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Encouraging Innovation and Knowledge Sharing Will Help Towards Sustainable Agriculture

posted 2 Dec 2010, 11:01 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 2 Dec 2010, 11:03 ]

Among the Millennium Goals that were set at the turn of the
century were specific goals set for improving agriculture
and food production and reducing global hunger and

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) highlighted
some specific areas on which attention needed to be focused
including working closely with civil society organizations,
the domestic private sector and international partners to
improve fertiliser supply and demand, ensuring a massive
replenishment of soil nutrients on lands with
nutrient-depleted soils worked by smallholder farmers, and
conducting a massive training program for community-based
workers to ensure expertise in soil nutrients, water supply
and environmental management.

As we come to the end of a year (2010) of extreme weather,
food commodity price speculation and renewed fears of high
food prices and food scarcity in 2011, one newspaper
headline seems to suggest that things in the UK are not
getting any better. It reported that a study by the UK's
Commission for Rural Communities had found that 25% of the
country's farmers were living below the poverty line with an
income of less than £20,000 a year and of these a third
had made no profit for the last three years. Tenant farmers
were particularly badly affected, especially those whose
businesses depended on grazing livestock.

It is a situation that would be recognised by the many small
farmers in developing countries across Africa and S Asia and
presents a bleak picture. There are, however, a number of
organisations that work hard to develop more sustainable,
environmentally friendly and affordable techniques for small

Among them is the not for profit organisation Commonwealth
Agricultural Bureaux International (CABI) which has many
projects across the world and this month celebrated its
centenary at a two-day workshop in Delhi, India. CABI has
worked with the Indian Government to help the country's
improve their yields and the quality of their crops - by
helping them with techniques to manage pests and diseases,
and by making sure they have access markets plus the
knowledge and skills to meet international export standards.
This work echoes one of the areas highlighted by the FAO

The Worldwatch Institute is another independent research
organization working on issues around the environment and
sustainability. It plans a comprehensive project for 2011,
to be called The Nourishing of the Planet, which will assess
the the state of agricultural innovations-from cropping
methods to irrigation technology to agricultural policy -
emphasising sustainability, diversity, and ecosystem health,
as well as productivity.

Both CABI and Worldwatch include private sector research,
for example from Biopesticides Developers, as innovative
thinkers and potential sources of solutions for improving
agricultural productivity in a sustainable way - using
low-chem agricultural products such as biopesticides,
biofungicides and <a href="">yield
enhancers derived from natural sources</a>.

Another positive news story this week (November 29 2010)
highlighted an innovative thinker, a retired Dutch inventor
called Pieter Hoff with a potential innovative solution to
the problem of growing plants in dry regions. It consists of
a simple container, a bucket, fitted with a convex cover in
which are two holes. It allows water to be trapped and for a
plant to grow in what is effectively a microclimate. Water is
dripped onto the plant at 50cc per day, which allows the
plant to survive but not to grow properly which encourages
it to develop tap roots so that it can search out water by
itself. Test have shown that it works better than daily
watering and allows plants to grow in challenging areas
where there may be little ground water or energy supply.

It is innovators like these that could make all the
difference in tackling the issues of increasing crop
production to meet the projected growing world population in
ways that are sustainable and that farmers can understand and

About the Author:

An individual inventor and the efforts of private sector
research by biopesticides developers may be equally
important in efforts to tackle the need to improve
agriculture in an environmentally friendly way to feed a
growing global population. Writer Ali Withers takes a look
at recent news stories.