Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Before proposing a solution to the small farms crisis, let's explore some long term trends and projections, and examine their implications for how we manage our food supply:
- Population Growth: From 2000 to 2050, the global population will increase about 50%, with the highest rate of population growth in Africa.
- Labor Requirements: Currently, people displaced from unproductive small farms are often employed as unskilled laborers, particularly in factories located for access to cheap labor. However, this is not a long term sustainable source of income. Mass production based industries always replace unskilled labor with automation.
- Climate Change: It is now almost certain that climate change is irreversible (at least in the geological short term). The implications are that rainfall will be reduced in large areas of the world, and seasonal variations and unpredictability will increase. Increasing the biodiversity and resource efficiency of small farms will make them far more resilient in the face of these fluctuations.
- Farming Efficiency: While mechanization improves industrial productivity, the most efficient forms of agriculture - multi-crop, biodiverse, all season agriculture - appear to be un-mechanizable. Particularly when carbon costs of fertilizers, pesticides and fuel essential for mechanized agriculture are factored in, the superior energy efficiency of natural farming is undeniable.