How can sustainable agriculture be implemented?

edited by Dr. Giuseppe Marrone

The term sustainable agriculture refers to the ability of agriculture to contribute in the long term to the general well-being of people, producing sufficient food, goods and services, in an economically efficient and profitable manner, socially responsible and environmentally friendly (United Nations, 2009).

Sustainability has the following objectives:

To improve the productivity of the resources employed through the reorganization of the productive processes and their efficient management;

Ø promoting knowledge and skills of farmers;

Ø create conditions and encourage the adoption of appropriate technologies by farmers;

Ø limiting adverse effects on the environment;

Ø managing the process of social adjustment.

The increase in profitability is usually achieved either by increasing yields or by reducing production costs. Yields, from a technical point of view, can be improved through proper land management and the use of crop rotations, while cost compression can be achieved by optimising mechanization and limiting the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

In addition, economically viable agriculture must consider removing subsidies to the sector and trade barriers deemed harmful, improving the efficiency of aid to the agricultural sector and encouraging investment in agricultural infrastructure.

The aspects of social sustainability, on the other hand, concern the reduction of the number of undernourished people (food sovereignty), support for communities and rural realities, increased attention to the role of women in agriculture and the prevention of the exploitation of child labour.

In addition, socially sustainable agriculture should aim at the distribution of agricultural value added to members of the local community through increased use of the available labour force (properly remunerated) either through the use of the purchase of the factors of production generated by the same local community.

Finally, an agriculture is sustainable for the environment (eco-sustainable) when it allows the perpetual management of agricultural resources (avoiding damaging the basic natural resources), integrated land management, combating desertification and drought and adapting the sector to climate change.

Ultimately, sustainable agriculture pursues the balance between the different components, environmental, social and economic, for a theoretically unlimited enjoyment and “quality” of the goods and services that arise.