6 Reasons to introduce Diversity in Sustainable Agriculture
When it comes to sustainability, we hear these concepts everywhere: regenerative agriculture, agricultural biodiversity and agroecological farming, just to name a few. But why is everyone insisting on the need to include diversity to ensure the future of food security and our ecological heritage?
From documentaries on streaming platforms to newspaper articles and TV reports, we are all seduced by the promising benefits of transitioning to a more sustainable, resilient and fair farming model.
Regenerative farming, Organic Farming and Agroecology area among the most important and growing alternative movements, stand out for their ecological impact. However, Agroecology is perhaps the most internationally expanded system, especially in developing countries.
Based on social and ecological principles to guarantee sustainable local development and environmental conservation, Agroecology is a system that “seeks to optimize interactions between plants, animals, humans, and the environment whilst taking into consideration the social aspects that need to be addressed for a sustainable and fair food system.” (FAO, www.fao.org/agroecology).
This farming model is based on the principles of family farm-based agriculture, which employs locally available natural resources, sharing of knowledge, scientific research, low-cost technologies, and inventive self-reliance.
Agroecology andregenerative agriculture share some important traits, being one of them the implementation of diversity. This concept refers to the existence of variability of processes, living beings, elements and environments within an agricultural or natural system, in order to obtain beneficial interactions, a reasonable use of natural resources, and developing resilience to cope with change.
There are several motives why diversity should be implemented within sustainable agricultural systems. We’ll explain 6 of those reasons:
Improves Soil Health
Diversity in agroecology or regenerative agriculture has a significant impact in the soil nutrients cycle, the regulation of water irrigation, carbon capture and climate resilience.
Agroecology relies in different practices that stimulate diversity and prevent soil erosion.The crop rotation method, for example, where different crops are sown alternatively and in succession, helps to reduce erosion thus contributing to the accumulation of organic matter to improve soil fertility. Similar effects are possible with the inclusion of compost,mulching, integrated livestock, cover crops, living fences and buffer vegetation.
“When soil has more organic matter, it has greater water holding capacity, it can store more micronutrients and suppress disease, but crucially it is able to hold carbon in the soil for tens of thousands of years that would otherwise exist in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.”(Source:https://farmingfirst.org/).
Promotes diversity of species
Implementing diversity standards in sustainable agricultural systems allows the vegetal species from one specific habitat to become the “specialists” from that ecosystem. This essentially means that each crop or genetic group can grow within an exclusive environment which satisfies their unique needs.
For example, “agroforestry systemsorganize crops, shrubs, and trees of different heightsand shape at different levels or strata, increasingvertical diversity. Intercropping combines complementary species to increase spatial diversity. Crop rotations, often including legumes, increase temporal diversity” (FAO, www.fao.org/agroecology).
When diversity grows, there are bigger chances for different species to interact and coexist in harmony, whilst contributing to the sustainable nature of the agroecological system and optimization of the genetic resources.
But it is essential to understand this biological diversity as a whole: crop species, non-cultivated plants, animals (forms of life, enemies of pests) and micro-organisms (bacteria or fungi).
Provides sustainable alternatives to pesticides
This is a direct consequence of promoting diversity of species. In this type of environment, when multiple herbivores and predators grow and interact in proximity, there is space for the proliferation of dynamic relations between them. For example, one species of beneficial predators or parasites could help to keep control of specific pest populations.
As a consequence, a natural method of disease-control proliferates, reinforcing also the natural capacity of the farm or crop to thrive against external threats.
Helps to sustain livelihood opportunities
Diverse genetic crops can provide solutions in difficult and unpredictable climatic conditions, because agricultural producers have different options of where to choose food to consume at home or sell within their local community markets, thus compensating in the event that a particular crop has gone bad.
Diversity applied to low cost irrigation systems, experiential knowledge, and circular economy practices are also an effect of Agroecology. Experience on these processes is shared on sustainable farming, helping farmers to sustain their house incomes and stay in their communities to prosper, thus avoiding out-migration.
Contributes to food nutrition
When diversity is promoted through the introduction of a variety of species and improvement of soil quality, nutrient-dense food is produced which helps to reduce malnutrition even under the harshest of circumstances. If managed with knowledge, sustainable diets have a low impact on the environment, as well as, being affordable and fair.
Helps to build Climate-resilience
Diversity in sustainable agriculture favors and improves the local micro-climate, which makes land more resilient to external aggressive conditions. But it also promotes the natural balance between different species and helps to remove harmful residues from the soil, which contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases and the sequestration of carbon from the soil, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change on sustainable agriculture.
At Green Pedal, we work to develop more sustainable and diversified forms of local food systems, in order to promote food sovereignty. The reason is simple: while industrial agriculture threatens to eradicate biodiversity, endangering the natural ecosystem, sustainable systems on the contrary builds on diversity as a source of natural resources, regeneration of the land and of improving the quality of human life.
If you would like to help us in our mission, please know the various ways how you can contribute to create a better world.