15 Agricultural Innovations Protecting The Environment

For the last 40 years, Earth Day has been celebrated around the world to call attention to some of our most pressing environmental and social problems, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and dwindling natural resources. This year, the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet highlights 15 agricultural innovations that are already working on the ground to address some of those problems.

“Agriculture provides food for all of us and income for more than 1 billion people around the world,” said Danielle Nierenberg, director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project. “Relatively simple innovations to reduce the amount of food we waste, or to help the urban poor become more self-sufficient, can help agriculture feed the world without destroying the planet. The progress we have witnessed in these areas over the last year is definitely encouraging.”

The 15 innovations are used by farmers, scientists, activists, politicians, and businesses and promote a healthier environment and a more food-secure future.
 
1. Guaranteeing the Right to Food. Some 1 billion people worldwide experience chronic hunger, and 98% of these people live in developing countries. To combat hunger in rural or remote communities, the Brazilian government operates the Food Acquisition Program, which funds local organizations, including community kitchens, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and schools, to buy and distribute fruits, vegetables, and animal products from smallholder farmers in their region.

2. Harnessing the Nutritional and Economic Potential of Vegetables. Micronutrient deficiencies, including lack of vitamin A, iodine, and iron, affect 1 billion people worldwide and stem partly from a lack of variety in people’s diets. Slow Food International works to broaden diets, and preserve biodiversity, by helping farmers grow local and indigenous varieties of fruits and vegetables, organizing cooking workshops, and helping producers get access to traditional seeds.

3. Reducing Food Waste. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that roughly a third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year. In New York City, City Harvest collects nearly 28 million pounds of excess food each year from restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms and delivers it to some 600 local food programs.

4. Feeding Cities. Poor urban households spend from 60 to 80% of their income on food, putting them at risk of hunger or malnutrition when food prices rise or their incomes fall. The French non-governmental organization Solidarités has provided women in Kibera, an urban slum in Nairobi, Kenya, with training, seeds, and sacks to grow vegetables in “vertical farms,” a space-efficient way to increase food security in cities.

5. Getting More Crop per Drop.  Millions of farmers, including the majority of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, depend on rainfall to water their crops, which climate scientists predict will decline in coming decades. The company International Development Enterprises sells simple and inexpensive irrigation systems to farmers in Zambia, India, and other countries. Their systems include a treadle pump that draws water from underground without the use of fossil fuels, and a drip irrigation kit that costs just $5 can efficiently water 20 square meters.

6. Using Farmers’ Knowledge in Research and Development. Many agricultural research and development programs exclude smallholder farmers. But in Kenya, the Muyafwa Development Program, with help from the U.S.-based nonprofit World Neighbors, involves local farmers in comparing a newly introduced sweet potato variety with the existing indigenous one – ensuring detailed and accurate feedback on the productivity, taste, storability, and hardiness of each variety.

7. Improving Soil Fertility. Each year, more than 29 million acres, or enough land to grow 20 million tons of grain, turn into deserts. To combat desertification and land degradation, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics is training farmers in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger to apply small and targeted quantities of fertilizer to crops at planting time or soon after. This has increased yields of the staple crops sorghum and millet by between 44 and 120%.

8. Safeguarding Local Food Biodiversity. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a quarter of the world’s known plant species – some 60,000 to 100,000 species – are threatened with extinction, while soy, wheat, and maize become more and more prevalent in people’s everyday diets. In Norway, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault protects thousands of seed varieties that farmers in developing countries can use to help re-harvest crops that have been affected by disease, climate, or conflict.

9. Coping with Climate Change and Building Resilience. Global climate change will negatively affect agriculture by reducing soil fertility and decreasing crop yields. In preparation for these impacts, and in response to the land degradation that has already occurred, farmers in Niger have planted nearly 5 million hectares of trees that conserve water, prevent soil erosion, and sequester carbon, making their farms more productive and drought-resistant without the use of chemicals.

10. Harnessing the Knowledge and Skills of Women Farmers. Women farmers face a variety of obstacles, including a lack of access to information technology, agricultural training, financial services, and support networks like co-operatives or trade unions. The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a female trade union in India that began in 1992, helps poor, self-employed women achieve full employment and self-reliance by linking them to markets, banks, co-operatives, and self-help groups.

11. Investing in Africa’s Land. Governments and private investors are acquiring large swathes of agricultural land around the world at very low or no cost, particularly in Africa and Asia – often displacing indigenous peoples. In Ethiopia’s Rift Valley, African farmers and foreign investing companies have reached a compromise: farmers grow green beans for the Dutch market during the European winter months, but cultivate corn and other crops for local consumption during the remaining months.

12. Charting a New Path to Eliminating Hunger.  Reactive measures to famines and natural disasters, including sending shipments of vitamin-fortified, pre-packaged food, too often replace preventative measures like investing in sustainable agricultural systems or building infrastructure to transport food to remote communities in developing countries. The UN World Food Programme has developed the Purchase for Progress program, which buys fresh produce directly from local farmers and distributes it as food aid both within the farmers’ country and abroad.

13. Improving Food Production from Livestock. The FAO estimates that 21% of the world’s livestock breeds are at risk of extinction. But in India, farmers in the state of Andhra Pradesh are improving the quality of their feed by using grass, sorghum, stover, and brans to produce more milk from fewer animals, demonstrating that animal husbandry can provide an income without harming the environment.

14. Going beyond Production. Although scarcity and famine dominate the discussion of food security in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, many countries are unequipped to deal with the crop surpluses that lead to low commodity prices and food waste. In Uganda, the organization TechnoServe has helped to improve market conditions for banana farmers by forming business groups through which they can buy inputs, receive technical advice, and sell their crops collectively.

15. Moving Ecoagriculture into the Mainstream. Agricultural practices that emphasize increased production have contributed to the degradation of land, soil, wildlife, and local ecosystems, and ultimately hurt the livelihoods of the farmers who depend on these natural resources. Ranchers and farmers in Dimbangombe, in western Zimbabwe, have committed 20,000 acres of degraded grassland to be communally owned, grazed, and maintained, with the aim of restoring the area’s plants and wildlife while sustainably raising livestock on the land.

These and other efforts to make agriculture a healthy and stable source of income and nourishment will need to continue to be scaled up in the coming years and be passed on to the next generation to ensure that the march toward sustainability continues.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Stewardship Stories

NutriSphere-N Application
Crop InputsVerdesian: NutriSphere-N Making A Water Quality Difference In Midwest
November 18, 2016
Farmers sitting on the largest aquifer in the United States have learned a thing or two about managing nitrogen (N) Read More
Crop InputsOhio State Researchers Announce Progress on ‘Phosphorus Signature’ Monitoring
October 27, 2016
Researchers at The Ohio State University are investigating new techniques to detect organic phosphorus compounds in water samples from the Read More
Stewardship4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program To Launch Across Ohio
October 26, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program will expand the voluntary retailer program to the full state of Ohio, allowing nutrient Read More
4r Nutrient stewardship
StewardshipNominations For The 4R Advocate Program Due October 31
October 24, 2016
Nominations for the 4R Advocate program are due to The Fertilizer Institute by October 31, 2016. The program recognizes agricultural Read More
Trending Articles
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
STS16 2017
SprayersHagie Manufacturing Releases 2017 STS16 Sprayer To Market
November 16, 2016
Hagie Manufacturing LLC’s largest full season applicator is now available with enhancements for the 2017 model year. Hagie is officially Read More
Wilco
CropLife 100Valley Agronomics, Wilco-Winfield To Form New Agronomy Joint Venture
November 11, 2016
Valley Agronomics LLC, headquartered in Rupert, ID, is a joint venture between Valley Wide Cooperative and Winfield Solutions, LLC. Wilco-Winfield, Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute Issues Statement On The U.S. Elections
November 10, 2016
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn has issued the following statement on the results of the 2016 elections: “TFI Read More
Latest News
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Co…
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
Radish cover crop taproot
Crop InputsSoil Health Institute, Datu Research Receive Grant To E…
December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research has announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
ManagementAg Industry Comes Together To Address Climate Change
December 1, 2016
Addressing climate change — and more specifically, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture — can only be achieved through collective Read More
Young soybean field
HerbicidesLiquid Formulation Valor EZ Herbicide Available For 201…
December 1, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has released Valor EZ; a liquid formulation of the company’s leading herbicide, Valor. Named Valor EZ Herbicide Read More
Key Cooperative Marcus Construction Steel Building
ManagementThe Value Of Cooperatives In Modern Agriculture
December 1, 2016
Editor’s Note: Jaxon Mullinnix of  Lone Tree, IA, was recently named the Iowa state winner of the 2017 GROWMARK essay Read More
AGCO Operator of the Year Tony Kornder
SprayersAGCO Names Tony Kornder Operator Of The Year
December 1, 2016
AGCO Corp. names Tony Kornder with Genesis Growing Solutions in Le Sueur, MN, the 11th annual Operator of the Year. Read More
Chris Henney OABA
ManagementOABA Industry Conference To Provide Outlook For Future …
November 29, 2016
The upcoming Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference is packed with widely-respected speakers and industry professionals, sharing their expertise on a Read More
Corn
InsecticidesMajor Review Finds Neonic Poses Low Risk To Aquatic Inv…
November 28, 2016
A major new ecotoxicological review and risk assessment has been published in the peer-reviewed literature and concluded that registered crop Read More
EquipmentGSI Details New Grain Drying Efficiency System for Coop…
November 28, 2016
Grain elevators and ag co-ops are always looking for ways to increase their energy efficiency to help improve profitability. For Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
AGCO AgControl system
Precision AgPrecision Ag Technology: Rate Control For The Times
November 28, 2016
It’s not surprising that the need for more economical, effective application is driving the demand for the latest rate controllers Read More
ARA
Eric SfiligojTaking The Industry’s Pulse At ARA
November 28, 2016
When most of you read this particular column, many of the industry’s key folks will probably be spending at least Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls …
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
FertilizerNutrient Management, Conservation Among Topics Covered …
November 23, 2016
Certified crop advisers, consultants, farmers, agribusiness professionals and students will learn more about nutrient management, soil and water conservation, pest Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsa…
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
Arysta LifeScience
Crop InputsArysta LifeScience Forms Alliance With Beem Biologics
November 21, 2016
As part of its recently announced strategy to become a leader in high-value, high-growth specialty market segments in the crop Read More
DuPont sign
Crop InputsDuPont To End Pension Contribution For Active Employees
November 18, 2016
DuPont will no longer contribute to active employees’ pension plans, a move that will affect the retirement of 13,000 workers, Read More