The Solution: Ecological agriculture

Standard Page - 2011-07-10
Ecological agriculture can not only protect our environment but also ensure nutritious, healthy food for the world, both today and tomorrow. As extreme weather events increase in both frequency and severity, it is especially necessary that China – and the world – adopt ecological agriculture practices to ensure food security.

Ecological agriculture can not only protect our environment but also ensure nutritious, healthy food for the world, both today and tomorrow.

As extreme weather events increase in both frequency and severity, it is especially necessary that China – and the world – adopt ecological agriculture practices to ensure food security.

Chemical-intensive agriculture has already poisoned the earth. Large quantities of chemical pesticides and fertilisers have resulted in worn-out soils, polluted water, heavy greenhouse gas emissions and foods contaminated with toxic chemicals.

According to a UN and World Bank agriculture report, the world urgently needs to fundamentally reform the agricultural system from its current chemical-intensive model to one of ecological agriculture, for the sake of protecting the environment, ensuring safe, sufficient food supply and improving livelihoods.

The threat of climate change impact on food security adds further urgency to this reform. Ecological agriculture can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector and is better able to adapt to climate change.

Ecological Agriculture

Ecological agriculture can feed the world, and do it in a safe and sustainable way.

Ecological farming defends nature and people by protecting soil, water and climate. It also promotes biodiversity, ensures healthy farming and healthy food and does not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs or genetic engineering.

Ecological farming relies on agro-ecological soil fertility. Growing legumes and/or adding compost, animal dung or green manure are some smart ways to increase the organic matter and fertility of the soil, without using chemical fertilisers. Natural nutrient cycling and nitrogen fixation not only reduce farmers’ expenses on artificial inputs, but they also make for a healthier, more fertile soil that is rich in organic matter, better able to hold water and less prone to erosion.

Ecological farming also relies on natural pest protection without the use of chemical pesticides, by making agro-ecosystems more pest-resilient.

Hani women at their rice paddy carrying ducks, Lao Bo Village, Yunnan province, China. Ducks play an important role in the ancient Hani rice-farming system.

One typical form of ecological agriculture practised in southern China is the fish-duck rice paddy model. For millennia, the Hani people and other minorities have raised fish and ducks in their rice paddies (rice grows in water). The fish and ducks help to fulfil a range of ecological functions: they fertilise the rice shoots, help to control weeds and insects, prevent disease, keep the water muddy and generally improve the rice paddy environment and stimulate rice growth. The rice paddy model – which evolved out of traditional wisdom – works well because it considers the system as a whole.

There are many other ecological agriculture models which are suitable for various environments and locations. Modern technologies such as light traps, biological pest controls and insect-proof nets can be applied in combination with these models.

Organic farming

Organic farming is a subset of ecological agriculture that adheres to stricter principles. The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements defines organic farming as “a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.”

Organic farming based upon sustaining and enhancing the health of living ecological systems. It follows natural cycles and emphasises the biodiversity and the whole environment.  It bans the use of chemical pesticides, fertilisers, drugs and other additives, and rejects genetic engineering. It encourages local, community-supported farmers and principles of fairness for farm workers.

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