Technology, agriculture, conservation and poverty

As we investigate and pursue mutuality for all those in the value chain, we find smallholder farmers at the intersection of several critical issues. Cocoa and coffee farmers, for instance, are often located in remote areas of developing economies where poverty and access to markets and services are significant challenges. Small, subsistence farming operations are also frequently located in areas with overlapping environmental concerns, including water, soil, forestation and endangered species issues.

There are various proposals to use technology to improve agricultural practices, raise the standard of living for subsistence farmers and address environmental problems, though the one discussed in a recent issue of Scientific American is interesting because it suggests embracing developments in very high-intensity, low footprint agriculture, combined with accelerating existing trends towards urbanization. As evidence of this opportunity to “decouple” the rise of living standard and damage to the environment, the authors note:

Today, for example, humans require just half of the farmland per capita that they did 50 years ago.”

It’s a short article, and the solution would not be simple or easy—there are social and cultural questions that would need to be answered for a start—but this kind of counter-intuitive but evidence-based  approach to difficult and overlapping issues may help us find better solutions in the future.

-- Yassine El Ouarzazi

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