 1980s, CEDICAM (Center for Integral Campesino Development of the Mixteca) has worked to correct the loss. They teach farmers produce organic fertilizers and use natural, plant-based pesticides. On a regional level, they have undertaken a massive reforestation project, and planted more than 1 million trees. So what is the result of their efforts? Water is captured and remains in the environment, supporting the reforestation and increasing the productivity of farmland throughout the region.
The stories are just a small sample of the global efforts that small farmers are undertaking to improve their communities. The Huffington Post has collected 8 stories from around the world – the three I talk about above, and 5 more groups that are improving childhood nutrition, saving seeds, and more. Read through, and learn how small-scale farmers are nourishing themselves, their communities, and the world.
Image Credit: Laura Lartigue