Why is Sustainable Agriculture important?

Last Saturday, we had our weekly Environmental Education class at the SMP1 in Bitung! The 7th lesson already and this time our field project manager Harry Hilser introduced the topic Sustainable Agriculture to the students. 

Agriculture is the greatest driver of climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental destruction and therefore linked to conservation!

For more than 10,000 years, mankind has relied on agriculture for food production. Approximately 50 years ago, one out of every 19 people was a farmer. Today, only one out of 115 persons has a farm, which means that,  especially given our population growth in the last 50 years, farming is done on a much larger scale. As a result of this, farming is currently causing 80% of the world’s deforestation and is the greatest driver of climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental destruction. 

Students discussing how farming affects our environment

Our livestock is almost three times the number of people in the world and we eat more than 100 million tons of fish each year! How much water do you think is needed to make 400kg of potatoes? That’s only 13 litres. Though to produce 1kg of beef it takes 13,000 litres!!!! Subsequently, we have high production costs and a great deal of waste. Most countries in the world throw away half their edible food and 40-60% of the fish we catch are thrown away! For example, for every pound of wild-caught shrimp, at least 10 pounds of other sea life (by-catch) are also caught and often simply thrown away. Millions of sharks, hundreds of thousands of sea birds and marine mammals, and numerous endangered sea turtles and other creatures die each year as a result of by-catch. 

It is unbelievable to realise that 23 of the 35 biodiversity hotspots are threatened by livestock production and that the unsustainable exploitation of fish and other marine wildlife is pushing ocean ecosystems to the brink of collapse!

As much as 80% of world’s resources are consumed by just 20% of population! We have to stop our food waste and distribute our food more equally among all people! As the legendary Mohandas K. Gandhi says ~ ‘There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.’
So, how do we do this? Well, present day different concepts are developed. First, companies can integrate the Animal, Consumer & Environment (ACE) principle, which aims to maintain high animal welfare standards, while satisfying the consumer and minimising the impact on our environment.

Other strategies are agroforestry, a method of agriculture in which crops are grown within forests thus preserving the majority of forest and its biodiversity. Third, permaculture adopts the method of using mixed species crops based on natural systems instead of our most common monoculture (one crop for large areas of land). We can also apply aquaponics: a closed, zero waste system which combines fisheries with agriculture as the waste of fish fertilises the soil for the crops and the crops filter the water for the fish. Another example is the verticrop approach, which consists of high yield crops in urban areas and uses only 8% of water while producing 20x the normal amount!

Through these developments that minimises our impact on our natural resources, we have hope that we can continue with agriculture on a sustainable basis which will feed all the world’s population while keeping our world’s forests and oceans with its rich biodiversity in tact and maintaining high animal welfare.

Our enthusiastic students participating in an outdoor activity with SY Education officer Junita and volunteer Thirza!

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