Sunday, February 8, 2009
In Asia, Africa and South America, approximately 2.5 Billion people depend directly on small farms for subsistence and/or income. The entire population of the developing world - about 5.5 Billion people - depends on produce from small farms for majority of their food. However, small farmers in the developing world face a bleak future, which jeopardizes the long term health, economic, and security scenarios of the majority of the human race.
Traditional agriculture on these small farms is extremely labor and time intensive, and the products are usually of low commercial value. The few farmers who try to adopt modern methods often depend on usurious loans from local moneylenders to buy expensive fertilizers, pesticides, and hybrid or genetically modified seeds.
In India, these situations have trapped a majority of small farmers in abject poverty for the past few decades, despite the Green Revolution. The impractically large debt burdens have pushed thousands of farmers to commit suicide over the past decade. In sub-Saharan Africa, the high prevalence of HIV and other diseases has decimated the work-force, making traditional labor-intensive agriculture extremely difficult, and reducing the area under cultivation.
Ironically, it is well known that high biodiversity, multi-crop small farms produce significantly higher total income per unit area than mechanized monoculture. While there is increasing interest in sustainable agriculture practices in the developing world, the adverse trends described above will continue unless sustainable agriculture practices are adopted widely and rapidly.
We need to create community training centers and programs to popularize these practices.