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Sustainable Agriculture World Situation

Agriculture is the world's largest industry. It employs more than one billion people and generates over $1.3 trillion dollars worth of food annually. Pasture and cropland occupy around 50 percent of the Earth’s habitable land and provide habitat and food for a multitude of species.

When agricultural operations are sustainably managed, they can preserve and restore critical habitats, help protect watersheds, and improve soil health and water quality. But unsustainable practices have serious impacts on people and the environment.

The need for sustainable resource management is increasingly urgent. Demand for agricultural commodities is rising rapidly as the world's population grows. Agriculture’s deep connections to the world economy, human societies and biodiversity make it one of the most important frontiers for conservation around the globe.

There are different definitions of sustainable agriculture but the common point that all definitions highlight is the importance of agricultural activity for getting food resources

For an agricultural activity to be counted as sustainable agriculture, it should satisfy three pre-conditions: it should not upset the natural environment, while at the same time it should be something that a farmer can afford to do and it should meet society's needs. So it should be economically viablesocially responsible and ecologically sound.

To familiarize yourself with the basic issues about sustainable agriculture and for a good resource base on the subject, visit this link. This is a project by a university student and it is easy to read. It explains the concept of sustainable agriculture in simple terms.

Though we began farming 10,000 years ago, and we produce enough to feed the world, yet there are people who cannot afford to buy food and go hungry. The rate of population is growing at an alarming rate and most of this growth is in the third world or developing countries where traditional methods of agriculture are used. In these countries, many people go hungry.

In this article, the author talks about the need for sustainable agriculture for people who cannot afford very high technology methods of farming. There are different examples on how sustainable agriculture practices have doubled the yield of crops and in some cases, it has actually led to re-migration to the rural areas!

One of the ways in which we can increase the productivity of soil and also get good yield is crop rotation. This article is a good introduction to crop rotation and how it is used to improve or maintain soil fertility, reduce erosion, reduce the build-up of pests, spread the workload, reduce risk of weather damage, reduce reliance on agricultural chemicals, and increase net profits.

To get an idea of how crop rotation helps read this article. It is informative and gives you a good idea of the benefits of crop rotation. You also get a brief overview of the history of sustainable agriculture. From this article you can follow different links to know about related concepts such as Green Revolution and Organic farming.

Among different human activities that contribute to environmental damage, agriculture contributes 13%. Agricultural practices such as burning of biomass and deforestation and removal of native vegetation, widespread clearing of land and losses of organic carbon in vegetation and soils result in atmospheric increases of CO2.

For a brief overview of the harmful effects of traditional methods of farming, this page is a good reference. Visit this site to understand how agriculture can also harm the environment if we do not adapt sustainable methods of farming.

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Sustainable agriculture in Pakistan

 One of the biggest challenges for the sustainable growth of a nation is food security. Pakistan has been a leader in the green revolution since the 1960s and has made great strides in the agricultural sector, partly due to initiatives taken by Pakistan Agricultural Research Council to make agriculture more sustainable.

The Pothwar region in Pakistan receives a great amount of rainfall but only over short periods. These conditions call for water conservation tactics to avoid runoff and ensure water availability. Pakistan’s Government invested large amounts of money in water conservation schemes but the ever increasing pressure of the growing population demanded a new model.

Solar-Powered Irrigation Systems

Sustainable Mini Dam Development consists of a solar powered irrigation system (SPIS). The pumps are powered through solar panels integrated with high efficiency irrigation techniques. This irrigation system has minimal operational costs owing to the use of solar panels to run the pumps. This method does away with the need for a diesel generator and therefore reduces the carbon footprint.

SPIS began in Fatehjang where a cheap source of energy to manage watersheds was needed. This was done by sloping the land and dividing it with plantations using the micro-catchments to capture water and harvest crops more efficiently.

The National Agricultural Research Center, Climate Change, Alternate Energy and Water Resources Institutes, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, organized a training program for agricultural service providers on solar-powered “Drip and Sprinkler” irrigation systems to teach them about solar powered pumping issues.

Combined with modern irrigation systems using the micro sprinkler technology, SPIS is used to power orchards, fruit plant nurseries and seedling developments for seasonal and off-season vegetables. The system costs vary between $4,000-13,500 depending upon specific requirements. The system is starting to get recognized in Sindh and mass-scale adoption is on the horizon. The SPIS implementation has some positive social and economic effects such as job creation, as suppliers and installers are needed for the solar panels and their maintenance.


Taking a step forward

The World Bank launched a project in Pakistan known as the “Punjab Irrigated-Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project (PIPIP)” to improve productivity. This project will receive 60% of the funding is from the World Bank and the remaining 40% will come from farmers. The project consists of: installation of high efficiency irrigation systems, precision land-leveling, and improvement of irrigation conveyance systems.

The total project cost is around $423.5 million with which the drip and sprinkler irrigated system will be installed on 120,000 acres. The project would also provide for 3,000 Laser units to farmers at subsidized rates. It also includes support for 5,500 unimproved canal irrigated water courses, 1,500 improved water courses which need to be improved again, and 2,000 new irrigating schemes which would benefit 4,75,000 families.

These initiatives have helped the Fatehjang farmers of Pakistan to increase their agricultural productivity through sustainable methods.


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