Starting to grow our own food was an essential step for the development and evolution of mankind. But like almost everything we do, we had accelerated deep down in the wrong road and now we have to reconsider the way if we want to get anywhere in the future. Thinking about agriculture as a needed path to the success of society as a whole, which are the real costs we have to reduce and the increasable benefits?

Thinking about agriculture…

Costs and benefits

In a world without agriculture we would be forced to hunt and gather food. It would be impossible for the world’s population to survive off such an eating style and we surely wouldn’t be by now 7.5 billion people.

Agriculture contributes to the human system with food and nutrition, health and it employs many people (not always in the best conditions possible). But as it has intensified, industrial farming and the food system are now also responsible for some negative flows to biodiversity and ecosystems. Habitat encroachment, loss of ecosystem complexity, species reduction, pollution of the air, land or water or greenhouse gas emissions are some invisible but real problems.

As Guillermo Castilleja, chair of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, says

“We can’t afford taking a business-as-usual approach any longer. (…) How we produce, distribute, and consume food will need to change if we want to address pressing global challenges like climate change, how to feed a growing population, and access to good food for all.”

An inevitable path

It is clear that farmers actions have an impact on nature but what seams also obvious is that they economic depend on natural capital!

What is starting to be proven is that the adoption of a more ecological paradigm of agricultural intensification benefits the environment and therefore the resources you take from it.

As Dr. Harpinder Sandhu (HS) lead author of a paper on the value of ecosystem services would say:

“Nature provides many benefits to people, which we call ecosystem services. Current modern agricultural systems ignore these contributions of nature and are reliant on agrochemical inputs. These inputs, based on fossil fuels, are damaging to human health and to the environment. Therefore, to develop sustainable agricultural systems, there is a need to understand the economic contributions of ecosystem services. Our research conveys a message to the farming community that simple, cost-effective techniques can help reduce costly farming inputs by enhancing the contribution of ecosystem services, such as natural control of insect pests and maintenance of soil health.”

So it’s important that we understand the true worth of an eco-agri-food-system that can contributes to renewability, resilience, diversity, equity, health, and interconnectedness which doesn’t mean sacrificing productivity. Instead, it means addressing the integrity of natural and social resources as foundation of a healthy planet. Promoting sustainability and diverse agricultural, ecological and cultural heritage. Advancing the health and well-being of people, animals, the environment and the societies that depend on all three and understanding the implications of the interdependence of food and the planet in a transaction to more sustainable food and agricultural system. When we talk about agriculture, we must always think: sustainable agriculture.