By Rozina Kanchwala.
Two factors at play require us to pay serious attention to the issue of food security:
• A growing population and its growing food demand
• Increasing uncertainty of environmental changes
Both of these factors can be addressed by organic agriculture. This is the way forward, not large-scale modern agriculture that currently dominates farming practices globally.
Modern, large-scale farming has come into existence within the past half century and is characterized by monocropping which is the practice of growing only one crop each year on the same plot of land, the constant and heavy use of chemical inputs, and seeds which produce high-yielding crops, but do not re-germinate. These practices lead modern large-scale agriculture to be highly unsustainable because a) the soil becomes less productive, b) practices are not resistant to shocks, and c) power is transferred from farmers and consumers to multinational and seed corporations.
a) Soil Degradation
Monocropping is a relatively new farming practice that has replaced traditional methods of growing multiple crops on a piece of land. This repeated process of growing the same crop on the same land is harsh on the soil and causes soil to become less productive.
This soil degradation is enhanced through the increased use of chemical inputs. It is a vicious cycle whereby chemical inputs in the form of pesticides and fertilizers are meant to address soil degradation. But this constant use exacerbates the problem and with each harvest, more and more chemical inputs are needed.
Another danger of modern, large-scale farming is that it is less resilient to climate change and shocks. For example, if the crop planted is not drought resistant then the whole harvest is ruined. Likewise, if a pest attacks a crop, it will ultimately attack the whole harvest. Traditional farming methods, on the other hand, respected the diversity of seeds and crops and this diversity of farming allowed a certain amount of safety in the event of a single crop failure.
c) Power to corporations
Finally, many small scale farmers are unable to compete, let alone survive in an industry dominated largely by a few multinational and seed corporations, where power is concentrated. These corporations supply farmers with seeds that do not re-germinate. This means that farmers are reliant on seed companies to provide them with seeds each year, rather than becoming self-sufficient. So, in addition to requiring more chemical inputs, which require additional spending, farmers now must also buy seeds each year for their harvests. This takes control away from farmers and places it into the growing agribusiness industry, which strives to make profits rather than ensure food security for the needs of a growing population.
For these reasons, modern large-scale farming is highly unsustainable and will be unable to feed future generations.
Rozina Kanchwala is a member of the AIDemocracy Hunger Team. She received her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Economics at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Following graduation, she taught 5th grade on a Native American Reservation for several months. She then went to India as a Fulbright Scholar studying various issues including women self help groups, agriculture and agrarian distress, and the role of institutions. She then moved to London, England where she studied Islamic Studies and Humanities at the Institute of Ismaili Studies. She learned that understanding language, culture, politics, and history are quintessential components for any development or policy work. She is currently pursuing her Master of Science in Environment and Sustainable Development at University College London. Rozina believes in the power of education, community cohesion, and engaging multiple stakeholders to generate change.