By Taurai Muzerengani
SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION SYSTEMS IN SOUTHERN AFRICA
Southern Africa has three main obstacles to overcome, similar to those of sustainable agriculture elsewhere, they must overcome the integration of industrial agriculture, the perceived problems of yield decreases in a sustainable system, and the likelihood of farmers to experiment in a period of uncertainty (Mather 2004). Many people have perceived notions about how well sustainable agriculture will yield crops and if it will help to increase or maintain the global food security index. Southern Africa is the region to “strengthen regional economic linkages that (will) offer mutual benefits across countries is an important part of development strategies leading to economic growth and poverty reduction in Sub-Sahara” (Pratt & Diao 2008). Southern Africa also has the possibility to influence growth in different areas through international trade, spillover effects, foreign direct investment and financial linkages.
Recently the concept of sustainable agriculture has started to emerge and has driven people to develop new technologies, practices, products and processes that can uphold the required level of output in a way that compromises future capacity as little as possible. Sustainable agriculture should meet these four requirements, “enhances environmental quality and the resource base on which agriculture depends, provides for basic human food and fiber needs, is economically viable, and enhances the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole” . More attention is being placed on the development of balanced agricultural systems and the importance of creating a lasting “good” food system for future generations. In developed countries the sustainability is often in competing with the concerns over food health and food quality, but in developing countries poverty and population are a much larger factor.
Modernization is the leading cause of un-sustainability in agriculture. Modernization in agriculture, involves the processes of intensification, concentration, and specialization. Intensification describes the rising level of agricultural inputs and the outputs per hectare of farm land. Concentration refers to the competitive market process that drives the least economically successful farm business from agriculture and enables more land to purchase by larger companies. Specialization allows farm businesses to gain economies of scale by limiting production of fewer products on the farm and the concentration of costs of production on a narrow range of crop
Modernization enables larger companies to hold an advantage over farmers of smaller scale hoping to develop sustainable agriculture. However, many are beginning to recognize the un-sustainable system that modernized farming puts into play. Models for sustainable agriculture are being developed; the production of environmental goods, integrated farming systems, and alternative agricultural systems. Sustainable agriculture should seek to enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGIES IN FOOD PRODUCTION
Sustainable agriculture does not mean it is completely natural. Biotechnology is begging to become a big part of creating sustainable agriculture. Biotechnology is not GMOs and not harmful pesticides or chemicals, but instead processes that will allow for the genetic improvement of crops, the transfer of genes with desired properties, disease diagnosis, and developing plants to a more adapt to diverse ecological conditions. Genetic diversity is important to maintain sustainable agriculture. Production of bio-fortified crops is one of major contributor to sustainable food production like cereals, vegetables and fruits that will enhance better nutrition for human beings and animals.
Another technique that can be used is an old technique that is beginning to gain momentum in sustainable agriculture is the use of compost. Composting refers to “the conservation of manure and other organic wastes produced on or near the farm; forest leaves, swamp muck, peat, fish, and seaweed were all wastes used directly as fertilizer or as an ingredient in making compost” Composting is an inexpensive and abundant source of fertilizer or soil booster that could easily be used in a third world countries. Countries with low-runoff, such as South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, could highly benefit from the use of compost.
Mulching technique has several advantages;
it keeps moisture retention
it can decompose to become manure hence improving the soil crumb structure
weeds are suppressed hence allowing farmers more time to engage in other things
soil erosion is reduced significantly with mulch
water penetration is increased due to decomposing mulch materials
IRRIGATION AND RENEWABLE ENERGY
Irrigation is artificial watering of land to make it ready for agriculture using water pumps and other manual means. Renewable energy is energy from a source that is not depleted when used such as wind and solar power.
Agricultural activities contribute about 25% of global warming through fossil fuels like diesel and coal. Sustainable food production entails the use of clean renewable energy in the form of solar powered water pumps. Here we look at the advantages of solar energy as compared to fossil fuels. Solar energy is renewable, clean, cheap and environment friendly as compared to the traditional way of using irrigation pumps which produces fumes with carbon that warms up the atmosphere. With solar energy you can irrigate even during drier months with reduced labour. The other advantage of solar powered pumps is that they last longer and there is little service maintenance.
From the above we can sum up that sustainable food production can help us maintain the land and atmosphere for future generations by environment friendly means. The environment friendly means include use of renewable energy, use of crop varieties that suits ecological farming regions and use of conservation farming techniques. Crop yields must increase significantly if we use some of the above without compromising the land from the future generations.
(About the writer; Taurai Muzerengani is a Founder and Executive Director of Accelerated Development Initiative (ADI) a non-profit organization on poverty alleviation and environment management with presence in South Africa and Zimbabwe. You can contact him on WhatsApp:+27742815576 email: firstname.lastname@example.org)