Arena: From Green Revolution to Agroecology

This article by Maarten was published in Arena No.122: 33-36.

Summary points

  • The critical renewable resources of soil and water are being used up, with costs being borne by farmers. The soils of one-quarter of the world’s arable land are in a highly degraded state, while agricultural land is being lost through urbanisation and further land degradation. What are we doing with this precious resource?
  • In India whole villages are changing from high-input, high-risk, unprofitable Green Revolution farming to agroecological farming using improved indigenous knowledge. This move is happening world-wide and  has led to so-called alternative farming practices that follow agroecological principles, for example, ’organic’, ‘biodynamic’, ‘low external input’, and ‘biological’ forms.
  • Abundant and diverse soil biology ensures that under all circumstances there are beneficial species active to undertake any task. Symbiosis is this balanced, mutual interdependence of different species. It is a protective mechanism in nature that develops in response to compatible needs. Such systems run on carbon, water and nitrogen free from the sky.
  • Science and governments are influenced by multinational corporations and stick to the current path of industrial agriculture. Personal values, habits, experiences and intended outcomes influence scientists to remain with the current paradigm as they formulate their hypotheses, develop experimental designs, pose experimental questions and complete data collection and analysis. The current powers that fund research thus keep getting the answers they expect.

New farming techniques for biodiversity, health and climate

The core of life on Earth is the daily requirement of food for people and all living organisms in webs of life, or ecosystems. These natural, self-organising ecosystems, which have provided food for millennia, are increasingly being taken apart—by ecological destruction and changing climates caused by ever increasing world population; industrialisation, including food production using cheap oil; deforestation; and urbanisation—all driven by economic growth and consumerism, and all affecting the health and wellbeing of people and earth. This increasingly puts pressure on food availability and price. Hence food security has become a major global issue and will remain so, especially given ongoing degradation of soils, depleting water resources, peak oil, global warming and a population of nine billion people by 2050.

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